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Old West Kirk, Campbell Street, Including Church Hall, Boundary Walls and Railings

A Category B Listed Building in Greenock, Inverclyde

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Latitude: 55.956 / 55°57'21"N

Longitude: -4.7674 / 4°46'2"W

OS Eastings: 227325

OS Northings: 677125

OS Grid: NS273771

Mapcode National: GBR 0C.XNZN

Mapcode Global: WH2M9.RK0D

Plus Code: 9C7QX64M+C2

Entry Name: Old West Kirk, Campbell Street, Including Church Hall, Boundary Walls and Railings

Listing Date: 13 May 1971

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 378312

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB34095

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Greenock

County: Inverclyde

Town: Greenock

Electoral Ward: Inverclyde North

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

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Old West Kirk, first designed by James Salmon Senior in 1864, was moved in its entirety to its present location in 1925-8 under the supervision of James Miller. Miller designed the tower and more windows were added at this date. The southwest facing gable has a panel beneath the tracery window which is inscribed 'THE KIRK OF GRENOK Built by Jonne Schaw A.D. 1591 Transferred from the original site now occupied by Harland & Wolff's shipyard A.D.1926'. The church has an outstanding collection of 16 stained glass windows by nationally renowned British artists.

The church is a cross-plan with a battered square-plan, 2-stage, crenellated tower at the east. It is constructed in ashlar. Each gable has a large, pointed arched, 3 or 4 light tracery window. The other windows are rectangular with diamond panes or stained glass. The principal entrance is in the northeast facing gable and has a 2-leaf timber door in a roll-moulded round arched surround with Corinthian columnettes. The southwest elevation has a double gabled, crow-stepped aisle. The gable to the left has balustraded forestair that leads to the Laird's loft (Shaw Stewarts' family aisle). The gable to the right has two arches at the ground floor. The roof has grey slates and the rainwater goods are cast iron with the gutters supported by decorative brackets.

The interior was seen in 2016 and has a largely-intact primarily mid-19th century decorative scheme which was reconstructed in the 1920s. In each arm of the cross plan has raked seating gallery with decorative carved timber balustrades. The galleries at the northwest, northeast and southeast are each supported on a pair of slender columns with Corinthian capitals. The boarded timber ceiling is supported on plain timber roof trusses which spring from stone corbels. The octagonal pulpit and communion table have elaborate timber carvings, those to the sides of the pulpit include figurative carvings of the Evangelists, the Lamb of God and angels. There are plain timber pews. The outstanding late 19th and early 20th century collection of stained glass is found throughout the church and include the work of James Ballantine, Daniel Cottier, Gordon Webster and Mary Wood and for Morris & Co, works by Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown, Simeon Solomon, William Morris and Philip Webb.

At the south and east of the church is a low stone wall with a triangular cope and straight iron railings. There are two pairs of square gatepiers which are topped by ball finials. To the north of the church and set in the tall rubble boundary wall are memorials, dating from the mid 18th century and many of them have carvings. In the boundary wall to the northwest of the church is a corbel stone that is dated 1625, and this is understood to have come from the manse of the 16th century church.

Statement of Interest

Old West Kirk has an important collection of religious stained glass windows, featuring the work of Morris and Co. These windows are not only of exceptional quality but it is the only collection of its type in Scotland. It uniquely brings together works from major 19th and 20th century stained glass artists of the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movements.

The church has a very unusual and interesting history. It was completed in its present location and form in 1928 under the supervision of James Miller. But the overall design of the church was the work of James Salmon Senior and the majority of its fabric dates to 1864. The survival and intactness of the outstanding collection of windows as well as the good quality carved timberwork in the interior is all the more remarkable because the building has been moved.

Age and Rarity

Old West Kirk, although dating primarily from 1925-8, incorporates components from a much longer history. As noted on the inscribed panel on the southeast elevation the original 'Parish Church of Wester Grenok' was built in 1591, by the Laird of Greenock, Johnne Schaw. This rectangular church, located near the junction of the West Burn with the River Clyde, was the first Presbyterian church to be built in Scotland after the Reformation and enabled the people of Greenock to worship locally. Their nearest church was previously at Inverkip, about 4 miles away.

By the mid 19th century this church had fallen into disrepair and a new church was built at Nelson Street (LB34134). The congregation relocated to this new church in 1841, but there was a want from the congregation in the 1860s to rebuild the original church. This was accomplished in 1864, with James Salmon as architect.

The site of this 1864 church can be seem on the 2nd and 3rd Edition Ordnance Survey maps at NS 2787 7654. It was close to the River Clyde and especially Caird and Co.'s shipyard (taken over by Harland and Wolff around 1916). By 1917, Harland and Wolff wished to expand into the land occupied by the church. After long negotiations, the company gave the church a nearby site at Campbell Street and paid for the dismantling of the church and the building of its replica. Where possible, the old stones, windows, mural tablets, internal woodwork (except roofing) and ecclesiastical fittings were reused. The church followed the same plan and overall design as the previous church but with a new tower design and more windows. The previous tower had three stages and the third stage had a crowstep gable at each side and tall pyramid roof with crockets and a topped by a finial (photos of the church in Hill, 1898).

The church hall was built in 1925 by the Harland and Wolff Shipping Company to provide the congregation with a space to worship, while waiting for the new church to be built. It was named the Pirrie Hall, after the late Lord Pirrie who was Chairman of Harland and Wolff.

The history of the building of Old West Kirk and in particular its relocation stone by stone, is very unusual. Its cruciform plan form and the design of the interior with carved timberwork dates to the mid 19th century. Its survival is notable because it has been moved virtually unaltered from the date of its original construction. The church has a considerable collection of outstanding stained glass windows which is not only of exceptional quality but is the only collection of its type in Scotland (see Interior section below). The stained glass, which was designed specifically for this church has added considerably to the special interest of the building as a whole.

