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Churches

 
The Grange is studded with Church buildings. Some, but not all, of these are still in active use as places of worship. Others have been converted to other uses; still others have been demolished or lost through fire. The variety of buildings is evidence of the many splittings and joinings which church congregations went through, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This section includes an overview of a number of the most significant churches, past and present, and reflections written by four ministers, from Marchmont-St GilesSt Catherine’s-ArgyleSalisbury Church, and the German Speaking Congregation.

 

 

Brief sketches of local churches

 

Salisbury Church

Salisbury Church was built and opened in 1863 as a United Presbyterian Church, with seats for 1000. It was the product of several unions and enjoyed almost 100 years of congregational life. One of the uniting churches was Hope Park Church, originally Potterrow, built in 1793 as an Antiburgher congregation. By 1867 a new church was built at the corner of Hope Park and Causewayside. In 1848 Duncan Street Baptist Chapel was bought as a meeting place for the congregation known as Newington South which moved again in 1863 when the new church was built in Grange Road. In 1873 a substantial number of members were lost over the question of the use of fermented wine at communion. The dissenters left and were in part linked to the establishment of the Argyle Place Church. In 1940 when the Hope Park and Newington South congregations united, the Hope Park buildings were sold and the Royal Dick Veterinary College was built in its place. The name of the congregation changed again for the final time in 1959, to Salisbury Church. Although the church is now used as commercial premises, much of the beautiful interior decoration can still be seen. As a side note, while considering a planning application for the installation of a telecommunications mast in the tower of the Salisbury Church building, some members of the Committee (Chairman included) first learned the useful architectural term ‘brattishing’, which describes the decorative ironwork on the tower.

 

Fountainhall Road Church

The congregation which built their new church in Fountainhall Road in 1897 had begun in the Bethel Chapel in the High Street in 1828, and moved to the Cowgate, before the restrictions of that site set the congregation to move to the developing suburb of the Grange. In 1958, the congregation united with the neighbouring congregation of North Mayfield. The building was demolished and the Newington library was built on the site. Fountainhall Road Church is commemorated by a bench in front of the library and by donated benches in the garden of the library in memory of a former member of the church.

 

St. Catherine’s-Argyle Church

Like Fountainhall Road Church, this church has its origins when members of a town congregation moved out to the suburbs in 1861 – in this case, members of the Free Church. They met first of all in a hall in Causewayside, then in Clare Hall in Minto Street, with services also in a house in Mansionhouse Road. In 1866 the new church was built, with seating for 900, to be called Chalmers Memorial Church, with Horatius Bonar, the famous hymn writer, as its minister. The church became Grange U.P. Church in 1900 and then in 1929, St. Catherine’s in Grange. The name of St Catherine’s was given because of the remains in the neighbourhood of a medieval nunnery of St Catherine of Sienna (transformed into the word Sciennes). This church included UP members who disagreed over the use of fermented wine at communion. A further new church was built at the corner of Sciennes Road in 1880 – Argyle Place Church – which united with St. Catherine’s in 1968. Originally the plan was that the Argyle Place building should be the place of worship and St. Catherine’s prepared to be extensive halls for the congregation. However in 1974, a disastrous fire destroyed Argyle Place Church and St. Catherine’s underwent refurbishment to become St. Catherine’s – Argyle Church in 1979. The Grange Association was very fortunate to be able to hold many of its meetings in this beautiful church, with its well appointed halls.

