Our History

This short history of Holy Trinity Scottish Episcopal Church, Dunfermline, is taken from a pamphlet produced in 1991 by members of the congregation to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the consecration of the present church on the East Port at the corner of Viewfield Terrace.

If you want to know more about our building and the recent improvements head to our building history page. We are also very lucky to be custodians of a wonderful Hamilton church organ that dates back to 1830.

A quarrel and a split with the Kirk

Following a quarrel in 1839 with the Minister of Dunfermline Abbey, a dissident group led by Provost Moodie JP joined with other residents sympathetic to the Episcopal Church and issued an appeal in the form of subscription-lists to build a church of that denomination. The appeal was addressed to influential Episcopalians throughout Scotland. These included members of several notable local families -James, Earl of Elgin and Kincardine; Sir John Halkett of Pitfirrane; and Sir James William Colville of Ochiltree – and a number of prominent townspeople, among them builders, colliery managers, a brewer and a writer.

The nature of the dispute which arose with the Minister of the Abbey is unknown. However, fifteen years or so after the consecration of the Church the then incumbent, the Reverend William Bruce, commented that the Church was originally formed by “a number of Presbyterians of moderate and lukewarm type, who quarrelled with the Parish Minister some time before the disruption, which took place in 1843”.

A new Episcopal Congregation

The results of the original appeal are not known accurately, but by the end of 1839 a total of £377 9s. 0d. had been raised for the formation of the new Church. So it was that, in August 1840, application was made to the Bishop of St Andrews, Bishop Torry, for a licence and authority to hold divine service and to hire a proper place for worship, with a minister. A committee was appointed by the original sixty or so subscribers to establish and organise an Episcopal Church. By the end of September 1840, a total of 160 sittings had been purchased at a minimum cost of 10/- per year.

Obtaining a suitable incumbent minister met with some considerable difficulty and, in the early months of the Church, services were conducted on a locum basis by ministers from other parishes, notably the Reverend G.G. Milne of Cupar. The first minister to be appointed for any length of time was the Reverend George Kelly (a nephew of the Anglican Dean of Down in Ireland). He had been a curate in Dublin and in December 1840 he came to Trinity Chapel, as it was then known, on a six months’ trial basis. However, it appeared that he did not meet the expectations of certain members of the congregation and he resigned from the post in April 1841.

Trinity Chapel – our first Church

For the first year of the Church’s existence, services were held in temporary accommodation. By the end of 1841, however, a cruciform Gothic chapel was being built to the designs of an Edinburgh architect, Mr Hamilton, on a site behind the old High School in Bath Street (later to be renamed Pilmuir Street). Trinity Chapel was consecrated in October 1842 by the Bishop of Glasgow. The congregation at that time totaled 160 members, with an average attendance of about 28 at Holy Communion.

After the subsequent move (1891) to the new Holy Trinity Church in East Port, Trinity Chapel was used first by the Evangelical Union Church and then by the Congregational Church. It later became a carpet warehouse, before finally being demolished in recent years to make way for the development of the city centre.

Early rectors

1841–47 The Reverend B.B. Field

Trinity Chapel’s first Rector, under whose care the church struggled through the first few years of its existence.

1847–65 The Reverend William Bruce

During the early 1850s the general state of the church’s health was good. This is indicated in correspondence between Mr Bruce and the Bishop at that time.
Services were extended to Oakley and North Queensferry, where the Rector held worship on a monthly basis in addition to services held at Holy Trinity. He was also heavily involved in the running of a local school and in the training of teachers.

1865–68 The Reverend J.C. Boyce

1868–70 The Reverend G. Batho

1870–95 The Reverend J. Nairne Imrie

1895–1908 The Reverend G. Ernest Day

Financial difficulties

In the early part of 1855, Dunfermline suffered greatly from unemployment, particularly in the weaving trade. This resulted in quite a serious decline in Church membership, exacerbating the financial problems that were already being experienced. During 1856 there was particular anxiety concerning the outstanding debt still owed for the initial building work. Mr Bruce expressed these concerns to the Bishop, going so far as to suggest that, on account of the difficulties, some of the original members of the congregation might even be driven back to the “Establishment” (i.e. the Kirk). However, there is no evidence that this actually happened.

