The New Parish Church in Port Glasgow is proudly celebrating the 200th birthday of its present building. (Formerly St Andrew's Church.) However, the history of the church in Port Glasgow goes back even further - to the beginning of the town itself. Having secured land from the Maxwells of Newark Castle to build a port, the magistrates of Glasgow then set about building up a town. Of course, the moral state of the people who settled in this New Port for Glasgow had to be taken into consideration.
In June 1694 John Corse, Dean of Guild, Glasgow and John Anderson of Dowhill attended the Presbytery of
Paisley to obtain authorisation for the Presbytery of Glasgow to supply the people of Port Glasgow with
“preaching by some qualified young man … from time to time”, because Port Glasgow being a great
distance from the parish church of Kilmacolm and the road being in a bad state of repair, many did not
attend any form of worship and spent their Sundays in “idleness and debauchery”! It was decided that the
Presbyteries would try to resolve the matter.
It was arranged that George Lyon and six other feuers in Port Glasgow would guarantee the sum of fifty
pounds as a yearly stipend for a minister as well as providing him with a house. They also agreed that the
money acquired by putting seats in a meeting house to use as a church, and renting them would pay part
of the minister’s stipend.
In June 1696 the Commission for the Plantation of kirks granted permission for the building of a church at
Newport Glasgow with the following conditions. The magistrates and town council (of Glasgow) would
provide the minister and pay his stipend and that the parish of Kilmacolm would not have to pay anything
towards the provision of a minister or any of his successors. The Commissioners for the Plantation of Kirks
disjoined the parish of New Port Glasgow from Kilmacolm on 1 July 1696.
Next the magistrates and town council of Glasgow called upon the minister at Killellan, James Hutcheson
along with several members of the council to “do all other things needful and convenient anent the settling
and establishing of an eldership and minister in the parish of Port Glasgow”.
The feuers intimated their wish
to call the Reverend Robert Millar as their minister. He was ordained minister of Port Glasgow in 1697. Many
from Glasgow attended the ordination service. Worship services were held in the “meeting house” (also described as a sail loft) in the
town and the Minister was provided with a dwelling paid for by the feuers of the town. In 1709 the Presbytery of Paisley intimated that Robert Miller would be moving to the Abbey Church in
It took some time to fill the vacancy at Port Glasgow, but eventually the magistrates and town council
presented Thomas Davidson to be minister in the town. However the Earl of Glencairn who was patron for
the church at Kilmacolm opposed Glasgow’s choice of minister and insisted that he should have a say in
who was appointed. It was argued that Port Glasgow had been disjointed from Kilmacolm, but the matter
dragged on, the Glasgow officials unwilling to enter into and expensive law suit with Glencairn.
Negotiations took place at Findlayston between Glencairn and representatives of Glasgow. Glencairn
eventually agreed that the matter should be decided by arbitration. Time dragged on and eventually after
the payment of a fee, Glencairn renounced any interest in deciding who should be minister in Port
The Reverend John Anderson was then nominated as minister for Port Glasgow and it was agreed that a
church should be built in the town. Francis Stevenson, wright was appointed to go to Port Glasgow and
inspect the ground where the church would be built, meet with the feuers and agree to the conditions for
the building of a church. The feuers would provide half of the expense of the building with the town of
Glasgow paying the other half. James Baird, mason of Govan was to be the architect and John Hunter,
mason in Port Glasgow was to be the builder. The church was cruciform in shape.
|The original lairs in the kirkyard wall can still be seen today.|
Provision was also made for a church yard around the church which was to be subdivided into burial places
which could be bought by feuers in the town. Two of the feuers John Lyon and James Cooper would be
responsible for the building of “a regular stone dyke three ells high from the foundation” enclosing the
kirkyard. It would have “pillars at every eight foot distance and put a bosom stone in the middle betwixt
each pillar for distinguishing the burial places … which are to consist of eight foot in breadth and twelve
foot in length”. The prices for the burial lairs were to cover the construction of the kirkyard.
A loft, opposite the pulpit was to be built and furnished with seats for the magistrates and inhabitants of
Glasgow, this extra expense to be met by the magistrates and town council of Glasgow. Another loft was
built for use by the feuers of Port Glasgow.
The original church building was demolished in 1823 because a new, larger building was required for the growing town. There was one big problem - the new church was to be rectangular in shape and would take up some of the churchyard that had been used as burial places. The problem was overcome by building the new church on plinths so as not to disturb the graves below. There are still graves under the present day building.
|New Parish Church, Port Glasgow|
Constructed in 1823, the present building is celebrating its 200th birthday and it is a credit to its congregation and the people of Port Glasgow who throughout the years have ensured that the kirk remains at the heart of the town.