The Parish Church of Lochwinnoch - A Short History

Compiled by Mr Tom Begg


Lochwinnoch is situated adjacent to the Ayrshire Boundary in the south west of the District Council of Renfrew.

In the Cambridge County Geographies, Renfrewshire edition of 1912 Lochwinnoch is described as pleasantly situated at the edge of Castle Semple Loch among grassy slopes, and sheltered by woods. Alexander Wilson, poet and naturalist, worked in Lochwinnoch as a handloom weaver in the 1700’s. The principle industry in 1912 was the making of furniture.

That same year on the night of 14-15 April, the ill-fated Titanic sank in the Atlantic having struck an iceberg with the loss of more than 1500 souls. Furniture was supplied to that ship from a factory once located immediately behind the Parish Church.


Lochwinnoch Parish

Lochwinnoch Parish is the largest in the area with its boundaries stretching 10 miles from the high hills in the west across the valley to the lower hills in the east and runs 5 miles from the Ayrshire boundary northwards to the end of Castle Semple Loch where the Black Cart river begins to flow down to the Clyde. The bulk of the parish population live in Lochwinnoch where there are over a thousand households and at least an extra thirty are added each year, with no sign of any respite. Alexander Wilson wrote of the village and its people in the late 1700’s in very happy and favourable terms: -“Lochwinnoch stands stretched on a rising ground, In bulk a village but in worth a town; Here lives your friend, amid as cheerful swains As ever trod o’er fam’d Arcadian plains. Far from the world retired, our only care In silken gauze to form the flow’rets fair, To bid beneath our hands gay blossoms rise, In all the colours of the changing skies.” [I 22] The second part of that extract from his ‘Descriptive Poem, Lochwinnoch’ describes the weaving which then was the principle occupation in the village. Today there are no working mills. Weaving or furniture making and the cooperage has recently closed. The Lemonade Factory is the only industry left in Lochwinnoch. The population is rising because people who work elsewhere in the Central Belt find the village a pleasant place to live and, with good roads and a regular train service, easy to get to and from their work. The beauty of the area, the village and its amenities, the nature park, the bird sanctuary, the cycle track, the water sports centre, the walks in the hills, the river and loch fishing as well as the history of the area bring day visitors and holidaymakers throughout the year.


Geography and Pre History

The area has a history of settlements going back to pre-history. This is easy to understand when you consider the topography based on the geology and the geography. [A various]

Lochwinnoch nestles on the west side and in the middle of a gap that runs from Ardrossan to Renfrew. It has a series of lochs running in a Southwesterly to North Easterly direction. The water surface of the lochs, Kilbirnie, Barr and Castle Semple at no time is higher than 100ft (33m) above sea level. The oldest of these lochs is Castle Semple where Lochwinnoch has its shores. The lochs are shallow, drain slowly, flood easily and are being gradually filled by alluvium from the rivers of Garnock, Maich and Calder all of which flow down from the western hills which rise to over 1700ft(500m) high at the Hill of Stake (NS274630).

The high land to the west is formed from weather resistant volcanic rocks which poured out in great horizontal sheets in the Carboniferous Period, forming an almost unbroken plateau triangular in shape with its points behind Linwood, Gourock and Ardrossan. Much of this high ground makes up the Nature Park of Muirshiel. These hills shelter the village from the westerly and northerly winds. Being southeast facing Lochwinnoch receives a generous share of the available sunlight. There is rich arable land below the hills and water is plentiful in rivers, streams and wells, wild life in abundance on the land and in the water is a major source of food. If the hedgerows of today are anything to go by there would have been many fruits, berries and fungi. All these advantages attract settlers and the pre-history settlements are evidenced by the existence of Crannogs (NS325535, NS363588), the discovery of 21 dug out wooden canoes in Castle Semple Loch and recorded in the1845 New Statistical Account.

