Churches, Manses and Glebes

In the the last century, Coldstream’s churches have changed dramatically. They were the dominant buildings in Coldstream for a long period and in 1862 there were five churches, whereas today we have two. Sunday school numbers have taken a serious dip in the last one hundred and fifty years, with five hundred and thirty children attending the four Sundays Schools in 1866 and only a handful today. It seemed that attendance at the Sabbath schools and preaching was compulsory and one quite famous episode springs to mind. This was during the tenure of Thomas Smith Goldie as Parish Minister between 1830 and 1859. Attendance was high during the main service, at which the children were expected to remain. The Reverend noticed that the grooms in charge of horse gigs would leave slightly before the end of the service so that their superiors would have their transport waiting. Some boys tried to sneak out but were spotted by the eagle eye of the Reverend. He stopped the singing and remonstrated that the boys return to their seats, otherwise they would have to stand at the front of the church. Haven’t times changed! Let’s look deeper into one of Coldstream’s most dramatic changes.

The first Parish Church was built on the site of the present parish church in 1705, although it was another thirteen years before it was officially designated the Parish Church. This was because Lennel Church was designated as the Parish Church until 1718. With the passage of time, the population of Lennel drifted west to Coldstream. Today this ancient church (of Lennel) is in ruin, crying out for attention.

Pausing for a moment on this old Lennel building, and before the theme of the changing church scene is developed further, it is worth recording a few facts about this long-lost parish church. Two trees grow near the west gable wall and are probably doing damage to the foundations. The west gable is almost intact but there are signs of a strengthening secondary wall having been built inside the original wall. Possibly this was an attempt to secure the roof in the last-ditch repairs of 1705. The building used to have a corrugated iron roofed shed, measuring about 2.5 by 4 metres and approximately 2.5 metres high. This is the remains of the 1821 mort-house used by the watchmen guarding new graves in the days of grave robbers. However, there is no evidence of their activities having reached so far from Dr Knox’s dissecting room in Edinburgh’s Surgeons’ Hall. There are two iron sheets the shape and size of coffin lids lying just to the north of the nave. These are probably mort-safes.

Mort-safes were said to weigh about one ton, and were left in place to protect graves for four to six weeks. These specimens were firmly fixed in the ground. Another slightly later notice that once was in the churchyard stated: “Take notice. An armed watch is placed here every night for the protection of this burial ground and has orders to fire upon any person who may enter at improper hours without permission”. Precautions like these were considered wise given the distance the graveyard was from Lennel village. There was also the threat that Dr Wilson of Swinton was known to be involved with body snatching in 1820. No evidence remains of the barrel vaulted stone roof which the church had in 1704, and which the heritors talked about replacing with a slate roof. The inner walls include memorials to the Reverends James Bell and Thomas Goldie. Literally the old Lennel church is a decaying ruin and requires the authorities to consider a stabilisation plan.

Getting back to the Coldstream Parish Church, the church bell was installed and ready for use in 1723 and is inscribed: “This bell is gifted by the Feuers in Coldstream to the church there. RM Fecit Edr:1722, Robert Maxwell made me”. The beadle’s fee for ringing the bell was fixed at four shillings Scots. By 1732 however the bell was being misused and overused, particularly before weddings and similar occasions and doubtless without a fee for the beadle. Attendances at the church services must have been good as there was an overflow situation and in 1724 the kirk session ordered a tent (a portable pulpit) and forms that could be used during communion services and in the churchyard. The fabric of the church was suspect and in 1736 the old roof had to be replaced and eight pairs of shutters were ordered for the outsides of the windows.

By 1795 the Presbytery stated it could supply no preaching due to the poor state of the building and this led to the erection of a new church, opened in 1801, and called the Established Church. It had seating for one thousand people. Reverend Archibald was the Minister and this building retained the original church tower. The fabric of the second building also developed problems and a report in 1904 indicated that the walls were in a precarious state. A new building was started in 1906 and was opened in 1908, seating six hundred and thirty four people and once again the original tower was retained. This ‘rotund’ church tower can be seen from a distance and is part of the Coldstream skyline. It is said that in 1795 the nearby churchyard extended to quite an area but gradually Lennel Church yard became more popular. The five stained glass windows in the Parish Church are beautiful and their background is as follows:-
One window was donated in 1934 by the Carmichael family (i.e. Provost Carmichael)
Another two were donated in memory of the Nisbetts who died in 1934 and 1949 (Reverend Nisbett).
A fourth can be seen in the east wing. It is semi circular and was designed by Betty Sitwell of Lennel House. It is a memorial to the seventeen church members who died in the 1914-1918 War (There are also other war memorials which had previously been in the St Cuthbert’s and Rodger Memorial Churches).
The fifth stained glass window is totally different to the other four and was only installed on 22 March 2009. This is the ‘Flodden Window’ which was mentioned in chapter four.
The stone pulpit was donated in 1906 by the Earl of Home. A quiet walk round this impressive building takes in several memorials including the resting place for the King’s and regimental colours of the 2nd Coldstream Guards. These are hanging from the walls in the east end of the church and were installed in 1921. A regimental drum can also be seen as well as ornamental plaques commemorating certain individuals including:


