History – Barony St John’s Church

St John’s Church, Ardrossan

The former St John’s Church produced a small booklet in 1944 to commemorate their centenary.

Click here to open a searchable pdf file of the booklet. (7Mb)



Prior to 1691 there were no ecclesiastical records for the Parish of Ardrossan but in that year it was noted the Rev. Tom Clarke had been inducted as minister. His church was a small building on the side of the Castle Hill, the remains of which can still be seen in the old graveyard. As there were no inhabitants of Ardrossan at that time his parishioners may have come mainly from the nearby castle. In 1695 the church was blown down by a storm and was re-erected in 1697 at Stanley Clachan, a group of houses situated beside the Stanley Burn. No trace of them now remains. When Mr. Clarke died he was buried in the nearby Weir’s of Kirkhall burial ground.

As most of the parishioners now came from Saltcoats it was decided in 1744 to remove the building to Saltcoats and a site was found adjacent to the Chapel Well for its re-erection and so the Parish Church of Ardrossan was established in Saltcoats. There is, of course, no Parish of Saltcoats, this town being divided between Stevenston and Ardrossan. The church was damaged by a storm and rebuilt in 1773 and remains to this day as the council-run North Ayrshire Museum. It ceased being a church in 1908 when the present St. Cuthbert’s church in Caledonia Road, Saltcoats, was opened in the same year.

In the early years of the last century Ardrossan was being developed by the 12th Earl of Eglinton who was building the harbour and various houses including the Pavilion, Bath Villa and the Eglinton Hotel, whilst providing a good example of town planning with broad streets. The railway had arrived and in 1840 a through service to Glasgow was available. The church in Saltcoats could only accommodate 840 and although the minister, Mr. Bryce held occasional services in Ardrossan the need for a permanent church became urgent.

Barony Church from the sunken garden

Accordingly in August 1843, a meeting was held of residents and feuars and an appeal was made for funds to erect a church on ground gifted by the 13th Earl. The appeal was very successful and early in 1844 Glasgow architects, Black & Salmon prepared plans and schedules. Work started in April 1844. Remarkably it was opened in December the same year, and was called New Ardrossan Parish Church. It had cost £2658.18.3. As built, it probably extended as far as the front pews of the present building.

It was expected that the church would be transferred into a quoad omnia parish which required it to provide education for the children and accordingly funds were raised for this purpose and a school was built in Glasgow Street (now the Good Templars’ Hall) in 1846 and a headmaster appointed. However, under a new law which permitted parishes to become quoad sacra, New Ardrossan Parish Church became the first such in Scotland in 1851. In the same year the Earl granted ground in South Crescent for a manse and glebe and this remained the manse until 1960 when it was sold and a house in Eglinton Road was purchased. This in turn was sold and another house in the same road was bought.

There have been various changes made to the church. In 1886 an appeal was made for funds to erect a hall on ground adjacent to the church and this was successfully accomplished, a handsome and commodious building to seat around 300 was opened in 1887. The cost including furnishings was nearly £1000. The church was governed by trustees, six local gentlemen and three from Edinburgh. In February 1888 they submitted plans for the extension of the church and, after the congregation had approved them, the necessary funds were called for. The work was completed in 1889 and the debt cleared the following year. At the same time a large pipe organ was installed. Originally the console was under the pulpit, but when major renovation was being undertaken in 1933 it was moved to its present position at the front of the chancel.

1929 saw the Union of the Churches within the Church of Scotland and the name of the New Ardrossan Parish Church was changed to Barony Church. The trustees were replaced by a Congregational Board to administer the temporal affairs of the church.


St John’s Church, Ardrossan

ST. JOHN’S CHURCH (Click here to download the St John’s Centenary booklet from 1944)

1843 was the year of the Disruption within the Church of Scotland, but it was not that which caused a group of 12 gentlemen in Ardrossan to dissent. They were against Patronage which was common in the country, whereby the State or the Ground Superior could install a minister against the wishes of the congregation. They wished to have a “Free” church and at a meeting in January 1844 a Free Church of Ardrossan was duly formed.

By 1845 the first church, situated in Glasgow Street where the former Co-operative building was latterly, was opened, a modest affair costing £308. When the first minister was getting married the need for a manse arose and building commenced on a plot of land in open country beyond the Toll House, now Eglinton Road. It cost £342. In 1855 the Deacon’s Court which administered the affairs of the church was looking for a site for a new and larger church. The corner of Princes Street and Montgomerie Street was offered, but as there was no Eglinton Dock at that time it was exposed to the open sea, so a site at the corner of Barr Street and Montgomerie Street was taken. The architect was Mr. Campbell from Glasgow and the church was built at a cost of £2200. It was opened for worship in 1857.In 1887 the church was offered a harmonium which was accepted, but ten years later a pipe organ was installed. Some changes were also made to the fabric. In 1883 the gallery was erected and in 1889 the church was enlarged and the hall built at a cost of £1500.