Renfrew has a number of hill forts, located at Eaglesham, Newton Mearns, Kilmacolm and the largest; Walls Hill (NS411588) is a mile or so South-West of Howwood with an enclosed area of 18 acres. This large fort is inside the original parish, but is now in the parish of Howwood. There is however a small hill fort on Knockmade Hill (NS352618), which is within the current parish. It is unusual in that it has it a source of water within its boundary. It has direct line of sight with Walls Fort. These forts date from the first Millennium BC. The Romans who came to Scotland in the first century AD gave the local tribe in the area of Renfrew and Ayrshire the name Damnonii and Walls Hill Fort is believed to be their oppidum; which is an imprecise term used to describe large Iron Age settlements of town-like proportions. [D Vol I 6]

The Romans effected a settlement in Paisley in the First Century A. D. and built a fort believed by some to be called Vanduara on the high ground of Oakshaw Hill (NS477642) to the west of the White Cart. There is no doubt there was a Roman fort there but some scholars believe Vanduara was at Loudoun in the Irvine valley. Causeyside Street in Paisley was named from the causeway the Romans had built on the southern approach to the fort.

In Crawford’s description of the county dated 1710 he stated, “For, at Pasly (Paisley), there are the vestiges of a large Roman camp Praetoriam on the westend, on a rising ground, called Oak-shaw-head, upon the decent whereof stands the town of Pasly: The Praetoriam is not large, but it has been well fortified with three fosses and dykes of earth; it seems to have included all that ground the town stands upon, and may have been a mile in compass.” This suggests a large presence of Romans who brought their religion, Christianity, with them.


Pre-Reformation Christianity

Roman Christianity remained for several hundred years until their influence waned following the fall of Rome in the Fifth Century A. D.

Scotland reverted to Paganism until the reintroduction of Christianity by monks from Ireland in the Sixth Century A. D. A number settled in the county and founded chapels (churches). St Mirin in Paisley, St Barchan the patron saint of Kilbarchan and St Fillan who’s church is on the back road between Kilmacolm and Houston. The arm of St Fillan was carried in a case to the Battle of Bannockburn and the holy relic helped win victory for the Scots.

The identity of the Saint from whom the parish partly derives its name, is maybe impossible to establish. There are three Saints of the name of Winnocus or Winnoc. One is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology under November 6. He was a native of Brittany, and, according to his biographer, of royal descent, being the son of Judicail, King of that province, and brother of St. Judocus, He built and took charge of a monastery known as Woromholtum, where he ruled until his death, November 6, 717.

The other two Winnocs were Irishmen. Gregory of Tours’ mentions one of them; the other is named in the Acts of St. Patrick as one of the coadjutors of that Saint in his apostolic labours in Ireland. Whether the St.Winnoc in question was one of these or not, there can be little doubt that he belonged to Ireland and was one of those missionary monks who after the time of St. Patrick wandered over land and sea to preach the Gospel. At what time he settled in Lochwinnoch is unknown, but there he seems to have settled and built his chapel on the west of the loch, and around it grew up the Kirk-Town of Lochwinnoch. This area today has a number of wells and springs. One had religious significance and was called St John’s Well. The street running north from the old village centre is called Johnshill, after the well.

One other explanation among many that has been given is that the name comes from the Gaelic and means ‘Loch of the Wild Fowl’, which is very fitting with the large RSPB sanctuary at the loch. [E 8]

The earliest Christian visitors after the Romans were certainly the Celtic monks in the sixth century. A preaching stone has been found in the village and the names of some local farms suggest that they are on old preaching sites e.g. Cricks and Crossflats. There can be no doubt this area is an early Christian site.

The first written reference to Lochwinnoch came in a charter dated 1158 AD in which King Malcolm gave to Walter Fitz Allan tracts of land that included Lochinauche. (There are about forty known spellings of Lochwinnoch, of which this is the first). The second reference details the fishing rights in the ‘loch of Loucwynhok’ being given to the Monks of Paisley signed in Clackmannan on the 25 May sometime between 1180 and 1214 AD.

