Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
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Monday, 26 September 2011

20 Sept 2011 - "Victorian Churches"

Professor Hume gave us a fascinating illustrated tour of Ayrshire’s very rich architectural heritage of Victorian Churches from the Gothic revival and steeple churches, such as that in New Cumnock, from the early part of Victoria’s reign, through the Romanesque Revival as seen in the West Kirk in Sandgate in Ayr and on to the Arts and Crafts influenced styles of the early part of the 20th Century as in the Henderson Church in Kilmarnock, the Portland Church in Troon and St Nicholas in Prestwick.

The churches were linked to the economic and social conditions pertaining at the time they were built.  For example the huge increase in urbanisation at the beginning of the period produced a large number of new churches to serve the expanding populations of the towns. The railway boom which encouraged the growth of many industries also had an effect, leading to churches being built in Kilmarnock, Cumnock and New Cumnock.  Troon also became established as a prosperous seaside resort and commuter town for Glasgow due to the railways and to a lesser extent so did Prestwick and Ayr.  When the railway boom became a railway bust there were also churches which remained unfinished, especially their towers, because of a lack of money.

The disruption of 1843, when the split in the church caused many congregations to be looking around for new buildings in which to worship also brought about the building of more churches.

To add to this mix of factors, in the middle of the 19th Century there was an influx of Catholics from Ireland and even Church of England adherents which led to the building of more Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches respectively.  Some churches were paid for by benefactors, such as the Saint Sophia in Galston which was financed by the Marquis of Bute and reputedly modelled on the church of the same name in Istanbul, although there are certainly many differences.  However, the Presbyterian Ministers were not slow to show their independence of those who paid for church buildings and the story is told that when the Clarke Memorial Church was built in Largs the benefactor asked to be given a key so that he could show his friends the building he had paid for, but the request was refused.

The church in Alloway was mentioned as having the most elaborate tracery window and after hearing the talk we all went away determined to look more carefully at the architectural gems on our doorstep.

Patricia Weston

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