 

Marchmont-St. Giles Church

This church was formed in 1972 by the union of three congregations. The oldest of the three, West St. Giles Church, has a somewhat complicated history of movement and name change. In 1698 a parish was allocated to congregations holding their services in meetinghouses in Lawnmarket and Castlehill, and in 1699 a church was prepared for them in the northwest corner of St. Giles. It became known as ‘the Little Kirk’, more properly New North. In 1829, there was begun a reconstruction of St. Giles and the New North moved out to the Methodist Chapel in Nicolson Square and then to Brighton Street chapel. In 1843, the congregation – now Free New North – were able to move back into St. Giles, becoming West St. Giles. Another reconstruction of St. Giles which was to make it one building was undertaken in 1879, so a new meeting place for West St. Giles had to be found. Meadow Lodge in Meadow Place was bought as a site for a new church and till it was built, an iron church was provided. The new church building was opened in 1883. The two younger churches forming the union came into being within 10 years of each other, probably because of the movement of population to the new suburbs and each beginning with an iron church building. In 1871, a church was built in Kilgraston Road taking the name of Robertson Memorial, becoming Grange Church in 1929. The third partner to the union, Warrender Church, began in Viewpark School in 1883, and in 1885 an iron church was placed at Warrender Park/Lauderdale Street, with a new building arising in Whitehouse Loan in 1892, though the iron church was kept until 1897. In 1972 a union of the three congregations was decided upon, and the buildings of the Grange Church became the home of the congregation of Marchmont St. Giles.

 

The German Speaking Congregation

The German Church at 1 Chalmers Crescent has, since 1954, been the home of the German Speaking Congregation which is recognised as the successor to an older congregation established in 1862. This had its own church building on the north side of Edinburgh but was disbanded at the outbreak of World War 1. In 1954, the congregation, which between the wars had met in a side chapel of St Mary’s Cathedral, moved into the building formerly occupied by Glendinning’s Academy of Dancing. They converted this into a church cum manse but dry rot set in and as a result the building was demolished and the present church centre built in 1967. Since members come from a variety of denominational backgrounds, the worship incorporates elements of both Lutheran and Reformed practice. (These sketches are indebted to various sources, including material from a Newsletter item by Elsa Hendry, and ‘The Kirks of Edinburgh’, A. Ian Dunlop.) Sheila Reid – July 2003 (see Salisbury) (see St Catherines) (see The site of the Argyle church) (see Marchmont-St Giles) (see The German-speaking Church: Laudate House)

 

Churches – personal memories

In the 1930s Allotments at Blackford were superseded by the Reid Memorial Church, which we watched being built. Later Fountainhall Road Church was amalgamated with Mayfield and the building demolished and replaced by the present Newington library. Sundays were much more strictly observed than now. My grandfather, a convert of Sankey and Moodie, the American evangelists, served as a missionary in China, and was deeply religious. His diaries of the 1920’s and 30’s recorded the exact text and a resume of the sermon preached at Warrender Church. From the age of seven I walked with my family to the Church in the morning and again in the afternoon for Sunday School: No gardening was done and a general quietness pervaded the household: I do not remember ever resenting this: swings at the Meadows were tied up to prevent their use, and last year when I passed at noon on a Sunday and heard the noise emanating from the circus, I paused. Perhaps the Scottish Sabbath was too strict, but has the pendulum not swung too far?Maud Harrison – July 2003 (see Brief sketches of local churches)

 

