Abbey Church of Scotland

North Berwick

Tel: 01620 892800
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Brief History


Little is known about the origin of the church, but we do know that a Praying Society was in existence as far back as 1769 and in 1778 a Meeting House was built on the site of the present-day Westgate Gallery.
In 1782, this small fellowship became an Associate Congregation of the United Secession Church which had previously broken away from the Established Church of Scotland. It was known as the Church of the Martyrs. In 1847, the U.S.C. joined with the Relief Church to form the United Presbyterian Church and in 1900 united with the Free Church to become the United Free Church. This is when it adopted the title of Abbey Church, possibly because it is built on North Berwick Abbey lands.
In 1929 the United Free Church re-united with the Established Church to form the present Church of Scotland.
We have at present a congregation of around 350 in good heart, eager to carry on the Lord's work in the same spirit as all those before us who have made Abbey Church a fellowship of believers with Christ central to our activities.

SUMMARY HISTORY – congregation and buildings

1769 A ‘Praying Society’ was formed.

1778 A ‘Meeting House’ was built in Westgate (on the present site of the Westgate Gallery).

1782 (27th February) An ‘Associate Congregation’ of the United Session Church (which had previously broken away from the Established Church of Scotland) was established, known (until 1900) as The Church of the Martyrs .

1782 A small cottage was bought as a manse (at 20 Westgate, where the next manse was built).

1784 The records of the Kirk Session begin.

1831 The start of the work to build a new ‘Meeting House’.

1832 (21st February) the keys of the new ‘Meeting House’ were handed over by the contractors.

1847 the United Secession denomination united with the Relief Church to form the United Presbyterian Church. Abbey then automatically became North Berwick United Presbyterian Church .

1865 A new manse was built at 20 Westgate, and was used as the manse until 2009. It cost £657.

1868 (13th January) The foundation stone of a new Church was laid on a site in the High Street. The previous building was sold for £560, and the new one cost £3100. The congregation had 210 members, with annual givings of only £200.

1868 (24th August) The new North Berwick United Presbyterian Church was opened.

1900 The United Presbyterians joined with the Free Church in a denominational union. The Church then became known as Abbey United Free Church, possibly because it had been built on former Abbey lands.

1929 The United Free denomination and the Established Church of Scotland joined to form the present Church of Scotland. Abbey Church of Scotland was then one of three parish churches of Scotland in North Berwick: Abbey, Blackadder and St. Andrew’s.

1989 Abbey was linked with the parish Church of Dirleton.

2002 The sanctuary had major improvements - these included new lighting, removing the choir balustrade, enlarging the chancel platform, and complete redecoration. The old communion table (which was badly damaged) was removed, and the war memorial plaque on it moved to the north wall.

2003 Two oak cabinets were sited in the vestibule in memory of Miss G. Jermyn, a long-serving member and Sunday School teacher.

2008 An audio-visual and projection system was installed in the church, with improvements to the sound system.

2009 In January, the manse in Westgate was sold, and new manse purchased in Old Abbey Road. The church and hall roofs were completely re-slated, and the halls redecorated. New boilers and heating controls were also installed, and other minor alterations and improvements made. In the same year, Dirleton Kirk and halls were given a complete makeover, including a new kitchen, toilets, heating, rewiring, lighting, carpeting and wooden hall floor, and roof repairs.

2010 The sanctuary was completely refurbished, with new glass entrance doors, seating and carpet.


1784-1799  Rev. James Scrimgeour

1799-1801  The congregation was without a Minister for two years

1801-1803  Rev. John McQueen (Abbey’s shortest ministry)

From 1803-1807 there is no record of a Session Meeting or Minister

1807-1843  Rev. George Brown, until he died (the longest ministry in the congregation)

1844-1857  Rev. John Dyer

1858-1886  Rev. William Calvert BA

1886-1903  Rev. Dr John Robertson MA DSc. He left to become Professor of Apologetics in Toronto, Canada.

1903-1937  Rev. Robert Small MA who came to Abbey from a church in Edinburgh after a serious illness, and he was not expected to last long - his ministry was in fact the second longest in Abbey’s history! His son Leonard later became Moderator of the Church of Scotland

1937-1949  Rev. A. Taylor Mackenzie MA BD. He then moved to be Minister of St Andrew’s Church, Colombo, Ceylon. He returned to North Berwick on his retirement and resumed his membership of Abbey.

1950-1956  Rev. A.G. Gunn BA, who moved to Knightswood, Glasgow, following which he returned to New Zealand where he had been born

1956-1964  Rev. E. Stanley P. Heavenor MA BD PhD, who came to Abbey from Jamaica, and then moved on to St. Michael’s, Crieff

1964-1974  Rev. R. Nichol Bell MA BD from Barclay Church, Edinburgh, until he retired

1975-1984  Rev. James G. Lees MA from Lothian Road, Edinburgh until he retired

1985-1998  Rev. P.H. (Milton) Cashman, in deferred linkage with Dirleton Kirk. When Dirleton became vacant in 1989 on the retirement of Rev. Ian Fraser, Rev. Cashman became Minister of the linked charge, until he retired.

1998-present  Rev. Dr. David J. Graham BSc BD PhD. Ordained in 1982, he had previously served as a lecturer in Biblical studies at International Christian College (Glasgow Bible College) and Honorary Lecturer at the University of Glasgow, and had been Locum/Associate Minister in several congregations in the Glasgow area.

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