Financial problems were to continue over the next twenty-five years. At this time, the Church’s income was approximately £50–£60 per annum from seat rents, plus less than £20 per annum from collections – a grand total of about £75.

In 1861 the situation had become so bad that the Church would have faced possible closure but for the generosity of members of the congregation who met the deficit when required.

The Blackwood Trust – a generous bequest

The 1880s saw a change for the better so far as financial matters were concerned, notably in the establishment of a trust by Miss Caroline Augusta Madox Blackwood of Abbey Cottage, Bracknell, Berkshire. This was a “mortification” to the Church of £5,000 and property at Masterton (Dunfermline), subject to some life-tenancies at Masterton. The money was initially invested in the Abingdon, Newbury and Southampton Railway Company and to this day a proportion of Holy Trinity’s income derives from investment under this gift. The Blackwood Trust, as it became known, was intended to be a continuation of an earlier (1675) “mortification” by Sir Henry Wardlaw of Pitreavie to the then Episcopal Abbey Church. As a result of the Blackwood Trust, Holy Trinity also became responsible for services at Masterton Church and for maintenance of the school there.

A rectory is acquired

The first Rectory for Holy Trinity was acquired in 1885. Milnwood Lodge in Comely Park was purchased for the Church, most of the cost being donated by Mr Erskine Beveridge of St Leonard’s Hill, who was one of the Church trustees at the time. Milnwood Lodge served as the Rectory for more than seventy years, until the move to Transy Place in 1959.

Holy Trinity Dunfermline – a new Church is built

By 1890, the congregation had outgrown Trinity Chapel and it was felt that a new, larger church was desirable. Moreover, an offer of £1,500 had been made for the Chapel in Pilmuir Street by the Evangelical Union Church. Permission from the Bishop for this sale was required, as the Evangelical Union Church was regarded as a dissenting body. Permission was duly granted by Bishop Wordsworth in September 1889.

Plans for the new church were drawn up by Dr Rowand Anderson of Edinburgh and were later approved by the Building Committee, comprising the Reverend J. Nairne Imrie, Mr Erskine Beveridge and the Earl of Elgin.

It is perhaps worth recording that the Earl of Elgin had initially been far from happy about the proposals for a new church building. His concerns were related to the burdensome debt incurred by the congregation during the building of the Chapel in Pilmuir Street. They proved to be not without foundation: the difference between the £1,500 sale-price of the old Chapel and the estimated cost of the new Church amounted to more than £800…

Subscription-lists were again issued and this time yielded over £5,000 – a sum which included donations from Mr Erskine Beveridge (who purchased the Viewfield site along the East Port as a gift to the Church), from Lord Elgin’s family and from the Walker Trust. The total cost of the building was just over £2,300, avoiding the burden of debt that had previously proved so difficult to overcome.

The font and organ were brought from the old Chapel, which appears to have been vacated before the new Church was ready.

Holy Trinity Dunfermline, was consecrated in September 1891, again by the Bishop of Glasgow in the absence of the Bishop of St Andrews. The Church ceremony was followed by a dinner in the City Arms Hotel.

1908–38 Canon Critchley

Little information is recorded about the characters of the early incumbent ministers of Holy Trinity. It was not until the Reverend Canon Critchley was appointed in 1908 that we are able to gain an insight into the kind of man in charge.

Canon Critchley graduated from Edinburgh in 1896, with Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. During his time at the University, he was senior demonstrator in the physics laboratory and also conducted original research into electromagnetic radiation, preceding the work of Roentgen (now well-known for the discovery of X-rays). As a result of his obvious talents, he was awarded a traveling scholarship to Munich, where he studied under Professor von Lommel (a predecessor of Roentgen). Later, Canon Critchley was ordained and served in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Peterhead (as prison chaplain), before being appointed to Dunfermline in 1908. During the First World War, he asked permission of the congregation to do war service, which he undertook with the 52nd Division in Gallipoli and later in Egypt. During the years of his war service, Holy Trinity was left in the care of Dean James Walker Harper (Dean of the Diocese), well-known to the congregation as he lived in Dunfermline.

