A Brief History Of Our Church

The current building known as Kirkliston Parish Church was built around AD1200.  The south arched doorway, a very popular back drop for photographs, is said to be very like the west doorway of Holyrood.  The Bell Tower is a bird cage belfry with a single bell.  The bell is dated 1687 and it is still rung to this day to call people to worship.

South east of the arched doorway is a gravestone with two carved heads, both of which are wearing glasses (very unusual).  There are other very old and interesting graves and headstones in the graveyards.  The oldest known one is dated 1529, but the name on this stone is no longer readable.

The graveyard also contains the graves of the Earl of Stair, of Kirkliston, and of his grandmother Dame Margaret, the original Lady Ashton in Sir Walter Scott’s “Bride of Lammermoor”. The church formerly belonged to the Knights Templars, hence the ancient name of the place, Temple Liston.

Inside the Church in the west organ loft is a wonderful pipe organ that was once sited downstairs where the pulpit is currently located. The entry to the stairs and up to the organ gallery is the oldest part of the Church. Entry to the bell tower is from a very small door on the same stair well.

There are a number of wonderful stained glass windows to be viewed directly behind the pulpit on the south wall.

On the wall in the east aisle is a copy of the Solemn League of Covenant, 1643.  This historic document contains the names of the Minister at the time (Master John Booke) and of 310 parishioners.

On one of the window ledges in the main aisle is a curious model of the church as it was between 1859-1884.

In the church’s vault are interred the members of the families of Dundas of Newliston and their successors – the Dalrymples of Stair and the Hogs.

In more recent times of the 20th century, the current bell tower cockerel is pictured here with its creators, blacksmith Jim Lawson (on the left), once an elder in the Kirk at Kirkliston, and Drummond Black. 

Jim manufactured the decorative metalwork of the base whilst Drummond created the metalwork cockerel.

If you are visiting Kirkliston and would like to see round this historic church please do not hesitate to contact us and we would be delighted to show you round.  If you would like to view the church, please initially contact the administration team – kpc.officeangels@gmail.com

History of the Two Church Buildings at The Square in Kirkliston

There have been twenty-two known ministers of the church in Kirkliston between 1569 and 2019, twenty-eight if the number of Free Church ministers is taken into account.

The following is based on information taken from a variety of sources, but perhaps the reader should bear in mind that the author is not a historian therefore relevant queries or corrections supported with quoted evidence will be most welcome.

In 1560 the Church of Scotland, predominantly Calvinist and Presbyterian in outlook, separated from the Roman Catholic church in Scotland.  John Knox, the well-known Calvinist was its founder.

Prior to 1569, land ownership around what is now Kirkliston by Catholic Lords and Bishops, and appropriation of the church by petition to the Pope in 1450 dictated jurisdiction over Kirkliston.  Perhaps for that reason the lineage of ministers at Kirkliston before 1569 is not well documented.

Church of Scotland (Kirkliston Parish Church – KPC)

The ground on which Kirkliston Parish Church now stands has been the site of Christian Faith in Kirkliston going back to the year 1200 (for the existing church), and for centuries before that in other more primitive forms.  It was dedicated as the church of Liston in 1244 by David de Bernham, Bishop of St. Andrews, and referenced as Kirkliston from around the 14th-15th centures.

1843-1929 saw ‘The Disruption’ in Scotland, when the Free Church came into being following a schism within the Church of Scotland in 1843. In 1929 the newer United Free Church was absorbed into the Church of Scotland, but until 1941 in Kirkliston the parish congregations remained subdivided within the separate buildings; Newliston Church and Kirkliston Parish Church.  In 1941 the two congregations were united under the charge of the Rev William Maxwell, minister of Newliston Church at that time, to become one church known as Kirkliston Parish.

