History of Liberton Kirk and Halls
Two Celtic crosses dating between 8th and 11th centuries which were discovered in Liberton show that a Christian establishment of some kind existed in the area where the present church stands. The design on one of these, which is now housed in the Museum of Scotland, is part of the church logo, and features on the glass doors into the church, and elsewhere.
The first recorded evidence is the Great Charter of Holyrood signed in 1143 which refers to a chapel at Liberton, which had belonged to the Parish of St Cuthbert, being granted by King David I to the Abbey of Holyrood.
At the Reformation, Liberton became a parish church. A sketch of the old church by Andrew Kerr shows a building consisting of a tower, first topped with wood and later with stone, and a centre aisle. A number of side aisles and galleries each with its own outside stone stair were added to the main body of the church in 17th and 18th centuries by various landowning families.
The tower was struck by lightning in August 1744 so a new bell was installed in 1747, made by Henderson and Ormiston. This bell was subsequently incorporated in the new church building.
The old church was demolished in 1814 and a new church designed by the architect James Gillespie Graham was built on the site. The foundation stone was laid on 27th January 1815. It is not known exactly when the church was officially opened and dedicated.
The building was altered in 1882 at a cost of £1,200, by reducing the size of the gallery. This reduced the number of seats from 1,480 to 1,000 so the seats had to be reallocated to the local landowners known as heritors. The plan of the new allocation is on view in the church gallery. In 1958 the seating was reduced again (to about 900) to create more space around the communion table, and the latest refurbishment project in 2007 removed the pews from the south east and south west corners and cut new aisles, reducing the seating yet again. The church now has a capacity of about 720.
On the bicentenary of the present building in 2015 a stone cairn was erected at the south west corner of the church commemorating the “living stones” past and present who make up the church in this place.
By 1885, the Minister, Dr William Gray, saw the need for a church hall. This was built in 1888 with the aid of a grant of £600 from the trust fund formed from the estate of Miss Anderson of Moredun and a further £600 raised by the congregation. It was officially called the Anderson Church Hall in recognition of the bequest. The Small Hall was added in 1929 together with a new kitchen and cloakrooms at a cost of £2,000. A third hall and enclosed tennis verandah were added in 1954. More recent alterations have transformed these buildings into the Kirk Centre which now incorporates the Kirkgate Café. The garden at the back of the Kirk Centre is known as the Centre Court, in recognition of the previous existence of a tennis court.
In 2014 a book was published, “Liberton Kirk : A Good Place to Be” by Richard Purden, which set out the many influences, both historical and recent, which have created the church which exists today. This can be obtained from the church office (tel. 0131 664 8264) – the cost is £10.
“In Memoriam: Jessie McFarlane” is a book written in 1872 to commemorate a forgotten Edinburgh girl who became a preacher at the age of 17 and drew crowds in Scotland and England. She married Dr. David Brodie who was a pioneer in juvenile mental health in Scotland. He established a home for ‘juvenile imbeciles’ at a house in Kirk Brae, now called St. Hilda’s. Jessie died in Liberton of tuberculosis in 1871, aged 28. “In Memoriam” tells the remarkable story of her life and is held in the National Library of Scotland. A copy can be read here.
In 2021 we took part in the Doors Open Weekend in Edinburgh and created a virtual guided tour of our church building and the kirk yard. you can watch it here.
Family History Searches
For anyone wanting to research their family history the primary sources of information are census returns and records which relate to births, marriages and deaths. Statutory registration (the legal requirement to register births, marriages and deaths) was introduced in Scotland in 1855 but prior to that, records were maintained by the churches.
The main repository of these records is –
National Records of Scotland, General Register House, 2 Princes Street Edinburgh EH1 3YY Telephone: 0131 535 1314, https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/
Statutory registers of births, deaths and marriages from 1855
Old Parish Registers 1553 to 1854
Census records 1841 to 1911
Valuation roll indexes 1855 to 1935
Wills and testaments 1513 to 1999
Most of Liberton Kirk’s historic records have been deposited in the National Records of Scotland. They are principally held under reference CH2/383. The holdings include –
Kirk Session minutes 1639 onwards
Communion Roll 1835-1908, 1964-1985
Congregational Roll 1909-
Liberton Kirk Baptisms 1855-1923
The National Records of Scotland provides a useful website for people with Scottish ancestry called ScotlandsPeople https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/
ScotlandsPeople Centre has search rooms for visitors in General Register House
The Edinburgh Room, Edinburgh Central Library, George IV Bridge also holds copies of Liberton Kirk’s Old Parish Registers on microfiche.
They have a copy of –
North-East Midlothian monumental inscriptions/ edited and compiled by D. Richard Torrance. Edinburgh: Scottish Genealogy Society, 2000. (Shelfmark PL1 CS 477 M62)
This includes a plan of Liberton Kirkyard, details of the monumental inscriptions and the 1694 Poll Tax records for Liberton.
Useful websites include –
The Scottish Genealogy Society https://www.scotsgenealogy.com
Lothians Family History Society http://www.lothiansfamilyhistorysociety.co.uk/
Greater Liberton Heritage Project https://greaterlibertonheritageproject.co.uk/
Graveyards and Burial Grounds
Burial records are also a useful source of information when researching family history. Liberton churchyard has over two hundred gravestones, all dating before 1855, and there are a few inside the church itself. The Liberton Kirk Archive (see below) has a Liberton Kirk Churchyard Details.
An adjoining cemetery was opened in 1878. Burial records for Liberton Cemetery which date from 1862 to the present are now controlled by:
The Recorder of District Burial Grounds and Crematorium, Mortonhall Crematorium, Howdenhall Road, Edinburgh EH16 6TX, Telephone 0131 664 4314, Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Requests to access burial records can be made by letter or email giving the name of the deceased, date of death and the last address of the deceased if known. A search fee is charged.
Useful websites containing information about Liberton Cemetery include-
Liberton Kirk Archive
Copies of Liberton Parish Magazine (1898-1941) and Liberton Kirk Magazine (1947 to date) are held in the archive and these include details of baptisms, marriages and deaths. The National Library of Scotland also holds copies of the Liberton Kirk Magazine from 1947 (Shelfmark P.sm.1758)
Burial records are also a useful source of information when researching family history. There is a Liberton Kirk Churchyard Details at Liberton Kirk which includes gravestone references and a layout of the churchyard. A transcript of the monumental inscriptions is also held in the archive.
If you would like any help researching the above resources contact Vivienne Batho, email@example.com