  • Boy Scout William Tait, aged seventeen years, who died in May 1915 while performing his duty. He had been on scout duty at Burnmouth when he fell ill;
  • Agnes Playfair (1916)
  • Captain R.J.R. Harle (1917)…see ‘Coldstream and Wars’;
  • Robert Carmichael (1937), the respected Provost of Coldstream;
  • Sir William and Lady Marjoribanks (1888 and 1902);
  • John B Hotham (1924), Clerk to the House of Lords for 23 years;
  • The Countess of Home (1837);
  • Agnes Scott (1935);
  • Reverend Adam Thomson….of the Free Bible Press fame;
  • Reverend Peter Mearns and his wife;
  • Reverend Alexander Rodger;
  • Reverend James L Christie.

The present-day Parish Church used to have a tin ladle on the end of a wooden rod. This was last used on 30 October 1887 and it can be viewed today in the Coldstream Museum, Market Square. In December 1923, a new clock was installed in the tower. This was donated to the town by Mr and Mrs T. Douglas of Mansefield and its dials were all illuminated at night by automatic arrangement. The clock replaced the old one which bore the inscription “The gift of Patrick Brydone Esq to the Parish and Town of Coldstream. Sharp Fecit 1795”. In June 1935 the time-honoured custom of ringing the Parish Kirk Bell at 8am was ceased. The Parish Church was united with the St Cuthbert’s West Church in 1963 and linked with Eccles in 1985. Today the Parish Church is a beautiful and welcoming building inside but not as well used as in previous times. In other words, there has been a major change in society.

St. Cuthbert’s West Church is now the Coldstream Community Centre and in 1767 a congregation of the Associate Burghers was set up in Coldstream by the Edinburgh Burgher Presbytery. It consisted of members of Kelso and Stichill Burgher congregations, who had been travelling to these places from Coldstream to attend services. The first church was built in 1768, and a second one opened on the same site in 1806 with seating for nine hundred and fifty, although it had to be altered to provide more seating in 1825. In 1907, what was now the West United Free Church was rebuilt on the same site with a seating for nine hundred and fifty people. The cost was borne by Mrs Black (nee Davidson) of Lanton. The congregation of the East United Free Church, or Elder’s Kirk, united with the West Church on the retiral of the Reverend John Elder in 1905, the union having had unsuccessful attempts in 1886 and 1892.
It became known as the Coldstream West Church of Scotland in 1930. What had been the Free Church, but which had become the Rodger Memorial Church of Scotland, united with it in 1950. Clearly the trend was emerging even then – numbers attending were decreasing leading to the merger of churches. The building was last used as a church in 1963 when both of Coldstream’s Church of Scotland congregations joined forces in the Parish Church. Since 1963 it has been the ‘Church Centre’, the St Cuthbert’s Centre and now the very popular Coldstream Community Centre. Despite its conversion from a well-populated church to a community centre, the building continues to be one of the landmarks of Coldstream, with its square tower and balustraded summit being an iconic feature. The inside of the building is spacious and it has a gallery at the south end. The pews were given to Leitholm church in 1968 while the three impressive stained glass windows were donated respectively by James Black in memory of his family, by Mr and Mrs Carmichael and by the congregation in memory of Mrs Black who funded the building of the church. There was a wooden font but this is now in the safe-keeping of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers for regimental use and is used at the garrison church in Osnabruck. The church bell is inscribed ‘Cast by J. Warner and Sons London 1907. Presented to the West United Free Church

Congregation by T.H. Douglas of Coldstream 1907’.

Coldstream East United Free Church, which occupied buildings behind today’s Dalgliesh’s Garage, seems to have started in somewhat controversial circumstances. In 1818 when the Reverend Robert Scott was the minister of the Parish Church, the Reverend Adam Thomson of the Antiburgher Church along with others proposed that an auxiliary of the Bible Society should be formed in Coldstream. They asked Scott if an inaugural meeting could be held in the Parish Church. This was refused angrily and in such terms that a relief congregation was set up in 1824, largely by individuals who had come to the town from other areas. The first sermon was preached in that year by the riverside, and a church was opened in 1826 with seating for eight hundred people. The Secession Church had joined the Relief denomination in 1847 to form the United Presbyterian Church. Both the West and East Churches in Coldstream then belonged to the same denomination. Interestingly the East Church is still known locally as the Elder’s Kirk. The Church was improved in 1898 but in 1905, on Elders’ retiral, the congegration was dissolved with members largely joining the West Church. The East Church building was sold and is still used as part of the Dalgliesh garage premises.

