ST CUTHBERT’S CHURCH 1907-1957

In 1719 Parliament passed an Act requiring any presentee to declare his willingness to take up a Patron's offer. This was to prevent a Patron presenting a candidate he knew would not, or could not, take up a post, so he could meanwhile make use of the stipend, etc. Many optimistically thought this was the end of Patronage, as no right-thinking Presbyterian would declare willingness to accept a Patron's offer, but after an uncertain few years, Patronage continued as the norm. This is how this affected Coldstream and the Society has discovered an old account of the troubled times:-

In 1722 the restoration of the Law of Patronage in the church caused great dissatisfaction among many of its members. Among the principal objectors was the Rev. Ebeneser Erskine, and rapidly the Secession Church gathered strength. Praying Societies were formed and meetings were held up and down the country. There were many secessionists in Coldstream, and their earliest meetings and communion services were held on the Tweed Green. The nearest meeting house was at Stichill, and many miles did those gallant people walk to worship in the manner that they wished. (NB: The Oxford Dictionary records the word 'secede' as withdrawing formally from a political or religious body).

There is no record as to where the Praying Society first met indoors at Coldstream. It may have been in some private house or in some disused building. We do know however that they must have eventually used a meeting room on the site whereon the present church now stands. Here they listened to the sermons of visting Secession ministers, and, as their numbers grew were at last enabled to call a Minister of their own.  

The earliest record states that a petition was laid before the Presbytery of Edinburgh which met in Jedburgh on 17th December 1767. In this petition they "craved for a disjunction from the congregations of Stichill and Kelso, and for an assistant Minister to moderate in an election of elders. This was granted, and the first elders were William Weatherhead, James Waite and David Ballantyne, "elected unanimously to the eldership of the New Associate Congregation of Coldstream".

They were still however without a resident Minister. After hearing various probationers, it was with great rejoicing that the congregation called the Rev. John Riddoch to be Minister of the Associate Congregation of Coldstream. He was ordained on the 24th November 1768. For thirty years he faithfully served his people, and the spiritual life flourished. the congregation increased, its members coming from afar as Ford, Flodden, Crookham, Birgham and St.Foin (Eccles), as well as from Coldstream and the neighbourhood. 

Among the many members were the Thomson family, whose son Adam (DD) was afterwards to become the Minister of the church, and win the world-wide approval for his printing of cheap bibles, thus defeating the monopoly of bible printing. This pious and devout young man was put in charge of the recently formed Sunday School which had its meetings in a room in Duke Street. In 1804 Mr. Riddoch began to feel the infirmities of age and felt obliged to retire, and the congregation generously gave him a small annuity. This he did not have long to enjoy, for in the following year he passed away.

For the next two years the church had to rely upon supplies, but during this period the enthusiastic congregation had planned to rebuild their Meeting House. By 1808 the new church was completed, the manse being completed four years later. The church is the simple and dignified style of the late XV111 Century; and the manse, the pretty Regency house that still stands today. (The manse is the house immediately east of the St.Cuthbert's Centre and is now privately owned). 

Although the estimates were not large, and instructions were made to utilise as much as was possible of the materials from the old building, like most architectural ventures the cost greatly exceeded the estimates. These costs were paid by monies lent by various members of the congregation, but it was nearly sixty years before the debts were finally cleared.

In 1808 the Reverend Adam Thomson became the Minister of the new church and for 55 years he faithfully attended to his duties. ( A fuller story of this wonderful gentleman can be found in this website, under 'Coldstream People'). Greatly loved and respected, he was seen on horseback visiting his outlying districts. A live and active congregation, they founded in 1818 the Coldstream Auxiliary Bible Society, and in 1832, as a thanksgiving for the passing of the great cholera epidemic they formed a congregational Beneveloent Society. This society provided for the education of two children, gave free bibles to, and paid the seat rents of the poor. In their charity, they also donated to the Church of New York, to Holy Island MIssion, towards the distribution of the bible in Rome and £20 to Reverend Thomson to help him start his great venture, the printing of cheap bibles (Coldstream's Free Bible Press). (The full story of the Bible Press can also be found in this website under 'Coldstream People' and 'Reverend Adam Thomson').

