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Dunfermline Church History

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The Old Statistical Account (written in the 1790s) gives this list of inhabitants:

  • Established church clergy - 3. [No figure is given for members of the Established Church, but the total parish population is reckoned at 9550.]
  • Seceder clergy - 5
  • belonging to the Relief (including children) - 600
  • belonging to the Burgher Seceders - 4223
  • belonging to the Antiburghers - 320
  • Episcopalians - 44
  • Independents - 7
  • Baptists - 6
  • Cameronians - about 12
  • Berean - 1
  • Roman Catholic - 1

The New Statistical Account (written in 1844) at pages 896-901 gives a considerable amount of information about both Established and Dissenting churches in the parish.

  • Established churches: the Abbey Parish Church; St Andrews; North Church; Canmore Street (closed 1843)
  • Free Churches: St Andrews; North Church; The Abbey (previously Abbey & Canmore Street)
  • United Associate Synod: Queen Anne Street; St Margarets; Chalmers Street; Maygate; Limekilns; Crossgates
  • Relief Congregation: North Chapel Street
  • Scottish Baptist Church: James Street (from which 2 separations took place in 1841 - 1. a group meeting at the Music Hall, North Inglis Street, under Mr Blair, pastor; and 2. a group usually called Campbellites, meeting at the Old Mason Lodge, Maygate)
  • Congregational or Independent Church: Canmore Street
  • Holy Catholic Apostolic Congregation: (Rowites or Irvingites) meeting in rooms in Horsemarket Street
  • Roman Catholic Congregation: no resident priest, meet in 2 dwelling houses
  • Scottish Episcopal (Trinity) Chapel
  • Also a few Swedenborgians, Unitarians, Methodists and Friends.
  • There is also a missionary, Mr Joseph Hay, belonging to the United Secession.

A census of Religious Worship and Education was taken in 1851 at the same time as the census of population. A table of statistics about the churches in Fife at this time is available here. The statistics for the separate burghs were also given. Those for Dunfermline are as follows:

Dunfermline (Parliamentary Burgh): Population of Parish 21687, Population of Burgh 13836:

Religious Denomination Number of Places of Worship Number of Sittings Number of Attendants at Public Worship on Sunday March 30 1851 (including Sunday Scholars)
Free Appropriated Total Morning Afternoon Evening
Established Church 1     2000 500 730  
United Presbyterian Church 5 134 2980 4714 2344 2730  
Free Church 3   2062 2062 1323 1358 160
Independents or Congregationalists 1 470 320 790 135 212  
Baptists 1 120   120 75 82  
New Church 1 80   80   13  
Evangelical Union 1       83 105  
Isolated Congregations 1     450     300
Roman Catholics 1       450    
Catholic and Apostolic Church 1       12 12  
Latter Day Saints or Mormons 1       50    
Total 17 804 5362 10216 4972 5242 460
The number of sittings was not returned for 4 of the above churches: Evangelical Union 1, Roman Catholics 1, Catholic and Apostolic Church 1, Latter Day Saints 1.
Returns are altogether wanting for 2 other Established Churches.

Source: Census of Great Britain, 1851, Religious worship and education. Scotland. Report and tables. British Parliamentary Papers 1854 LIX (1764).

The 1865 Ecclesiastical Directory lists the parish church, a second charge of the Established Church, Established Churches of St Andrew's and Dunfermline North, 3 Free Churches - Free Abbey, Dunfermline North and St Andrew's, 4 United Presbyterian Churches in Dunfermline - Gillespie, Chalmers Street, Queen Ann Street and St Margarets, United Presbyterian Churches in Limekilns and Crossgates, the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church (Trinity), the Baptist Church, the Evangelical Union Church and the Congregationalist Church.

Information and pictures of the churches at the Scottish Churches website.

Details of church history:

  • Dunfermline: Abbey Church

The Abbey of Dunfermline was founded by Queen Margaret in the 1100s as a Benedictine priory, and was erected on the site of an earlier chapel. In 1128 the status of the building was increased by her son David I who made it an Abbey. In the same year he also extended the Abbey by erecting a new church. The western proportion of this new Abbey church was later to served as the parish church, the east being reserved for the monks. Reference to the parish church within the Abbey dates back as far as 1300. In medieval times the Abbey became an ecclesiastic center of significant importance in Scotland and was also the burial place of several Scottish Monarchs, including Robert the Bruce, whose tomb was rediscovered in 1818. During the reformation, with the exception of the nave, the Abbey Church was destroyed, however in 1593 it was rebuilt and remodeled to serve as the Parish Church of Dunfermline. The present day Abbey Church was built between the years of 1818-1821 on part of the old ruins and comprises the eastern end of Dunfermline Abbey. The kirk session sat within the Presbytery of Dunfermline, later of Dunfermline and Kinross and presently of Dunfermline once again.

