The History of Leith

August 21, 2008

Bells of South Leith Church

1483 (?) Kirk of Our Lady built for the Guilds including the Mariners of Trinity House;
cruciform plan with central tower and presumably at least one bell

1560 Tower, chancel and transepts destroyed by English army the day after the last mass
was said

1614 West tower built with one bell and clock (clock mentioned as early as 1594)

1649 Church used for five years by Cromwell’s troops for stabling and stores; bell lost but
clock survived

1658 New bell provided

1665 Bell couldn’t be heard by half the town; sold (money to poor) and replaced by bell
from Edinburgh weigh-house

1674 Dutch-style wooden spire added

1681 Bell having cracked, three new bells and a new clock were installed

1762 New bell badly needed; one provided by George Watt of Edinburgh (who also cast a
bell for Ratho in 1776 and one for St. Cuthbert’s in 1791)

1836 Tower leaning 2′ from vertical at top: taken down to church roof level. Largest bell
hung in churchyard, other bells and clock put into storage

1846 Partial rebuilding of church including removal of old tower and a new north-west
tower; bell(s) rehung?

1851 New clock provided by Ritchie of Edinburgh

1872 New bell provided by Whitechapel Bellfoundry of London (weight 22 cwt 3 qr 12 lb),
replacing up to four remaining old bells

1894 Bell replaced (by same firm) after fire in tower; timbers still visibly charred. This bell
has now been in use longer than any of its predecessors

While two early bells from St. Ninian’s, North Leith, have survived (one dated 1720 now in
the parish church and the other dated 1738 in Trinity House museum), none of the many
former bells of South Leith church has come to light.

References
South Leith Records: compiled from the parish registers for the years 1588 to 1700; and
from other original sources, D. Robertson, 1911 (www.scotsfind.org/south_leith/leith.pdf)
The Church in the midst: South Leith Parish Church through five centuries, J. S. Marshall,
Edina Press, 1983

(Editors note the date given here for the founding of the Church is the traditional date but is in all likelihood wrong by at least two hundred years)

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