Oldhamstocks | Belief

Historically, parishioners attended services at either Oldhamstocks parish church (Church of Scotland) or the Secessionist Free Church, which in 1890 moved to Cockburnspath and left its buildings in Oldhamstocks to be converted to private houses. In the 1940s there was at least one family, the Chapmans, who were Plymouth Brethren and they held services, including funerals, in their farmhouse at Oldhamstocks Mains.

Oldhamstocks parish church may date from the 1100s and although little of the earliest foundations remain, the later structures including the 16th century Hepburn aisle have been maintained and are in good repair. The 1824 watch house is disused and deteriorating but the graveyard, which contains memorial stones from the early 1600s, is still in use. The glebe was sold and the old manse, built in 1848, became a private home after the Oldhamstocks church was linked with St Helen’s, Cockburnspath in 1947 (which itself had united with St John’s Co’path in 1937).

In 1977 a bungalow manse was built at Thurston prior to the next linking of the churches with Innerwick in 1978. All three Church of Scotland congregations were united as Dunglass parish in 1994 and one minister now conducts a Sunday service at each church (see Innerwick parish – CD-ROM for more information). In 1997 the manse was moved again, this time back to Cockburnspath and another new house.

Although in 2000, the parish of Dunglass recorded some 450 members in total (Cockburnspath – 250, Innerwick – 150, Oldhamstocks – 50), there were far fewer regular attenders. The average Sunday attendance at Oldhamstocks was just ten or twelve. More attended Communion and Christmas services but at weddings and especially funerals, there might be standing room only.

The church was once the centre of religious life in the village with congregations filling all the pews at every service. Even in 1950, however, only 15 or so attended on a regular basis. By 2000, there was a real concern that, despite the hard work of a popular minister, the continued fall of attendance at each of the three parish churches would make them unsustainable in the future.

The 15th century Dunglass Collegiate Church is used for occasional services, including marriages. It became the custom in recent years for a parish Sunday service to be held in the chapel followed by a family picnic and games in estate grounds. Although the church is maintained by Historic Scotland and largely intact, its east gable and all of the windows are open to the weather. Burials in and around the church include those of estate lairds and their families – Homes, Halls and Ushers.

1942-46 David Smith
1947 Oldhamstocks linked with Cockburnspath (St John’s had united with St Helen’s in 1937) & Innerwick North; Oldhamstocks & Cockburnspath shared a minister (D.F. Philip in post at Cockburnspath from 1937)
1947-49 David Frank Philip
1949-57 Robert Keltie
1957-61 John W.M. Cameron
1965-74 David F.S. Dick
1976 Oldhamstocks & Cockburnspath linked with Innerwick
1977-80 Bruce Robertson
1982-91 Paraic Reamonn
1994 Oldhamstocks, Innerwick and Cockburnspath united as Dunglass parish
1994-date Anne Lithgow

When asked about church going in the 1940s, Mrs Yule’s response was

Everybody didn’t go to church, no. To funerals, yes. Weddings, yes. But certainly not all to church… and there aren’t many in the village even now [2000]…we usually have about twelve to the service …But for functions, Christmas and Communion of course you would get more… and for funerals now the church is packed out.

In the 1940s/50s a Plymouth Brethren funeral service for Willie Chapman was held

… in ‘hamstocks Mains farmhouse…farm staff were invited … and the service was taken in the dining room and one of their tunes is to the tune of “John Brown’s Body” …there was no piano. One would start singing and then we would … join in … and one of the women workers …was quite delighted when this tune started because she knew it, so she was quite carried away with this tune… and she got her foot going on the wooden floor. Nobody said anything, it was all right…

Jean Yule