It is clear that Canon Critchley was acutely aware of the broader problems of the day and that he ministered to his congregation in a practical way. His New Year Letter for 1933 reads:

My Dear People,

Last year began in gloom and ended in gloom: we began the year faced with crises; we closed it faced with new ones. Whoever dreamt that we should have begun 1933 with the American debt burden unremoved, the Irish and unemployment problems unsettled and a totally new but exceedingly embarrassing problem in the Middle East staring us in the face! Some of you are miners, thrown out of work because a benevolent legislation says you must not produce more coal in spite of foreigners’ eager demand for it. It really sounds like the comic act out of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera!

It seems to me that the country having tried its own way to overcome difficulties, and having failed absolutely, might try God’s way! So too, in our home lives, give God the place which every Christian professes he ought to have, pray to Him and, as of old, He will guide His people safely.

Let that be your resolution and practice for 1933.

I am, your faithful Pastor;

Leopold O. Critchley

The years of expansion

The ten years following the consecration of Holy Trinity, as we now know it, saw the establishment of two daughter churches. At St Margaret’s Chapel, Masterton, services previously held in Abbey Cottage were continued, in accordance with the wishes of the Blackwood Mortification. A Cowdenbeath Mission was founded in 1897; it later became an independent Episcopal Church as St Finnian’s, Lochgelly. There were also missions at Limekilns and Crombie (later closed – Limekilns in 1920 and Crombie in 1950).

By the beginning of the First World War, the total membership of the Church had risen to 672, with 278 regular communicants.

Commemorating the founders of Holy Trinity

The early years of the 20th Century saw the deaths of two of the major characters instrumental in the founding of the new Church; Sir Arthur Halkett in 1904 and Lord Elgin (former Viceroy of India) in 1917. The contribution to the work of Holy Trinity, made by these and other families during those early years, was very considerable.

The East window above the altar was commissioned by Mr Erskine Beveridge and installed in 1904 as a memorial to his late wife. Another stained-glass window, above the pulpit on the North side of the Church, was installed in 1906 to the memory of Sir Arthur Halkett.

Fund-raising and social activities in the 1920s

The scale of social and fund-raising activities, recorded in the Parish Magazine during the 1920s, gives a good indication of the congregation as an active and thriving community. A good example of fund-raising events was the the “Great Fete” held at Pitfirrane in July 1928. An extract reads:

Under a lime tree of great size, stalls were arranged and in a park in front of the mansion house a tent was pitched, where teas were served, games of every sort played . . . Stalls of fancy goods, teas,and games can be had at many fetes, but the ancient tapestries, relics of the Crimea and treasures related to Scottish history of centuries ago, were viewed, guided by the Misses Halkett. Proceeds of the Fete raised £54.

Active clubs and groups, using the Holy Trinity Church hall at this time, included Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Guides, the Women’s Guild, Mother’s Union, a Men’s Society and a badminton club.

The First Nativity Play: A Bethlehem Tableau!

We are presenting an unusual form of entertainment; though common enough elsewhere, on Saturday 29th January, at half-past seven in the Pilmuir Street hall. The Sunday scholars are presenting a series of tableaux illustrating the story of Christmas. It is the first time we have attempted anything of the sort, and we rely on the encouragement and support of the whole congregation.

(Parish Magazine, January 1938)

Funding Church expenses

For many years, Church expenses were funded mainly through the Pew Rental system, where the price of a particular seat was dependent on its position, as shown in the table below (1890 prices!):

Seat Nos:
1–5 and 26–29
6–7 and 24–25
8–9 and 22–23
10–12 and 19–20
13–14 and 17–18
15–16 and 30

This system was still in operation in 1931: “There is now some satisfaction that the pews are being rented on what might be called a business-like system, and so we ask seat holders to be business-like in paying their rents.” (Parish Newsletter, 1931)

At about this time there were a variety of other fund-raising activities, including the usual jumble sales, whist drives and Christmas sales. The Rector seems to have had his own methods, as illustrated in this poem by Miss Madeline Halkett:

The Crackit Tea-Pot

I had a crackit tea-pot,
It wouldna haud ma tea,
It was a bonnie tea-pot,
It cost me one and three.
I showed it to the Rector,
“The very thing!” cried he.
“I’ll get it filled wi siller,
And mony a baw-bee.”
He took it round the parish,
A canny man was he,
He got it filled wi mony a pound,
But no a pound o tea.
So now, ma freends, tak’ notice,
If ye’ve got a crackit pot,
Just fill it up wi baw-bees,
It’ll help the funds a lot.

