Dreghorn Parish Church, like St Martin's Church, Stoney Middleton, is octagonal in shape. It was built in 1780 for the Montgomeries of Eglinton, under the direction of the 11th Earl, Archibald. It is possible however that the original idea might have been his brother Alexander's, the 10th Earl, who was murdered in Ardrossan in 1769 by poacher Mungo Campbell. Both brothers were also Freemasons, being Masters of Kilwinning (the Mother Lodge).
Alexander's grand plan had been for a new Eaglesham Village in Renfrewshire, which involved destroying the old village to make way for a “brave new town” modelled to the design of a letter 'A', his initial. For more details see www.eaglesham.com, where there is a lengthy account of the village History (use the site search for 'history'). As will be seen, its church appeared 10 years after Dreghorn Church, but was built to a similar octagonal plan - although it has since been remodeled so no longer retains its original shape. The steeples on both churches were added at a later date.
Dreghorn Church had two nicknames - the ‘put 'n' take’ after the shape of dice (or spinner) used in a card game of the same name (there may be several references to it online, including the obsolete www.putntake.co.uk), and the ‘three penny church’' after the shape of the old ‘thrupenny bit’ (the coin worth 3 old pence). Both had similar shapes, although neither are actually 8-sided - the ‘put 'n' take’ spinner has six sides, and the three-pence coin had 12 sides.
The gates of Dreghorn churchyard have the name of their architect John Armour (Irvine) on them. His distinctive style of church gate also appear at Irvine and Kilwinning Parish Churches.
We began our research with the premise that octagonal churches were rare, but in fact there are many more than we first thought. For reference, here is a list of some others besides the ones mentioned above.
In Pigot's Directory for Devon, 1823-4 the one at Teignmouth, Devon was deemed to be in “bad taste” - q.v. Teignmouth (GENUKI/DEV). It also describes it then as a new church.
There is another one in Renfrewshire - in the Burgh of Johnstone. The site which describes it belongs to a maps publisher, and one of the other town plans offered for sale is Eaglesham!
The church at Coleford - Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire was built originally to an octagonal plan - the site has an old photograph of it before its replacement in 1882.
See also Glenorchy Parish Church, Dalmally, designed by James Eliot for the Earl of Breadalbane in the early 19th century.
The Friends of Govan Old Parish Church website has an article entitled “Govan Old: Its Place in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Church Design” which mentions an octagonal church at Fetteresso, Stonehaven, designed by John Paterson. He also designed St Paul's Church, Perth (1807) - quote: “John Paterson's baronial gothick churches at St. Paul's, Perth (1807) and Fetteresso at Stonehaven (1810) and at Archibald Elliot's Glenorchy (1811), all more influenced by Mr. Wesley's chapels rather than by mediaeval chapter houses.”
There may be others...
Commentary provided by Rosemary Lockie with the kind assistance of John Loney
Image contributed by John Loney on November 2002.