Church Life In the year 1771
A congregation in connection with the Burgher Synod was formed at Newtown.
“Till that date members in the district had been connected with the congregation at Selkirk. “Three
members resident in Hawkslee, Dryburgh and Newtown were desirous to have a place of worship in their own connection more conveniently situated, and they applied for and obtained supply of sermon in
connection with the Burgher Synod.”
In 1772 a church was built with 452 sittings.
Its situation was uncommonly picturesque. On the left bank of Newtown burn, a brook that comes brawling down from the southern slope of the Eildon Hills, and in course of untold ages, has scooped out for itself a deep dell, now beautifully wooded.
The church itself was of an unpretentious description. Outside, its colour was a sombre grey, with low roof and stiff-looking doors and windows. Inside it was conspicuous for square, old-fashioned pews, and a ceiling so low that the minister’s head nearly touched the roof, and people in the back seats of the
gallery could not stand upright. On a sultry day when the church was well filled, the atmosphere must have been stifling. (Border Church Life – James Tait).
Mr Alexander Waugh - 1780 - 1782
Mr Waugh first minister of the new congregation was born at East Gordon on 16th August, 1754. He received his early education at Gordon, and from 1766 at Earlston Grammar School. “Alexander Waugh” said one of his classmates who survived him “was the most active lively boy at the school and the leader of all the frolics”. In 1770 he studied Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University and completed his M.A.degree in Theology at Aberdeen University in 1777
“he was,.at this period on account of his constant cheerfulness,
his affability to all, his talents in conversation and his kindness of heart the
most universally beloved person I have ever known”
He obtained license at Duns in June, 1779, and two months later was sent to Wells Street, London to supply the congregation for a short. period. He returned to Edinburgh in November to preach at the Bristo Church. “Meanwhile, a unanimous call was addressed to him by the infant congregation at Newtown”. Although it is said that a friend of his, writing at the time, described it as “a moorland hermitage; a rural cloister.” His mother too, was disappointed to think that her son, a student of high distinction, and on whose education so much money had been freely lavished, should be ordained in a place so small and obscure. It would appear that some of these sentiments were shared by the young preacher himself, but with some reluctance the call was accepted..
On 30th August, 1780 at the age of twenty-six he was ordained as the first minister of the little congregation at Newtown, from which his preaching fame soon spread over a very wide area.
From the very outset the church was full.
A memorable occasion was the first and only communion at Newtown under the ministry of Dr Waugh.
Crowds had assembled from the congregations of Selkirk, Stow,Stitchel, Kelso and Jedburgh, filling the whole glen, which seemed to have been scooped out as a natural sanctuary for a great congregation of Christian worshippers.”
At Wells Street, he had not been forgotten. He rejected a first call on the grounds of the shortness of time at
Newtown, but later in November he expressed his willingness to accept a second call from London.
In London Dr Waugh exercised one of the most notable ministries of the time and became one of the founders of the London Missionary Society. His lectures and sermons drew crowded audiences not only in London itself but in every city in England and Ireland which he visited, while his writings reached a very wide public.
The authors Oberon Waugh and Evelyn (of Brideshead Revisited fame) are descendants of Dr Waugh.
Mr William Elder -1782 - 1817
Mr Elder was ordained at Newtown within twelve months of Mr Waugh’s departure. and was soon afterwards elected Clerk to the Presbytery of Selkirk, an office which he continued to hold during
the rest of his life. There appears to be little record of his time at Newtown,session minutes seem to have been lost, all except a fragment of less than four pages. The year 1799 was notable as a “black year” to agriculturists; and on the 22nd September “the Session agreed to appoint Tuesday 24th as a day of public humiliation and prayer on account of the aspect of Providence in the season.”
In 1802 an application came from Newtown for “aid for the meeting house”. Probably to repair damage when one of the beams that supported the gallery gave way and some people were seriously
injured ‘Mr Elder was so much agitated as to be unable to finish his discourse’.
He died in 1817 at the age of 62 years and in the 37th year of his ministry.
The Rev. William Rutherford - 1821-1843
William Rutherford was born at Ancrum in February, 1796. In 1815 he entered the Theological Hall
at Selkirk and on the 21st March, 1820 was licensed.
