Abbey Church of Scotland

North Berwick

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Features of the Dirleton Kirk building

We welcome you to our church, which dates from 1612.

Note that there is a more detailed description of each window on a small wall plaque beside every one.


The Archerfield Aisle (or Dirleton Aisle) is reputedly built over the grave of the first Earl of Dirleton, James Maxwell, who was created Earl in 1646 for his services to the King. This side aisle may have been for the benefit of the nobility during worship (notice the memorial to the Earl of Breadalbane & Holland), or even for visiting royalty (see the plaque to the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII).

To your left, on the south side of the aisle, is a window of ‘St Francis and the Animals’ by Margaret Chilton. It was gifted in 1935 by Mr. Jackson Russell of Archerfield, in memory of his wife who had drowned in North Berwick harbour.

To the right of the door are the Cradle Rolls of baptisms over the past 50 years. On the opposite wall is a memorial list of villagers who died in both world wars. Notice the stone crests on either side of the arch.


Move to the centre of the church, and turn to your right, facing the chancel window. There are two lecterns just in front of you. The larger one is the reading lecturn, in memory of ‘CL and CRL’ in 1890. The smaller one is a reading desk gifted by James Harrold in memory of his wife Marjorie, inscribed ‘MJH 1921-2002’.

Moving into the chancel area (mind the step!), there are memorial plaques to the first four ministers of the 20th century, and also to a long-serving organist. On the south wall (right) is a glass installation commissioned at the church’s 400th anniversary in 2012, by artist Douglas Hogg. This tells the story of the beginnings of Dirleton Kirk. Notice also the wooden plaque from our twinned Church, Macfarlane Memorial Church in Kalimpong, North India.

The communion table, below the large window, was gifted in 1930 by Mrs. Russell of Archerfield (in whose memory the Archerfield window was given just five years later).

The large 3-part window at the east end, above the communion table, depicts ‘I am the Vine’, and remembers Betty Henderson Reid in 1930. The wooden cross was a gift from former Kirk elders Stanley and Averil Scott when they moved away in 2004.

The stained glass by the organ on the north side is in memory of Amy Imrie and her husband Archie. Amy was a long-standing choir member, and the window depicts this.

The organ dates from 1900, and was installed shortly after that date. Prior to this, hymns and psalms were sung without music, led by a precentor. Adjacent to this is a cabinet for the sound system, a gift from our ‘Twin’ Church in Kalimpong in 2009.

On the north side is the pulpit. Below the pulpit is the baptismal font, a gift from the Woman’s Guild in 1937.
Early in the 20th century, many church furnishings were changed and moved around. The pulpit had previously been in the middle of the north wall, between the vestry door and the window beyond it. It was then moved down and to the side. You will have realised by now that although the main building is 400 years old, many of the interior furnishings are from the 20th century.


Turn to face west (with your back to the pulpit and table), and look up the aisle. All the pews now face east towards you, but try to imagine the old layout, with the pulpit just beyond the door on the north wall (to the right), and the pews facing it inwards from both directions. This is how the church would have looked for the first 300 years of its history. For the sacrament of communion, the table would have been set along the centre of the pews, like a long bench.

Walk up the main aisle, and enjoy the windows on both sides. On the right (north) side, they are ‘Jesus the Good Shepherd’ (1955, but gifted in 2001 in memory of Gerald Kirkby by his wife Janet, a Kirk elder), and ‘Samuel Anointing King David’ (1916, also gifted by and now in memory of Janet Kirkby). Both these windows were rescued from the derelict Heatherlie Church in Selkirk, and reinstalled here by glass artist Douglas Hogg.

On the other (south) side are the two oldest windows in the Kirk: ‘Suffer the Little Children’, in memory of John Guild of Castlemains and dating from 1892, making it the oldest window in the Kirk; and ‘Christ Child’ from 1899, in memory of Rev. James Scott and his wife (notice the imposing marble memorial to him on the adjacent wall). Facing you on the back north wall is a plaque to Maidie Hart, who was a leading light in the Guild and women’s movement.


In the early 1800s, thanks to Mary Hamilton Nisbet (Lady Elgin), the tower above the west end of the church was built, and a side vestry added for the Minister. A new manse was also built, facing east along the village green (it is now a private house).

Stand outside the Kirk door, and look up the path. To the right at the top of the path is the old Session House building, where the Kirk elders used to meet. The low adjoining building was the mortuary, very convenient for the graveyard (but thankfully it is no longer used for this purpose!).

To the left, on the other side of the gate, is the church hall. This was the original village school until the ‘new’ one was built in 1912 (the old school bell is still visible on the roof). The private house adjoining the hall was for the schoolmaster.

The kirkyard has a fascinating history, and there is a guide booklet available, thanks to the local History Society. But take care – old gravestones can be unsteady.

After more than 400 years of worship and witness, today we are in good heart and eager to carry on the Lord's work. With Christ central to all our activities, we continue God’s work in the same spirit as those who have done so in previous centuries.


There is more information about the graves in the kirkyard in this document (courtesy of Gullane and Dirleton History Society).

There is more information about the Dirleton war memorial in this document (courtesy of Derek Carter)

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