Love your Local Church – Crieff Parish Church

In the latest of our “Love your Local Church” series of blogs, long-time Scotland’s Churches Trust Friend and volunteer and retired history teacher Nancy Johnston shares the story of one of her favourite local churches.

Twenty years ago I was asked to look into the stories behind the furnishings and fittings in Crieff Parish Church in preparation for an open day and many hours were spent trawling through  newspapers in the local library. This sparked an interest, still ongoing, in Scottish churches and, in particular, the stained glass to be found in them. It also led to participation in Scotland’s Churches Trust as a volunteer for several years and to membership of the Scottish Stained Glass Symposium.

Four windows from Crieff Parish Church

Photographs by Nancy Johnston

When St Michael’s parish church building opened  in 1882, it was known as the Cathedral of Strathearn. The architect was George T Ewing (1852-1925), from the neighbouring village of Muthill, who had trained with Heiton of Perth. It is  built of Alloa stone and has a saddleback roof.  The tall central gable is around 70 feet high and is flanked by pinnacled buttresses. Building funds ran out before the tower could be constructed but Dr. Porteous of Croftweit made up the shortfall. The tower is around 120 feet in height and is almost a campanile.

As well as financial contributions from the heritors of the parish, local people contributed what they could afford towards the building costs, including sums of five shillings. Descendants of these contributors still live in Crieff. Leading citizens of the town – such as the MacRosty, Porteous,  Mungall and Finlayson families – made generous endowments of windows and of furnishings.

Laying the foundation stone

Photographs provided by Nancy Johnston

“It would be a great loss to the town if the building were to be closed and its treasures lost…” 

The church has an eclectic collection of stained glass, which covers the period from the 1880s to the late 1950s and several well known designers are represented. The English firms of Heaton, Butler & Bayne and Camm & Co produced two early windows but all the other ones are by Scottish artists, including Adam & Small, W&JJ Kier, Alf Webster, Norman MacDougall (for the British & Foreign Glass Company, Glasgow), WG Morton, Willie Wilson, Marjorie Kemp and R Douglas McLundie.

Photographs provided by Nancy Johnston

There are plaques to distinguished townspeople, including General Sir David Baird, and several war memorials in the building, the number being added to over the years, when other churches in Crieff amalgamated and buildings were closed.

Above the pulpit John Knox looks down on the minister and opposite, the Very Rev John Cunningham, distinguished first minister of the 1882 church, looks across. Both heads were carved by Erskine Nicol.

Strathearn Terrace, Crieff, PH7 3AQ

This church building is embedded in the history of the town, having been used not only for worship but by local schools, youth organisations and arts groups for over one hundred and forty years. Generations of local residents were baptised and married in St Michael’s and it was where family funeral services were held. As such, it has a special place in the hearts of the townspeople. It would be a great loss to the town if the building were to be closed and its treasures lost.  It should not be allowed to suffer the same fate as the former old parish church and the former Crieff South, which are now dilapidated.

Our thanks to Nancy Johnston for writing this blog and providing all of the images. If you would like to see more of Nancy’s pictures of stained glass windows, churches, graveryards and gardens from around the country you can follow her on Twitter account HERE.