Background to the Church

Stepps Parish Church on Whitehill Avenue was opened on 27th May 1900, but the Parish of Stepps has had a complex past. Stepps Parish Church as we know it today was originally built as an extension to the Church of Scotland Parish of Hogganfield (''Hogganfield - Stepps'') in 1900 and was known locally as Stepps Established Church. When a separate Parish was created, it became Stepps Parish Church in its own right. However, in 1931 the Parish was further subdivided and the Church became Whitehill Parish Church. In 1906, the congregation of Stepps United Free Church, in Blenheim Avenue, was formed, but the Church building itself was not completed until 1913. The Stepps United Free Church name continued until 1929 when most of the United Free congregations opted to become part of the Church of Scotland. The new name for the Church on Blenheim Avenue was St. Andrews Church of Scotland, this name survived until the inevitable union of St. Andrews Church and Whitehill Church in 1983. The united congregation in the original building in Whitehill Avenue then became Stepps Parish Church once again.

 

Stepps Parish Church Early Days - the Union Hall
Building Stepps Parish Church
Extensions & Alterations
Whitehill Parish Church
The United Free Church in Stepps
St. Andrews Church - The Union with Whitehill Church
The United Stepps Parish Church
Recent Years

 

Early Days - the Union Hall

Stepps was a rural community until the arrival of the railway in the mid-nineteenth century prompted growth outwards from the railway and Cumbernauld Road cross. There were no Churches, but many lively religious services, prayer meetings and Sabbath Schools took place in local houses, known as ''kitchen meetings'' and in the barn of Whitehill farm. These early services seem to have been multi-denominational, this is because the only alternative would have been a long walk to Millerston or Chryston.

 

In November 1875, St. Joseph''s R.C. Church opened and this gave an incentive to the Protestant community of Stepps to follow suit. Consequently, the Union Hall on Cardowan Drive opened in September 1887 and became home to Evangelistic services every Sunday evening. Additionally, the Union Hall hosted Sabbath Schools, Bible Classes, Prayer Meetings and many more activities. It was not until the 8th January 1899 that Rev. J.F. Andison, minister of Hogganfield Parish Church of Scotland (in whose Parish Stepps was situated), held a meeting to consider the need for a Church in Stepps. A public meeting was held on 15th March 1889 and it was decided that a Church of Scotland would be built in Stepps. This decision lead to some damage to the strong inter-denominational spirit that had prevailed in the Union Hall until that time, but despite these issues the Church of Scotland continued to use the Union Hall until it had a hall of its own.

 

Building Stepps Parish Church

The building committee for Stepps Parish Church wanted the new Church to be built in a prominent position on Cumbernauld Road, but a site on Whitehill Avenue, which was mostly farmland at the time was suggested by Col. Sprot of Garnkirk at no cost other than feu duty of one shilling per annum. This included permission to build a Church and halls on the grounds, the committee wasted no time and quickly appointed a promising architect, Peter McGregor Chalmers on 29th May 1899.

Mr. Ross of Garfield House cut the first sod (turf) on the 27th of July and Col. Sprot of Garnkirk laid the foundation stone with a silver trowel on September 23rd 1899. The main contractors on the building were local men. When first built in 1900, the Church stood very much alone in the fields. The pews in the new Church were not new, they came from Monklands Church. The communion table, pulpit and choir chairs were of Austrian oak. A wrought iron lectern was mounted on a plinth at the front of the chancel. Heating in the Church was coal fired. The total cost of the building was around £3000.

 

Extensions & Alterations

In 1903, the "Good Samaritan" stained glass window was unveiled and an architect was appointed for the building of a hall, which was seen as a more pressing need than a manse. In order for the Church to become independent, with its own parish, a grand bazaar was organised in 1905, to pay for the building of the hall and to provide an endowment for a minister''s stipend. After the success of the bazaar the Parish of Stepps was established on the 13th of July 1906 and the Church became ''Stepps Parish Church''. In September 1906 a Kirk Session was formed.

 

Due to the increasing number of houses being built in Stepps in the early years of the century, the Church membership grew to over 400 in 1908. An extension to the Church became a priority as there was a need to accommodate all the Church members. Peter McGregor Chalmers was again appointed the architect for the extension in 1909. The west aisle was integrated with the existing building at a cost of £233, increasing the capacity of the Church from 416 to 475. The extension was dedicated on the 19th of November 1911. At this time the positions of the pulpit and font were reversed as the new rows of pillars would have blocked many people''s view of the pulpit. Electric lighting was installed in the Church in 1928, courtesy of the Women''s Guild. The Church became Whitehill Parish Church in 1931, following the division of the Parish with St. Andrew''s.

