Robert and William Hunter from James Gibbs pattern book, 1732 -1740. Session house, Thomas Fulton, 1858; with 1909 and 1929 additions, John H Railton; interior remodelled, 1868. 5-bay by 3-bay, rectangular-plan classical church; tower and entrance to E end; T-plan session house to W. Coursed local sandstone from Townhead and Dean quarries. Dressed ashlar eaves cornice, door and window surrounds. Lead capped skew gables.
E (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: simple round-arched door to centre; rectangular doorways to flanking bays; every outer quoin rusticated with moulded lintel, prominent keystone and sloped cornice. To 1st floor, round-arched windows to outer bays, treatment similar to ground floor doors. Continued eaves course forming implied pediment; blind squared bay to centre of gable showing original position of clock. Tower rising from gablehead: square base with string course; clock to each face; octagonal upper stage with round-arched belfry openings; tall domed, leaded roof with diminutive lead cupola and weather-vane surmounting.
S ELEVATION: 5 segmental-headed windows to ground floor; 5 matching round-arched windows to 1st floor; ventilation bricks under sills of some windows. Later security grilles to all windows.
W (REAR) ELEVATION: later single storey, T-plan gabled session house with angle margins adjoining main building to centre: bipartite window to end of main section; blind window to each gabled arm. Later single storey, single bay gabled extensions in re-entrant angles of main building: window in left extension, door to left return; pilastered door to extreme left of right extension, window to right return. Main building rising to rear: Venetian window with internal treatments to centre of 1st floor, slightly lower blind arched windows to outer bays; rose-pattern ventilator to gablehead; finial surmounting.
N ELEVATION: 5 segmental-headed windows to ground floor; 5 matching round-arched windows to 1st floor; ventilation bricks under sills of some windows. Later security grilles to all windows.
Stained glass (see NOTES). Piended grey slate roof; zinc ridging and flashing. Painted cast-iron rainwater goods; shaped hoppers draining to down pipes on side elevations.
INTERIOR: main church: nearly square with galleries on 3 sides. Ornamented plaster ceiling, mostly acanthus pattern borders; 3 later ceiling roses, central one for former chandelier, flanking roses lead to roof ventilators. Two rows of massive Etruscan columns, with idiosyncratic acanthus decoration to squared capitals, supporting roof and panelled galleries of oak. Attached columns divide the lights of the Venetian west window; panelled, boxed entrance below with doors to each return; directly to centre, semi-circular oak raised pulpit on squared base with gothic panels. Later altar directly in front of pulpit. Timber pews with scrolled ends to sides and every 3rd pew in central block a folding pew. 1868 timber organ with guilded pipes in E gallery. E entrance hall and stairs to galleries: inset marble memorial to Rev. James Aitken to centre; stone dogleg stairs to N & S with timber newel posts, balusters and planked treads. Bell within tower: original bell (1762), present bell (1853) by G & A Mears, London inscribed "GOD SAVE OUR CHURCH AND STATE"; clock also housed here, not working at present. Series of 21 stained glass windows in timber frames (see NOTES) by W and JJ Kier; formerly zinc with diamond quarry.
CHURCHYARD, WALLS & GATEPIERS: coursed and random rubble walls to E, S & W; partially lined with red ashlar behind inset memorials; mixture of plain and segmental coping. Pair of alternate red and white rusticated ashlar piers to centre of E elevation, moulded copes with ball and stalk finial, left finial now missing. To centre of W elevation, pair of squared red ashlar gatepiers with rusticated bands, moulded copes with ball and stalk finials. Interesting 18th & 19th century ashlar gravestones (see NOTES) including plainer headstones, plinthed obelisks, ornate marble head stones inset into wall and gothic tombs. Cobbled entrance path to E, under black tarmac to N, S & W paths.
SOULIS MONUMENT (IN SE BOUNDARY WALL): ashlar Doric column with urn surmounting, set in a pilastered and round arched niche, inscribed TO THE MEMORY OF LORD SOULIS 1444. REBUILT BY SUBSCRIPTION 1825. THE DAYS OF OLD TO MIND I CALL.
Statement of Special Interest
Ecclesiastical building in use as such. The church was built as a chapel of ease, for the Laigh Kirk, by private subscription on a site gifted by the Earl of Kilmarnock. The chapel, as it was called, cost ?850 exclusive of the 80ft steeple that was added later. The Earl of Kilmarnock and John Orr of Grougar and Barrowfield donated most of the money with the rest being raised from the sale of pews. Although the stone was local, many of the materials used came from further afield, the timber from Irvine and the slates from Saltcoats. The lead covering for the 1740 tower was cast on site. The original clock (by Allan Foulds) only had 2 faces; one in the gable facing east (now in-filled) and the other facing the pulpit. It was removed when the organ (which cost ?300) was added in 1868. The present arrangement of sheet copper dials was introduced in 1797 and renewed in 1822. The galleries were originally accessed by exterior stairs, but were replaced by internal flights when the organ was added. The church was elevated into a separate parish in 1811 following a Deed of Erection and the first real minister was Mr Hamilton. Part of the congregation broke away during the Disruption of 1843 and set up the West High Kirk, still in existence and located in Portland Street. The churchyard contains the graves of Thomas Morton (telescope maker and inventor); Thomas Kennedy (water meter manufacturer); John Wilson (printer of 1st edition of Robert Burn's poems); and the Tannock Brothers (artists from Grange Street). Built into the exterior of the east wall of the kirkyard is a fluted column and tablet monument to Lord Soulis, an English nobleman said to have died in the 14th or 15th centuries. This was built after a public subscription was held to replace an earlier monument at The Cross. The session house adjoining the church to the west was built to replace a free standing one demolished to make space within the churchyard. The windows of the church are rare as they are a complete set all by the one firm, W & JJ Kier, the Irvine born Glasgow artists. The first window was commissioned in 1869 as a memorial to the 4th Earl of Kilmarnock, William Boyd, then the rest were added by the congregation at various times.