Kelso rallies to save threatened church steeple

Margaret Thomson, Vanessa Henderson, Sheila Crombie, Alasdair Hutton, Reverend Anna Rodwell, Jim Todd, Margaret Campbell, Katherine Binnie and Margot McVie.
Margaret Thomson, Vanessa Henderson, Sheila Crombie, Alasdair Hutton, Reverend Anna Rodwell, Jim Todd, Margaret Campbell, Katherine Binnie and Margot McVie.

The future of a historic church steeple in Kelso has been secured after townsfolk there rallied round to meet a £10,000 repair bill.

Fears were raised that the town’s skyline could lose one of its most distinctive features last May after Kelso North and Ednam Church’s minister, the Rev Anna Rodwell, revealed that the spire of the Bowmont Street building was in need of urgent repairs.

Kelso North Parish Church.

Kelso North Parish Church.

Despite more than £30,000 being spent on the structure in 2010, Ms Rodwell warned that if more money could not be found, the 19th century steeple would have to be removed.

But one year on, thanks to the generosity of the church’s congregation and the wider community in answering her rallying cry, not only has the structure been fixed, but there’s also cash in the pot for ongoing maintenance.

“We have been surprised and delighted by the generosity of the congregation and the town in helping to raise funds for the steeple. It was a tremendous community effort,” Ms Rodwell said.

“Work on the outside of the steeple is now complete, with only some minor internal decoration issues remaining.”

Kelso's skyline.

Kelso's skyline.

From dances, open gardens and quiz nights to lunches, beetle drives, calendars and coasters, Kelso folk came together to think outside the box and support the cause, raising nearly £16,000 to safeguard the town’s skyline.

“We were humbled by the ingenuity of efforts to raise the funds, with £15,984 raised altogether,” Ms Rodwell said.

“We now also have a reserved steeple fund and a rolling maintenance contract in place, and we would like to thank everyone who made it possible.

“A special word of thanks goes to all the shops and businesses who welcomed our collection tins and to the Co-op, who made us one of their charities for the year.”

The construction of the present Kelso North Church began in 1862 at the behest of then minister Horatius Bonar after he was forced to give back his congregation’s previous home in Inch Road to the Church of Scotland following its split from the Free Church of Scotland in 1843.

It opened for worship in December 1866, having been built, under the guidance of architect Frederick Pilkington, at a cost of £6,139.

Standing at 180ft tall, with a view across the River Tweed to Floors Castle, the spire has been a central feature of Kelso’s skyline for over 150 years.