In August, 1821 after a prolonged vacancy, Mr Rutherford was ordained at Newtown. As a Pastor Mr Rutherford was highly esteemed; and under his ministry the congregation was comparitively prosperous. He married in 1823 and they had a numerous family.
Mr Rutherford died in July, 1842 aged 47 years. Over his grave in the Abbey churchyard
of Melrose, a tombstone was erected by the congregation as a “memorial of gratitude and
Mr David Lumgair - 1844-1874
Under the ministry of Mr Lumgair, the congregation was peaceful and prosperous. Soon after his
ordination he married, but lost his wife on the oocasion of the birth of their second son. After a time he
“Four years after his ordination Asiatic cholera was in the district, and in Newtown its ravages were
terrible. A twelfth part of the population died; and more than once the little community was awed by the spectacle of two funerals in one day. The faithful pastor was always at his post, going from door to door in the panic-stricken village.
During Mr Lumgair’s years the railway came to Newtown which transformed the little village. Businesses thrived and in turn the church benefited. As might be expected a desire for a place of worship more in keeping with the altered circumstances gradually increased, and on Wednesday,
17th June, 1868, a day of beautiful sunshine, the handsome and commodious new
structure was formally opened.
It appeared that there had been expended £1087 10s 11d and there had been £1083 17s 3d of income.
On 31st March, 1874, Mr Lumgair became ill at the Railway Station, and died suddenly aged 58 years and in the 31st year of his ministry.
“Reference was made to the lithe, active figure, the beaming
face”, “his clear and independent judgment, his scorn of everything false and
mean, and his unobtrusive piety”.
Mr George James Young 1874-1878
A call was addressed to Mr George James Young, M.A., probationer, when the stipend offered was £170, with manse, and three weeks of holidays, and on 19th January, 1875 Mr Young was ordained. In June, 1877 the stipend was increased to £200. Owing to failing health, Mr Young demitted his charge in 1878 and went to Australia where he obtained a medical practice. As a testimony of respect the congregation raised and presented to him 100 guineas.
From ‘Border Church Life’ by James Tait,
Newtown St Boswells - Publ.1891
Rev. R. Inglis -
After the Union of the Church of Scotland and the United Free
Church in 1929, Newtown became Newtown Parish Church.
Roman Catholic Church
Golden Jubilee Book - 1967)
For many years any Catholic in Newtown St Boswells wishing to go to Church to worship, was obliged to go either to Galashiels or to Jedburgh. In 1934 the White Fathers, a Missionary Society devoted to the missions in Africa, obtained permission to open a house in the Borders. They first came to Melrose and remained there until 1935, after which time they moved to Hawkslee at Newtown. Here they converted a barn which served as a Chapel-of-Ease until the farm was sold about 1944.
Whilst at the farm, the Brothers of the Society began work on the new College nearby. For material they bought an historic building in Wauchope and dismantled it stone by stone, transporting everything to the new site. The Foundation stone was laid in 1935 and by 1936 the members of the Community were able to take over the new building, although it was still far from complete.
The intention was that the College should have accommodation for about 100 students, lay and clerical and place made for two establishments, one for the Lay Brothers and the other for boys of thirteen years of age and upwards.
The building of the college had been sped up by local contractors to enable the Society to accommodate the ten pupils who arrived in October, 1936 and who will be trained for the Missionary Priesthood.
The Monastery is designed to meet every requirement of the Society in the training of their pupils. The
property extends to about sixty acres, fifty of which are under cultivation. In 1940 they enlarged
the Chapel and people from outside began to worship there instead of going to the farm. This was the war years and all hopes of building a permanent Chapel for the College had to be abandoned.
In 1950 funds were raised and at last the College Chapel was completed. All went well until 2nd
November, 1963 when a disastrous fire completely destroyed the original building put up by the Brothers themselves. Thankfully, the Chapel and the new Wing were saved and so the Chapel continues as a Chapel- of-Ease for Galashiels and many people come there every Sunday to hear Mass.
(St Columbia’s was bought by Glasgow Corporation as a holiday home for Roman Catholic children and
opened March 1972.) Now Tweed Horizons.
St Columbas - Catholic Church
In 1934 the White Fathers, a Missionary Society obtained permission to open a house
at Hawkslee Farm Newtown. They converted a barn which served as a Chapel- of-Ease until the farm was sold in 1944. Up until this time Catholic people at Newtown were obliged to go to Galashiels or Jedburgh. The Brothers of the Society then began work on the College nearby to accommodate students to train
for missionary work in Africa.
