Lauder Old Church stands in its churchyard a short distance west of Lauder Town Hall at the southern end of Lauder's Market Place. The name Old Church is a little misleading, as it was built here in 1673 to replace the original Parish Church serving Lauder. The earlier church had stood in the grounds of Thirlestane Castle since medieval times, but in 1617 the Earl of Lauderdale was given permission to demolish it and build a replacement on a site offering the twin benefits of being within the village and outwith his castle grounds. It was another 50 years until the actual relocation took place.
The church was designed by the architect Sir William Bruce in the form of a Greek cross. Other churches had been built in Scotland with a cross-shaped plan, but Lauder Old Church was the first which sought to be perfectly symmetrical, with four equally sized arms ensuring complete focus on the centre of the church. Each arm of the cross had a gallery, though it is thought that when the church first came into use, only two of these had been completed.
The 2nd Earl of Lauderdale's brief to Sir William Bruce had been clear: "I would have it decent and large enough, with a handsome little steeple; if any of the timber of the old church will serve, it will be so much the cheaper, but I can say now no more until I see the draught you promise me, and I would have both plan and perspective." The Duke's "handsome little steeple" stands atop four large pillars, one built into each corner of the main crossing in the centre of the church.
The perfect symmetry of the exterior of the church was not seriously disrupted by the later addition of little alcoves in the north-west and south-east corners of the cross. Each contains a door and stairs giving access to two of the galleries or lofts.
Much of the interior of the church dates back to a major renovation in 1820. The dark wood box-pews in the four ground floor arms of the church were all installed then, as were the galleries in their current form, the organ, and the pulpit which is now attached to the south-east corner of the crossing.
Lauder Old Church is surrounded by a churchyard. This comes complete with a hearse-house and a vestry, and a watchhouse was added in 1830 as protection against bodysnatchers: who were a real threat until the passing of the 1832 Anatomy Act which allowed a legitimate supply of cadavers for medical education and research.
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Market Place, Lauder.
Grid Ref: NT 530 475