1900 saw the union of the Free Church with the United Presbyterian Church and the name of the church became St. John’s U.F. Church while in 1929 with the union with the Church of Scotland, it now became St. John’s Church of Scotland. In 1985 the Presbytery of Ardrossan undertook a survey of the provision of churches within its boundary and decided that two were sufficient for Ardrossan. After discussions with all three it was agreed that Barony and St. John’s should unite. Mr. McKay, minister of the latter, wished to retire while Mr. Ewing of Barony expressed his willingness to retire in the interests of union.

A professional survey of both churches and manses indicated that the Barony building was in better condition and should be retained. St. John’s had sold their manse some years back and bought a bungalow nearby to replace it. After protracted negotiations the union of the two congregations was effected in September 1987, and the St. John’s manse retained. The Barony manse was sold as was St. John’s church buildings which were eventually resold and unfortunately demolished in 1991 and was replaced by a block of new housing known as St. John’s Place. Many of the items of furniture and fittings were removed and made use of within the Barony buildings. The funds from these sales were held in Edinburgh for the use of the united church fabric and have been used to enlarge and modernise the manse.

A minister for the united charge was sought and in June 1988, a probationer, the Rev. A. W. Young, was ordained and inducted to the charge. Mr. Young accepted a call to a church in Edinburgh in June 1993. Following a short vacancy, the Rev. William Jackson was ordained and inducted in 1994. The two constituent parts of the united church celebrated their 150th anniversary in 1994, and a programme of events to mark the occasion was organised. Sadly, Rev Jackson left Barony St. John’s Church in August 1998 to take up a new ministry at Craigie Church in Perth. Again, another vacancy was facing the Church and after nine months, the Rev. Colin Sutherland, formerly of Cowie with Plean, was inducted in June 1999. After a short ministry, Mr Sutherland left Barony St John’s in October 2002 to become minister of Livingstone Memorial Church in Blantyre. Following Mr. Sutherland’s departure, Ardrossan Presbytery decided that Barony St John’s should become a continued vacancy for a period. The Rev. Johnston McKay was appointed as Locum Minister/Interim Moderator. Mr McKay, the former head of Religous Broadcasting with the BBC, proved to be an extremely popular and well-liked minister. Rev. McKay left Barony St. John’s in March 2008. Immediately afterwards the Rev. Andrew Taylor of Largs took Sunday Services for several months before handing over to Rev. James Davidson until January 2009.

In December 2006, following the review and approval of the Presbytery’s 10-year plan, it was with great delight that the congregation was informed of the decision to allow them to call a new minister on an unrestricted basis. After a long search, the Nominating Committee agreed to invite Mrs Dorothy Granger to become the next minister of Barony St John’s. After preaching as Sole Nominee in late October 2008, the congregation voted in favour of Mrs Granger, who had just completed her probationary placement at Kilmarnock Henderson Church, and lived locally in Barassie. Presbytery held her service of Ordination and Induction on 22nd January 2009, and the congregation is looking forward to many happy years of ministry under Dorothy’s guidance.

In February 2010 a section of plaster fell from the ceiling of the church and subsequent surveys identified serious structural problems with the building which deemed it unsafe for public use. As such, the congregation worshipped in the adjacent church hall for all services until November 2011. After several months of using a piano, a generous donation allowed the congregation to purchase a secondhand digital organ which made a huge difference within services. Unfortunately though, the safety of the plasterwork in the hall also caused concerns for it’s continued use.

In November 2011 the Kirk Session agreed to move out of the church hall and seek alternative premises until such times as the hall premises could be made fit for purpose once more. The neighbouring Roman Catholic Church of St Peter’s in Chains kindly offered the use of their hall for the season of advent. In January 2012 the congregation then moved a short distance along the shorefront to share with St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, with services being held at the earlier time of 10am.

A congregational meeting was held in late December 2011 to fully explain the situation the congregation was in, and after discussion the congregation present agreed with the Kirk Session’s recommendation that the Church sanctuary building should be disposed of, and that a feasibilty study would go ahead on the halls complex. That survey recommended that approximately £400,000 was needed to upgrade the halls complex to suitable standards.

In 2013 the revised Presbytery Plan recommended that a Union should take place between Saltcoats New Trinity Church and Barony St John’s and the congregation agreed to this. In November 2013 the union took place and the united congregation became known as Ardrossan and Saltcoats Kirkgate Parish Church, with the former New Trinity premises in Saltcoats being used for worship.

