NS3877 : Renton Trinity Parish Church

taken 11 years ago, near to Renton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

Renton Trinity Parish Church
Renton Trinity Parish Church
For context, and for another contributor's earlier picture, see NS3878 : Renton Trinity Church, a view along Leven Street.

The church is located at the northern end of NS3877 : Alexander Street, Renton, beside the junction with Leven Street. It was built in 1891-92. Its listed building report LinkExternal link (at Historic Environment Scotland) provides some architectural information. More can be found below.

For the churchyard, see NS3878 : Churchyard of Renton Trinity Church; its small burial ground, to the north of the church, is shown in NS3878 : Burial plot beside Renton Trinity Church. As explained at that link, it contains only a single small plot, that of Mr Alexander Wylie of Cordale House, who had sought and obtained special permission that he might be buried here; he, and two of his sisters and one brother, are buried in that plot.

When this church was built, it was referred to as Renton Parish Church, or Renton New Parish Church; its predecessor was located on Main Street, a little to the north of Leven Street, but was proving inadequate to the needs of the growing congregation (whose minister was the Rev A C Watson).

The foundation stone of the new Renton Parish Church was laid in October 1891, a little later than originally intended (at the same time was it was being announced that the event was to be postponed for a fortnight, local doctors were dealing with an outbreak of typhus in Renton; this was perhaps the reason for the delay).

The ground upon which the new church was to be built had been provided free of charge by P B Smollett (Patrick Boyle Smollett; see NS3882 : South lodge: monogram above door).

The foundation stone was laid with Masonic Honours on Saturday 10th October 1891 by Mr J M Martin of Auchendennan (for that family, see NS3979 : Mausoleum of the Martins of Auchendennan), Provincial Grand Master of Dumbartonshire. The contemporary report of the event (found in the Lennox Herald issue of Oct 14th 1891) says of the planned church that the "design is 17th century Gothic old parish church style", and that "it will have nave and transepts and chancel for choir, with side organ chamber. A tower of three stages will be erected in the centre of front gable of nave. This tower forms the entrance hall, and provides in the upper stage a belfry for the peal of bells at present in the old church. The length of the building, which is of red sandstone, over all is 124 feet, and the width across the transepts 100 feet. The church will be seated for 800 without galleries, and the total cost will be about 3000. The architects are Messrs H & D Barclay, 245 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, and the contractors are : Mason work, Mr James Barlas, Alexandria; joiner, Mr John Gillies, Alexandria; slater, Mr J Hunter, Renton; plumber and gas-fitter, Mr J Coubrough, Renton; plasterer, Mr John Hutchison, Dumbarton; glazier, J Britton & Son, Glasgow; painter, Mr W Menzies, Bonhill; heating, Messrs J Boyd & Son, Paisley; measurers, Messrs Boston, Menzies, & Morton, Greenock and Bonhill".

Those in attendance on that day included (as well as Mr Martin, named above, who laid the stone): Sir James Buchanan, Depute Provincial Grand Master; Mr Alex Wylie of Cordale House, who, with some of his siblings, would later prove to be the only family to be buried beside the church; Mr P B Smollett, who had provided the land upon which it was built; Rev D H Wilson, senior minister of Renton Parish; and Rev A C Watson, his colleague and successor.

The official opening took place on Sunday 18th December 1892. The church was opened by "the Very Reverent Dr McGregor of Edinburgh", who presented it to the aforementioned A C Watson, who became its first minister.

The church was designed by Mr David Barclay, of the practice named above, and the peal of bells in its tower was made by Messrs J Warner & Son, of the Crescent Foundry, London, and presented to the congregation by James and John B Aiken of Dalmoak (see NS3877 : Dalmoak House). An organ was added to the church in 1911, and some stained glass windows, the gift of the Aikens of Dalmoak, were presented in July 1912. These windows were designed and executed by Oscar Paterson (he was born in the Gorbals on the 26th of March 1836, and was educated at St Enoch's School; he died, after suffering financial reverses, on 7th November 1934, and was buried in Glasgow Necropolis; his grave is not marked by any stone).

The name Renton Trinity Church arose later: in June of 1969 an Act of Union brought together the congregations of Renton Millburn Church, Renton Parish Church, and Renton Union Church, into a single Renton Trinity Church. In December of 1971, the church shown in this picture became the sole place of worship for that congregation.

The church underwent a program of refurbishment in 1991, which included the complete re-tiling of the roof. Older readers may remember the church's tower presenting a different appearance in decades past: the tower presently has four small spires, which project from its corners, but there used to be four more, midway between them.

Some online archaeology databases contain an entry for this church, citing "F Groome 1903" as stating that "the new church of 1893 has been erected on the site of the old house of Dalquhurn". This is probably taken from an edition of the "Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland" (by Francis Groome), but the comment made there is incorrect: Dalquhurn House did not stand here, although its actual site was not far away, just 300 metres or so downriver; see NS3977 : The former site of Dalquhurn House.

My own opinion is that this misconception arose from comments made by Mr Alex Wylie in a toast he gave during a "Cake and Wine Banquet" held in the evening of the same day as the laying of the foundation stone in the afternoon of 10th October 1891. In his toast, Mr Wylie expressed the thought that "all those present that day would concur that the site was one not surpassed by any in the Vale of Leven. It was classic ground. Within a very few yards of the site of that church Tobias Smollett was born. If any of them had looked at the old picture of the Vale of Leven about 1765 they would observe that the Smolletts' house stood upon that very corner, and was selected by them on account of the commanding view it gave them both up and down the Vale".

Mr Wylie's surmise, based on his examination of that picture, was incorrect, but few, if any, of those listening would have realised that; the audience would probably have accepted the idea he expressed in his toast as fact. It was further spread by newspaper coverage of the church's opening, allowing the incorrect notion that the church stood on the site of Dalquhurn House to become firmly rooted.

A brief but useful summary of Renton's other churches can be found in another work:

"Renton of course had its Free Gaelic Church in 1856, its first minister being Rev. A. Cameron, the second one Rev. Jas. Dempster losing his eldest boy during a diphtheria epidemic in 1878. A United Presbyterian Church appeared about 1882 and was rebuilt about 1890. The Parish Church in Alexander St. was erected in 1891, though a mission had existed since 1852, with a girls' school attached" ["The story of the Vale of Leven", J.Agnew, 1976].
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NS3877, 90 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Saturday, 30 April, 2011   (more nearby)
Thursday, 12 May, 2011
Geographical Context
Religious sites 
Place (from Tags)
Architect (from Tags)
H & D Barclay  David Barclay 
Period (from Tags)
19th Century 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3892 7797 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:58.0579N 4:34.9448W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3895 7799
View Direction
West-southwest (about 247 degrees)
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