The first mention of the actual Chapel of Lochwinnoc is in a Charter by Florence, Bishop elect of Glasgow, confirming the gift of this and other churches to the Monks of Paisley and dated between 1202 and 1207. This implies that the Chapel of Lochwinnoch was in existence prior to the charter. These charters have established that both Lochwinnoch and a place of Christian worship have been in existence for over 800 years. [D Vol I 28]

The first mention of Lochwinnoch as a parish, ‘parochia de Lochwnzok’ was in a letter dated 28 December 1504 from King James the Fourth (The Crown?) directing a John Lord Ross of Halkhed to appear before the courts in Edinburgh for, among other things, manuring a field without a licence. [D Vol I 81]

The Landowners of the Middle Ages

Two great families became landowners in the area surrounding Lochwinnoch. One was the Glens of Barr and the other the Semples of Ellistoune and Castletoune, latterly called Castle Semple.

The Glens of Barr. [C 480-494]

There appear to be two Glen families in Scotland, neither related, and are different from the Glens of England who trace their name to Normandy. Both the Scots Glens take their names from the place name of a steep wooded valley. The Glens of Lochwinnoch took their name from the Lordship of Glen, which consisted of Bar, Bridgend, Lynthills and Gaytflat and other lands. This Lordship was granted by David I to Walter the Steward and the lands were parcelled among their retainers.

Documents from 1292 on the death of Lord Richard de le Glen in November of that year show the Lordship being taken back by the Crown to be held in trust before being given to the heir, as was the customary procedure. The Lordship eventually became the property of the monastery of Paisley, the Glens holding lands around Lochwinnoch. From the Poll Tax Roll of 1695 the farms and settlements define the Lands of Barr as including Sunnyaykers on the Lynthills, Bridgend, Johnshill leaving the village, Cruiks, Knockbarton, Kame and the Barneich farms (NS360630) in total this appears that the Glens had most of the Parish on the west of the Loch [D Vol II 185]

The Glens distinguished themselves fighting for Robert the Bruce and Robert de Glen married Margaret, the illegitimate daughter of Bruce. Later Robert de Glen reputedly accompanied Bruce’s Heart on the Crusades to the Holy Lands. The rights of the Glens to the lands are confirmed in a grant of Confirmation from Robert the Lord Abbot of Paisley in 1506 [C 489] The Semples (see below) had long feuded with the Glens and in 1564 came to a head with Robert Lord Semple being appointed to the Justiciary, and there was a ‘complaint by James Glen of Bar against Lord Semple for outrages’.

The complaint was heard on the 10th October that year at the Privy Council in Edinburgh. The commission of Lord Semple was suspended as to Jurisdiction over James Glen and after confirmation he, his family and friends were made answerable to the Queen’s Majesty only, exempt from any other process of law. The Glens were kinsmen of the Hamilton’s. James Glen commanded troop for Queen Mary at the Battle of Langside in 1568 and was forfeited, afterwards took refuge with his kinsmen after the Battle of Langside. He was restored by the treaty of Perth in 1573. On the death of Alexander Glen in April 1629, Bar Castle passed to the Hamilton’s, although Glens continued to live around the village including the Lynthills. [C 492,493]

The Semple (Sempill) Family and the Collegiate Church The 300 years between the mention of Lochwinnoch as chapel and as a parish saw the rise and rise of the Semple Family whose family seat was situated a mile or so north east of the chapel on the shores of the loch of Lochwinnoch which is now called Castle Semple Loch. The remains of their original residence, the Castle of Ellistoune (NS 392598), can still be seen in the garden of a house just off a narrow unclassified road that leads from the Howwood junction with the A737 and Bowfield which on the B776 South of Howwood. Their success as a family was as a result of always being on the winning side in Scotland’s battles and their loyalty rewarded in land. The charters detailing the awards of land are detailed in the Archaeological and Historical Collections of Lochwinnoch published as two volumes in a limited edition of 90 copies by Alexander Gardner of Paisley in 1885.

In 1488 John Semple was head of the family seat and he was given the title baron by James IV after the battle of Sauchieburn. In the charter of the Collegiate Church, dated 21 April 1504, John Lord Semple it states that by his own volition from a feeling of ‘pious desire for the increase of Divine worship’…‘founded and erected the church within the enclosure or park of Lochvinzok’. He took on a serious commitment to staff, including an organist, religious and scholarly teachings, regular services and the role of Provost of the church. He took on in perpetuity ‘an obit of the most illustrious prince, James IV, upon the day of his decease, viz., singing the vigils of the dead upon the eve, the mass of requiem on the morrow’.

