Sunday, 13 June 2021

Former Martyrs Free Church, Greenock

This lovely little building is the former Martyrs Free Church in West Shaw Street in Greenock.  It is no longer used as a church and for a few years was a storehouse.  It has recently had some renovation work done to it, but I don't know yet what is to become of the building.  Originally the building belonged to the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland.

There had been a Reformed Presbyterian congregation in Greenock since the 1820s worshipping in their church at West Stewart Street .  Their minister was Reverend Andrew Gilmour (1795-1859).    Andrew Gilmour died in June 1859 after faithfully serving his congregation for 26 years.  But then there would appear to have been some problems within the church.

In 1860 a group of about 200 members of the congregation broke away from the West Stewart Street church with the intention of forming a separate congregation.  The Rev McLachlan of the Port Glasgow Reformed Presbyterian church formed a Session to run the new congregation.  They began to look for a site for a new church and in the meantime met for worship in the Mission House of the Sir Michael Street United Presbyterian Church.  The breakaway congregation were given permission to call a minister.

Land at the corner of West Shaw Street and Nicholson Street was acquired and in 1861 a start was made on building their new church to plans drawn up by local builder Alexander Jamieson.  Mr Jamieson also happened to be a member of the church Session and proposed that the Rev David Taylor of Ayr be called as minister.  This was agreed and David Taylor was duly appointed as minister.

The new building was opened in December of 1861 with accommodation for 526 worshippers.  The stone for the building came from quarries at Inverkip.  In 1869 David Taylor moved to West Campbell Street Reformed Presbyterian Church in Glasgow.  The Reverend Andrew Symington (1837-1920) became the new minister at West Shaw Street Reformed Presbyterian Church. 

In 1876 the Reformed Presbyterian and Free churches united to become the United Free Church.  The congregation agreed that their church should be renamed Martyrs Free Church.  Andrew Symington remained the minister there until he retired in 1909.  Throughout this time the church had a very active Musical Association.

In 1900 the Free Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church united.  The West Shaw Street Church was renamed Martyrs United Free.  In 1924 the congregation of Martyrs United Free Church and North Free Church (Westburn Square) in Greenock united and became Martyrs and North Church, using the building in Westburn Square.

This is the memorial plaque from Martyrs Church naming those associated with the congregation who gave their lives during World War I.  It is now to be found in Westburn Parish Church, Nelson Street, Greenock.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland was also known as the Cameronians in honour of Richard Cameron a Covenanter who died for the cause in 1680.  That is perhaps the reason why many of their churches bore the name Martyrs.

Joining with InSPIREd Sunday.  Click the link to read about churches from all over the world.


  1. What a beautiful structure. It is a pity that the church is not used by the faithful.
    His story interested me.
    Hugs and greetings.

  2. Nice looking building, amazes me how weeds and shrubs find a way of growing on a place. Thanks for Joining Inspired Sunday


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