History of the Church
|A History of Gretna Old Parish Church|
The Rev. James Gatt, a distinguished minister of the Church in the 18th century,
states that the Church had its origins in Pictish times at St. Brigids Well on Gretna Hill.
There was an early Christian connection with the district as an adjoining parish,
named Reinpatrick, indicating that it was probably an outpost of St. Patrick's mission field.
By the 16th century the church at Reinpatrick, or the Red Kirk, had fallen into decay
and was joined to the Parish of Graitney.
The parishes of Gretna and Redkirk were united in 1609.
The name Graitney was used in church records until 1st February 1916 and thereafter the name Gretna is used. In the records of York Minster, Gretna or Graitney Church is mentioned as being under the jurisdiction of the priory of Guisburn in Yorkshire. The Church had some connection with the Bruce family who had been granted land by the Normans in Yorkshire, and were Lords of Annandale.
Whilst under Norman influence the church and church lands were associated with the Abbeys of Melrose and Holme St. Cultram. This was probably due to the fact that salmon fisheries and the salting on the Solway played an important part in the monastic food supply.
Archaeology notes taken from The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS):
“The medieval parish church of Gretna stood within its burial-ground on an eminence overlooking the Solway floodplain, its site being indicated by a rectangular depression (measuring 22m by 9m) close to the centre of the burial-ground and some 20m S of the present church; this site is respected both by the 18th-century gravestones and by the recumbent slabs.
The S side of the
depression is up to 0.6m deep as a result of the buildup of soil within the burial-ground against
the wall of the church.”
“Old Gretna or Gretna Green Church: built 1790 on site of older church; largely rebuilt in 1910. The present church, which in part may date from the 17th century, probably stands on or close to the site of its medieval predecessor, which is first mentioned about 1170. A fragment of late medieval window-moulding and what may be two similar fragments are built into the W wall.”
“Three dressed slabs have previously been noted built into the W wall of the present church. One is no longer visible due to the resurfacing of the manse drive, but the other two are now in the garage to the rear of the manse. Both are crudely dressed and similarly sculptured but they are now severely defaced. The better-preserved is a sandstone block with coped sides; it measures 0.62m wide, 0.28m thick and up to 0.47m high, has the form of a tympanum, and bears a semi-circular recess or niche, within which there is a cat-like head carved in high relief, with bulbous circular eyes, rounded ears, and the hint of a mouth; the foot of the niche is wrought with a quirked edge roll.
The detail of the head of the second block is more severely wasted.” The two stones mentioned above are now in the display area within Gretna Old Parish Church. “Within the N aisle of the church, there is an unprovenanced and much-used beehive quern; there is evidence for a worn horizontal handle-socket on one side of the base, above which a second handle-socket has been cut.”
This quern is now also in the display area.
“In front of the manse, a well-executed circular trough (measuring 0.8m in diameter and 0.4m
in height) could be a medieval font.”
This circular trough is now situated at the entrance to the Manse garden.
“Gretna parish church, Gretna Green. T-plan kirk of sneck-harled red sandstone rubble, built in 1789-90 but transformed into a lumpy Gothic edifice in 1909-10 by James Barbour. He thickened the main block with the addition of a S aisle, almost swallowing up the 18th-century jamb, blocked the gable doors and provided new windows throughout.
Also by Barbour is the E side's slim bell tower, a red-tiled spire rising within the battlement, a spired caphouse, again red-tiled, at its NW corner.”
A great variety of old Communion plate/pewter/tokens from the old parish are still in the possession of the United Kirk Session of Gretna Old, Gretna St. Andrew's, Half Morton and Kirkpatrick Fleming. The old pewter consists of a bowl, flagon, two cups and three plates.
Abram Crawley of Kendal made the cups. The plates are very much worn, damaged and pitted with what appears to be particles of lime. From their appearance it seems likely that they were buried under masonry when the church was burned down. One of the plates is punch marked round the rim with the inscription 'This basin belongs to Graitney Kirk 1707.'
Sir Edward Johnson-Ferguson of Springkell, who was one of the heritors, gifted the Communion Plate, at present in use in Gretna Old PC, to the church on the 2nd October 1861.
Gretna Old, Gretna St. Andrew's, Half Morton and Kirkpatrick Fleming Parish Church of Scotland
Scottish Charity Number SC016747