James IV visited the church in 1505.

On the 21 September 1505 James IV awarded more lands to the Semples. This was one of the last churches built in Scotland prior to the reformation. John Lord Semple was killed at Flodden in 1513. There was a period of great unrest in Scotland, which lasted between 1488 and 1586. There were feuds between the houses of Eglington and Glencairn, or the families Montgomeries and Cunninghame’s, and with the former the Semples had formed various marriage connections.

Robert the third Lord Semple built the Peel Castle on what is believed to have been a crannog in the middle of the loch. This peel was then surrounded on all sides by the waters of the loch and it afforded defence against marauding bands. There were so many families involved and lives lost it were more like civil war than family feuding.

After the Battle of Pinkie (1547) Robert was affectionately devoted to the interest of Queen Mary until the murder of Darnley, when he allied himself to the reformers, supporting James VI and fighting against Mary Queen of Scots at Langside. His alliance with the reformers possibly explains why he is buried in Lochwinnoch Kirkyard and not at the Collegiate Church.

The nature of religion was changing throughout Europe at the end of the 16th Century and it was not long before The Reformation had its impact on Scotland. The monasteries were dissolved and there lands fell to the Crown. The Semple family remained Roman Catholic for a further hundred years. Being at odds with the new religious thinking the family lost influence. The Semples remained Roman Catholic and worked for the furtherance of their faith outside Scotland and this was recently confirmed at the 400th anniversary of the Pontifical Scots College in Rome in a talk given by the Archbishop of Glasgow Right Rev. Mario Joseph Conti He said that these foundations (of the Pontifical Scots College in Rome) would not have taken place had it not been for the efforts and generosity of benefactors abroad who came to the aid of the ailing and now headless Catholic community (in Scotland after the Reformation).

The memorial portrait of Mary Queen of Scots at Blair’s bears an inscription hailing her as the second founder of the Scots College at Douai (1576); Archbishop Beaton was a benefactor of the college in Paris and might be regarded as its second founder (originally established in 1325); Colonel William Semple of Lochwinnoch, was the founder of the college at Valladolid (originally established at Madrid in 1627), and in Rome it was the Pope himself (1600). These colleges and religious houses provided the trickle of priests, which kept the Catholic faith alive through the so-called penal days. Only with the establishment of the hidden seminary at Scalan in Upper Banffshire in the 18th century, was there another source of priests for the mission (in Scotland). [K] Francis the Eight Lord Semple became the Lord due to his elder brother Robert having died at the age of 18. The Earl of Dundonald, a protestant, had brought up Francis during his minority. Francis was the first Lord Semple to have taken his seat in Parliament since the reign of Queen Mary.

Post Reformation Lochwinnoch

The monks of Paisley Abbey owned the Chapel of Lochwinnoch through all its time of existence. It was located on the Johnshill in the present site of Old Simon, the 18th century church, now little more than a clock tower. This can be deduced from ‘An Ecclesiastical Sketch of Lochwinnoch Parish’ written by Mathew Gemmell where immediately following the Reformation a reader Mr Ninian Sempill became the minister.

On the brow of Johnshill part of an old church called "Auld Simon" stands, with the bright face of the clock looking down over the village. Holiday-makers and day visitors stop to gaze at his crow-stepped gable, topped by a bell turret with a unique weather vane, which has a plough turning with the wind, and directing arms pointed with a rose, a thistle and a shamrock. Originally the plough was surmounted by a sheaf of wheat and a little bird, but these have long since disappeared. This is all that remains of the church built there in 1729. The Chapel of Lochwinnoch was on this spot before 1692, and built in the form of a cross, the aisles being known as the Barr aisle and the Semple aisle.

