There has been a parish church on this site since well before 1500, founded by the Augustinian monks of Cambuskenneth Abbey, by Stirling, and under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Bishop of St Andrews. these associations are commemorated in the carvings on the ends of the Elders’ benches.
After the Reformation, King James VI, by decree of 10th April 1615, “conceded” the revenues of Cambuskenneth to the Earl of Mar, and providing that the Minister of Gargunnock should receive annually 2 chalders (6 cwt.) of corn, 1 chalder (3cwt.) of barley and 200 marks (£40) with manse and glebe; plus the “vicar’s tithes” of a tenth of the yield of milk, butter, eggs, cheese and wool, and one out of every ten of the young of sheep, cattle, horses and pigs, from the lands of Gargunnock, Leckie, Boquhan, Culbeg and Culmore. All of which must have made him a comparatively wealthy man!
By 1625 there is evidence of the creation of a Kirk Session, under the authority of the Presbytery of Stirling – evidence possibly of a new start at the beginning of the reign of King Charles I. But, in turbulent times, no mention of Bishops! The elders of the day seem to have been more concerned with the misdemeanours of those members who resorted to “Christie’s Well” in a “superstitious and idolatrous manner for the recovery of their health”!
On 30th July 1626 the Kirk Session, in view of the “ruinous” state of the church, decided to act upon a motion originally made 5 years earlier, and to rebuild the church on the site of the former building – a simple rectangle running East and West. No doubt they re-used as much of the old stone as possible, and incorporated on the East and West gables the Cross and the Crescent which had adorned the roof of the earlier building. A loft and stair were also added at the West end, later to become the Meiklewood Loft. By the end of 1628 the work was finished and the windows glassed. But then, as now, vandalism was a problem, with “bairns breaking of them by casting stones”.
By May 1660, it was reported that the Kirk was “throng”, as a result of which the East Loft was added, to accommodate the lairds of Leckie and Boquhan, and the church was extended by the addition of the North Aisle and the North Loft for the use of the laird of Gargunnock. Thus the church assumed it’s present shape.
Towards the end of the century it was felt that the church bell was too small and insufficiently loud to rouse the congregation, s a new, heavier, bell was commissioned and the attractive bell tower built on the north gable by a local mason.
There is a puzzle about the date 1774, above the East door, thought by some to signify a second re-building of the church. Kirk Session minutes, almost entirely occupied with matters of morals, are maddeningly silent on the fabric of the building. There is mention in 1710 of the church being “repaired”, so that the children could not attend school (there was still no school house in the village). And in 1723 consideration was given to “ye usefulness of having a door struck out in ye Easter gable in ye church belongeth to ye lairds of Boquhan and Leckie”, all at the expense of the Kirk Session. And in 1765 a new window was approved in the East side of the aisle, so there was no talk of re-building at that time. It seems more probable therefore, – even if it took fifty years for minds to be made up – that “1774” refers to the implementation of the 1723 proposal and marks the completion of the present main entry to the church, the pre-reformation entry having, of course, been at the West end.
The Elders’ Chairs and Benches date from 1953, at which time the pulpit, Communion Table and Font were also renovated, to tone with the oak War Memorial (by Lorimer). The two fine Memorial Windows were dedicated in 1956 ad 1968, and the Mountain Indicator at the top of the North Gable Stair in 1954. The Vestry, facing the old Session House at the gate was given to the church in 1963, when the roof was re-slated and the (somewhat controversial) false ceiling installed.
(Information prepared by Mr Tim Brown for the interest of visitors to Gargunnock Church and was printed in the Church Magazine Summer 1997)