. · • Limekilns Parish Church - History • · .
A Personal Reflection by the Earl of Elgin
On Saturday, 18th November, 1881, the members of the United Presbyterian Church in Limekilns met in this building to mark the Centenary of their existence.
My grandfather - at the request of the Minister, the Revd. J.D. Crawford - took the Chair and gave an address. He reminded the meeting that up until 1782 any person resident in Limekilns or Charlestown would have had to go to Church in Dunfermline. In that year, however, adherents of the Queen Anne Street Church were moved to institute a new congregation in Limekilns. This move was supported by a number of Elders who were resident in Limekilns and district. These men encountered opposition in the Presbytery: but they were not to be denied. Mr. Husband (Minister of Queen Anne) said he parted with the Limekilns section of his congregation in tears, for he considered them his right arm.
The first Church seems to have been built with the congregation's own efforts: several poor women, it was said, carried tiles from the Brickworks for the roof. In 1785, the congregation called Dr. Hadden as its first Minister. He entered his duties with a stipend of £50 a year. Two years later, the pulpit fee for a preacher to stand in was 10/6d, of which 10d was for the keep of the preacher's pony. After thirty-six years, Dr. Hadden died, and was succeeded by the Revd. Johnston in 1823, and there opened what was termed The Golden Age of the Church. In 1826, the building was reconstructed, taking the size of the present Church. By 1831, the population of the villages swelled to their highest number and there were 504 members on the Church Roll.
During the summer of 1824, while the Church was being rebuilt. Dr. Johnston held services in a tent, in a field beside the village. He noticed a man walk down from Broomhall and lean against a tree to listen to the sermon. The man must have been impressed because a sort of rustic seat was built, to which he brought his wife and children. Only later did Dr. Johnston discover that it had been my great-great grandfather. In 1826, he made a donation towards the building of the Church and took two pews, which we have occupied ever since.
The 1826 Church remained unaltered until 1882, when some remodelling was undertaken. The Managers thought it most appropriate to mark the Centenary and sent an appeal for funds to all members. A large donation came from Sir Andrew Walker, which
was not only in money but also in the form of two memorial windows flanking the pulpit, which was also erected as part of the gift. The congregation, however, raised £150 and this was laid out in forming ten new windows, widening the pew seats, constructing new choir seats and painting the whole of the woodwork of the Church in a dark oak stain. The ventilation was improved by a new system patented by a Glasgow firm. The alterations took three months to complete and were deemed most thorough and reflected great credit upon those who superintended them.
What, however, the congregation failed to do was to obtain legal title to the site of the Church and Manse. Their original request and the promise of a grant of land was to Pitfirrane Estate (Sir J. Halkett) as Feudal Superior. When the 7th Earl of Elgin, in 1815, acquired the entire Superiority of Limekilns village, the use of the land was acquiesced, and only in very recent times was a Disposition of Clare Constat granted by myself.
The Church and Manse are built upon a geological feature known as The Upper Raised Beach. This is a bed of very firm sand, originally deposited in primeval times. Sermons are known to have been preached on the text from St. Luke's Gospel, Chapter 6, Verses 48 and 49, causing much glee to the more knowledgeable occupants of the Laird's Pew!
But it was from the most enduring of all the actions of the 7th Earl of Elgin that those responsible for rebuilding the 1826 Church took courage. They put upon their plain, square building, a most elegant Neo-Classical facade.
It must have given the local masons and quarrymen much pleasure to plan and dress the stone required; and it is from the best of the local quarries - that which was reserved for Broomhall itself. The 1820s were busy years for ship building in Limekilns and the wrights took up the challenge offered by the masons and, in their turn, designed and built a single-span roof, of a good pitch, to cover the building without interruption of column. Some would say that this is the largest timber span roof in Fife. Hollow, echoing space is of little use to a preacher, so there were galleries, and yet another of the local men of skill had a place in the building. Iron columns and iron plates, from the foundry near Charlestown, were designed and erected. Now all was ready for the carpenters, who seemed to have a never exhausting supply of timber. Many and narrow were the rows of bench pews in which the congregation were seated until the reshaping in 1882.
Without question, the greatest event in the local history which had impact upon the Church's steady running of affairs, was the construction and subsequent manning of Rosyth Dockyard. This brought large number of men and their families into the district. Many came from England. It is recorded that, in 1911, following the arrival of the first contingent of the work-force from the English Royal Dockyards, the congregation (as they skailled) were discussing the merits of their new neighbours. To their utter astonishment - and near disbelief - they saw smoke rising, on the Sabbath Day, from the chimneys of those houses let to the Southerners; and, as they neared those objects of shame, there could be smelt the flavour of roasting meat! When the War came, however, and the river filled with an enormous Fleet, our Church became a Christian centre for several denominations. Services of an Episcopal nature were held each Sunday and many were the mixed weddings and baptisms. Ecumenism came in a natural, homely way to Limekilns Church.
In more recent times, electricity was introduced for light and heat. Wise men gave advice upon a complete redecoration, and a host of volunteers carried this scheme into effect. The brilliance of the result made us gasp at the passing of the Victorian dark oak stain.
The Holy (Communion) Table and Elders' chairs were another presentation. The Organ, however, took a combined effort, with the late Barbara Mullen attending a Sale of Work in near washout weather conditions!
Only the red baize covering in the Gallery remains - having served a hundred years - of the Church's more ephemeral fittings.
Our Church Bell, with its complex rope attachment, has been superseded by electronics in another loving gift. Hanah White (known as Rae) was a long time member of the church and also ran the Sunday School and when she died, George, Hanah's brother, and June White donated the electronic bells in her memory.
The beautiful quilted wall hangings worked by members of the congregation in memory of friends and relatives are more recent donations.
All in all, a congregation's love has kept our place of worship and, if you are a stranger making us a visit, it is hoped that something of the friendly aura of this place will stay with you when you depart.