Coldstream Rodger Memorial Church (previously the Free Church) was formed because some members of the established church left and this new church was opened in 1846 with seating for eight hundred. The first minister was Alexander Rodger, of later Rodger Hall fame. Extensive rebuilding in 1891 is commemorated by a stone plaque over the entrance to the west end of the building. It reads “Coldstream Free Church re-erected 1846. Extended and renovated 1891. This tower with clock and bell were gifted to the congregation for their use and for the benefit of the town by Thomas Hogg JP of Hope Park”. Having first been called the Free Church, in 1929 it became the Rodger Memorial Church of Scotland. The organ, pulpit and font from the church are now in Leitholm Church. The Rodger Memorial Church was sold shortly after the union with the West Church and initially it was used as a cinema, for a time as a woollen mill and then as a store house. Today it is the Eildon Centre, a function hall and public bar.
This church’s twenty five metre high tower and its clock is a dominating feature of the landscape and some commentators have said that the tower seems disproportionately high for the size of the church. There is an intriguing story in the ’Berwickshire Advertiser’ of November 1905 when the precarious condition of the Established (Parish) Church was under review and the Parish Church clock was not working properly. The lighting of the clock was also deficient and when darkness fell, locals had no way of regulating their “business and punctuality”. Authorities asked whether a temporary arrangement could be made to light the clock on the steeple on the Free Church. There was also discussion at that time on which was the ‘town clock’ but nowadays the one in the Parish Church has this tile.

The Eildon Cinema opened in April 1953 and the crowds flocked to see the first show, with some turned away because of lack of room. The new cinema was reported as being very smart, with its beautifully decorated interior, fluorescent lighting, well-spaced seating and an up to date operating box. There was a new screen, draped curtains and the sites of the former pulpit and organ had been used judiciously. Provost N.D. Henderson commended the facility and members of the Town Council were joined by their wives. The first film to be shown was ‘The Sound Barrier’ and there were six showings of films each week. Prior to that, films had been shown in the Town Hall. So, in the end, Christianity gave way to entertainment and preaching was no more to be in Victoria Street.

The Hirsel Espiscopal Chapel was erected in 1882, made from corrugated iron with a wood lining, beside the balustrade on the east front of the Hirsel House. It was enlarged in 1890 but in 1897 it was taken down and re-erected in Lennel Road, Coldstream. It was commonly referred to as the ‘tin tab’. This building became the forerunner of St Mary and All Souls’ Church. To replace the chapel at the Hirsel site, a substantial stone chapel was built on the vacated site and was used regularly by the Earl of Home and his family until about 1917. After that, occasional services were conducted by the incumbent at Coldstream until 1928. The chapel was demolished in 1959 and the site is now part of the car parking area at the east side of the Hirsel House. Interestingly, while Charles A. Moore was chaplain between 1915-1917 he had two addresses – one at the Hirsel and the other at Douglas Castle, the Lanarkshire home of the Earl of Home.

St Mary and All Souls’ Episcopal Church was opened in Lennel Road in 1897 and it opened for public service as a mission of the Scottish Episcopal Church of Christ Church, Duns and had seating for 132 people. The foundation stone of the present-day church was laid in 1913 by George Walpole, Bishop of Edinburgh, and he dedicated the completed building and inducted the first minister a year later. The dedication of the church is to St Mary and All Souls, the former being the dedication of the old parish church of Lennel and the latter in memory of the slain of Flodden. The stonework came from Doddington Quarry and the building seats one hundred and fifty people. Two of the stained glass windows were placed in the apse when it was built and they were paid for through contributions from the Sunday School. Another window was given by Mrs Thorne in memory of her husband John H. Thorne, killed in action in 1918.

Leet Street Catholic Apostolic Church was formed in sympathy to Edward Irving who was expelled from the Church of Scotland for heresy in 1833. His sympathetic following was called the ‘Irvingites’ and it formed the Catholic Apostolic Church in 1835, the year after Irving died. The Coldstream-based premises were at 15 New Road, now 15 Leet Street. They were said to have been built in 1862 with a block of four flats on the ground floor and the church premises in one large room on the upper floor, accommodating some 150 people. This “Irvingite” church was likely to have been closed by 1911 and it was bought around 1950 by the Brethren (see next).