In December 2014, the former Barony St John’s were sold after a short time on the market to a charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, who hope to adapt the buildings for community use.


When the extension of New Ardrossan Parish Church was being carried out in 1889 beautiful stained glass windows were placed in the north end of the church by the late A. D. Bryce (son of the Rev. J. Bryce of Ardrossan Parish Church), the late James Mutter of Meiklelaught and the family of John Moffat of South Crescent. The church was greatly improved by these alterations. Windows have since been added by the Misses Moffat, Miss Mack and two by the congregation as memorials to the Rev. D. McArthur and of members of the church who fell in the First World War.

St John’s interior

St. John’s also had some fine windows including one given by the congregation in memory of the fallen in World War One. In 1919 Mrs. Russell donated one in memory of her husband and in 1935 Mr. Matthew Black gave one in memory of his family. At the time of the union unfortunately they were in poor condition and only the War Memorial window was salvaged. lt was removed to the Barony Church and erected on a special stand in the vestibule. The others were dismantled and are in the care of the Museum Department of the District Council.


Both churches had ministers with long service. New Ardrossan Parish Church had the Rev. J. Drennan McCall from 1854 until 1907, while St. John’s had the Rev. R. M. Adamson from 1892 until 1937. Ministers in succession in the Parish Church, then Barony, were Rev. T. C. Wilson, Rev. Dr. Liddell, Rev. Jas. MacKay, Mr. McCall, Rev. J. K. Cameron, Rev. D. McArthur, Rev. R. P. Fairlie, Rev. Wm. Bodin, Rev. A. Macdonald, Rev. T. Williamson and the Rev. J. Ewing. In the Free Church, then St. John’s, the Rev. J. Stewart, Rev. A. Cameron, Mr. Adamson, Rev. D. Stalker, Rev. D. O. Galbraith, Rev. R. Wedderspoon, Rev. W. J. R. Hay, Rev. D. McKay.


Rev. Sandy Young, Rev. William Jackson, Rev. Colin Sutherland, Rev Dorothy Granger


Both churches had successful Woman’s Guilds formed after the Union in 1929. Prior to that the Parish Church had work parties meeting on Thursday afternoons and evenings whose sole purpose was the making of garments for sale each year. After the formation of the guilds the pattern changed and while the main purpose is the raising of money for the national annual project the social side is not forgotten and an attractive syllabus of events is still enjoyed each session. It will never be known how much the Christian Church really owes to its women members, for much of their work is done unofficially and some of it without recognition. Meetings are so planned that the guild members should have the opportunity of sharing a real fellowship and of hearing the worthy expression of Christian thought. Nowadays the organisation is simply known as ‘The Guild’, and has a membership of around forty, including some gentlemen.


The numbers attending the Sunday School have varied over the years, both churches having at times problems attracting the children. It is interesting to note in the 1930’s St. John’s had eighty children in the primary department. After the union, considerable efforts was made by a band of teachers and helpers and there was an encouraging increase in numbers. Activities such as Holiday Clubs created a great deal of interest and enjoyment. In recent years numbers have declined again and at the moment there are about half a dozen children on the roll of the Sunday School.


Both churches had active Girls’ Associations for a number of years but these have now lapsed.


St. John’s started a Young Peoples’ Guild in 1944 and the Barony a Youth Fellowship. These eventually merged into a joint Youth Fellowship and it flourished for a good many years, the climax to each session being a variety concert which attracted large audiences and much hidden talent was forthcoming. With the current problem of attracting the present generation of young people into the Church the Youth Fellowship is sadly no more, although the Rev. William Jackson did start a group up during his ministry in the late 1990’s which has fallen away again since his departure.


At a time when these groups flourished throughout the district St. John’s had an active fellowship. Barony tried it but it did not last long and its members joined that of St. John’s. Like many other organisations, this too has fallen by the wayside.


In recent years a small group of ladies from the congregation have formed a Craft Team which produces home-made greetings cards and small gifts, which are sold and raise some funds for the church.


In 2005 a small group was formed which meets on a Wednesday morning for a time of fellowship. The Group was well supported, and they helped to make decorations for use in the church and they take part in other activities as required.


In early 2008 a Pastoral Care team was formed to assist with the visiting of those in hospital or in need of a home visit. This has proven to be very successful, and is now an essential part of congregational life.


Since the late 90’s Barony St John’s has also produced a monthly newsletter (except in January, July and August) called “The Word”. The congregation initially paid a token subscription for it, which helped cover its production costs, but in recent years it has been distributed to all church members free of charge, the costs partly offset by advertising on it’s back cover. It is usually distributed alongside the Church of Scotland’s own “Life & Work” magazine. The website has also been in existence since 2000, going through several revamps.


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