  • Dunfermline Free North Church (later United Free and St John's Church of Scotland)

The congregation of Dunfermline North Free Church, which sat within the Presbytery of Dunfermline, was established in 1843 at the time of the Disruption, when the minister and the congregation of Dunfermline North Church Extension charge adhered to the Free Church. The congregation continued to worship in the church until 1849 when they were deprived of it by interdict and a new church was consequently opened in that same year. The church, which was situated in the center of Dunfermline, drew members from a wide area and mission work was additionally carried out in outlying areas. In 1900, upon the union of the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church of Scotland, Dunfermline North Free Church became Dunfermline North United Free Church and following the 1929 union of the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland, Dunfermline North U.F.C. was renamed Dunfermline St John's Church of Scotland. A number of years thereafter in 1958, Dunfermline St John's Church of Scotland united with the congregation of Dunfermline St Columba's, under the name of Dunfermline St Paul's. Jurisdiction - Presbytery of Dunfermline

  • Dunfermline: Abbey Free Church , United Free and St Columba's Church of Scotland

At the time of the Disruption in 1843, the minister of Abbey Parish Church in Dunfermline was made a member of the Free Church Assembly, his membership however was short lived and he withdrew soon after. Despite his withdrawal a Free Church congregation was immediately organised within the district, the members consisted of Free Church adherents from the Abbey Parish Church and also a congregation of Original Seceders who had previously joined the Church of Scotland. In 1844 a church in Canmore Street was opened for the newly established Dunfermline Abbey Free Church and this building was later superseded by a new church erected in 1883-1884 on the old site. Following the 1900 union of the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church of Scotland, Dunfermline Abbey Free Church became Dunfermline Abbey United Free Church, and after the 1929 union of the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland the charge was renamed Dunfermline St Columba's Church of Scotland. A number of years thereafter in 1958 Dunfermline St Columba's was joined with the congregation of Dunfermline St John's, under the name of Dunfermline St Paul's and under the ministry of Rev W.S. Carr, minister of Dunfermline St John's. Jurisdiction - Presbytery of Dunfermline

  • St Andrew's Free Church, United Free and St Andrew's South

The congregation of Dunfermline Free Church, which sat within the Presbytery of Dunfermline, was established in 1843 at the time of the Disruption when the minister of Dunfermline Parish Church, along with his congregation, adhered to the Free Church. They retained their church for a time until they were legally required to leave in 1845 and a new church was later erected and opened in 1847. Following the union between the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church of Scotland in 1900, Dunfermline St Andrew's Free became Dunfermline St Andrew's United Free and upon the union of the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland, Dunfermline St Andrew's U.F. was renamed Dunfermline St Andrew's South Church of Scotland. The charge was reduced in status in 1942-1948 and the church was later closed for worship in 1953, at which time the congregation was transported as a church extension charge to Brucefield. A church-hut was used for a time as a place of worship until a new site was secured in Whitelaw Road. Jurisdiction - Presbytery of Dunfermline.

  • Dunfermline Associate (Burgher) Church, Queen Anne Street United Presbyterian, United Free, Church of Scotland Erskine 

Dunfermline Queen Anne Street Burgher Church, which sat in the Presbytery of Dunfermline and Kinross, first began in 1737 when Ralph Erskine, with whom the congregations origins can be attributed, acceded to the Associate Presbytery. The church of Dunfermline Associate (Burgher) congregation was opened in 1741 however this church was later demolished in 1800 when a new church was opened in Queen Anne Street, with sittings for 1642, built at a cost of £2306. In 1847 the Queen Anne Street congregation became part of the United Presbyterian Church. Following the union between the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church of Scotland in 1900, Dunfermline Queen Anne Street U.P. became Dunfermline Queen Anne Street United Free Church and upon the 1929 union between the United Free Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland, the congregation became Dunfermline Queen Anne Street Church of Scotland. In 1942 a union was established with the charge of Dunfermline Chalmers Street to form the session of Dunfermline Erskine Church of Scotland. After the local union the former Chalmers Street Church and manse were sold. Further union later followed with Dunfermline St Andrew's in 1974, under the name of Dunfermline St Andrew's Erskine Church of Scotland, and this united congregation remains active today, under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of Dunfermline.

  • Chalmers Street (United Presbyterian, United Free and Church of Scotland) 

In 1788 the members of the congregation of Cairneyhill presented a petition, signed by 44 members, to the Presbytery of Dunfermline and Kinross requesting that they be formed into a separate Antiburgher congregation at Dunfermline. The request was granted and without delay the petitioners were formed into the congregation of Dunfermline Chalmers Street Antiburgher Church. Worship initially took place in temporary accommodation until their church was built in 1789 at a cost of £700 and with sittings for 420. David Black, the first minister of the congregation was also ordained in 1789. In 1847 Chalmers Street Antiburgher Church became part of the United Presbyterian Church and in 1862 a new church was opened at a cost£1500, with sittings for 500. Following the union between the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church of Scotland in 1900, Dunfermline Chalmers Street U.P. became Dunfermline Chalmers Street United Free Church and upon the 1929 union between the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland, the congregation became Dunfermline Chalmers Street Church of Scotland. The name of the congregation was changed in 1939 to that of Chalmers Street-Headwell. In 1942 a union was established with the charge of Dunfermline Queen Anne Street to form the session of Dunfermline Erskine Church of Scotland and after the local union the former Chalmers Street Church and manse were sold. Further union later followed with Dunfermline St Andrew's in 1974, under the name of Dunfermline St Andrew's Erskine Church of Scotland and this united congregation remains active today, under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of Dunfermline.

