Biggar Kirk, formerly known as St Mary’s Church is unique, being the last Pre-Reformation church to be built in Scotland. A fascinating history of the church dating back to the 12th century is available and some aspects of the building which have never been considered are given in Biggar Kirk Report. The church was dedicated to St Nicholas about 1399, became St Mary’s church, then was known as Biggar Kirk, it is now termed Biggar Parish Church and/or Biggar Kirk.
Biggar Kirk is important in Scottish architectural and historical terms, both locally and nationally, and of fascinating interest for the visitor, whether taken as a brief or prolonged visit, the church and cemetery offer much to maintain attention. The church is instantly pictorial both inside and out; the interior with a full complement of beautiful stain glass windows offers a great deal to photographers and local historians alike, the exterior, no matter what season of the year, lends itself equally for the same reasons. If it can be arranged, the views from the battlemented tower are magnificent, overlooking much of the town and giving unfettered vistas of the surrounding hills. Few small Scottish towns can make such claims because most have churches of late 18th century or later dates, the time when Scottish Presbyterianism demanded plain buildings although concessions were made to stain glass window memorials. Nineteenth century churches with their lofty steeples and in some cases ornate architectural features broke the mould somewhat, but for an entire suite of reasons given above – Biggar Kirk takes a bit of beating.
Of particular significance are the features which allow the description ‘defended church’ to be applied. Built originally as a consequence of a murder, at a time of both religious and political turmoil, and with architectural characteristics normally found on defensive buildings to keep people out, and the fact it is the last Pre Reformation church to be built in Scotland, surely place this building in a special place of Scottish architecture and history.
It was hoped that the roof survey may have shown some Pre Reformation decoration, but none was found. However the survey has shown that the roof, although containing many original timbers has been subject to much alteration over the years and it is possible to state that it may well have been originally built “on the cheap” using second hand or inferior timber. Much new data has therefore been added to the story of this church, not the least the new list of mason’s marks around the walls. Further scrutiny of the building may no doubt add even more details than this paper has managed to do, for example the iconography of the stain glass windows and their artists. Such studies are rarely if ever complete, new information will come to light and new interpretations of such information may be put forward, hopefully this effort may kickstart further work at some time in the near or distant future.
Unfortunately, and because of a spate of vandalism, the church is now generally locked when not in use for services, but limited access may be available subject to voluntary attendants. For access, contact may be made at www.biggarkirk.btck.org.uk