Charity Number SC009095
We seek to inspire the people of the Parish and beyond with the Good News
of Jesus Christ through our enthusiastic, worshipping and serving congregation
Like many of the churches in the Clydesdale area, Symington was established in the early 12th century.King
David I as part of his control structure had given large areas of land to his Norman knight supporters who
were encouraged to establish fortified settlements which became known as ‘touns’.
A toun was an agricultural community whose inhabitants were given military protection in return for a share of
the food that they produced. The touns were often named after their protectors. One of the key Norman
nobles who settled in this area was Simon de Lockard (or Loccard) – thus ‘Simon’s toun’. His name was also
given to Symington, in Ayrshire where he also owned land.
King David had founded an abbey at Kelso around 1128 and the Tironesian monks based there gradually
extended the Christian faith through south Scotland. A priory was established at Lesmahagow in 1144 and it
is thought that monks from there established the original churches in this area.There is of course no record or
evidence of the original church but the present church is believed to occupy its position. It is on a slightly
raised hillock above the surrounding lower, and potentially boggier, land.
The present building has been extensively altered over the last 300 years. The only discernible date on the
building is 1734 on the belfry. The building is T shaped with the pulpit in the centre of the cross of the ‘T’.
During renovations some years ago, the roughcast was temporarily removed and revealed the original door
at a point in the wall now occupied by the pulpit. The rear porch, vestry and front vestibule are clearly later
additions. Interestingly, the bell is older than the belfry. Inside the church there is a very fine timber beamed
The modern village extends far beyond the bounds of the original Symington which like many Scottish villages
ran from ‘Townhead’ to ‘Townfoot’. The church is situated at the end of a lane called Kirk Bauk near the head
of the original village. A ‘bauk’ was an untilled strip of land along the end of a field which allowed comfortable
walking. Older maps indicate a historic site alongside Kirk Bauk called ‘The Place’, allegedly the site of Simon
de Lockard’s castle but there is no visible evidence of this. Castlehill to the south east of the present village
has on it, remnants of a hill fort with ring shaped fortifications. This is a more likely site for a defensive
settlement as it sits in a gap between the lower slopes of Tinto and the River Clyde. As it sits above the lower
river flood plain, it commands a view along the Clyde valley - a valuable tactical advantage. This pre-dates the
church of course, but may mark the site of an original settlement.The old church in Symington was dedicated
to St. Ninian but in 1946, the parish church was united with the nearby St. John’s United Free Church. In
recognition of the great sensitivity surrounding the union and with a desire to be seen to be even handed, the
new congregation was designated ‘Symington Church’.The church is surrounded by a graveyard and the oldest
decipherable stone is dated 1629. The graveyard also contains a watch house erected in the late 19th century
as a protection against ‘resurrectionists’ - grave robbers who moved in after funerals to remove bodies which
could be sold for medical research in Edinburgh or Glasgow.
Symington is one of the very few churches in Scotland which still rings a ‘dressing bell’ each Sunday morning
about an hour before the service begins. This was originally meant to alert the farmers and agricultural
workers to the impending church service. The need has perhaps passed, but the tradition continues.