According to Crawfurd in his "Cairn of Lochwinnoch" this church was badly in need of repair, and a new church was built on the same spot. [E 18] It was around this area that the Kirktoun of Lochwinnoch was located, the rows of houses coming close to where the church gates are now. The Kirktown of Lochwinnoch was small and centered at the gates of the church running no more than 100 yards along the three roads that meet at that spot, now Eastend, High Street and The Johnshill.

The Poll Tax Roll of 1695 tells us of the number of homes, persons over 16 and occupations. At the end of the 17th Century the Kirktown had 21 houses, 38 adults, one officer, one cordoner, 3 wrights, a smith, a maltman, a carier, 2 tayliors, 4 weivers, a workman, a creilman, a heretor, 2 prentice and the minister Mr. John Pasley [D Vol II 183] The new church was built in 1729 when Mr. Pinkerton was minister of the parish.

These were troubled times, and a number of dissenters left the Kirk and worshipped at Bruintschiels, now known as Burntshields. (NS384624) [E18} In 1795 the minister wrote that the greater part of the inhabitants attend the established church with there being no more than 100 Seceders, Burgers &c in the parish. William McDowell of Garthland is the Patron. The church is well finished containing about 1300 people and the manse is situated 300 yards from the village. [F 65]

This new church had a clock and a bell of which the villagers were very proud. The clock had a 24-hour face, but weavers complained so much about it, that this had to be removed and the old one put back. The 24-hour face is believed to be in the loft of the tower. The weavers evidently took turns of winding the clock, keeping it oiled and in working order. When the old church was again in need of repair, the heritors that were responsible for it, wished to demolish it completely, but the weavers and villagers of the Kirktoun subscribed voluntarily to keep the clock and bell in good order for their own entertainment and amusement.

When the present Parish Church was opened (1808), the old church was demolished, leaving only the tower, which was used as a watchtower. These were the days when the tombs had to be guarded against "the depredations of the resurrectionists". It was suggested that "Auld Simon" was the name of one of the old weavers who had looked after the clock most regularly and so it became known as "Auld Simon's Clock", and through time "Auld Simon".

The present wall around the graveyard was built to keep people from desecrating and ruining the tombstones when the stallholders at the various "fairs" overflowed into the churchyard, as there was not enough room in the narrow streets. The churchyard has not been used as a burying ground since 1895 when the cemetery was opened at Calder Glen. Every New Year’s Eve Auld Simon is the starting point for an ecumenical walk around the village taking in the United Free, the Roman Catholic and the Church of Scotland Parish Church. The route varies from year to year and the final church hosts the villagers with a welcoming spread. Auld Simon is now the property of Renfrew District Council.

The Mcdowalls

In 1727, the Castle Semple estates were sold to Colonel William Macdowall, a descendent of Fergus, Lord of Galloway. Col Macdowall owned plantations in the West Indies with sugar businesses in Glasgow, one of the merchant princes. He demolished the castle and replaced it with an elegant mansion in 1735. As patron of the church, he ran into trouble with the locals on the south side of the loch that took him to the Court of Session to provide crossings at Castle Semple and where the present road is, to allow access to church and market. Colonel Macdowell’s son, also William, spent large sums on the estate. He was a founder of the Ship Bank in Glasgow, Lord Lieutenant of the County and elected to Parliament between 1783 and 1807. He was the senior Heritor and Patron of the Parish Church. He died, unmarried in 1810 and there is a memorial to him in Paisley Abbey. The serious bankruptcy of a partner in shipping ruined his finances at the end of his life and the estates had to be divided up, the castle being sold to John Harvey in 1811.