KPC Tenure of Ministers Timeline since 1569

  • 1569 Rev William Strang
  • 1585 Rev James Law (became Bishop of Orkney then Glasgow)
  • 1611 Rev John Booke (the time of the Covenanters – the Solemn League and Covenant dating from 1643 contains his name, a copy of which is on display today in the church – the Covenant was a (short-lived) treaty between Scottish and English parliaments for the preservation of reformed religion in Scotland, England and Ireland, and “the extirpation of Popery”, the Scots thereby giving allegiance to English parliamentarians during the First Civil War)
  • 1646 Rev Gilbert Hall (also during the time of the Covenanters)
  • 1663 Rev James Wemyss (became Professor of Divinity at Glasgow University)
  • 1689 Rev John Mackenzie
  • 1691 Rev Thomas Miller
  • 1716 Rev James Houston
  • 1749 Rev John Drysdale
  • 1765 Rev James Lindsay
  • 1794 Rev Charles Ritchie
  • 1826 Rev Adam Duncan Tait (died 1864 aged 61)
  • 1843 – The schism, and creation of the Free Church in Scotland
  • 1865 Rev John Robertson Liddle (died 1879 aged 39)
  • 1879 Rev Alexander Masson (1845-1934) in charge until 1923
  • 1924 Rev Robert Allan McLean (died 1940 aged 48)
  • 1929 – United Free Church (UFC) absorbed into Church of Scotland but the two congregations were regionally sub-divided in Kirkliston between Bathgate & West Lothian Presbyteries, the UFC becoming known as ‘Newliston Church’
  • 1941 – Kirkliston congregations united under William Maxwell as Senior Minister at Kirkliston Parish Church
  • 1941 Rev William Maxwell (1873-1945) Kirkliston cemetery burial ID 201759871
  • 1943 Rev Duncan Williamson (initially under senior Minister Rev William Maxwell)
  • 1965 Rev George Irving
  • 1969 Rev James W Hill
  • 1976 Rev John Murrie
  • 1996 Rev Glenda Keating (until 2007)
  • 2009 Rev Maggie Lane (until 2019)


The Free Church in Kirkliston

The Free Church opened in 1843 in Kirkliston in a ceremony conducted by the Rev Thomas Chalmers in the (then) new building, a simple box design chapel, across the square in Kirkliston from the Church of Scotland church. A spire was added in 1880 to a design by Edinburgh architect, Hippolyte Blanc. In 1900 the Free Church congregation moved for union with the United Presbyterian Church to become Kirkliston United Free Church.

  • 1843 Very Rev Dr James Chalmers Burns (1809-1892) (until then a Church of Scotland minister). Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church 1879/80, succeeding Rev Andrew Bonar, succeeded as Moderator in 1880 by Rev Thomas Main
  • 1890 Rev Robert Alexander Lendrum
  • 1900 – The Free Church was ‘rebadged’ as Kirkliston United Free Church
  • 1907 Rev William C Smith
  • 1918 Rev Alexander F MacInnes
  • 1928 Rev Redvers B Anderson
  • 1929 – United Free Church (UFC) absorbed into Church of Scotland but the two congregations were regionally sub-divided in Kirkliston between Bathgate & West Lothian Presbyteries, the UFC becoming known as ‘Newliston Church’
  • 1935 Rev William Maxwell
  • 1941 union of Kirkliston congregations under the Rev William Maxwell as Senior Minister

In 1941 the United Free Church (as was) closed its doors as a church in Kirkliston, and in 1945 the building became a congregational hall, then in 1988 after restructuring, a suite of halls and rooms as the current (as of 2019) church halls for Kirkliston Parish Church.  On completion of the refurbishment in 1988 it was named The Thomas Chalmers Centre in acknowledgement of its significant historic ties with the famous Free Church leader.

History Booklet

The (pre-Unitary Constitution) Congregational Board published an A5 size booklet entitled “KIRKLISTON – A PARISH HISTORY” written by Donald Whyte.  Donald, a local man, became President of the Scottish Genealogical Society and gained international recognition in that field.

Copies of the booklet are available and can be obtained by contacting the administration team – kpc.officeangels@gmail.com

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There have been many enquiries from people through this website looking for their ancestors or researching their family tree, and others studying History from countries including America, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Russia and Southern Ireland.

Kirkliston Parish Church is proud of its History and Heritage and will always welcome approaches of this nature.


The Church Bell

A few years ago, the Church bell had to have a large repair for safety reasons.

It is ringing again on Sundays much to the delight of the village.  This is the first big repair required for over 300 years!

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