Redundant kirk becomes 21st century heritage centre

Longformacus Kirk is now a heritage centre
Longformacus Kirk is now a heritage centre

Having been saved from threatened demolition the 17th century former Longformacus kirk re-opens this weekend as a heritage centre.

Longformacus & Lammermuir Heritage Centre will tell the story of life in the Lammermuir hills across the centuries. There is a huge amount of material been gathered already, relating to life and farming in the area, and documents and artefacts that help to tell the area’s story continue to arrive.

“The area is rich in history, heritage and folklore, so they hope that by creating a permanent resource they will encourage the collection, recording and display of even more material relating to this highly distinctive area of the Scottish Borders,” said one of the team of volunteers who have worked hard to save the building and develop it into a 21st century village amenity.

A church has been recorded on the Longformacus site since the 13th century, though the present building largely dates from 1730 with additions, including magnificent stained glass windows, that were funded by a generous landowning family in the 1890s.

In 2013 the Church of Scotland closed Longformacus kirk and when it failed to find a buyer they decided to demolish the B-listed historic building. It was one of six Berwickshire Churches considered for closure by the Church of Scotland in 2011 - Paxton, Westruther, Leitholm, Burnmouth, Whitsome and Longformacus

“With the prospect of the imminent destruction of a much-loved ancient building, and dismayed something long-central to local life would be reduced to rubble, the generosity of a local family saved the kirk from demolition with just days to spare,” said a member of the heritage centre team.

“Since then a group of local volunteers have worked tirelessly to reinvigorate the building and give it an initial refurbishment. Repair works, display materials and furniture have been funded by local community funds, private donations and even the revival of long-forgotten whist drives!”

The inaugural event is an informal exhibition of material relating to the area’s agricultural history, its small dispersed communities and the past lives of some of those who lived in the hills. It comprises a mass of memorabilia donated by residents past and present.

“It is hoped that the collection will grow into an informative resource that illustrates how life has been lived in the Lammermuirs and fully celebrate the whole Lammermuir area’s past. In the future it may also be used for appropriate events and performances.”

The centre will open to visitors from 1pm on Saturday, September 12, with the official opening at 2pm by Andrew Pate, whose family have farmed in the Lammermuirs in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

All are welcome to visit and enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Lammermuirs with the heather in full bloom. Entry is by donation and delicious home-baked teas will be served in the village hall nearby. Donations of memorabilia are particularly welcomed.