Burleigh Memorial Church – was a former church originally known as the East Free Church. Before the church was built, the congregation met in a mission hall, which evolved over the years.
The church has its roots back to 1876 where a small mission was set up. Requiring a venue for worship, during its first years, church members rented Dall’s Shop in Gilmours Building for £25 per annum, before moving in 1877 into a larger shop in Henderson’s Buildings for 7 months. Next in early 1878, the hall requirement moved temporarily again to the Masonic Hall above the Livingstonian Bar on the corner of Forrest Street and Glasgow Road. (which would later become the Blantyre Electric Picture Company).
Whilst the mission was at the Masonic Hall, work began on creating a more permanent mission hall nearby at the corner of Herbertson Street and Glasgow Road, Low Blantyre.
A piece of land was obtained at the corner of Glasgow Road and Herbertson Street and by May 1878, a new hall had been built. It was a significant building, made of stone, with large windows at the east and west. It was heated by coal. The first minister was Rev. John Burleigh who commenced there on 24th September 1889.
The mission flourished and a short time after John Burleigh arrived in 1889, the Free church assembly raised the status of the mission to full church. Plans were drawn up for a permanent church, which was to be built on the ground already bought and nearby to the mission hall. The new church was to be named the ‘East Free Church’ and would seat over 500 people. The existing mission building next to it would not be redundant but instead would function as a hall only. A budget of £1,620 was raised, which is around a quarter of a million pounds in todays money. The foundation stone for this permanent church was laid on 12th March 1892 and the church was finally opened on Saturday, 3rd December, 1892. It is unknown if it met budget requirements.The new church was a prominent feature and had address 103 Glasgow Road, situated on the south side, directly across Glasgow Road from Gilmours Building. In 1900 it became ‘Blantyre East United Free Church’
The early 1900s saw the church have its up and downs with regards to debt on the church buildings and problems with underground workings. On Friday 2nd October 1914, Rev Burleigh gleefully told the congregation that the church was at last debt free.That same day, the church celebrated 25 years of Rev Burleigh being minister.
In November 1918 when the armistice and end of WW1 was sounded, the 3 united free churches in Blantyre including East Free came together for a joint service at the larger Livingstone Memorial Church, with ministers from all churches attending and large crowds descending upon the building.
John Burleigh died on 28th October 1922. Like the Anderson Church at Stonefield Road, it joined to form part of the new Church of Scotland in 1929 and then became known as ‘Blantyre East Church of Scotland’
According to the valuation roll of 1930, the congregation of the “Blantyre East Church of Scotland” owned the church and indeed the nearby mission hall. During the first week of September 1931, egged on by a companion a Blantyre boy smashed several windows of the church, was caught out and put on probation. Nearby in Herbertson Street was the telephone exchange.
As you would expect from most churches, several organisations took place in and around the building. Scouts, Brownies, Sunday school, womens guild to name a few.
Around 1945, the “Blantyre East Church of Scotland” was renamed “Burleigh Memorial Church of Scotland” in honour of the man who had served as the first minister for 33 years.
During the mid 1950s, the pastor was Rev. J. M Barker.
Due to dwindling numbers, the first union and readjustment in the town was in 1965 when the Burleigh Memorial was united with Stonefield Parish to become ‘Stonefield Burleigh Memorial Parish Church’. It was decided that the Burleigh halls would be used as the halls of the new congregation, but that the Stonefield building would become the church for Sunday worship.
As with many churches in Blantyre in the 1970, mysterious fires set their fate. In 1973, the mission hall at Herbertson Street burned down and was unsalvageable. A year later in January 1974, the Burleigh Church burned down also. The beautiful mosaics from Cochrane’s Chapel that had been in the church since 1925 were thankfully salvaged, cleaned up and taken to Hamilton Town Hall, where they still are today. The windows of the church were allegedly saved also and moved to Ayrshire. The ruined buildings were demolished in 1978 along with much of Glasgow Road during the redevelopment years.
The site of the old church is now the western part and offices of Gavin Watson Printers.
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