Welcome to Springburn Parish Church

Wellfield Church

By the year 1895 it was felt in United Presbyterian circles, that church extension was long overdue. Their one congregation in the northern and self contained community was flourishing under the strong and whole-hearted ministry of the much-loved Rev. James A. Johnston. Although at one time or another, he was far travelled as the earnest herald of God's grace and the fiery, close- reasoning advocate of total abstinence - chiefly under the flag of the Scottish Temperance League, of which he was truly the main-spring, Johnston of Springburn was a household word throughout Scotland and beyond, greatly revered and beloved as pastor in his own congregation in the region of northern Glasgow. The Assessor said that the population of Springburn had increased by 10,000 in 10 years, and there had been no increase in church accommodation. Church extension was distinctly in arrears so far as the United Presbyterian Church was concerned. The Parish Church had some 2,500 members and Cowlairs Church was growing. Sighthill and the North Free Church congregations had been funded and were forging ahead. Only the United Presbyterians seemed to lag behind, and that was because they were so supremely content with Mr. Johnston's ministry. It seemed disloyal to think of starting another United Presbyterian congregation in Springburn. But difficulties and troubles arose about a colleague and successor for him, and a handful of office- bearers in the United Presbyterian Congregation hived off and with a few others made a fresh start at a public meeting in the Argyle Hall on 19th November 1895.
Over a gathering of some one hundred and fifty, the Rev. H. Bruce Maikleham presided, he at Rockvilla (Saracen Street) being not merely a neighbour but also Convenor of the Presbytery's Church Extension Committee. It would hardly be United Presbyterian to get an absolutely unanimous decision for advance, but the majority was decisive. Thereafter a committee of thirty was formed to carry the enterprise through, along with the Presbytery's Committee and sometimes a little ahead of the Presbytery's sanction.
On 13th December it was resolved to erect a wooden hall to accommodate about 350 persons. Mr. A. F Morton offered a site for the all, free of charge while it should be used as a place of worship, alongside the first permanent building of the Springburn United Presbyterian Church (Johnston Church which became the Albert School). Nineteen days were sufficient to erect this wooden hall, in what was called 'Knox's opening" or Union Street, or as it became, Torrance Street. Public worship commenced on 14th January 1896.
A minister had to be called for they could not continue with "pulpit supply" each week. During the Johnston vacancy, two of the new congregation had travelled to Logie Almond to interview the Rev. David R. Forrester, but he declined to go and preach in the vacant charge at Springburn, holding that the congregation was too large. Once again he was approached, this time by the minority who had taken the name of "Wellfield", from a small property in Springburn. He agreed to preach and in due time was unanimously called by 111 communicant members and 19 adherents - 130 in all.
Almost before the last plank was nailed into the wooden church, a suggestion was made that a site for a permanent church be purchased on a piece of ground already available and could be had for £700. The vendor, James Reid of Wellfield, on hearing that it was for a church, said that £100 of the price might be put as his donation to the Building Fund, in token of his sympathy with the cause.
Eventually steps were taken to utilise the site. The original sketch plan showed a barracks-looking building with its side along Balgrayhill and a hall tucked underneath it. But this plan was at once set aside when, largely through the offices of Mr. George Johnston, son of the Rev. James A. Johnston and himself known as the "Arrol-Johnston Motor Car Company" a strip of ground lying behind the site already acquired was added to it, and so the proposed church hall could be taken out from below the church and set aloft at its back and the church proper could be turned round and on to Balgrayhill. Mr. John L. Wilson who had designed many Glasgow Churches drew up fresh plans. This new Church was opened on Thursday 5th October 1899 having 818 sittings, with the Rev. John Smith of Broughton Place Church, Edinburgh, being the preacher. The offerings at these services were £483. Including the site, the cost of the church was £8,700.
Before the opening, the Corporation's electric cable was laid and passed the front door of the Kirk, so electricity was introduced in place of gas as originally intended. Was this the first Springburn Church to be lit by electricity?
The organ, which was a Lewis organ, built to a specification by the blind organist (and supervised by him) Alfred Hollins D. Mus. It says much for the workmanship that when the instrument was dismantled, the same quality of piping was as evident in the far reaches of the back as for the front. This instrument was "found" by an organ builder Mr. G. Sixsmith of Moseley near Manchester, who immediately approached the Diocesan musical advisor for the Diocese of Blackburn Mr. Charles A. Myers. Between them they suggested that the congregation of St. John the Evangelist in Accrington should consider buying the organ. This was done, and purchased for the sum of £1000. This is now installed in the Church of St. John at a cost of £2,000. Correspondence shows that they are extremely well pleased with this.
© Frank Myers 1997

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