The New Industries and the New Town

In 1695 in a village of 36 adults, Lochwinnoch had 4 weavers and 2 tailors. The hills above the village were known as the Lynthills after the flax that was grown there. Early in the 18th century local farmers were encouraged to grow flax or lint seed and 22 farmers did so and their wives spun them with rocks into thread. Linen manufacturers began to prosper and a number of two story houses were built for them out with the area of Kirktown. [E 35]

The later half of this century saw great strides in the weaving industry, Hargreave’s spinning-jenny, Arkwright’s water frame and Crompton’s mule added to the cheap imports of new materials such as cotton allowed Scottish weavers to take full advantage of the new technology and expand manufacture and trade. In the late 1770’s the first cotton mills appeared in Scotland at Peniculk and Rothesay. [J 98]

Lochwinnoch was not far behind as the Falls on the Calder above Bridgend were built with a mill lade to take waterpower to the new mills. There was a large cotton mill built at Calderpark in 1788 and another at Calderhaugh in 1789. [E 37] These new industries appearing close to the Calder for power required housing for the new workers and the area between the Kirktown and the river became ripe for development. Following the 1695 Act for the Division of Commonties local landowners throughout Scotland were able to bring under their ownership land that was once considered common. This allowed the McDowall’s to take under their wing much of the land around the village. In 1788 the Hamilton’s sold Barr to the McDowall’s and in effect the two original estates of Barr and Castle Semple had become one. [I 207] [N Part 2]

As advances in farming and the rationalisation of the land reduced the need for labour there was a steady progress from the country to the expanding towns and villages to satisfy the need for labour in the new industries. In 1788 the McDowell’s laid out a large area to the west of the Kirktown and released 53 feus. From the new centre at the cross, framed symmetrically by four buildings each with curved corners four straight streets were built of an urban character. The vista to the south was closed by the Burghers’ Meeting House in 1792 and an even grander vista was created in 1808 by sighting the imposing new Parish Church in Church Street, fronted by Harvey Square, on an axis with Castle Semple West Gates, half a mile away.[M] This area became part of the Conservation Area designated in 1972 to cover the 18th century development along with the area of the Kirktown to the east and Newton of Barr to the west.

The New Churches The Protestant Church was splitting and a number of parishioners had become Burghers or Seceders. They had for many years worshiped at Burntshields (see above). Lochwinnoch Burgers formed by disjointing from Burntshields in 1791. The site of their church in Church Street was feued from William McDowell. They raised and borrowed the money themselves and paid it back from seat rents. The building is octagonal shaped and the two stories of the steeple was built by Mr McDowell and it remained unfinished until the arrival of John Harvey, who had bought Castle Semple, and donated £50 in 1815 to finish it as a tower. At this time the Church at Kirktown built only in 1729 was having problems with the roof, substantial timbers were brought to the church to support the roof and a tent had to be provided in the kirkyard when it rained. [I 32] It was then resolved to build a new church among the new developments in the south east of the village.

1807 - Foundation stone laid with great ceremony - a procession led by a band from Paisley. 1808 - Sunday, October 3"" Church opened for public worship. Capacity 1,150. There were articles brought from Johnshill site: -Wooden boards high on the vestibule wall recording donations to poor and on the floor, a stone font, possibly pre-Reformation. In 1836 the minister Robert Smith described the Church for the 1845 New Statistical Account. It is a large building which ought to have been square but its corners have been rounded off so as to make it an irregular-sided octagon. It is well finished and painted within, and lets to about 1150 sitters; but when packed will hold another 200 to 300 more. It has a neat spire though rather short. Beneath this spire is a paved area enclosed with elegant columns, having three large and high-arched openings between them corresponding to the three large doors in the front of the church. It stands in a field where no person has hitherto been buried, surrounded on three sides by a high wall; and on the front of the church there is a parapet wall, surmounted by an iron railing and two handsome gates one at each end of the wall. The field is ornamented with trees and flowering shrubs.

All but a few seats had rents, and for a large family the church dues could almost be as much as their house rent. At that time the whole population went to church every week and there was a lack of church accommodation in the village. [G 105] Parish ministers in Scotland were in effect appointed by the heritors, that is to say generally the principal landowners in the parish. The congregation did not have the right to reject the nominee of the heritors.

A very important act of the Scottish Parliament in 1690 was the abolition of patronage in the Church. When the Covenanters were in power they made it a law that congregations should choose their own minister, but when Charles II. came to the throne this was set aside and the right of appointing a minister to a vacant congregation was granted to the chief landowner in a parish who was known as the patron. This was now put an end to, and it became the duty of the "heritors and elders to name and propose the minister of the whole congregation, to be approved or disapprove by them." This was further confirmed in the Act of Security when the Union of the Parliaments of England and Scotland came about in 1707.

