The church was built in 1721 and was renovated in both 1828 and 1880. From a distance it looks like a fairly unpromising grey stone box. Actually, it still looks a little like that when you get closer to it. Which makes what you find when you walk around to the north side of the church all the more surprising. Here, as if inserted into the wall as an afterthought, are the blocked remains of a doorway surrounded by a truly magnificent Norman carved arch. This really is just about the last thing you'd expect to find here, and its presence shows that there is rather more to St Ninian's Church than meets the eye.
The church "built" here in 1721 actually seems to have incorporated parts of a very much earlier church dedicated to St Ninian, probably dating back to the mid 1100s when the village was founded by a Flemish farmer called Lambin Asa, who had been granted lands in Clydesdale. We should be grateful that the arch was allowed to remain in place by the builders of the church, but it is interesting to wonder what else remains of the six hundred year older church, buried within the structure of its more recent replacement.
The columns that would once have formed part of the sides of the arch have long gone, and the carving of the arch is less crisp than it was when drawn by MacGibbon and Ross for their Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, published in 1896. Nonetheless, the complexity of the patterns remains very clearly on view, and this really is a remarkable story of survival.
Evidence for an earlier church, if any more is needed, can also be found in the graveyard, where there are a number of early gravestones on view. One is dated 1697, and a number of others carry fine carvings of the symbols of mortality so often found on stones from this era in Scotland.
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Grid Ref: NS 978 310