1. The start of the Baptist Witness in this Area (1850 to 1888)
  2. Birth of the Vale of Leven Baptist Church (1901 to 1913)
  3. The Baptist Church during & after the first World War (1914 to 1922)
  4. Modifications to the Church Building (1922 to 1930)
  5. The Baptist Church during & after the Second World War (1939 to 1953)
  6. Further improvements to the Church Building (1954 to 1967)
  7. The possibilities of a new Church Building (1968 to 1982)
  8. Major alterations to the Church Building (1983 to 1992)
  9. Millennium Celebrations – 2000 Years of Christianity (2000)
  10. Accommodation upgrade for Community Involvement(2003 to present)

1 -The start of the Baptist Witness in this Area (1850 to 1888)

A Baptist Witness in the area is recorded in Renton in 1850, with Baptists from the Vale of Leven, Dumbarton and Helensburgh attending Renton Baptist Church. The Renton Church later ceased to function when the active members began leaving the district.

A Baptist cause is known to have started in Dumbarton about 1860, with members being attracted from those Baptists living in the Vale of Leven district, primarily those who had previously been associated with Renton Baptist Church.

In October 1887, a Public meeting was held by the Home Missionary Society, in Dublin Street Baptist Church in Edinburgh. The Rev John McLean, minister of the Dumbarton Church, on giving his report of the Lord’s work in Dumbarton, pointed to the Vale of Leven as a suitable field for Evangelism work in connection with the Baptist Denomination. At the close of the meeting, a member, “whose praise of liberality was known throughout all our Churches”, came forward and offered a sum of £20 per annum for three years to help to support a missionary at Alexandria.

Records show that, “The Committee of the Home Missionary Society having been informed of this kind offer, and again asked to occupy the field heartily agreed to liberally supplement the yearly sum guaranteed by this gentleman”.

The members attending Dumbarton Baptist Church from the Vale of Leven increased and several meetings were held with the friends in the Vale of Leven neighbourhood. In 1887 this resulted in the transfer of about twenty members of the Dumbarton Church to form the nucleus of a new Baptist cause in Alexandria in 1887. The Pastor was the Rev John McLean (Dumbarton) and the meetings were held in the Village School, Susannah Street, Alexandria.

The Home Mission appointed Richard Murphy of the Lanarkshire Union, the Evangelist was called as Pastor and inducted by Mr Whittet, (Wishaw) on the first Sunday in March 1888. The following Tuesday, a social was held in the Co-operative Hall in Bank Street, Alexandria.

The population of almost 12,600 (comprising the three villages of Alexandria, Bonhill and Renton) was on the increase, with many of them having recently come from the Highlands following the failure of the potato crops.

Later that year, The Rev John Campbell, (a native of the Vale of Leven and formerly a member of the Dumbarton Church) was called from Cumnock. The Induction Service was held in the Co-operative Hall, Alexandria. Over 200 were present with some “unable to find accommodation”. He laboured successfully, with meetings being held in the Susannah Street School.

In October 1888 the Anniversary Social and Services were held in the Evangelistic Hall, which had been loaned for the purpose. This was followed by a social on Tuesday 27 October 1888, which was attended by 330 people.

2 - Birth of the Vale of Leven Baptist Church (1901 to 1913)

Minutes for the Vale of Leven Baptist Church are recorded from 1901 with records of both Church and Deacons’ meetings being kept from then. The first minister of the new Church is recorded as being the Rev J. Rogerson who served between 1901 – 1903. Early worshippers met in a corrugated iron building which had transferred from Buchlyvie to the Ferry Loan in Alexandria. The first Vale of Leven Baptist Church was duly established. During this time there were three separate Baptist witnesses in the surrounding area. These were: Vale of Leven Baptist Church (worshipping in the corrugated Iron building Ferry Loan, Alexandria, know as the wee Tin Kirk); The Christian Worshippers (in Susannah Street, Alexandria) and the Alexandria Baptists (worshipping in Dalmonach Hall, Bonhill).

