211, Smithycroft Road, Riddrie

“Witnesses believe that God’s name, Jehovah, should be used and sanctified.  They acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and as their saviour, though they deny the Trinity.  They believe that God’s kingdom will soon restore the original paradise conditions to the earth.” (I. Greenless in Cameron, 1993)

The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes the Jehovah’s  Witnesses as “a millennialist sect that began in the United States in the 19th century and has since spread over much of the world; the group is an outgrowth of the International Bible Students Association founded in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1872 by Charles Taze Russell .The name Jehovah's Witnesses was adopted in 1931 by Russell's successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford (Judge Rutherford; 1869-1942), who sought to reaffirm Jehovah… the true God and to identify those who witness in this name as God's specially accredited followers.”

“The Witnesses have little or no association with other denominations and maintain a complete separation from all secular governments..…for many years they disavowed the use of such terms as minister, church, or congregation in their organizational structure. This attitude has changed, but they are still exclusive and insulated from the ecumenical movement of the 20th century. Their avowed goal is the establishment of God's Kingdom, the Theocracy, which they believe will emerge following Armageddon…..”

The predecessors of the Witnesses became established in Glasgow around 1890 and have become well known for the house-to-house visits which are a significant part of their efforts to spread their beliefs.

The Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at Riddrie is the third in a line of  meeting houses built by the congregation since moving to the area in 1952.  It originated from a group which was meeting at Pinkerton’s hall in Main Street, Bridgeton after the Second World War.  In 1948 an executive decision was made to consolidate all of the existing congregations within the city to form three large congregations.  One of these met at the City Halls in the city centre, another at St. Peter’s Street, St. George’s Cross, and the other at Langside’s Public Halls.  The Bridgeton group formed part of the City Hall’s congregation.

The City Halls group itself split into three congregations a few years later, in 1952, with one establishing itself in the Burn’s Hall at Townhead and another in Lenzie Street, Springburn.  The third came to Riddrie and for a time had access to a small hall which was used by local blind folk.  The members then negotiated the use of the local Masonic Temple in Smithycroft Road, where a lasting relationship was established.

By 1956 the congregation felt the need for a home of their own.  Within the denomination, dedicated accommodations are termed Kingdom Halls, and at this time there were no Kingdom Halls at all in Scotland.  All of the existing congregations rented their accommodation and so the Riddrie members were treading a pioneering path.  The task of finding an appropriate site was undertaken, but they did not have far to look, as a plot behind the Riddrie Public Library and opposite the Masonic Temple was available.   In excess of £800 was raised by the membership, with a promise of additional loans, and work began. All of the work was undertaken by voluntary effort provided both locally and nationally, which is standard practice within the Jehovah’s Witnesses tradition.  Within the space of a year, from 1956-57, the first Kingdom Hall in Scotland was built, to a design by R.H. McGowan.

The remnants of an earlier commercial enterprise had to be removed before work could begin.  It addition the site was occupied by two, very solidly constructed bomb shelters left over from the Second World War.  One of these was taken down, but the other was utilised as a store for building materials while the Hall was being built.  When the second shelter was finally demolished, it was found that the foundations were too deeply entrenched and had to be left.  Although the grounds have now landscaped, some of the trees planted on top of the old foundations have not fared as well as their companions due to this obstacle to their growth.

With a gradual increase in the congregation the members were eventually faced with the necessity of expanding their accommodation.  In 1974 the north wall of the first Hall was taken down and the building extended, with the platform area moving into the new build.  This served the congregation well until the original structure itself showed signs of significant deterioration.  A decision then had to be made as to whether to refurbish or rebuild entirely, with the latter option being settled upon.

The old buildings were demolished and the foundations of the new structure were laid.  The site was prepared with basic installations for plumbing and electrical wiring being completed.  The Masonic Temple was engaged to provide accommodation as a kitchen and dining area and negotiations were undertaken with nearby Barlinnie Prison for the use of its car park.  On a sunny morning on 14th May, 1992 there arrived in Riddrie 500 volunteers from all over Scotland who, in the space of only 3 days, raised the entire hall .

The Presiding Minister of Riddrie since 1964 is Jim Marshall, who has been with the congregation for all of his life in one capacity or another.  He also has the notable distinction of having physically participated in the building of all the Kingdom Halls at Riddrie.  As a young man he was one of those selected from the volunteers by the master builder and shown how to lay bricks.  The talent thus acquired has served him well.  Most recently, with the help of his late wife, he built the brick piers of the present surrounding wall and helped lay the 19,500 block paving stones.

Since 1957 many more Kingdom Halls have sprung up around Scotland, following the lead of the Riddrie congregation, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses have continued to prosper as a denomination.

Cameron, Nigel S. (Organizing Ed.) (1993); “Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology.” Edinburgh, T & T Clark Ltd.


© 2005 Gordon Adams


NOTES: Updated for 1st September, 2010.

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