The present Parish Church of St Cuthbert‘s, Saltcoats [formerly Ardrossan Parish Church] is the fourth building to serve the Parish, the first having been built on the Castle Hill, Ardrossan, circa 1230 AD, where its foundations were excavated and laid bare at the beginning of the 20th Century. The ancient building served as the place of worship until 1695 when it was blown down by a storm. In 1697 the materials of the old church were removed and used in the construction of a new church at Stanley clachan. In 1744 this church was taken down and built in Saltcoats, which at that time housed most of the local population. This building was also damaged by a severe storm in 1773, so once again the church was demolished and rebuilt on the same site. This was a much larger building with seating for 840. The building, within the surrounding graveyard, still stands and is used as the North Ayrshire Museum.
The first proposals for the building of a new Parish Church were raised in 1843, but it wasn’t until 1891 that a Congregational Building Committee was appointed. The Earl of Eglinton granted the congregation a free site and Dr McGregor Chalmers was chosen as the Architect. The first sod was cut by Mrs McIsaac on the 6th June 1907, and the church was dedicated by her on 3rd December 1908.
The stone used in the construction of the church was obtained from Lylestone Quarry, Kilwinning where the majority of conversion and masonry was undertaken. It is a beautiful dove-gray stone. Carved on the stone walls and on some of the extremely attractive pillars are Scripture texts suitably chosen with reference to their position within the Church. Some of the internal facing stones also have decorative crosses. There are several very interesting carvings around the south west doorway, and also behind the choir pews in the chancel.
The main church building was originally designed to include a spire on top of the main tower, but some afterthought resulted in the decision to abandon this idea in favour of the structure that we now have. An artistic impression of the tower and spire certainly gives the effect of an unbalanced building, and not in keeping with the basic Norman profile. The Norman Tower above the south-west doorway is 100 feet in height and over 17 feet square. The bell has been removed for safety reasons. The church tower is used as an ordnance survey trig. point for Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston area.
The foundation of the church building is substantial and includes extensive underbuilding, varying in depth from 5 feet to approximately 13 feet. In other church properties the area might be described as an Undercroft, but so far as we are aware there is a totally void space, containing mainly dust and sand – certainly no bodies.
The church grounds which were gifted to the Church by the Earl of Eglinton were previously used as playing fields by Ardrossan Academy, then situated in South Crescent, Ardrossan. The final cost of the completed church in 1908 was £8,000. The replacement cost at today’s value is probably in the range of £3,000,000.
The Oxford Dictionary describes a chancel as “that part of a church reserved for Clergy and Choir and containing the sanctuary”. It is, of course, the central focus of worship of any church, particularly our own. The Chancel is served by a lofty Norman arch, with a span of 26 feet. Two steps lead to the Chancel which is 17 feet in depth. The organ is contained in an organ chamber on the south side of the Chancel. The choir stalls are of waxed oak and exhibit some fine carving. Similar carvings are carried out on the square pulpit, which is situated on the south side of the Chancel steps, forming a partial screen to the organ. The choir stall and pulpit are original to the church building. On the north side of the Chancel steps are the lectern and baptismal font.
Three steps, flanked by two wrought iron, seven light candelabra, lead from the Chancel to the Sanctuary, which is 14 feet in depth. The Communion Table, thereby, is much elevated above the level of the nave and is close to the west wall. The Communion Table is set on a stone dais, is original to the Church and fashioned in oak.