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Greenbank Institute Former Greenbank Church, Kelly Street.

A Category B Listed Building in Greenock, Inverclyde

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Latitude: 55.9489 / 55°56'56"N

Longitude: -4.7713 / 4°46'16"W

OS Eastings: 227049

OS Northings: 676347

OS Grid: NS270763

Mapcode National: GBR 0C.Y829

Mapcode Global: WH2M9.PQ4T

Plus Code: 9C7QW6XH+HF

Entry Name: Greenbank Institute Former Greenbank Church, Kelly Street.

Listing Date: 13 May 1971

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 378343

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB34126

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Greenock

County: Inverclyde

Town: Greenock

Electoral Ward: Inverclyde North

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

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Greenbank Elim Church was built in 1882 as a United Presbyterian Church and was designed by the architect Hippolyte Jean Blanc. Situated on a corner site, the church is in the Early Pointed Gothic revival style. It is cruciform in plan with two transepts and has a prominent four-stage, saddleback tower (pitched roofed) in the southeast corner. It is built with squared, rock-faced rubble with ashlar margins, set-back buttresses, a deep base course and hoodmoulds above the windows. The window openings to the church and tower are mostly shallow pointed. The gable of the nave and transepts are lit by three lancet windows.

The principal elevation to the southeast (Kelly Street) has a central gabled section with four small lancet windows to the lower part and three larger lancets above, a roundel above and a Celtic cross at the apex. To the right of this section, stairs lead to a 2-leaf, timber panelled entrance door set within a deep, pointed-arch doorway at the ground stage of the tower. The tower has narrow lancet windows to the upper storeys with bipartite windows with central columns to two of the top storey faces. A lower, single-storey round-ended room with a timber entrance door and small narrow lancet windows lies to the southwest of this elevation. Further to the southwest, and set back from the road, is a canted, 2-storey section with a hexagonal roof.

The windows are mainly of small pane fixed glass and there are grey slates to the roof with some red-ridge tiling.

The interior was seen in 2016. The interior has been modified to provide a worship space with no pews, communion table or pulpit and the rubble walling is exposed. There is a distinctive timber trefoil barrel vaulted roof. Several sections have been enclosed to provide extra room space including the former gallery, part of the transepts and an area below the gallery. There is a central nave with two narrow, 5-bay aisles whose bays are separated by pointed arches on stone piers with octagonal capitals.

The church hall lies to the rear of the canted section to the southwest of the church and was added in 1933 by the local architect Alexander Stewart McGregor. It is squared rubble and has a grey slate roof. The interior of the main hall has a dark timber ceiling with rooflights.

There is a low boundary wall to the southeast and northeast with saddleback coping.

Statement of Interest

Greenock Elim Church is a notable example of a Gothic revival church. Built in 1882, it is representative of the Victorian interest in medieval church design which included a careful interpretation of a variety of Gothic styles and forms. The architect, Hippolyte Blanc, who was also an antiquarian, was inspired by the Early English Gothic period and consistently applied this style to the church's exterior. The composition and plan makes particularly good use of the corner site with narrow transept aisles and a landmark corner tower which has a relatively unusual saddleback roof.

Age and Rarity

Greenock Elim Church opened in 1882 as Greenbank United Presbyterian Church. It was built for the congregation of the Greenock George Square United Presbyterian Church, as their previous building had been destroyed by fire in 1880. Information from the current congregation notes that the building was described at its opening as a 'beautiful edifice'. There are a number of sketches in the Hippolyte Blanc collection on Canmore (Ref 200569) which show different potential architectural schemes for the building. All are in the Gothic style, but with different designs for the shape of the tower, the position of the main entrance door and the shape of the vestry to the left. The interior plans all show sets of pews to the nave, small passage aisles, and pews to both transepts. Blanc finally chose the saddleback-roofed shape for his tower, which is more unusual.

