The original Morningside Parish Church is situated at the corner of Morningside Road and Newbattle Terrace. It was a daughter church of St Cuthbert's in the west end of Edinburgh. The architect was John Henderson and the first services took place on 29th July 1838. The church began its days in the active times of Church Extension just before the 1843 Disruption. Thomas Chalmers (one of whose chairs is now in the vestry in the new Morningside Parish Church) lived in Morningside and was the driving force for the building of the original Morningside Parish. The church cost just over £2000 to build. The original seating was for 760. The steeple clock came from the old Schoolhouse in 1840 where a new clock was installed in 1929.
Very shortly after the church was built the Disruption took place and the minister, George Smeaton, and many of the congregation joined the Free Church. For the first two Sundays after the Disruption the Morningside Free Church adherents continued to meet in the Parish Church until, being threatened with expulsion, tried to hold services in the Old Schoolhouse opposite what is now the western end of Falcon Avenue. Thomas Chalmers immediately offered the use of his house in Church Hill. So for three Sundays a congregation of 300 church members in Morningside worshipped in Dr Chalmer's large villa, the considerable gathering occupying every room in the house. Dr Chalmers himself preached from the landing halfway up the staircase, while listeners sat on the upper and lower stairs and on forms in the halls and adjacent rooms. After residing in a number of buildings (the first Free Church building is currently the home of Morningside Baptist church), in Church Hill, the spacious red sandstone building of Italianate style was opened in 1894. A congregation continued there until 1960 when Morningside High united with the original Morningside Parish Church. The former Morningside High building is now the Church Hill Theatre. In 1990 the original Morningside Parish Church united with the Braid congregation. Following the union the church at Newbattle Terrace stood unused for some time, but was ultimately sold for educational purposes and now forms the Morningside Campus of Napier University.
Braid Church began as an iron building at the junction of Braid Road and Comiston Road on 27 January 1883. When the congregation was formed in October 1883 it numbered 47 members and 23 adherents.
Iron Churches were commonly used at this time because of their cheapness, ease of transportation and assembly and adaptation. The above illustrations are by two different artists showing how the Church might have looked at that time.
In 1886 the Braid congregation acquired the site at the junction of Nile Grove and Hermitage Terrace, the congregation having grown to 104.
The new Church was designed by George Washington Browne. He, along with Braid's Minister Walter Brown, had agreed on the unusual shape of the interior. Built in ten months at a cost of £5,000 it opened for worship on 10 July 1887.
Braid was not a Parish Church, the prerogative of the established Church of Scotland, but after the disruption in 1843 various 'Free' Churches had been established, of which Braid was a member of the United Presbyterian Church. In 1900 it became the United Free Church and finally in 1929 rejoined the Church of Scotland.
The first Minister, Rev. Walter Brown, had been appointed to the Iron Kirk in December 1885, and was to serve Braid for 34 years.
The Rev. Walter Brown retired in 1919 and was succeeded by Rev. Duncan Blair from Prestonkirk United Free Church. There then followed a period of consolidation particularly in the growth of the Youth Organisations and in the finances of the Church when the Freewill Offering Scheme was adopted in 1924.
Walter Brown celebrated his Jubilee in the ministry and welcomed Alasdair Macleod to Braid. A major step occurred for Braid when, in 1929, Alasdair Macleod led Braid back in to the fold of the Church of Scotland. Walter Brown dissented from this move and resigned from the ministry, a momentous step for a man of his conviction. He died in 1930. A bronze Memorial Tablet to Walter Brown, designed by the now Sir George Washington Browne, was erected in the vestibule of the Church.
Rev.Alasdair Macleod presided over the Jubilee Celebrations in 1933. While the congregation of some 1104 maintained the vigour and zeal of earlier ministries, difficulty was being felt in the fall of offerings for the work of the Church.
The many problems at home resulting from the world war two put additional demands on both congregation and, especially, the Minister. With deteriorating health Alasdair Macleod regretfully announced his Call to a Church in Ruthven had been accepted by him.
Despite the many problems of war, Braid was fortunate in finding a successor in Rev. Anderson Nicol, Minister of Bridge of Earn. A man of great energy and organising ability, he soon arranged for the Large Hall to be held in reserve as a Rest Centre in the case of air raid damage to the homes. The Small Hall doubled as a Chapel where services could be held. As the war continued Anderson Nicol felt that he must offer himself for wider services and became a Chaplain in the Royal Navy in 1943, serving eventually in the Far East. Mrs Nicol, in spite of having three young children, continued to lead the weekly activities in Braid with a number of interim Ministers dealing with the spiritual aspects. When Anderson Nicol returned from war service in 1946 he did so to a loyal and active congregation. In 1948 he received a Call from Aberdeen and regretfully left Braid. While in Aberdeen he acquired a Doctorate of Divinity and became a Chaplain to the Queen.
Following Anderson Nicol's departure a Call was sent to Rev. Roderick Smith, then Minister at Urray and Kilchrist. The Call was accepted and Roderick Smith was inducted to Braid in October 1948. The Church Roll at that time was 1,116. The main task, as Roderick Smith saw it, was the urgent need for the repair and refurbishment of the Church. Due to his leadership great changes resulted in 1952.
The Church was rewired, the organ moved from its central position to one side, the Chancel area was levelled and the Choir seating removed from the Pulpit area to a new location beside the organ. The accompanying photos show the 'before' and 'after' layouts.
A major change was the stripping of the dark-stained wooden pews to reveal their original natural colour.
In 1969 Roderick Smith invited Father Walter Glancy of Morningside's St. Peters Roman Catholic Church to preach in Braid. Due to the constant interruptions of Protestant fundamentalists objecting to a Priest in the Kirk, the BBC broadcast service had to be abandoned but was successfully carried out the following Sunday.
After Roderick Smith's retirement Rev. Angus Morrison accepted the unanimous Call from Braid to be its next Minister.
The Church interior was redecorated and the organ overhauled. Improvements were made to the kitchen facilities and the Halls. In spite of these initiatives younger members were not joining the Church and the proportion of these of pensionable age increased to two thirds.
Ultimately Angus Morrison received a Call to Port Ellen, Islay and once again Braid's future came up for review. At this time in 1990 Morningside's oldest Church at Newbattle Terrace, Morningside Parish Church, was also under review by Presbytery and the outcome was the Union of Braid and the Parish Churches. Arbitration adjudged that the Braid buildings be the home of the united Congregation.
Presbytery now agreed to the appointment of a Minister 'with restriction' rather than a permanent charge, the situation being subject to periodic review.
In 1991 Rev John R Wells was inducted to Morningside Braid.
With its central location in the district and easy access for the disabled to all parts of the premises, Morningside Braid became a much sought after venue for various events. Nevertheless, in spite of its ideal location and excellent premises Morningside Braid was experiencing the problem common to all Churches - namely the fall in membership.
By the year 2000 it was apparent that Morningside Braid, within a few years, would not be able to function because of the lack of younger people to fill the many tasks demanded by a Church. Accordingly discussions began with the neighbouring Church of Cluny with a view to eventual Union.
Presbytery was approached and work began to bring about the Union of Morningside Braid with Cluny, the Cluny Church building being the future place of worship. The Nile Grove buildings would be retained and all its activities be provided as required.
The Union was effected on 13 April 2003, Rev. Dr. Derek Browning being the Minister of the new Congregation. The Rev. John Wells, in time, was appointed to Mayfield Salisbury as assistant minister.
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