Shore Road, Skelmorlie – ‘B Listed’

Photos: 1. The Old Church 1856 -1894. Source: South Church, 1856-1956, 100 years. Wm MacCartney. 2.  Skelmorlie Parish Church 1895. Source: The book of the Parish Church of Skelmorlie, Rev John Lamond, 1895. 3. South Church – ND June 2020. 4. Wrought Iron Lamp Standard – ND June 2020. 5. 6. OS map – 1910

DatesKey Developments
1856Kelly Bridge Chapel of Ease built.
1858 2 additional transepts added.
1895 New Church built adjacent to the original. * Architects – John Honeyman & Keppie.
1929The United Free Church united with the Church of Scotland. The former became known as the North Church Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay and the latter Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay South Parish Church.
1972Congregations of the North and South Church combine, selecting the latter for their new joint home.

NOTE: The Parish Church  does not fit into the category of  “Villa”. It has been included partly because of the involvement of John Honeyman, but also because it seemed wrong to provide the history of one, The Kirk House/North Church, without the other.

*Source: Dictionary of Scottish Architects design report.


  • In 1853 a request was put before the Greenock Presbytery for a new Church to serve the district. The Minister of Inverkip wanted it as far away as possible from his church and favoured it being built at the Meigle. The Minister of Largs on the other hand, said it should be near enough the Kelly burn to serve the residents of Wemyss Bay. The latter view prevailed and the church was built on the present site, the ground having been gifted by the Earl of Eglinton. Source: Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay (South Church), 1856-1956, Wm Newton Macartney.
  • When the church was built in 1856, it was called the Kelly Bridge Chapel and as there was no Parish of Skelmorlie, only a Parish of Largs, it took the status of a Chapel of Ease. The original building was very dainty and erected at a cost of £1,300.  In 1858, two little transepts were added to the south end of the chapel, enabling 400 to be seated. Source: Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay (South Church), 1856-1956, Wm Newton Macartney.
  • In 1860, the Chapel of Ease attained the dignity of a Parish Church and in June 1865, an organ was introduced into the church. It is roundly asserted that the Skelmorlie Organ was the first organ ever played in a Church of Scotland Service. This innovation met with strenuous opposition from many quarters and initially it was only played at the afternoon service. Source: Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay (South Church), 1856-1956, Wm Newton Macartney.
  • Early in the 1890s, with the ever-increasing population, it was felt that a more spacious church was needed and the Architects, John Honeyman and Keppie, were engaged. As part of the reconstruction, the old church of 1856, become the church hall. The cost of reconstruction was £5,814. Source: Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay (South Church), 1856-1956, Wm Newton Macartney.
  • Whilst John Honeyman was responsible for the design of the church, the distinctive style of some of the furnishings and fittings suggests Mackintosh’s involvement. In particular, the unusual wrought-iron lamp standard outside the main entrance is very similar to the one shown in Mackintosh’s 1896 perspective drawing of Martyrs Public School, and it was probably designed by him. Source:
  • It’s perhaps telling of the period, that the cost of the construction was paid off within two years and the many gifts and bequests made by the congregation at the time, furnish the church today. Source: Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay (South Church), 1856-1956, Wm Newton Macartney.
  • When the United Free Church agreed a union with the Church of Scotland in 1929, giving the village two churches of the same denomination, the former became the North Church Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay and the established church, became the Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay South Parish Church. Source: The North Church Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay – One Hundred Years 1871-1971.
  • In 1972, when Rev. George Innes died, the congregations of the two churches agreed that they should amalgamate under the ministerial guidance of Rev. W Kennedy and that the South Church would become the new home for the combined congregation.

South Church Ministers in chronological order.

Rev. Robert Stewart BD 1874 – 1875
Rev. John Kerr MA 1876 – 1878
Rev. John Keith BD 1878 – 1885
Rev. Robert Howie Fisher BD1885 – 1890
Rev. John Lamond BD1891 – 1899
Rev. John McGilchrist BD1899 – 1911
Rev. David Nicol, MC BD1911 – 1920
Rev. Rollo Sutherland BD 1921 – 1926
Rev. Dudley Hopkirk, BD BLitt1926 – 1929
Rev. Alexander Fraser MA 1929 – 1938
Rev. George Innes BD Llb Phd 1938 – 1972
Rev. W Russell Kennedy BA1972 – 1978 Transferred from Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay North Church.
Rev. William Armstrong BD1979 – 2008
Rev. Morris Coull BD2009 – 2014
Rev. Archie Speirs BD2015 – present

Sources: The Book of The Parish Church of Skelmorlie, Rev John Lamond, B.D, 1895, Centenary Brochure for Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay Parish and Rev. W Armstrong.

Location Map:

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