The United Presbyterian Church in Scotland was formed in 1847. It merged with the Free Church in 1900 and became the United Free Church. This, in turn, merged with the Church of Scotland in 1929 and this church then became Greenbank Church of Scotland. It continued as such until 1955 when the congregation united with St Mark's Church of Scotland in Greenock and moved into their premises on Ardgowan Street.

In the mid to later 20th century, the Greenock church building on Kelly Street was used by the Greenbank Institute for the Deaf. It was probably during this period that the pews and pulpit were removed and other alterations were made to the interior. In 1985, the Greenock Elim Church bought the building.

The church is first depicted on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map, published in 1897. The plan form is largely unaltered since this date. The map also shows a predecessor to the current church hall, which was built in 1933.

Churches dating from the late 19th century are not rare and a great many from this date survive. While many designs were standardised, examples which demonstrate inventive planning, good spatial treatment, good fixtures and fittings as well as intactness may be of interest for listing. Greenock Elim Church's interest lies in its good external detailing and design. This is described in more detail below.

Architectural or Historic Interest


The alterations to the interior of the church to provide additional room space has changed the 19th century interior form of the church. The enclosing of the gallery and parts of the side aisles has altered the former space and there are no surviving 19th century furniture or fittings, such as pews, pulpit or communion table.

While the exposed stonework on the arches is a typical interior detail of 19th century church buildings, the trefoil barrel vaulting of the roof is more unusual, and contributes to the architectural interest of this building.

Plan form

The external plan form, which is little altered, consists of a cruciform plan, with transepts and a tower at one corner. By the later 19th century this was a typical layout, which was inspired by scholarly study of medieval church design and by this date had moved completely away from rectangular plan preaching boxes.

The internal layout was significantly altered in the second half of the 20th century.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The church has been built in the Early Pointed Gothic Revival style, which was inspired by English churches of the 12th and 13th centuries, such as Wells, Lincoln and Salisbury. The main characteristic is its pointed arched lancet windows and plain but bold detailing.

Greenock Elim Church has rock-faced rubble which contrasts with the smooth ashlar of the margins and provides a distinctive decorative effect. Other decorative effects include the hoodmoulding around the windows, the deep set doorway, the set-back buttresses and the narrow, lancet windows. The choice of a saddleback tower, instead of the more usual steeple, also distinguishes the church and is in keeping with the simple Early Pointed style. Saddleback roofed towers can be found in some churches around this date, such as at the West Church of Scotland, Brown Street, Port Glasgow, (LB40068) by John James Burnet and the additions to Kirknewton Parish Church by Brown and Wardrop (LB50535).

The various gables in the building add to its design, particularly as the transepts and former sanctuary of the building have slightly lower gables than the one to the main nave. These are complemented by the gables on the tower.

The United Presbyterian Church does not seem to have advocated a particular style of architecture for its churches and a number were built in a variety of Gothic styles – Paterson Church in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire (LB49857) and Bonnygate Church in Cupar (LB24240), but also included neo-classical designs, seen at the Wellington Church, Glasgow (LB32912).

Hippolyte J Blanc (1844-1917) was an eminent and prolific Edinburgh-based architect who was perhaps best known for his Gothic revival churches. He was also a keen antiquarian and many of his buildings evoke an earlier historic Scottish style. His churches include Christ Church, Morningside in Edinburgh, (LB27262), the former Morningside Free Church, (LB27546), St James, in Paisley, (LB39125) and the Coats Memorial Church, Paisley (LB39027).

Alexander Stewart McGregor, (1886-1956) practised mainly in Greenock and took mostly private commissions.


The building is prominently situated on a corner site within a mainly residential area of Greenock. It is mostly surrounded by tenements, although there are some villas to the north and there are 20th century college buildings to the west. The height and position of the tower on the corner makes the church a distinctive presence in the area.

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.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2017. Previously listed as 'Greenbank Institute Former Greenbank Church, Kelly Street'.

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