Alas, the hopes of piece and concord in our land, only five years had passed when the united Parliament restarted the rights of the patrons. The Heritors of a parish were liable for the payment of ‘public burdens connected with the Parish' which included the administration of schools, providing for the poor and the upkeep of church property. They bore the whole cost of construction. The Heritors of Lochwinnoch maintained high public standards in the village despite the rapid growth with the new industries. But it was over the role of the heritors and the democracy of the congregation that lead the minister Robert Smith to contest the established church at the assembly in Edinburgh and eventually lead 400 of the congregation to form the free church in Lochwinnoch and build the west church in ground adjacent to the parish church which became known as St James.

In the church today there is a modern memorial to the Maritime Regiment that was based in Lochwinnoch during the last war. Facing you as you enter from the vestibule to the sanctuary are windows, once of stained glass. These were memorials to Henry Lee Harvey and Lady Elizabeth Harvey of Castle Semple. These windows are now in store. Two other stained glass windows in memory of the Misses Shedden are still in position. The interior is imposing with large galleries.

The pulpit and organ were a donation by Lady Elizabeth in memory of her husband. The fine organ was built by Foster & Andrews in 1885 and has since been renovated in 1958 by Hill, Norman & Beard.

Corridors were taken away at the back of the pews in the 1830s and the position of pews altered C.1900 and C.1960, the latter to provide better access for brides.

Some choir seats were also removed. The communion table and chairs, products of Lochwinnoch craftsmen still remembered for their love of working with wood.

Captain Hunter of Braehead gifted the silver baptismal basin in 1835. The large hall was built in 1901, the small hall in 1938. A Mr Arthur gifted the bell in the steeple in the early days of the church. The iron railings and gates were removed in a so-called need for metal for weapons during the last war.

A feature of the large hall at the rear of the church is the stained glass window, representing The Good Shepherd, brought from the West Church in1947 at the time of the union of the churches. The Disruption of 1843 saw the departure of the Rev. Robert Smith (afterwards Dr. Smith) with part of the congregation to form the West Free Church of Scotland on an adjacent site. The Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland were re-united in 1929, so the West Church of Scotland and St John's Church of Scotland existed side by side until the first vacancy in 1947, when the present building became the sole Church of Scotland in the village.


A Renfrewshire, Fredrick Mort, Cambridge University Press, 1912

B Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Richard Feachem, Batsford, London 1963

C Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol 36 1912

D Archaeological and Historical Collections of the Parish of Lochwinnoch, Alexander Gardner, Paisley, 1885, Volumes I & II

E Lochwinnoch, A Short History of the Village and the Parish, Local SWRI, undated.

F The Old Statistical Account of the Parish, Rev Mr James Steven, 1795

G The New Statistical Account of the Parish, Rev Robert Smith, 1845

H The Third Statistical Account of the Parish, Rev Angus M Nicolson, written 1953 revised 1959

I An Ecclesiastical Sketch of Lochwinnoch Parish, Matthew Gemmell, Printers J&J Cook, Paisley, 1878

J Scotland since 1707, R H Campbell, Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1971

K The Scots College Rome, 1600-2000, edited by Raymond McCluskey and published by John Donald, Edinburgh; part of the text of a talk given by the Archbishop of Glasgow Right Rev. Mario Joseph Conti, K.C.H.S., Ph.L., S.T.L., D.D., F.R.S.E.

L The Parish of Lochwinnoch, Elizabeth G R Anderson, Crosbie, Beith 1987.

M Lochwinnoch Conservation Enhancement Scheme, pamphlet, Renfrew D C, 1992

N The History of Common Land in Scotland, Robin Callender, Caledonia Centre for Social Development, January 2003.

I must acknowledge the work done by Elizabeth Anderson [L], which provided the thread with which I weaved my way through the warp and weft of Lochwinnoch’s history. Without her work this tale could not have been spun so easily. We are made giants by standing on the shoulders of those who go before us.