History of Leith, Edinburgh

December 20, 2003

From the History of Junction Road Church, Leith, Edinburgh 1896

IN 1493, Robert Ballantyne, Abbot of Holyrood, first spanned the Water of Leith by a solid stone bridge of three arches, thus connecting South and North Leith. The bridge crossed the stream from a point now known as Old Bridge End, off the Coalhill.

On the north side, near by the bridge, the Abbot also built a Chapel, and dedicated it to St. Ninian. In addition to the offerings made in the Chapel, the tolls and duties accruing from this new bridge were to be employed in its repair and that of the Chapel, but all surplus was to be given to the poor. The bridge has long since disappeared, but St. Ninian’s Chapel still occupies its ancient site, although very little of the original structure remains. After the Reformation the present Church was built, or rather engrafted, on to the old one. There is also a parsonage of more recent date built against the Church, and over an archway in this portion of the building there has been built in a sculptured lintel (a sketch of which is given on cover of this book), bearing the words-

BLESED. AR . THEY. YAT. HEIR. YE. VORD Of. GOD AND KElP. IT LVK . XI 1600

Through this archway, passing underneath the manse, the worshippers entered the Church. On the 25th August 1816 the Congregation of the Established Church of North Leith occupied this old Church for the last time, good old Dr.Johnston preaching the sermon, and the present North Leith Established Church was opened on the following Sabbath.
In 1822 the Relief Congregation, then forming in Leith, rented the old Church for £50 per annum, and here Mr. Muir was ordained. In after years, Mr. Muir, speaking at the ordination of his colleague and successor, Mr. Deans, in describing this old place of worship, told how there was, right opposite the pulpit, on a panel in front of the gallery, a picture of a ship in the act of being launched, with a Latin motto beneath it, signifying that the ship was about to proceed on its voyage on the unknown billows; and with this significant symbol before his eyes he entered on his ministry.

In 1826 the Church was let for storing grain, and it now forms a portion of the premises of the St. Ninian’s Colour Works.
Long after the Relief Church left the building the clock in the tower continued to strike the hours in its quaint old tone, and it was familiarly spoken of in the town as “the auld kettle.” Although the clock no longer indicates the time, and the bell has been removed, the walls of the Church and the steeple are strong and substantial, and the belfry, which is constructed of wood, is in excellent preservation; our young townsman, Mr. Annan, architect, who has lately inspected it, being of opinion that it will stand for many years to come.

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