In June 1907 the Christian Worshippers joined with the Vale of Leven Baptist Church Alexandria. In October 1908, The Alexandria Baptists meeting in Dalmonach Hall, Bonhill was dissolved and they too joined with the Vale of Leven Church in Alexandria. So it was that the three Baptist witnesses in Alexandria joined together as the Vale of Leven Baptist Church. The two storey building owned by the United Free Presbyterian Church, which was located in Bridge Street, Alexandria, was leased to the Baptist Union of Scotland in 1911.

The members of the Vale of Leven Baptist Church subsequently purchased the building from the Baptist Union of Scotland in 1913. The building is still being used today to continue the Baptist witness in the Vale of Leven. The Induction Service for the Rev Robert White on 6th August 1911 was conducted by the Rev John McLean of Glasgow, and was held in the Vale of Leven Baptist Church, Bridge Street Alexandria. The Church was officially opened on the same day as the Induction.

3 - The Baptist Church during & after the first World War (1914 to 1922)

The years between 1914 and 1918 saw the country at war, one consequence of which was a shortage of fabric. The Church Report of 1916 records that all the windows in the Church were to be covered. This was done with brown paper to ensure no light could be seen during the “blackout”*. During this time the ladies of the Church were involved in all types of church work. A request was received from the Women’s Work Party, that a box be placed at the front door of the Church with a card appealing for gifts for the “boys at the front”*.

In 1922 the possibility of developing the Church building and Sanctuary was discussed. At that time, gas mantles provided all the lighting in the Church building. Activities within the property were severely limited. The only space available, in addition to the Sanctuary, being a very small kitchen and an equally small Vestry. The proposals included the addition of a large hall, a small hall, toilets for use by the ladies and another for use by the gentlemen, a Ladies’ Room, Kitchen and a new Vestry.

4 – Modifications to the Church Building (1922 to 1930)

The Renovation scheme of building additional premises was discussed in 1922. The proposals included the addition of a large and a small hall, a new kitchen, a gents toilet, a ladies toilet, a ladies room and a new vestry. The large and small halls were to be heated by water filled radiators heated by gas while the kitchen, ladies room and vestry would have gas fires. The Church building was lit using gas mantles. In 1923 Clyde Valley Electric Power Company laid an electric cable in the Church grounds and put a connection into the Church The work of building the premises at the rear of the Church main building began in June 1925. The opening and dedication service took place on Saturday 19 December 1925. Further alterations were made in 1930 when Roger (Blacksmith) Alexandria, installed a new coal-fired boiler. This boiler heated the water for the Baptismal Tank and for the heating pipes which were located down each side and down the centre of the Sanctuary.

5 - The Baptist Church during & after the Second World War (1939 to 1953)

On the 3rd September 1939, the Second World War began and a number of the congregation were “called up”, requiring them to undertake “active service” in the Armed Forces. They received “Call-Up Papers” which meant they were required to go to the War Department Office where they would be assessed. If deemed “fit”, they would be required to join one of the armed forces (Navy, Army or Air Force). Those who were medically unfit could serve within the UK in an occupation deemed “essential”. Some occupations were “Reserved” which meant that the person doing that job did not have to enlist but could stay in their job. Such occupations included train drivers, doctors, farmers and vets. “Conscientious Objectors” were men who would not fight because they had a religious or moral objection to taking the life of another.

Some who were not fit enough for the Armed forces were called to serve within the UK working in factories mostly in England or working in the Auxiliary Fire Service.

On the River Leven at Bonhill Bridge was located Dalmonach Barracks which had previously been a printing works for cloth. A canteen for the soldiers was held in the North Church of Scotland, Bank Street, Alexandria. Each Church served in the Canteen for one week and our WA were involved in this. The soldiers trained for six weeks during which time many of them attended this Church. Rev G Barr was Chaplain to the soldiers in the Barracks and he gave them tracts and New Testaments which he paid for out of his own pocket. The Church later contributed towards this cost.

The Blackout Regulations meant that the streetlights were switched off. As the Church Services were held at 11.30am and 6.30pm these were changed to 11am and 3pm until the Regulations were changed.

