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Wigtown Parish Church

Wigtown Parish Church is a neat Gothic construction which occupies a site that slopes towards Wigtown Bay on Bank Street on the eastern edge of the town. The work of London-based architect Henry Roberts in 1851, it comprises a large box in dark granite with contrasting ashlar detailing around the windows and as string courses. Attached to the east is a square Italianate tower of similar construction but capped with an oversized French-style slated pyramid roof. The building was extended and internally reconfigured in 1913-14 by P. MacGregor Chalmers (1859 - 1922). The windows include stained glass by James Ballantine (1806-77).

The church stands on a site associated with Christian worship for more than a thousand years. A 10th C. cross shaft which was found nearby is displayed inside the church, while another early carved stone is set into the south side of the now-ruined former parish church, which was dedicated to St. Machutus. This old church is of ancient foundation but is known to have been repaired c.1560 and rebuilt in 1730.

The churchyard includes a number of interesting memorials. The Vans Mausoleum is the burial aisle of a notable local family. Sir Patrick Vans of Barnbarroch (d.1597) negotiated the marriage between King James VI and Anne of Denmark. A particularly poignant group of memorials recall the executions of five local people during the Killing Times of the later 17th C. martyrs to their religious convictions and the Covenanting cause. Particularly horrific were the two women drowned at the Martyrs' Stake in Wigtown Bay; one aged 18, the other 63:

"Here lyes Margaret Wilson doughter to Gilbert Wilson
in Glenvernoch who was dround anno 1685 aged 18
Let earth and stone stil witnes beare
their lyes a virgine martyre here
murther'd for ouning Christ supreame
head of His church and no more crime
but not abjuring presbytry
and her not owning prelacy
they her condem'd by unjust law
of heaven nor hell they stood no aw.
Within the sea ty'd to a stake
the actors of this cruel crime
was Lagg, Strachan, Winram, and Grahame
neither young yeares nor yet old age
could stop the fury of there rage."

"Here lyes Margaret Lachlane
who was by unjust law sentenced to
die by Lagg Strachane Winrame and Grahame
and tyed to a stake within the flood for her
adherence to Scotland's Reformation
Covenants National and Solemn League
aged 63 1685."

Their sacrifice is also commemorated by the Martyrs' Monument on nearby Windy Hill.


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