Old Bathgate Parish Church stands on the south side of the A89 about a mile east of the centre of Bathgate. On the opposite side of the road to Kirkton Public Park, a name that reflects the ecclesiastical origins of this part of Bathgate, the church hides behind a high stone wall and is easily overlooked.
Built on the brow of a hill that drops away steeply to the south, Old Bathgate Parish Church is remarkably ancient in origin, with parts of the standing structure probably dating back to the 1220s.
Records of a church standing here go back even further, as far back as the reign of Malcolm IV in around 1160, when the income from the "Church of Bathket" was granted to Holyrood Abbey.
What you find today is a very long, narrow set of walls, suggesting a structure 27.3m by 6.85m (or about 91ft by 19ft). The church was abandoned in 1739 when it was replaced by a new parish church built in Bathgate. The walls that had survived were consolidated in 1846, a process that seems to have left them largely free from any architectural features beyond a lancet window and a broad gap in the north side. This serves as an entrance and carries traces of what might once have been an arched doorway.
The various stages in the history of the church are more easily traced from the gravestones and markers than from the surviving structure of the church itself. The oldest identifiable grave slab in now fixed vertically into the inner face of the south wall of the church, though it was recorded as lying on the ground in the 1800s. It was placed here in memory of Andreas Crichton of Drumcorse, the estate which once lay to the north of the road. In May 1502, Crichton became Chamberlain of the Lordship of Linlithgowshire and he seems to have died in 1514.
Andreas Crichton's grave marker carries a large cross, over which is carved a shield bearing the Crichton arms of a lion rampant. To the left of the cross is a long sword. Around the edge of the slab is a text carved in Latin. It has to be admitted that the carvings on the slab are rather clearer on a drawing made by MacGibbon and Ross in the 1890s that they are today.
Possibly even older is a stone effigy lying on the ground inside the north wall of the church. This is dressed in the clothes of a priest or monk, but nothing is known about the identity of the man it commemorated when initially carved, perhaps in the 1400s. It would originally have been placed in a niche in the inside wall of the church, but no trace of this now remains.
A slightly more recent grave marker to the south of the church is known as the Covenanter's Stone and commemorates James Davie, killed in April 1673 because, it says, of his religious beliefs.
Visitor InformationView Location on Map
Grid Ref: NS 989 682