Marchmont-St Giles

I was joint-minister of Marchmont St Giles’ Church, along with Donald Stephen from 1991-2001. Jobsharing is an unusual arrangement in the church but it was a happy one for me. I knew Donald and the congregation well as I had spent time with them in the 80s as student, then locum, and later as missionary partner, and I was delighted to return as ‘one half’ of the minister. (Before going further I must explain that I was a mature student or even, like cheese, extra mature, and the ten years Donald and I worked together took us both up to retirement.) But if I came late to ministry, my links with the Grange go back much further. In 1958-59 before getting married I lived in a flat on the top floor of 5 Whitehouse Terrace and caught the 39 bus every morning as the first part of my cross-city journey to Ferranti’s at Crewe Toll. During the 60s and 70s my husband and I and our 3 small children stayed more than once in the Church of Scotland furlough house at 2 Grange Loan Gardens, and Lover’s Loan was our regular route to Sciennes School. When I look back to those days I think of the beautiful stone walls of the Grange, the trees and the gardens and I am very thankful that that is still the general impression the area gives – provided you can close your eyes and your ears to the traffic! And with the ever-increasing traffic we reach the 1990s and my years at Marchmont St Giles’. Many of my memories are of beauty – the sun shining in through the stained glass windows; a great cornucopia of fruit and vegetables at the entrance for Harvest Thanksgiving; Easter Day and every pew decorated with posies of daffodils, to be taken at the end of the service to housebound neighbours. And that of course leads on to people, for church buildings are a means not an end, and without life they are an empty shell. The people who throng my memories are of all ages: little children learning to interact with each other in the safe environment of the Playgroup; Rainbow Brownies exploring the Discovery Trail round the church, fascinated by the mouse carved on the lectern, puzzled to guess how many pipes the organ has (the answer is over 1000); teenagers selling fairly traded coffee to help 3rd World producers; family groups filling the candle-lit church for the Watchnight Service; friends from Newington Council of Churches packing the church for Songs of Praise (when the volume of sound nearly lifted the roof off); elderly people enjoying church lunches on first Sundays of the month; people of all ages working together to raise money for Christian Aid, for the homeless, for projects in Africa and Asia. Of course there are memories of other kinds as well – the freezing day when the heating didn’t switch on, the would-be projects that never came to anything, the sadness of untimely deaths, but these dark threads have their place in the tapestry and give it depth. They come into perspective when seen in relation to a service the children of the church devised and led in 2001 on the theme of the Prodigal Son. When the waiting father (aged 10), saw his wastrel son in the distance, he ran the length of the church to meet him, threw his arms round him and hugged him. The child’s understanding of unconditional love enabled the rest of us to comprehend it better. Times move on, children grow up, ministers retire, the church finds new ways to be the church, but such things are changeless and hold the past and the future together.Rev Elspeth Dougall – June 2003 (see Marchmont-St Giles) (see Brief sketches of local churches)

 

Salisbury 

In 1967 I was called to be minister of Salisbury Church. I remember thinking, when I saw it for the first time, that the exterior was rather ugly! But the interior was quite different. It was a surprise when you entered it because it seemed such a comfortable and airy church, with its blue carpets and padded pews. Although it seated 1000 it never seemed so big; no one seemed to be too far away from the minister and I found it an easy church to speak in. I only saw it full on one occasion – when I preached there for the first time. The elders had made sure that there would be a good turn-out. Unfortunately I never saw it filled again, except for the end of term services with Sciennes School when we enjoyed some enterprising services with the school orchestra. The manse was in Fountainhall Road and my impression of the Grange was of trees and lovely gardens and wide streets. Nowadays that impression is rather spoilt by the traffic calming measures. In those days the church served a very mixed community. I remember visiting some very poor homes in those early days – some still with primitive conditions. Since then Causewayside and Grange Court have fairly come up in the world. In Sciennes was Bertams, the engineering firm that employed so many local people. I was not only chaplain to Sciennes School where Miss McColl was the head teacher before she retired to Jersey but also to Bruntsfield Hospital, in Bruntsfield Loan, a delightful hospital of four wards for women patients only. Miss Elspeth Baxter was the Matron and I was there for about thirteen years until I became chaplain to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in 1980. I have very happy memories of the wonderful work done in the Neo-natal Unit and even when it proved not to be a happy experience, it was still a privilege to be part of the care and concern of such dedicated staff. I had to give up my chaplaincy work in 1986 owing to ill health, but managed to continue my ministry at Salisbury until, when Dr Macdonald of Mayfield Church was retiring, I was asked if I would take early retirement in favour of a union. Out of this union came the present church of Mayfield Salisbury.Rev Brian Casebow – June 2003 (see Sciennes traditions) (see Brief sketches of local churches)

 

