Yarrow Kirk stands in the tiny settlement of Yarrow, just to the north of the Yarrow Water and the A708 some eight miles west of Selkirk. You approach on foot along a lane from the main road and your first sight is of the kirk's highly unusual south front, complete with the polygonal apse projecting from its middle.
Yarrow Kirk was built in 1640 to replace the medieval church of St Mary's of the Lowes, which stood on a rather remote hillside overlooking the north end of St Mary's Loch. Yarrow Kirk's location, seven miles to the east, allowed easier access from the more populated parts of this large parish. The old hillside site of St Mary's of the Lowes became St Mary's Graveyard, which can still be visited today.
The church was originally built as a plain T-plan structure, with the main body running east-west and an aisle forming the leg of the "T" on the north side. The pulpit would have stood in the centre of the south wall.
In the early 1770s the walls were raised and lofts inserted in the three arms of the "T" to increase seating capacity to 770. This is how the church would have been known to two of its most famous worshippers, writers Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg.
Further changes were made in 1826, including the addition of doors to the ends of rows of pews. This was a development apparently designed to restrict the movement of the sheepdogs who, it is said, often accompanied their masters to kirk.
The kirk as you see it today dates back to a major renovation undertaken by A.N. Paterson in 1906. This saw the removal of the galleries and the insertion of wooden screens at the end of all three arms. Most strikingly, it also saw the addition of the polygonal apse in the centre of the south wall of the church, a feature which gives Yarrow Kirk an almost unique design and adds greatly to the simple T-plan structure that existed before. The result is an intriguing, almost cruciform, layout, and the apse adds to the appearance of the church externally almost as much as it does internally.
The kirk was seriously damaged by fire on Easter Sunday 1922, but rebuilt the following year, largely as it had emerged from the 1906 renovation.
There are a number of interesting monuments around the outer walls of the church, including a tablet inscribed with the name of every minister since 1791. Most poignant, however, is the gravestone "erected in memory of James Thomson, shepherd, who perished in the snowstorm on December 7, 1882, at Whitefield, Yarrow, aged 27 years".
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Grid Ref: NT 357 278