By 1940 worshippers attended the Chapel there instead of going to the farm. In 1950 the College
Chapel was completed and all went well until 1963 when a disastrous fire destroyed the original building.
Thankfully the Chapel and the new Wing were saved and many people continued to attend Sunday Mass.
A World War I gun was situated in Bemersyde House (Earl Haig). Soldiers in World War II, on seeing it there as a constant reminder of the war, loosened the gun and pushed it into the River Tweed. When it was replaced, they pushed it in again after which it was sent to the War Museum at Edinburgh
Steps leading to Davidson’s Mart
The site of the old Secession Church in the Glen was obliterated to make way for the bypass bridge.
In 1935 the White Fathers, a Society devoted to Missions in Africa, came to open a house in the Borders in
a converted barn in the farm of Hawkslea. For the first time Newtown’s Catholic worshippers could attend
Mass locally. From 1935 onwards they dismantled a historic building at Wauchope and relocated it at the present site. The Chapel was slowly improved but on 2nd November, 1963, a disastrous fire all but
The “meeting house” or secession church in Newtown Glen erected in 1772. The lintel with the date
was built into a house in Sprouston Cottages – No.14 (at back)
Church Life - from Border Church Life by J Tait 1891
In the year 1771 a congregation in connection with the Burgher Synod was formed at Newtown.
Until that date members were connected with Selkirk.
In 1772 a church was built in Newtown Glen, a situation which was uncommonly picturesque where, in the course of untold ages, a brook, sprawling down from the Eildon Hills scooped out for itself a deep dell, now
Outside the colour of the church was sombre grey, while inside the ceiling was so low that the minister’s head nearly touched the roof and the congregation in the back seats of the gallery could not stand upright.
On 30th August, 1780 at the age of twenty-six Mr Alexander Waugh* was ordained as the first minister of the little congregation from which his fame soon spread over a very wide area.
At the first communion crowds had assembled from the congregations of Selkirk, Stow, Stichel, Kelso and Jedburgh, filling the whole Glen, which seemed to have been scooped out as a natural sanctuary
for a congregation of worshippers.
He left Newtown to begin his work as one of the founders of the London Missionary Society and his name became well-known throughout Britain.
It was during the time of Mr William Elder - 1802-1817 that one of the beams which supported the gallery
collapsed injuring some quite seriously –‘Mr Elder was so much agitated as to be unable to finish his discourse’.
He was followed by Rev.William Rutherford – 1821-1843 whose headstone in Melrose Abbey churchyard was erected by the congregation as a ‘memorial of gratitude and esteem’.
Four years after the ordination of Mr David Lumgair - 1844-1874 Newtown was ravaged by the effects of Asiatic cholera. A twelfth part of the population died and more than once people witnessed two funerals in one day when the faithful Pastor was always at his post going from door to door in the panic stricken village.
During Mr Lumgair’s years the railway came to Newtown which transformed the
village. As might be expected a desire for a place of worship more in keeping with the altered circumstances gradually increased and on Wednesday,17th June,1868 a handsome and commodious new structure was formally opened.
* The authors - Oberon Waugh, and Evelyn Waugh (“Brideshead Revisited”) are descendants of Mr
Newtown Church - 1872
Baptismal Font – Mrs Boyd, Maxpoffle has presented to the United Presbyterian Church here
a fine octagonal marble font o the rim of which is inscribed “Suffer the little children to come unto me”. (Border Advertiser 1.11.1872)
Newtown - Bicycling - 1880
This is fast becoming a favourite mode of travelling and an attractive sport among young men.
(At one time young people walked to church on Sundays under the watchful eye of their elders – however, with the dawning of the modern bicycle the young rode past the church door and out into the open countryside on their day off from work).
Newtown - Opening of Organ - 1898
On Sunday last, instrumental music in the Church Services on Sundays was introduced and was played by Mr James H Crosland, Organist, Ladhope Free Church, Galashiels who, in his usual style, did full justice to the music. He played very tastefully a slow voluntary - the ‘Hallulujah Chorus’ by Handel in a creditable manner. The instrument is on trial and was supplied by J. Wightman & Sons, Edinburgh.
(‘Border Advertiser’ - 1898)
Newtown Church window