Reformed Presbyterian Church
The parish of New Cumnock has a strong Covenanting heritage. However, most parishioners remained within the Established Church when Presbyterianism was restored in 1690. Almost 100 years later in 1793, the Reverend James Young writing in the First Statistical Account of the parish states that from a population of 1200 only 12 were Seceeders from the Established Church.
Helen J Steven explains
‘Dissenters belonged to the families of the Reformed Presbyterians, the Wilsons and Stitts, who had come about that time from Dumfriesshire to the farms of Gatehead and Brockloch. The two families formed the nucleus of the church, and by and bye a place of worship was built, probably at the beginning of the century, as it is first recorded in the year 1809. The meeting house was a very small edifice, plain and unpretentious in appearance, and very uncomfortable, notwithstanding, that much was done to ameliorate its first condition.’
James Stitt’s name was on the title deeds of this small building at Afton Bridgend [George Sanderson].
The Reverend Matthew Kirkland writing in the second Statistical Account of the parish in 1842, provides a breakdown of church attendance in the parish in 1831
- ‘Established Church-1752
- Seceeders of various denominations- 299
- Reformed Presbyterians- 117.
One year later, in the Disruption Year of 1843, the Reverend Kirkland had left the Established Church, to set up the Free Church on the Castlehill, and the vast majority of his congregation went with him. The small minister-less congregation of Reformed Presbyterians may either have been inspired or feel threatend by this schism, but whatever the case they formally aligned themselves to the Presbyterian Church in 1847. It would be 12 more years before a minister accepted the call to this small meeting place in the rural upland parish of New Cumnock, but in Matthew Hutchison from Edinburgh, the wait proved to be worthwhile .
In 1866 the small meeting place was replaced with a fine new church a 100 yards or so along Afton Bridgend, with seating for 300 and a new manse for the fine new minister.