Food was rationed at this time and a permit was required to purchase goods. A permit was granted which allowed for the purchase of 6lbs of sugar and one and a half pounds of tea for the Church Social.

In 1941 the Church Hall found a new use as a billet for members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)* which was the ladies section of the Royal Army Service Corps.

*Women were not required to enlist however many did and served in the UK in the Land Army helping the farmers and driving buses and ambulances. Some served with the ATS at home and abroad, serving in NAAFI and in Field Hospitals.

In 1941 volunteers were required to serve as Firewatchers. These volunteers would spend the night in the Church Building taking it in turns to look for fires which started during an Air Raid.

In 1943 the Ministry of Works and Building Salvage of Railings came and removed the railings from the front of the Church building and from the Manse. The salvaged “scrap iron” was then reused for the War effort.

In 1944 the morning service reverted to its original time of 11.30am.

During the war years Rev & Mrs Brickley opened their home for hospitality to the soldiers from Dalmonach Barracks. It was Rev Brickley who started “Round The Organ”, which was held on a Sunday after the evening service. For an hour those present sang old hymns and learnt new ones while Rev Brickley played. Following the end of hostilities, the fellowship returned to the task of maintaining a Christian Witness in the Vale of Leven. Rev Brickley was succeeded by Rev Cameron and it was during this Ministry that changes were made to the fabric and external appearance of the property.

6 - Further improvements to the Church Building (1954 to 1967)

Not until 1954 did electricity come to the Church with electric wiring being installed in the Sanctuary and the addition of the tubular heaters. The following year, Arthur Millar of Burn Street, Bonhill, erected the railings and gates at the front of the Church, the originals having been removed during the War. At this time the varnish on the pews and wood surrounds were scraped and the wood painted cream. The final phase of the remedial work was in 1956 when electric heaters were installed in the large and small halls.

The arrival of Rev Frizzell in 1961 prompted more activity with the front of the Manse receiving attention from several paintbrushes. This was also the year of the Church Jubilee celebrations which took place on Saturday 30th September and Sunday 1st October. A celebration of 50 years in the Church building in Bridge Street. The paint brushes appeared again in 1963 when the front of the Church received a coat of paint and repairs were made to the walls of the small hall before the walls and ceiling were papered and painted. The first Christmas Eve service was held in 1964 at 11pm. It was agreed that this would become an annual event.

Three joiners who attended the Church effected repairs to the Sanctuary when, in 1965, they built a false roof over the Sanctuary which cut off the gallery. The work was undertaken to conserve heat as it was felt that the heating in the Sanctuary was escaping into the upper areas of the building to the detriment of those on the ground floor. During the 64th Anniversary Weekend, on 9th October 1965, the post of minister being vacant the Dedication Service took place conducted by Rev Ian M. Cameron, (Girvan) a former minister of the Church.


Church Anniversary – October 1963

7 - The possibilities of a new Church Building (1968 to 1982)

In 1968 a letter was received from the Council advising that the area within which was sited the Church building came within the redevelopment area for a new primary School. The initial approach advised that a sum of £52,000 could be available for the purchase of an alternative site and the erection of a new building. After much discussion and deliberation it was towards the end of 1970 that the Council advised that they had opted for an alternative site for the new school in Bonhill and the discussions ended. During the Ministry of the Rev Alex Russell a Ladyton Sunday School and morning Service was held in Ladyton Primary School. The Sunday School started first in September 1973. Meeting between 10am and 11am the group consisted of ninety children and seven teachers. In 1974 thirty-seven toddlers and seventy Juniors attended. The use of Ladyton Primary School was donated by Dumbarton County Council. Monday 19th May 1975, saw two hundred and thirty parents and friends attend a social evening held in the School Gym.

