History of Renfield St Stephen's

Congregation

Renfield St Stephen’s congregation came into being as a result of a series of 13 congregational unions that took place between 1916 and 1974.  The unions were mostly caused by an oversupply of church premises following the reunion of the Church of Scotland in 1929, a church building that was gutted by fire, the large scale redevelopment of the north and west of the city centre in the 1960s to clear substandard housing and to construct the M8 motorway.  Of the original buildings only the current church and the former Cowcaddens Church (now the National Piping Centre) survive.

The original congregations were (foundation date):

St Stephen’s (1835);

Milton (1836);

St Matthew’s (1837);

Renfield Street (1848);

Shamrock Street (1849);

St Stephen’s West (1850);

Port Dundas (c1855);

Cowcaddens (1867);

Lyon Street (1870);

Blythswood (1875);

St Georges Road (1876);

Grant Street (1876);

Garnethill (1880).

Church Building

1849    Following a split in the congregation of George Street Congregational Church, a group set up an Independent Church led by the Rev Samuel T Porter and purchased land in Bath Street/Holland Street to build a church.   Noted London architect, John T Emmett, who specialised in the English Gothic Revival style, designed the new church.

1852    The church building was completed at a cost of £10,000.  It was reported in The Illustrated London News of 19 June 1852.  Records of the independent congregation no longer exist.  By 1874 the congregation had dwindled and was no longer active.  The building put up for sale.

1875    The building was purchased by James Baird of Cambusdoon, Ayrshire, who gifted it to the Church of Scotland for use by the congregation of the Parish of Blythswood.  It became known as Blythswood Parish Church.

1905    A stained-glass window, designed by Norman McLeod, was installed behind the chancel by the congregation in memory of James Baird incorporating the text Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give thee rest (Matthew 11:28).

1920    The church became the home of the united congregations of St Matthew’s and Blythswood under the name of St Matthew’s Blythswood Parish Church.  The War Memorial at the back of the chancel was dedicated that year.

1960    St Matthew’s Blythswood united with St Stephen’s Buccleuch to become St Stephen’s Blythswood Parish Church.  Monthly services continued to be held in the building, but most services took place in the former St Stephen’s Church in Cambridge Street.

1966    The building was sold by St Stephen’s Blythswood to the Renfield Street Trust for use by Renfield Parish Church.  The Renfield Street Trust had been formed in 1964 to manage the funds following the sale of Renfield Street Church (later demolished) to British Home Stores (BHS).

1969    After substantial refurbishment the church was rededicated.  The adjoining church centre was constructed and opened.  It was built on the site of tenement flats that were demolished to create a patio, suite of halls, offices, chapel and café.

1974    Renfield and St Stephen’s (it had changed its name to St Stephen’s in 1967 following union with Cowcaddens) united to become Renfield St Stephen’s Parish Church.  The St Stephen’s buildings, which were in need of major repairs, were sold for commercial development and demolished shortly after.

1981    We hosted a visit by the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Earl of Elgin.

1989    The fountain from the church garden at the Glasgow Garden Festival 1988 was installed in the patio.

1993    The church centre was significantly altered and refurbished.  A new entrance was constructed at ground level with internal wheelchair access.  The chapel was named ‘St Matthew’s Chapel’.

1998    A hurricane on Boxing Day (also St Stephen’s Day!) caused the collapse of the steeple (which was undergoing repair surrounded by scaffolding) into the sanctuary causing extensive structural damage.  Thankfully no one was injured or killed.  Weekly worship continued in the hall.

2001    The restored and refurbished sanctuary and chapel were formally rededicated by the Kirk Moderator.  Chairs replaced the pews and the pulpit was removed.  The organ console was rebuilt.  Later that year we hosted a visit by HRH The Princess Royal.

Contact us

260 Bath Street
Glasgow, Scotland
G2 4JP

p: +44 0141 332 4293
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