Bath Street, Largs
North Ayrshire, Scotland
The origins of the congregation of St John's, Largs lie in the formation of the free Church of Scotland following the disruption of 1843.
Immediately after this historic event Revd John Dow of the Parish Church in Largs, along with two hundred members of his congregation, established the Free Church in Largs.
The foundation stone for the Largs Free Church was laid on 28th September 1843. The original building was a small simple construction consisting of four whinstone walls and a bell tower. This typical Free Church design allowed places of worship to be provided very quickly. A central pulpit jutted out from the east gable wall.
In 1886, plans were submitted for the reconstruction of the church. The architect was a young man of singular promise, Archibald J Grahame. Sadly, he contracted malaria while in Italy studying architecture and died in his twenty eighth year before building work on the church commenced. St John's Church stands as the only memorial to his genius.
The architecture of the reconstructed church was in the French Romanesque style. The whinstone north, east and south walls of the original churchwere retained. The entire west gable was removed and replaced by agallery, vestibule and session house. The central pulpit was removed.In the east wall an apse, reckoned to be one of the finest in Scotland,was reconstructed with a stone pulpit placed to one side. A transcept, with gallery above, was built out from the south wall. At the northeast corner, a tower of graceful lines in keeping with the Italian architecture was constructed. The total cost of the reconstructed building was 5084 7s 8d.
After the reconstruction of the building, the church was still known as Largs Free Church. Following the union of the Free and United Presbyterian Churches in 1900 to form the United Free Church of Scotland, the building became known as St John's Church. The minister at the time of the reconstruction was Dr Charles Watson. Of all the writers of the new testament, John was his favourite. This beloved apostle's mind appealed to Dr Watson. He spoke, lectured and wrote on him frequently. Because of Dr Watson's love for this New Testament writer, the Free Church congregation displayed their regard for their minister by giving the name St John to the Church.
Texts were carved in the stone above the two exterior vestibule doors - the one on the south reading "If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine"; and on the north, "Show me Thy ways, O God, and lead me in a plain path.". Inside the vestibule, two other inscriptions are carved. The welcoming text from the first verse of Psalm 122, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord," is found above the doorway into the Church, while over the entrance to the Session House (now the Simpson Memorial Room), an inscription reads,"Guide us by Thy Counsel.".
In 1951, the stone pulpit was replaced by a smaller wooden one. This serves as a memorial to those young men of the congregation who gave their lives during the Second World War.
On the north wall, there are three window representing Moses, Isaiah and John the Baptist. Beyond the pulpit are two windows depicting Martha and Mary. On the south wall there is a window of Paul.
It is fitting that within the church, there should be some memorial to Archibald John Grahame, its architect. This takes the form of several stained glass windows. In the apse, there are five windows gifted by his father, mother and aunt. These depict Our Lord Jesus Christ and the four evangelists; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. On the north wall under the back gallery, is a shepherd boy. This was gifted by some of Archibald Grahame's friends.
Three windows, the work of Douglas Strachan, are to be found in the vestibule. There were installed in 1911 by the congregation to mark the esteem in which the held Dr Watson. Unsurprisingly, two of them are scenes from the life of St John - one depicts John taking the mother of Jesus to his home, while the other shows the apostle in exile as he hears the voice of God giving him his Devine revelation. The third window depicts Jesus ordaining the twelve, that they might preach and heal.
The memorial windows are located in the transept gallery. These are the work of Douglas Hamilton. The west window depicts the youthful David with the sword of Goliath, while the sheep in the background remind us that he was a shepherd boy. The window to the east portrays David as he pours out the water which three brave men have risked their lives to bring to him. The theme of this window is sacrifice.
Three windows in the former Session House take their theme from Psalm 84.
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