 

Whitehill Parish Church

A new vestry was dedicated on the 25th of April 1937 at the cost of £385. The arrival of a new minister, Rev. Adam MacFarlan, again caused the Church to consider buying a manse, almost 50 years after the Church had been built. A period of intense fund raising took place and a house on Whitehill Avenue was purchased in 1951. Work took place in 1956 to link the heating systems between the Church and the hall, however the work took around a year and a number of problems emerged with the heating system. It was not until 1964, when radiant heaters were installed, that the complaints became less vocal. An extension to the hall was built in 1965 and there was a further requirement for hall accommodation in the late 1960''s, fortunately James Buchanan & Co. had a wooden hut that was "surplus to requirements", and this was offered to the Church as a temporary hall. This hall was called, ''Buchanan Youth Hut'' and was opened in January 1973. In 1983 the Church united with St. Andrews.

 

The United Free Church in Stepps

After the Church of Scotland had constructed their own Church and vacated the Union Hall, the United Free Church members continued to make use of the building for a few years. However, as Stepps continued to grow it was inevitable that the there would be moves to formally create a United Free congregation in Stepps. The first meeting to propose this took place in 1904 and an offer was made to purchase the Union Hall, but this was declined by the feudal superior Col. Sprot. However, in 1906 a location was secured on Blenheim Avenue and Sir William Bisland, Lord Provost of Glasgow, laid the foundation stone of the new hall on the 21st of April 1906. The first service took place in the new hall in June 1906.

It was not until 1909 that a building committee was formed to supervise the construction of a Church. Mr. Andrew Balfour was appointed as the architect and plans for a grey sandstone building were proposed. However, whilst the building work was in progress, disaster struck and the original hall was burned down leaving the U.F. congregation of Stepps "homeless". Stepps Established Church offered the use of its building for the following Sundays service, and much use was made of the Union Hall, until the Church was opened on the 14th of June 1913 at the cost of around £5000. In 1929 the United Free Church joined the Church of Scotland and Stepps U.F. Church became St. Andrews Church of Scotland, Stepps.

St. Andrews Church, Blenheim Avenue, Stepps

St. Andrew''s Church (Stepps U.F. Church), Blenheim Avenue, 1934

 

St. Andrews Church - The Union with Whitehill Church

In 1956, a number of alterations, repairs and social activities took place to mark Jubilee Celebrations in 1956, however the future of St. Andrews was to prove difficult. At the time of the Jubilee there was a peak of around 535 communicant members, however by the 1970''s the roll had fallen by around 200. In the same period, the Sunday School roll had fallen from over 200 to 65 and the Women''s Guild dropped from 135 to 60. The first mention of the Union & Readjustments Committee in Session minutes was in June 1976. Several different scenarios were considered, including union with either Gartcosh or Whitehill, temporary expedients or "going it alone". At services on the 21st of November 1982, St. Andrews voted 61 for union, 55 against with 7 abstentions, Whitehill voted 132 for and nil against.

The "Basis of Union" was accepted by the Presbytery in December 1982 and the Service of Union was held at Stepps Parish Church at 7.00pm on Thursday the 6th of January 1983.

 

The United Stepps Parish Church

Following the union of St. Andrews and Whitehill, additional funds became available due to the sale of assets, and these funds were invested for the benefit of the combined congregation. A new gas powered central heating system at a cost of £32,670 and some pews were removed from the rear of the Church to make space for a new cloakroom area. A further hall extension took place at a cost of £75,000 which included a Session Room, committee rooms, better storage space and improved kitchen and toilet facilities. The first stage of the extension to the hall required the Buchanan Youth Hut to be demolished in 1986 and the building work was completed in August 1987.

 

There were many other developments in 1987. A loop system for the hard of hearing was installed, fluorescent lighting was fitted in the main hall and the stained glass windows were protected by double glazing. In 1999, the front entrance to the Church was modified to allow wheelchair access.

Interior of Stepps Parish Church, Whitehill Avenue

 

Recent Years

The Rev Neil Buchanan was inducted as Minister at a service on 14 April 2005. The rarely used east transept of the church had the pews removed in 2009 and was screened off to provide a side chapel for use as a space for small groups to meet. The formal opening and dedication took place on 13 December 2009.

The information on Stepps Parish Church is based on a book written for the Centenary of the Church, ''100 Years of the Church in Stepps'' by Jim K. Begg, which was written in 2000. This information is published with the permission of Jim Begg and Stepps Parish Church.