BLACKFRIARS CHURCH OF SCOTLAND
In 1869 an application was made to the United Presbyterian Presbytery for permission to form a congregation in the new suburb of Dennistoun. The new congregation first met in Annfield School before having their own building constructed in Whitehill Street by 1870; this was Dennistoun U.P. Church. It took the name of Whitehill on the formation of the United Free Church and retained this at the union with the Church of Scotland. It has since been joined by several other congregations over the years; the first occasion being in 1972 when joined by Bellgrove & Young Street to become Dennistoun South.
The Young Street Church had begun as a Mission under the auspices of St. John's Free Church in 1852 and their building in Young Street was opened for use in 1856. In 1937 it united to Bellgrove to form Bellgrove Young Street Church of Scotland. The Young Street buildings were used as church halls for 5 years then demolished.
Bellgrove originated from the Greyfriars U.P. Church as the result of mission work undertaken from 1860. When deprived of their original premises of Canon Street Church through the activities of the City Improvement Trust they had to find an alternative. Their own church in Bellgrove Street was built in 1870 as Bellgrove U.P. Church. As a Church of Scotland charge, it was joined by the congregation of Young Street. The building stood above the railway at Bellgrove. It was deemed unsafe and a hazard to the line and was demolished immediately after the 1972 union.
In 1982 the Dennistoun South congregation was joined by two others – Dennistoun and Blackfriars. Dennistoun Church of Scotland, in Armadale Street, had been started in an “iron church” in 1902 and built anew in 1907. Following the union the old church was sold off and later demolished. The site is now occupied by housing.
Dennistoun Church had not been disjoined from Springburn until 1920. Although it is less easy to conceive of now, the early Established Church parishes which were disjoined from the Barony Parish were comparatively large. Most of the present east district of the city was divided between Calton and Shettleston Parishes in the mid-19th century. Adjoining these to the north was Springburn Parish, and at that time part of the new Dennistoun suburb fell within its boundary.
The other partner in the 1982 union was Blackfriars Church in Westercraigs, a church with a history extending back for more than 750 years. In commemoration of this tradition, the new united congregation took the name Dennistoun Blackfriars. Part of the old Blackfriars Church was incorporated into new housing as Westercraigs Court.
Pews are crowded to the highest recesses of Dennistoun Blackfriars’ gallery, flanking the tower at the western gable and enabling the church still to accommodate in excess of 1000 people if required. The pulpit is necessarily at some distance from the furthest pews. Apparently, however, the acoustics are such that the minister in the pulpit can hear all that members of the congregation may choose to discuss during the service! The interior of Dennistoun Blackfriars is also notable for the intricacy of the vaulted ceiling and for the organ.
The organ is one of the few surviving examples of this size of the work of Richard Smith. It was installed in 1902 and still functions. In front of the communion table, the console for playing the organ is sunk into the floor. The installation dominates the eastern gable, and incorporates a new pulpit, which seems more elevated than most. Access to the old pulpit used to be obtained from a vestry behind it, but is now gained to the replacement by steps leading to it from both sides. The organ also now screens the three lancet windows with patterned stained glass in the gable.
Dennistoun Blackfriars has retained mementos of the churches which make up its congregation, including the communion table and font from Blackfriars. Flanking the pulpit, on the organ casing, are two wooden shields each bearing a version of the coats of arms of the City of Glasgow. One is dated 1246 and indicates the year in which the Black Friars house was established. The other is dated 1870, when Dennistoun U.P. was built.
© 2005 Gordon Adams
NOTES: Updated for 1st September, 2010.
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