Architectural or Historic Interest


It is typical for large parish churches built in the second half of the 19th century to have a high degree of interior decoration. The Old West Kirk is no exception to this, however the survival of its carved timberwork is notable because it has been moved and faithfully re-erected.

This church is particularly remarkable for its collection of high quality stained glass windows which uniquely brings together works from major 19th and 20th century stained glass artists. This collection is described by the Scottish Stained Glass Symposium and the Scottish Stained Glass Trust as "of outstanding importance and constitute a major British programme of Victorian glass". For a church outside a city the size of this collection is extensive and is indicative of the importance of this church in Greenock and its benefactors at the height of the town's prosperity.

The earliest glass is the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Magi by James Ballantine, which was supplied to the church in 1864. Ballantine was a pioneer of post-Reformation window glass and is key to the start of Scotland's major art glass movement. His firm designed and installed windows at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh in the 1850s and many for St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh in the 1870s. This window at the southeast gable, was gifted by Andrew Ramsey and his wife Jane Baine, both from prominent Greenock families.

James Ballantine and Sons were renowned for the quality of their figuarative work. The firm also designed six smaller stained glass windows for the old West Kirk in 1864.

Allan Park Paton (1818-1905), the town's librarian and secretary of the church's restoration committee, was instrumental in securing commissions for four stained-glass windows from the prestigious firm of Morris and Co. The work of this company profoundly influenced the decoration of churches and houses into the early 20th century. Paton consulted Dante Gabriel Rosetti, who recommended this firm which was founded by his friend William Morris and for which he was a designer. In 1865 the company supplied the window Adoration of the Lamb. This window is important as large and early example of the firm's glass art. Whilst Edward Burne-Jones supplied many of the detailed designs, another four major designers at the company (Ford Madox Brown, Simeon Solomon, William Morris and Philip Webb) contributed to it and make this window, as far as is currently known, a unique collaboration. The window was paid for by John McGunn, in memory of his father, Thomas McGunn, a Greenock sugar merchant.

Edward Burne-Jones designed a further two stained glass windows for the church: Faith in 1867 and Music in 1874 which was commissioned by Paton in memory of his uncle. Dante Gabriel Rosetti designed Charity in 1868 as a companion window to Faith.

In 1884 Daniel Cottier gave the church his window titled Hope. Cottier had trained with James Ballantine and after moving to London attended evening classes (including drawing lessons given by Madox Brown) at the Working men's College in Red Lion Square opposite Morris and Co. first premises. His window therefore reflects and compliments the style of the earlier stained glass. Cottier went on to spend much of his career abroad and is credited with introducing the Aesthetic movement to America (where he worked with Louis Comfort Tiffany and John La Farge) and Australia.

The rebuilding of the church in the 1920s allowed two further windows to be commissioned by eminent 20th century artists: Crawford family crest by Gordon Webster in 1929 and Teaching from Generation to Generation by Mary Wood, around 1938.

Plan form

The cruciform plan form of this church dates from 1864. Churches built after the 1843 Disruption were typically rectangular in plan, such as the Westburn church on Nelson Street, Greenock built in 1841, but from the 1860s onwards plan forms started to become more varied. Cruciform plan churches are relatively uncommon in this period as they tended to become more prevalent for high Victorian Gothic Episcopal churches of the later 19th century. At Old West Kirk the arms of the cruciform plan each has a gallery, creating a sense of centralised worship. Each gallery is dedicated to an important local family or group (Sailors loft, farmer's loft, Laird's loft or Shaw Stewarts family aisle and Crawfurdburn – after Thomas Crawfurd - or Choir Gallery) and this evidences the history of the area.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

With the exception of the tower and the roof, the exterior design and construction of the church dates to 1864. At the time it was first constructed it was the main church in Greenock and the scale of the building reflects its importance. However, as a parish church designed in the mid 18th century in the Gothic style the exterior of the building is largely unadorned.

James Salmon Senior (1805-1888) was a Glasgow based architect that is particularly known for his Glasgow bank buildings and churches. He came to prominence around 1849 with the building of the neo-perpendicular St Matthew's Church in Bath Street, Glasgow and the very sophisticated Renaissance warehouse at 49 Miller Street for the art collector Archibald McLellan. Around 1854 Salmon was commissioned to design the new suburb of Dennistoun and from that time onwards Salmon began to be prominent in professional, public and Free Church institutions. He was one of the promoters of the Glasgow Architectural Exhibition building in 1853 and was instrumental in founding the Glasgow Architectural Society in 1858. In 1868 he became first President of the newly founded Glasgow Institute of Architects.

James Miller (1860-1947), also based in Glasgow, started his career with the Caledonian Railway. In this capacity he designed many stations and later, in private practice, produced a standard design for the West Highland Railway. . He set up his own practice in 1892 on winning the competition for Belmont Church and he went on to win important competitions for the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1901 and Glasgow University buildings. He designed many public and commercial buildings, as well as private houses, across Scotland.


The setting of the church is unusual because it was not designed for its current site. The 1st and 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map show the church within its own plot with a graveyard and opposite shipyards. The church today is on a corner site of a residential street overlooking the esplanade. The scale and design of the building including tower make it a distinctive building on this street.

The memorials and Pirrie Hall found in the immediate setting form a good group with the church.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2017).

The church was associated with a number of important local individuals, families and groups. This patronage led to the inclusion of the fine programme of stained glass.

Statutory address, category of listing changed from B to A and listed building record revised in 2017. Previously listed with the Pirrie Hall as 'Old West Kirk, Campbell Street, including Church Hall, Boundary Walls and Railings'.

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