Corsock & Kirkpatrick-Durham Church


                A short guide to Kirkpatrick-Durham Church

Welcome to Kirkpatrick-Durham church. It was built in1849-50 by the architect Walter Newall at a cost of £1240.He built many local churches which are characterized by a square end tower surmounted by four spiked pinnacles. Other examples of his work can be seen at Buittle, Anwoth, Lochrutton, Kirkmahoe and our linked church Parton. He also designed the nearby House at Glenlair, home of James Clerk Maxwell the scientist and first director of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and the greatest genius Scotland has ever produced.

It is said that Maxwell started his education at Samuel Ferguson’s schoolhouse in the village.

The design of the church is late Georgian Gothic despite its Victorian date.High in the north gable above the big pointed window with Y-traceried mullions

is a circular stone heraldic panel with the coat of arms of William KennedyAbbot of Crossraguel between 1529 and 1547.Also carved in the panel is the date 1749 that of the previous church on the site. The carving on the stone appears to be two centuries earlier. This is the oldest ecclesiastical relic in the parish.

Before that time the site of the church was at Minnydow prominent on a high field now marked by a small circle of trees enclosed within a dry stone wall It is probable that a church was on this site in the 13th century..

Before 1949 the interior of the church space was divided up by about one hundred and ten pews all with doors. There were six larger pews in the corners ,  upholstered in red and containing tables. a plan is displayed in the hall)   Seating was allocated by the Kirk session even to the number of inches each member was allowed.

In the Kirk session notes for example of 1850 it states that an additional eighteen inches were allocated to Mrs Dinwoodie of Kirkland. The reason is not enlarged upon.

In 1949 all the pews were removed and replaced by beech chairs all facing north, the pulpit was removed to the north-east corner. The vestry was changed to its present position from the area which is now the kitchen. The communion table stood on the low dais which you see to your left on entering the church..

At the same time a partition allowed a hall to be created and an upper hall was constructed in 1968/69 and is currently used for the Sunday school

 On entering the main church if you look up there is a huge plaster rose dating from 1810.(presumably taken from another building)

The current refurbishment of the church was completed in 2002 when the chairs were again renewed for more modern and comfortable ones and replaced back in the original layout. The old pulpit and lectern were removed and replaced by those you see, matching the communion table, skillfully made by local craftsmen

There are only two stained glass windows .The one above the communion table commemorating a well loved and colourful local doctor John Meggat who died 1896.

Predictably it depicts St. Luke, the beloved physician and St.Patrick (rather surprisingly dressed as a bishop given the very strong church links to the covenanting movement) who is holding a shamrock.

The other window to the right is in memory of the landowner John Fergusson of Kilquhanity (also designed by Walter Newall) who died in 1886, it represents the sower and reaper. The Fergusson box pew was sited in that corner.

On the back wall to the left as you leave is a simple wooden plaque commemorating the Rev.Gabriel Semple first of the covenanter field preachers and his friend John Neilson. Semple was the great great grandson of Lord Semple who fell at Flodden in1513.He had been chosen as minister by the Kirk session by popular election but in May 1662 an act of parliament was passed depriving all ministers, staunch in their Presbyterian beliefs, of their living that had not been “presented” by Royal Patronage. This was the end then of Presbyterian dominance and Episcopal Curates were forced on the congregations. Those who refused suffered severely. Semple was therefore “Outed” from the Kirk and the manse and went to Corsock House or Castle, the home of his friend John Neilson who was soon after “spoiled of his goods, driven from his home, tortured with the boot and hanged at the cross of Edinburgh in December 1666”  for adherence to his Presbyterian faith  

There is a “Table” memorial stone in the Kirkyard  for his widow Mary McLellan who died in1697, but also records the plight of John Neilson and his martyrdom in 1666.

One of the Curates replacing Semple was Alexander Sangster from the Isle of Cumbrae.He arrived in 1676 and beat a hasty retreat in 1688. Although ,never proven, it was a widely held view among the congregation that he also absconded with the communion plate As a result it is recorded in the session  clerk’s minutes of 1698 that there were no communion cups and two elders were therefore dispatched to Balmaghie “to fetch the lend of the cups”

Consequently our earliest communion pewter cups are dated 1733(also inscribed KilpatrickDurham presumably the name used at that time)

We do have communion tokens of lead dating back to 1725(displayed in the hall).At that time the bread and wine was brought from Dumfries where there was only one baker. He made “Bawbee Baps” of coarse flour, chiefly bran, which were carried in creels to Kirkpatrick Annual Fair on St.Patrick’s day.

The minister then was the Reverend James Hill. His son James was a surgeon in Dumfries, who acquired much professional and scientific repute due largely to his apprentice Dr Benjamin Bell, who became the greatest surgeon of his day in Scotland. He founded the Edinburgh school of Surgery. His great grandson Joseph, a President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, was the role model for Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

David Lamont 1774-1837, after Semple, was the most important and influential minister. He virtually founded the village of Kirkpatrick-Durham in1785 by allowing cheap feus off the Durhamhill Estate.He appears to have inherited considerable means and owned the estates of Culshand, Erncrogo, Knockwalloch and he built Durhamhill. An eloquent preacher and philanthropist, his time was not without incident.He was Moderator of the General Assembly in 1822 and preached before George 1V in July that year.

 In May 1831 the clerk of the session records that a young medical student James Martin who had taught in the village declared “In the course of last winter he was in Edinburgh attending the college of Surgeons and in Dr Knox’s dissecting room when he was quite shocked to see the body of a young woman of the village with whom he was well acquainted”. Suspicions of body snatching fell on the Church Officer James Armstrong who vigorously denied “raising her from the grave”. However his assertions were accepted and the matter finally dropped.

In 1843 “The Act of Secession” saw the withdrawal of membership of the Free Church from the Church of Scotland. The building now used as the village hall in Kirkpatrick-Durham served as the Free Church and Schoolroom. It opened in 1870.There is a fine stone plaque commemorating this event, the minister being Reverend George J C Duncan  He was the son of Dr.Henry Duncan,Ruthwell who founded the first Savings Bank now Lloyds TSB. The Churches were reunited in1940.

Corsock was originally in the parish of  Parton but was disjoined in 1856.The parish church there was built in 1839 largely through the generosity of John Clerk Maxwell and communion held there from 1863 when the first minister the Reverend George Sturrock was appointed. In 1947 the parish church and Free Church were joined. In 1963 Corsock was linked to Kirkpatrick-Durham and Union took place in 1989.Linkage with Parton and Crossmichael took place at the same time.

The Reverend W.A Stark, minister of KirkpatrickDurham was the author of The Book of KirkpatrickDurham published in 1903.It is a very informative source and scholarly work to which the reader is recommended.