  • Townhill Free Church Kirk Session, United Free, Church of Scotland

Townhill Free Church, Dunfermline, began with a temporary church building in 1882, leading to the sanctioning of the charge in 1884 and the erection of a new, permanent church in 1893. It passed successively to the United Free Church, as Townhill, and to the Church of Scotland, as Dunfermline Townhill, which merged with a former Church of Scotland chapel of ease in 1930, but continued under the latter name. The Church of Scotland charge, now Dunfermline Towenhill and Kingseat, is in the presbytery of Dunfermline (formerly Dunfermline and Kinross). Until the abolition of synods in 1993, it was in the synod of Fife. Jurisdiction - Presbytery of Dunfermline

  • St Margaret's United Secession, United Presbyterian, United Free Church

St Margaret's United Secession Church originated in 1825 when a group of members of Dunfermline Queen Anne Street Burgher Church successfully petitioned for disjunction and took over an existing Methodist church in Maygate. It passed successively to the United Presbyterian and United Free Churches and in 1929 to the Church of Scotland. The Church of Scotland charge is in the presbytery of Dunfermline (formerly Dunfermline and Kinross) and was in the synod of Fife until the abolition of synods in 1993. Jurisdiction - Presbytery of Dunfermline.

  • Dunfermline North Church

The church of Dunfermline was founded early in 1840 and was opened as an extension church for public worship in November of that year. The parish was later erected in 1855 and established as an independent parish, quoad sacra. The kirk session sat within the Presbytery of Dunfermline later Dunfermline and Kinross and following the restructuring of the Presbyteries in 1976 once again became part of the Presbytery of Dunfermline.

  • St Andrew's Church

In 1851 the parish of Dunfermline St Andrew's was erected quoad sacra by the Court of Teinds, a chapel which had been opened here on 1777 having been granted a constitution by Act of Assembly a number of years prior in 1834. The chapel had originally been erected in 1752 as a meeting house for Thomas Gillespie. In 1974 Dunfermline St Andrew's formed a union with Dunfermline Erskine under the name of Dunfermline St Andrew's Erskine. The kirk session presently sits within the Presbytery of Dunfermline.

  • Dunfermline United Reform Church
The Dunfermline URC was formerly known as the Dunfermline Congregational Church and was formed from the Canmore Street Congregational Church established in 1840 and the North Congregational Church established in 1851 as the Bath Street Ecumenical Church.
  • Gillespie Relief Church
Dunfermline Gillespie United Presbyterian Church began under the ministry of Rev Thomas Gillespie, who along with a small group of ministers and elders from other churches, formed themselves into the 'Relief Presbytery' in 1761. All seemed be fairly harmonious for this new group of worshippers for many years until Rev Gillespie found himself in conflict with some of the members of the congregation on various issues of principal. The strain clearly took its toll on Rev Gillespie, as in 1774 at the age of 65 he died. In 1847, Maygate Chapel congregation was without a minister and Rev Neil M'Michael, minister at Dunfermline Gillespie, moved his congregation to Maygate whilst a new church was being built. At a joint meeting of the Gillespie and Maygate congregations in 1848 it was unanimously declared that the two charges should unite under the ministry of Rev Professor Neil M'Michael and take the name of North Chapel Street congregation. The Presbytery gave their sanction to the union of the two charges and the building of a new church, which opened for worship on 4 November 1849. In 1900 when the Free and the United Presbyterian Churches united the congregation became known as Dunfermline Gillespie United Free Church, and in turn passed back to the Established Church in 1929 as Dunfermline Gillespie Church of Scotland, later Dunfermline Gillespie Memorial Church of Scotland.
  • Maygate United Secession
  • Crossford Free Church
  • Limekilns Associate, (burgher) United Presbyterian, United Free, and Church of Scotland 

Limekilns, Associate (Burgher) Church began in 1782 with an appeal to Dunfermline Burgher Presbytery for disjunction from Dunfermline, Queen Anne Street (Burgher) Church. The petition was granted and a separate minister ordained in 1785. The congregation passed successively to the United Presbyterian and United Free Churches, and finally to the Church of Scotland. The Church of Scotland charge has been linked with Cairneyhill since 1983. It is in the presbytery of Dunfermline (formerly Dunfermline and Kinross) and was in the synod of Fife until the abolition of synods in 1993.

  • Crossgates Burgher, United Presbyterian Church, United Free, Church of Scotland

Crossgates United Presbyterian Church originated as a Burgher church in 1802, when a group from Crossgates applied to Dunfermline Burgher Presbytery for supply of sermon, the church having apparently already been built. The congregation was drawn partly from Dunfermline and partly from Inverkeithing. It passed successively to the United Presbyterian and United Free Churches, and to the Church of Scotland (as Crossgates). It united with Mossgreen as Mossgreen and Crossgates in 1948. The Church of Scotland charge was in the presbytery of Dunfermline and Kinross and the synod of Fife.

  • North Queensferry Free Church, United Free
see under Inverkeithing parish.