Sunday, 8 February 2015

Abercorn Parish Kirk

Abercorn is one of the earliest Christian sites in Scotland. In 400 AD St Ninian visited during his mission to the Picts. By AD 600 the Northumbrians had established Abercorn as one of their four bishoprics, together with York, Hexham and Lindisfarne. The oldest surviving part of the present church is a small blocked up door that has been dated to c1100. That may have been an entrance to a chapel or even an extension to St Ninian's original church.

Not withstanding the church's great antiquity its chief glory is the Hopetoun Loft. It enabled members of the Hope family could look down on the congregation and especially their neighbors the Dayells of The House of the Binns, without themselves being seen. The loft was built above the Hope burial vault so that the family prayed above the tombs of their ancestors. The Aisle was built c1704 by architect Sir William Bruce who had earlier worked on Hopetoun House itself.

The decoration of the Hopetoun Loft is stunning. An indication of the Loft's occupants closer proximity to heaven perhaps. Rather than a loft in a church it has all the appearance of a royal box at the opera. It is richly carved and panelled with the new Earl's Achievement painted on the wall behind him by Richard Waitt. The frieze carved by William Eizat along the front facing the Church uses heraldic devices and natural forms.

The first Earl of Hopetoun's Achievement by Richard Waitt.

Access to the Loft is not through the church but through an elegant retiring room.  The Hope family had their own  private entrance to the north of the church. From there a carriage way leads through the Deer Park  to Hopetoun House, a mile away.

Squint from the Retiring Room into the Kirk.