Aged and disappointed at the debt compiled by the Free Bible Press, Reverend Thomson found it necessary to call an assistant and successor. Up stepped the Reverend Peter Mearns who was ordained in 1846 and he was to become as famous in Coldstream as the Reverend Thomson. 1855 was the latter's jubliee and in 1868 the centenary celebrations of the church were held. Reverend Thomson died in 1861and was laid to rest in Lennel Kirkyard on the north side of the ancient Lennel Kirk.

During his ministry, six young men went from the church to become ministers of Christ's Gospel - Andrew Smith, George and Robert Jeffrey, Willian and Robert Leitch, all of Coldstream, and Andrew Elliot of Birgham, these were all sons of elders of the church.

Under the care of the Reverend Mearns the church prospered and its membership increased. In 1851 about 440 members partook in communion. The people gave generously to many funds and sent charities for the relief of the wounded in the French Wars. Reverend Mearns died in 1901 having celebrated his jubilee in 1895. He is buried in Lennel Kirkyard.

For almost a century the Davidson family, of whom Mrs Black of Lanton was a member, had been closely connected with the West Church, and for many years Mrs Black had been an active benefactor to it, and when in 1905 it was decided to build a new church she generously donated a sum which covered the entire costs (NB: the society is assuming that 'Lanton' was near Duns and not the one near Wooler, although this is still to be confirmed).

The old building was demolished and on 5th July 1906 Mrs Black laid the foundation stone of the new church which was built on the old site, and on the 3rd October 1907 the present beautiful building was duly dedicated and opened for Divine Worship by the Reverend Dr. Charles G. McCrie DD, the then moderator of the General Assembly U.F (United Free Church) .

Built of warm-coloured Doddington stone this church is a fine example of Victorian Perpendicular Gothic.. The great bell was a gift from T.H. Douglas esq, a banker in Coldstream, in memory of his father who had done so much for the old Meeting House.. The window in the East Transept was given by Mrs Black of Lanton in memory of her parents and their family. That in the west Transept was given by the Carmichael family in memory of their father and mother, and the beautiful window on the southern wall of the church was placed there by the congregation itself in memory of the great generosity of Mrs Black. The flagon and four communion plates had already been given by the late Provost Carmichael's mother in 1896. In recent years the church had received many other generous gifts.

Minister succeeded minister, and like many other churches it has had its good and bad times. A congregation ever-geneous and faithful, has known great happiness and great grief. During two world wars its young men have gone forth, some never to return. These are remembered on the monuments in the church, and in our hearts.

In 1950 it was agreed that the church should unite with the Rodger Memorial Church, and under the much-loved ministry of the Reverend J.G.L.Christie the churches united into one, becoming the St.Cuthbert's Church.

A list of the ministers of the West Church over the years have been, all referred to a Reverend, as follows:-

John Riddoch - 1768-1804

Adam Thomson DD - 1804-1861

Peter Mearns - 1846-1901

A. McA. Caldwell 1892-1898

(NB: In the above period, there seems to have been some doubling-up)

John A. Clark BD - 1898-1904

William Jardine MA - 1904-1910

D. McV. Joss - 1910-1917

Jas McKnight  - 1918-1924

H.L. Adamson B.Phil 1924-1927

J.Clark Brown MA 1927-1931

G.S. Alexander MA 1931-1936

D.H.C.Read BD 1936-1939

Herbert McLean MA 1940-1944

J.S.Dunnett MA 1945-1950

(In the above periods, the lengths of tenure appear relatively short which may have been because the ministry of this church was seen as a stepping-stone). 

After union with Rodger Memorial Church

J.G.L. Christie MC MA - 1950-1955

Angus Logan MA - 1956-1957

THIS IS THE STORY OF THE WEST CHURCH AND THE St.CUTHBERT'S CHURCH, located just east of the War Memorial on the Coldstream High Street. The Society is often asked about the history of churches in Coldstream and the ministers who served them. It can be confusing, so under 'Historic Documents' and 'Churches in Coldstream', we have plotted their history.  

       

 

 

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