2013 marked the 275th Anniversary of Freeland Church. The rcord of Freeland’s History has been updated by former Session Clerk, David Adam, to include the last 25 years of the life and work of this congregation and ministry. This 20 page booklet can be downloaded in 2 parts
When the original building was erected in 1820, the main access had been from the north end of the sanctuary and a stairwell at this point gave access to the three original galleries.
The windows on the west wall were altered to provide three full-length windows and two of these were later installed with stained-glass following gifts from the executors of the late William McAllister who emigrated from Bridge of Weir to America around 1870 and the other from the Cruickshank family in memory of Elizabeth McAllister – it depicts the Good Shepherd; the other the Parable of the Sower.
The history of Freeland Church in Bridge of Weir has been described as one of the most interesting in the West of Scotland, as it reflects what was happening nationally in the Church of Scotland from the 18th century to the present day and incorporates the various divisions and reconciliations in the Church which took place during that time.
Major historical events have occurred during the lifetime of Freeland Church from the Jacobite Rebellion and the Battle of Culloden in the earlier years to the two World Wars in the 20th century.
Its history has now spanned over 270 years and it all began, not in Bridge of Weir, but in the neighbouring village of Kilmacolm.
In 1733, the issue of patronage became such a cause of dissension within the Church of Scotland that what is known as the First Secession took place. It was led by the Rev Ebenezer Erskine of Stirling and three of his supporting ministers James Fisher of Kinclaven, William Wilson of Perth and Alexander Moncrieff of Abernethy. To put everything in context, it might be helpful to have a brief look at the History of Christianity up to this point.
However, getting back to the First Secession in 1733. Four years later in Kilmacolm in 1737, the Old Kirk needed a new minister. Its patron was the Earl of Glencairn who proposed that John Fleming, son of the minister in Houston at that time, should be appointed to the charge. Although Fleming was well educated, he was apparently unpopular as a preacher and many in the congregation of the Old Kirk rejected him. The Earl of Glencairn, however, forced the issue and had Fleming inducted as minister.
The result was that most of the congregation left the Old Kirk and applied to the new Secession Church for a minister. Whilst their ostensible complaint was the issue of patronage, some felt that they had broken away from the church because its views, in general, were becoming too liberal. The Seceders certainly seemed to represent the old Covenanting strictness in manners and doctrine, eg. one of their early acts as a constituted Presbytery, was to protest against the abolition of the penal statutes against witchcraft. They denounced it as an impiety for had not God himself said, ˜Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live?”
This group of worshippers began to meet at Killochries a farm on the road between Kilmacolm and Lochwinnoch. This site, described at the time as retired, remote, in rural quietude among hills and streams and melancholy desert was also referred to as the Five Acre Fauld and can be found today nestling between South Newton and Killochries House.
Its owner at the time, William Clark, supported the cause of the Seceders whose numbers had grown sufficiently since 1733 to form the Associate Presbytery, and it was to this Presbytery, that the worshippers at Killochries presented a petition on 18th July 1738, asking to be recognised as a member congregation. On 28th August 1738, this group of Seceders, which was also known as The Killochries Community, was formally sanctioned as the 16th Congregation of the Associate Presbytery, and as such, was the first of its kind in the whole of the West of Scotland. Killochries barn and the five acre field were rented and so these Seceders started their first church here. At the main entrance to Killochries House, the Preaching Pillars can still be seen today. They had been erected at the five acre field in 1755 on the instructions of Boyd Porterfield, a member of one of the oldest families in Renfrewshire, who owned the Duchal Estate at that time. However, by 1755, the Seceders had already moved on and it is believed that the Pillars were subsequently erected in memory of the Killochries Community’s time here from 1738 until 1742. The carvings of palm leaves and branches on the Pillars, symbolise the prophecy in Zechariah Ch.9, of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and greeted by his followers, waving palm tree branches.
For information on servicemen who are commemorated on Freeland Church’s war memorial please visit the Heroes page