is no record of a Church in Denholm before the 17th century and it is
thought that the villagers must have worshipped at Cavers. It is just
possible that there was an early chapel at little Cavers as "
Maurice Lovell, parsonne of little Cavers" is recorded in the
Ragman Rolls of 1296.
Church lands and possessions on the Cavers estate had been granted to
the monks of Melrose about 1358 by William, Earl of Douglas. The
"Dominical" (Church) lands of Denholm referred to in the
chapters during the time of the Cranstouns were probably at Honeytown by
the Stonyburn, both known today as Honeyburn. The house at Honeyburn
still has a cross on the north west Gable. A possible explanation for
the naming of the Cannon Gate is that the monks used to come that way
into Denholm on their way to Church properties on Cavers land. They are
said to have had a an apiary at Honeyburn where they came to collect
1658, as we have seen, Denholm was reunited to the Cavers estate by Sir
Archibald Douglas. The new Laird and his family were fervent
Covenanters, bitterly opposed to the bishops and Anglican forms of
worship which Charles 1st had tried to force upon the Presbyterian
Church of Scotland.
1662 the Douglas's refused to admit a curate sent by the official Church
and representatives from Jedburgh were stoned by the women of Cavers.
After this the Covenanters in this area were persecuted by the law and
had to resort to to secret conventicles and prayer meetings in hidden
places such as Pedens pulpit on Ruberslaw and Pedens Vale in Denholm
Dean (just below the ruined cottage).
1690 the Presbyterians were finally recognised as the established Church
in Scotland but the strictest Covenanters would not
join it. A group of them known as the Cameronians formed their
own congregation in Denholm under the patronage of the Douglas family.
do not know what building they used until about 1740 when the old
Cameronian chapel was built with the preachers house adjoining. The
site, behind Poplar Nook on the Small Green, was given by the Laird. The
Chapel had seating for 230 people and had three pulpits, the lowest one
for the precentor. Seats and pulpits were later covered in red plush and
the high pulpit ran the full length of the building.
Douglas family continued to reject the Established Church in their home
village of Cavers and worshipped with the Cameronian “Dissenters” or
“Independents” all through the 18th and 19th
centuries. They would walk to Denholm and back every Sunday as it was
held to be wrong to ride a horse on the Lord’s Day. Their route
through the Dean became known as the “Kirk Walk”.
Presumably any Denholm Villagers who belonged to the Established
Church would take the same path to and from worship to Cavers – but in
the opposite direction.
the end of the 19th century the Cameronian or Independent
Chapel was also called the Meeting House or the Mission Hall, Services
were held only every second Sunday and on summer evenings. It closed
some time in the 1920’s and was used for a while as a smithy. It was
finally demolished after the 2nd World War but the
Preacher’s house is still standing and is known as Elmbank.
The Free Church
present church in Denholm was built as a Free Church in 1844 at the time
of the Disruption. This had taken place the previous year when two
fifths of the Scottish clergy broke away from the Established Church.
They were no longer prepared to tolerate private patronage and
interference from civil authorities in church matters.
people of Denholm built their new church with money they raised
themselves. The site was made available by the Laird. Presumably he was
pleased to support the new Free Church because it defied the Established
Church which his family had long opposed. Some of the stones were
collected by the village women from the river and rough undressed stone
work can be seen in a section of the north wall near the entrance to the
Pitt Memorial Hall. The Hall was built in 1892 in memory of the Rev.
Thomas Pitt who died in service as a minister.
of the longest serving ministers were the Rev. James McClymont who held
office for 40 years from 1847 to 1886 and the Rev. John Smith who was
minister for 36 years from 1892 until his death in 1928. The original
manse was at Townhead at the top of what came to be known as the Manse
Brae. The house is now called Beechlands.
United Free Church (as it became known in 1900) was known locally as the
Kirk. Chapel and Kirk appear to have coexisted well until the Chapel
finally closed in the 1920’s. On alternate Sundays the Independent
congregation would worship at the Kirk and their Preacher, William
Ramsay, also served as an elder and seat rent officer for the Kirk.
United Free Church in Denholm rejoined the Established Church, now the
Church of Scotland, in 1929 under the Presbytery of Jedburgh. But some
who had been in the habit of traveling to Cavers or Minto continued to
do so throughout the 1930’s. In 1963 it was linked with the Parish of
Bedrule and in 1975 with Minto.
The House of Brethren
the end of the 19th century there was also a House of the
Brethren in Denholm. This was the cottage which is now the west half of
the Neuk in Eastgate. Mill workers used to come from Hawick and Jedburgh
to worship there.
was a Congregational Church in Denholm from 1826-1876 supplied by
ministers Francis Dick, 1826-35; Robert Wilson, 1835-43; John Spence,
1844-45; John McRobert, 1846-76.