By 1977 numbers had risen to the extent that four groups met – Toddlers, Primary, Juniors and Youth Fellowship – totalling one hundred and fifty young people and eighteen teachers. It was not until 1978 that the County Council began to make a charge of £17.50 per month for the use of the premises. Falling numbers saw the Sunday School close in 1983. 1976 Church Anniversary – 75 years 1976 Church Anniversary – 75 years

8 - Major alterations to the Church Building (1983 to 1992)

In 1983, during the ministry of Rev Vincent MacDougall, there was major alteration in the church with work to the Sanctuary, Vestibule and Gallery, carried out under the Manpower Services Commission who paid the wages of the workmen with the Church paying the cost of materials. The team consisted of a Foreman, two Joiners, a Mason and two Labourers. This work included lowering the pulpit, extending the platform in front of the pulpit, and building a new Baptistry. The vestibule was extended, one of the sets of stairs to the gallery was blocked off and the other set were blocked off with a door which was used for access to the gallery. The gallery itself was divided into three rooms.

The Childrens Playgroup made good use of the Church during 1989 while their regular venue of Bonhill Parish Church was being renovated. The Playgroup met on Monday, Tuesday and Friday mornings from 9.30am to 11.30am.

In 1992, during the Ministry of the Rev Thomas Urquhart a proposal for redevelopment of the Church grounds came from Cotfield Securities Limited who wished to build a Supermarket on the Church grounds. They offered to build a new Church, to suit our requirement, with the proposed site being close to the existing building across from the YMCA. . After nearly three years of negotiation the council refused planning permission and, in 1994, the plan was abandoned.

9 - Millennium Celebrations – 2000 Years of Christianity (2000)

As part of the Millennium celebration a special Committee was formed. An exhibition of “2000 Years of Christianity” was staged. The exhibition, held in the Church Hall, traced the growth and development of Christianity with illustrations of Biblical locations and maps of the early Church and gave examples of the diversity of Christian witness throughout the world. Local schools were invited to send classes to see the exhibition and many particiapted in the Quiz after seeing the Exhibition...

1976 Church Anniversary – 75 years

1976 Church Anniversary – 75 years

10 - Accommodation upgrade for Community Involvement(2003 to present)

In 2003 the windows, both downstairs and upstairs, in the main Church sanctuary were old wooden sash and case windows and were replaced with UPVC double glazed windows this again was to save heating costs.

In 2008 further improvements were made by refurbishment of the ladies and gents toilets, and the vestry. During this major work opportunity was taken to incorporate a dedicated disabled toilet facility.

Shortly after this an out of school club approached the Church to use the Church Halls as the premises for a before and after school club in the mornings from 7.00 to 9.00am and from 3.00 to 6.00 pm. However at that time the Church Halls did not meet the standards to allow small children to use this venue.

Following a visit from the Care Inspectorate, (formerly Care Commission) the Church have been advised that the halls needed improvements before they could be used by young children’s groups. The tubular electric heaters need replacing and ventilation and natural daylight was required. With the support from the local community, the Church committee set about looking at what improvements could be made to the halls by installing a better heating system and windows.

A new heating system would not only provide a warm, comfortable, safe venue for the out of school club, but, would open up the possibility of other local community groups utilising the Church’s facilities.

Then in 2012 we had an energy report completed with assistance from CARES. Using that report and visits to see AASHPs in operation, we have decided that we would like to use air to air source heat pumps to heat the halls and to add internal insulation and to top up insulation in the roof space. Also the windows were old wooden sash and case and we planned to replace these and to add another window where one used to be in the small hall.

Also at this time a Smoke / Fire Protection system to the Large Hall and Small Hall areas were added this also included the Vestry, Ladies and Gent Toilets, the Kitchen and Passageway areas.

The Committee were closely involved in exploring options for improving the hall and were supportive of the final decisions. Committee members have visited other community projects who have installed AASHPs, to help their decisions.

We, Vale of Leven Baptist Church, have installed air to air source heat pumps as a flexible means to meet the heating requirements of our community hall. We also installed insulation in the roof and on the walls to reduce heat demand. Doing this will help us to keep carbon emissions and heating costs down.

Heat pumps are a low carbon technology, which work like a refrigerator in reverse. They efficiently use electricity to extract heat from the air outside to heat the hall