St Catherine’s-Argyle

 Having lived in the Grange for the last 28 years and with approximately half the parish situated in it, I have been privileged to serve in this leafy part of Edinburgh. One has seen many changes over these years, some for the better, others not. Sadly the quietness of the area has been eroded over time. When we first came to stay in Palmerston Road, there was hardly a car in sight. Now even driving in and out of the garage can be a nightmare with so many cars parked in the street. What has been good to see is the basic ethos of the area remaining the same and the community spirit growing as people have continued to take an interest in their part of Edinburgh. We may live in a city, but walking in the Grange is more like being in the country with views of the hills and leafy gardens. And there are still places of comparative tranquility like Blackford Hill and even, for those like myself, who enjoy history, the wonderful Grange Cemetery with its amazing story of the past. It is a joy to stay in this part of Edinburgh and one trusts that its essential character will not be lost in the inevitable march of progress.Rev Victor Laidlaw – July 2003 (see Grange Cemetery) (see Brief sketches of local churches)

 

The German-speaking Church: Laudate House

Standing in front of 1, Chalmers Crescent you may not even recognise that this building is a church. It is a concrete building made in the 1960s that seems to be a workshop rather than a place of religion. However, at a second glance you will see a large stained glass window which, of course looks more impressive from the inside than from outdoors. And perhaps you will even find out that the building is named ‘Laudate House’. I once received a letter from a church official in Germany. Its opening was informal: ‘Dear Mr Bindemann, not many people can boast such a joyful address – Laudate House!’ Laudate House is the home of Edinburgh’s German-speaking congregation, and accommodates a church hall, lounge, manse and nursery. It is not the first German church in this city. From the 1850s, services were held occasionally, with various preachers. In 1862 the first German minister was installed and, with support of Scottish churches, a German congregation was established. In 1880 they got their own chapel at Rodney Street/Cornwallis Street. It is still there; however, when the FirstWorldWar broke out the congregation was discontinued and the building was sold. After the Second World War a fresh start was made. At that time a huge number of Germans lived in Scotland. There were thousands of prisoners of war and a fair number of ‘war brides’ who had followed their husbands to Scotland. Other young women came to Britain for jobs. Many needed spiritual and social support. Therefore, German services started at the end of 1947, first in St Mary’s Cathedral, later on in Holy Trinity Church at Dean Bridge. In 1952 Dietrich Ritschl, a young minister from Switzerland, started working with the German community, and with the help of Scottish churches and financial support from Churches in Germany a German-speaking congregation was re-established. The minister lived in a flat at 38, Warrender Park Terrace where initially also Bible studies and other meetings were held while services still took place at Holy Trinity Church. As the congregation grew the need for a permanent home became urgent. So in November 1953 a Dancing School at 1, Chalmers Crescent was bought, refurbished and named ‘Laudate House’. In February 1954 the congregation moved in. However, the building was still in poor condition. Therefore plans were discussed to build a new church and manse. After a period of fundraising in 1966 foundations were laid for the present Laudate House which was finished and consecrated in 1967. The dedication service started at Argyle Place Church; from there the congregation walked over to Laudate House where they had to stand for the rest of the service because there were no chairs yet in place. The church is a bright, friendly, flexible room, furnished with chairs and a movable altar. The stained glass window, designed and made by George Garson, dominates the room. A solid wooden cross, carved by a former prisoner of war reminds us of the beginnings of the German-speaking congregation in those difficult post-war years. Services, usually in the German language, are held fortnightly. The manse is occupied by a minister who has to serve German-speaking congregations in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle and Middlesbrough as well as smaller groups in Aberdeen, Inverness and Dumfries. Like the other congregations, Edinburgh’s is not called ‘German’ but ‘German-speaking’. It is not a national church; but it is committed to the spiritual heritage of the German Reformation. In fact it is a colourful ecumenical mixture of all sorts of Protestant and Catholic Christians from Germany, other German-speaking countries and from Britain. The congregation is scattered over a large area; people come to church from Fife, from Galashields, the Central Belt and East Lothian. But a fair number of our members live nearby … We all benefit from the excellent location – I cannot think of a better place for Edinburgh’s German-speaking Church than this spot at Chalmers Crescent.Walther Bindemann – August 2003 (see Brief sketches of local churches)

 


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