Our History

the 1800s

After the fashion of the day, extra galleries had been crammed in, but it was clear to the Rev Dr David Johnston and his Kirk Session that a new church was the only solution. After many years of intense legal wrangling with certain vested interests, the splendid new church in Madeira Street was opened in 1816 to the design of William Burn, the well-known Architect, who was also responsible for the Edinburgh Academy, the Dundas Memorial in the center of St Andrew’s Square and the building which now houses the Gallery of Modern Art (formerly John Watson’s College). When we see the situation of the church today it is hard to imagine how, in 1816, there were people who complained that it was too farĀ out into the country!

In 1816 the Secession congregation leased the newly vacated St Ninian’s Church until the completion of their own premises in Coburg Street. This church was later named Harper Memorial in memory of its distinguished first Minister. In the meanwhile, an independent mission congregation had begun meeting in a ship moored permanently in Leith Docks. In 1840 they moved into church premises in Dock Street, but in 1843 the congregation joined the Disruption Free Church and were able to retain their building. Their original name was the Mariner’s Church, but later they were known as St Ninian’s Dock Street. The Dock Street building still stands, but is no longer a church. The Harper Memorial building was closed after a later union and eventually demolished. It stood right opposite the old North Leith burial ground.

In 1843 a large number of people in North Leith left the Parish Church to found North Leith Free Church. Their first building was a modest affair at the north end of Junction Bridge where the Bank of Scotland is now situated. It soon proved too small and so in 1859 a new and much more grand church was built to the west along Ferry Road. The most prominent feature of the original building was the carved “Burning Bush” which adorned the gable wall and now stands over the door of our church hall.