Just a few yards south of North Berwick's High Street and parallel with it is the street known as Kirk Ports. On the south side of the street is a large kirkyard surrounding the shell of a disused church. This church is identified on the Ordnance Survey map as St Andrew's Church. You can also find it referred to in some architectural reference works as the "Old Parish Church", while we have gone with another variant used locally, which refers to it simply as the Parish Kirk.
Charting the development of the parish churches in North Berwick is an interesting subject fraught with scope for misunderstanding. The main cause of possible confusion is the presence of no fewer than three different sites in different parts of the town that were or are home to parish churches dedicated to St Andrew. The starting point is what is referred to in onsite interpretive boards as St Andrew's Old Kirk, near the harbour and the Scottish Seabird Centre, sometimes also called "St Andrew's Auld Kirk" or just "Old Kirk" or "Auld Kirk". This had probably been home to a church since the 600s, and certainly since the 1100s. Much of this church collapsed and was washed away by the sea during a major storm in 1656, and the site was abandoned.
The site chosen for a replacement church stood on the south side of what became known Kirk Ports, and soon after the 1656 storm (probably in 1659) work got under way here to build the second St Andrews' Kirk to serve the parish. By some accounts work was completed by 1664. What emerged was a fairly plain rectangular box with a tower at its west end topped off by an unusually shaped roof, now sprouting an excess of vegetation.
Further work was undertaken on the kirk in 1770 and it seems that the interior was stripped out and refurbished in 1819: with the only element to survive the renovation being the pew installed for the Dalrymple family in the front of one of the galleries. It seems that there were galleries at both the east and west ends (and possibly along the north side), and the church is said to have been able to accommodated 550 people. The focal point, as with most Scottish Presbyterian churches at the time, would have been the pulpit, in a raised position mid way along the south wall.
In 1883 a new parish church, also dedicated to St Andrew, was built in North Berwick's High Street by the architect Robert Rowand Anderson. The congregation simply relocated to the new church, and the old one on Kirk Ports fell into disuse. Today it has a slightly forlorn air. Rusting scaffolding around the tower suggests that at some point restoration was intended, but the scaffolding now looks in a worse state of repair than the ivy covered stonework beneath it. Meanwhile, a rusting grill carrying a "dangerous building, keep out" sign discourages entry.
The surrounding kirkyard is home to a number of interesting monuments. Especially poignant is the decorative gravestone of Allison Meek, who died at the age of 1 in 1714 and her brother Allexander Meek who died in 1719 at the age of 2. The reverse of the stone commemorates other family members who died later in the same century. Nearby is a table monument which commemorates John Blackadder, who died, it says, "on the Bass after five years imprisonment" in 1686. This turns out to be the final resting place of the Rev John Blackadder, a preacher and staunch Covenanter who was imprisoned on Bass Rock and who, after his death there, became a notable martyr to his cause.
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Grid Ref: NT 554 852