Old High Kirk

(Old High Church)

An historic former church situated between Church Street and Soulis Street, a quarter-mile (0.4 km) north of the centre of Kilmarnock. Although it now represents the town's oldest church building, the Old High Kirk was founded as Kilmarnock's second church, a Chapel-of-Ease to the Laigh Kirk, which had become too small for its congregation. The ground was donated by William Boyd, the 4th Earl of Kilmarnock (1705-46). The church is a harled rectangular construction, built of local stone in 1732 by masons Robert and William Hunter to a design adapted from St. Martin in the Fields in London, which was the work of James Gibbs (1682 - 1754). There is a bulky clock-tower at the eastern end, which rises through an octagonal stage to a domed spire.

The interior is a mix of 18th and 19th C. styles and greatly benefits from a unique set of twenty-three stained glass windows by W. & J. J. Kier, installed 1868-72. The plaster ceiling is deeply coffered with acanthus detailing, while the pulpit is Victorian High Gothic.

The congregation of the Old High Kirk united with that of Henderson Church in 2012, and the new church, known as Kay Park Parish Church, decided to use the buildings of the latter on London Road for worship. The Old High Church building is now home and private chapel for Kilmarnock and District Independent Funeral Service.

The churchyard is dominated by the Kilmarnock Railway Viaduct to the south. but includes the graves of John Wilson (1759 - 1821), who was Robert Burns' first publisher and Thomas Morton (1783 - 1862), a notable scientific instrument maker and inventor. In a niche in the wall, outside the churchyard, is the Soulis Cross, a memorial to Lord Soulis (d.1444) which was moved here in 1825, with a new column replacing a decayed one from the 15th C. The original is now held by the Dick Institute.

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