(Parish Newsletter, March 1929)

In more recent times, we offer tubes of Smarties, to be returned filled wi baw-bees!

Some Advice for the Rector of the Day

If I were a Rector . . .
Suggestions from the Men’s Society

I would hold Sunday School at an earlier hour, preferably in the forenoon.
I would give a children’s address at the 11 o’clock service.
I would always quote the numbers of the occasional prayers being used.
I would ‘improve’ the evening service by having recitals and additional instruments oftener.
I would abolish the F.W.O. or greatly improve it.
I would start a social club, and have a billiard table for men.
I would get mothers to do sewed work and hold an annual sale.
I would persuade slackers to be regular in church attendance.

(Parish Magazine, December 1934)

The Foundation of St Finnian’s, Lochgelly

In 1937, a foundation-stone was laid for the new Church of St Finnian’s in Lochgelly, an off-shoot of Holy Trinity. Beneath this stone was laid a casket, containing a photograph of Canon Critchley, with copies of the Parish Magazine, the Dunfermline Press, the Journal, the Scottish Guardian and a History of St. Finnian’s. The new Church was completed and dedicated in July 1938, when it became a separate and independent Church. It had taken many years to achieve, as Canon Critchley reminded the new congregation in his monthly letter:

My Dear People of St. Finnian’s

I wonder how many of you can remember Mr J.B. Laxton, who used to come and spend a month in this district in summer and to take duty at St Finnian’s when the curate-in-charge went on holiday. How he loved coming to St Finnian’s! Well, he long ago drew out a plan of a church, hall and house as he visualised it would be. Then came the war. Later St Finnian’s became quasi-independent: that is, it was treated as if it were independent, because it showed such signs of growth. Since then, it has had many downs and ups, but at last you have a magnificent church, an excellent house and a splendid cosy hall. I am delighted to think that, at last, Mr Laxton’s vision has materialised, and that no future Rector of Dunfermline will have to solve any problems arising out of Lochgelly.

1938–64 Canon Robert Denholm

After 30 years at Holy Trinity, Canon Critchley resigned in 1938 to be replaced by Canon Robert Denholm.

Canon Denholm came to Holy Trinity, in his own words “as a true catholic”, having served in Glasgow and later at Fraserburgh. It was at Holy Trinity, in 1943, that he celebrated his 25th anniversary as an ordained minister. He was very much a family man. His wife played a full and active part in the life of the Church, among her many activities sharing duties as Church organist. They had triplet sons.

The War Years – 1939–45

As with the 1914–18 War, the years of the Second World War saw relatively little disruption to the life of the Church. Services continued, and from August 1940 the Church was left open for private intercession.

The Church hall was used by the ARP to give anti-gas lectures and a weekly work party was set up to knit garments for those on active service. By the end of 1943, supplies of wool were exhausted and our war-work was changed to raising money to send to members of the armed forces.

In March 1944, the Church paid tribute to Able Seaman John Stewart, who was decorated by King George VI with the Distinguished Service Medal, for gallantry at Dunkirk. He was also mentioned in dispatches during his service on HMS Ajax in Crete.

The years following the end of the War saw the maintenance of an active and prosperous Church congregation. In 1959, it was decided to move the Rectory from Comely Park to a smaller property in Transy Place, Dunfermline.

1964–84 Canon Thomas Kindon Kay

In 1964, Canon Denholm retired and his place was taken by Canon Thomas Kindon Kay. Canon Kay attended Edinburgh Theological College and was ordained in 1945. He served, initially, as a priest in Glasgow, followed by periods as Rector of Holy Trinity, Paisley, and of St Cyprian’s, Lenzie. Canon Kay was instituted as Rector of Holy Trinity, Dunfermline, in May 1965, at the first full service of institution to be held in the Church for 50 years.