Leet Street Brethren Meeting Room originated in nearby Donaldson’s Lodge from about 1910 but in about 1950 notice to quit was given and the Brethren moved to 15 Leet Street. However, attendances deteriorated and the premises were vacated in 1970.

Coldstream Roman Catholic Church was established just after the second world war when, at the start of the war, La Sagesse Convent School was evacuated from Newcastle to the Lees House in Coldstream. The priest from Kelso took the services from 1939. After the school returned to Tyneside, the Nuns continued to rent the house for use as a holiday home until the late 1940s. Until Lees House was demolished, the Roman Catholic congregation worshipped in the chapel when the Nuns’ were in residence, using the Drill Hall twice monthly at other times. After the convent gave up the lease of the Lees House, the Drill Hall was used until 1969. The congregation then met monthly (1970-1971 and 1981-1985) in Coldstream Homing Society clubrooms at the corner of Home Place with Duns Road, having met in 3 Luke’s Brae from 1978 to 1980. In 1985 a sharing agreement was made with the St Mary and All Souls Church and the congregation continues to be serviced from Kelso.

The Salvation Army had a presence in Coldstream, probably in what was known as the Free Church Mission Hall, now 42 Duke Street. It was first mentioned in the Rating Valuation Roll in 1884 and was still listed as a chapel in 1908. It was apparently well-supported by people living nearby but interest faded and after a few years it closed. The building used is an integral part of the terraced houses on the north side of Duke Street. The mission hall became a workshop for a time, but is now a garage big enough for four cars. The only reminder of its Salvation Army past is a supporting beam on which are the words ‘God is love’.

One of Eyemouth’s most famous sons was the Reverend William Landels (1823-1897), who between 1840 and 1845 was a Methodist lay preacher. One of the congregations he visited was in Coldstream, but where and for what period they worshipped is now unknown.

Manses and Glebes 
Manses today are generally fairly modest premises compared with the 1700s and 1800s when local ministers were powerful people with great influence over the lives of the local population. At one time there were four manses in Coldstream. One was located at what is now Trafalgar House on Guards Road and was accompanied by huge outbuildings. A manse existed in Duns Road until 1928, exactly where the Berwickshire housing association flats are today backing onto Nursery Lane. It also had huge outbuildings. Thirdly the house next door to the current St Cuthbert’s Community Centre was a manse as alluded to earlier. Lastly, there was a manse near the current primary school on the corner of Home Place and Duns Road. None of these buildings referred to are used as manses today.

Local Ministers would have to travel widely within their jurisdictions and notes on the Reverend Adam Thomson (Coldstream Free Bible Press) showed that he travelled miles on horseback. Right up to the mid 1950s, horses were essential for transport and work and of courses horses needed space and grazing. In the Roman Catholic and Anglican church traditions, a glebe was an area of land belonging to a “benefice”. This was property (in addition to the parsonage house and grounds) which was assigned to support the priest. The term ‘glebe’ included a wide variety of properties including farms, individual fields, shops, houses, factories etc. An incumbent minister was entitled to retain the glebe for his own use if he wished (for instance, some incumbents farmed their own land) or he could let it out and any income formed part of the stipend. A glebe was normally a field next to a manse where the minister grazed his horse(s). The glebe at Trafalgar House, or the Manse as it was referred to in its heyday, was quite enormous. For a start, one field stretched right down to the High Street while behind the manse the Glebe stretched as far as the top of the now Guard’s Road. The glebe in Duns Road surrounding the manse where the flats are today seemed fairly modest but it would still sustain a couple of horses. The manse at the corner of Home Place appears not to have had a glebe and this appears a similar tale for the manse at the St Cuthbert’s Centre.

It is sad to think that in the 1800s possibly up to one thousand Coldstream residents attended church yet today the two churches are lucky to have fifty in attendance in total. At the time of writing, Coldstream Parish Church is ‘between ministers’ following the retirementl in October 2009 of the popular Reverend James Watson. Elsewhere in Scotland there is a shortage of ministers and churches are being closed and sold as private houses or carpet warehouses. Manses are being sold too. Yet Ministers and churches continue to give valuable services to the community. In the context of Coldstream since the 1800s, the demise of church life and related buildings is viewed as a dramatic change.

Are you confused? Well here is a distilled version of the changes:-

Parish Church site

1718 and still going

St. Cuthbert's Centre site

1768 – 1963

Free and Rodger Memorial Church (Eildon Centre today) site


East Free Church (Dalgliesh's site)

1826 – 1905 

Hirsel House Chapels


St Mary and All Souls (Lennel Road)

1892 and still going

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