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Church History


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 roof.


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



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.       


Symington is situated in southern Scotland, approximately 29 miles southwest of Edinburgh and 31 miles southeast of Glasgow as the crow flies.


The parish has a population of 861 persons and Symington Kirk has 183 members.

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