When he retired in 1984, the Vestry recorded thanks to Canon Kay for his twenty years of service, commenting that he had been “a shining example of what a caring Rector should be” and that after such a “distinguished record” in the Parish, he would be “sadly missed”.

Canon Kay continued his ministry as a diocesan supernumerary. He and Mrs Kay continued to make their home in Dunfermline and remained as members of the Holy Trinity congregation.

1985–97 Canon David Redwood

Canon Kay was replaced by Canon David Redwood in July 1985. During the early years of his ministry, Canon Redwood served in a number of Churches in the Glasgow area. He later decided to extend his experience by qualifying and then practicing as a full-time social worker, whilst continuing his ministry as a non-stipendiary priest in the team ministry at Callendar. His appointment as Rector of Holy Trinity saw his return to a full-time ministry. At the time of his arrival at Holy Trinity, it was decided once again to move the Rectory to a modern and more convenient house off Woodmill Road.

West Fife developments

During Canon Redwood’s twelve years at Holy Trinity, there were changes in the organisation of the five Churches in the Dunfermline & West Fife area:

Holy Trinity, Dunfermline
St Finian’s, Lochgelly
St Peter’s, Inverkeithing
St Columba’s, Aberdour
St Serf’s, Burntisland

Whilst retaining their own independence and individuality, these five Churches were served by a single team ministry, led by the Rector of Holy Trinity. This team comprised both stipendiary and non-stipendiary clergy, with the assistance of one or more curates. A good qualification for members of that team would seem to have been a high degree of physical fitness . . . It was not unknown for them to arrive somewhat breathless for Sunday worship at Holy Trinity, having raced against the clock from an earlier service elsewhere!

Recent years have also seen a growing together with Churches of other denominations represented in Dunfermline. The current move towards ecumenism has developed through active involvement with Christian Aid, and a shared participation in Lent study groups and other events.

Other significant developments included changes to the pattern of Sunday services and the introduction of more modern forms of Church liturgy. Attendance at Evensong had declined steadily in the post-war years and it was discontinued as a regular feature of Sunday worship. Mattins also declined in popularity; it had been superseded by the sung Eucharist on all but one Sunday in each month.

Recent Years

One of the biggest local changes was that of our sister church St Margaret’s. Whilst there had been an Episcopal congregation in Rosyth since 1917 it was the Anglican church ran by the Naval Chaplin Service that became a real community hub. Sadly, one of the effects of the closure of the Naval Base in the early 90s resulted in St Margaret’s closing on 14 January 1996, less than 27 years after that building it had opened. Whilst the large building was sold the congregation moved into a partnership with Rosyth Methodist church and share the building through a local ecumenical partnership. The Rector of Holy Trinity Dunfermline used to lead the Episcopal services at St Margaret’s and supported joint services with the Methodists. This is no longer a joint charge however we still work closely with members often attending events at both churches and some members playing an active part in both communities.

DateRectors of Holy Trinity Dunfermline
 1841 – 1847The Reverend B. B. Field 
 1847 – 1865The Reverend William Bruce 
 1865 – 1868The Reverend J. C. Boyce 
 1868 – 1870The Reverend G. Batho 
 1870 – 1895The Reverend J. Nairne Imrie 
 1895 – 1908The Reverend G. Ernest Day 
 1908 – 1938Canon L. H. O. B. Critchley 
 1938 – 1964Canon Robert Denholm 
 1965 – 1985Canon Thomas Kindon Kay 
 1985 – 1997Canon David Redwood 
 1997 – 1999The Reverend Hunter Farquharson 
 1999 – 2007Canon Dr David Campbell 
 2008 – 2012The Reverend Timothy P. Bennison 
 2013 – 2015Canon Jim Mein (Interim Rector) 
 2015 – 2018 The Reverend Alison J. Cozens    
2018 – 2021The Very Reverend Kenny Rathband
2021 – 2022The Very Reverend Hunter Farquharson (Interim Rector)
2022 – PresentThe Reverend Lara Dose