The High Kirk Dunoon
With links to Dunoon Castle a church has stood on or near the site of the High Kirk since the 13th century.
A church has stood on or near the site of the current church building since the 13th century. In those earlier times, it was linked to Dunoon Castle, a stronghold and occasional Royal residence, which stood on the adjoining hilltop.
The church met the religious needs of the Castle occupants and administered to the needs of the inhabitants of the cottages which were scattered around it. It was a church of considerable importance, and records of its links with the Cathedral of Glasgow and Paisley Abbey are to found in old documents bearing the signatures of Rectors of the church. In these documents, it is referred to as the Parish Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In a Charter dated 1453, King James II granted to the Bishop of Argyll and his successors, the Parish Church of Dunoon with its tithes and church lands. The Reformation, established in 1560, brought Presbyterian ministers to Dunoon Parish Church and, in the 17th century, Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church, notably Bishop Andrew Boyd, were resident, possibly in the Bishop’s Palace (thought to be sited where the near-by Primary School now stands).
The Revival Church
Towards the end of the 18th century, the church building, being badly dilapidated, was demolished and the stones used to erect Gillespie Graham’s Late Decorated Revival Church on the same site. This church, built to seat 500 and opened in 1817, constitutes only part of the present building because, even as early as 1839, it was necessary to enlarge it.
In 1840, the tower was heightened by ten feet and a bell was installed. Then, around 1909, it was lengthened and widened by Andrew Balfour who added the Chancel and transepts giving the church its present cruciform shape.
The Church, imposingly situated in the centre of town, is one of the first physical features of Dunoon to be seen when approaching the town by ferry. The remains of a magnificent three manual pipe organ are situated behind the pulpit in a raised choir loft.
The Way Forward
Further to a restructuring of the local parishes and the formation of the Cowal Kirk, the High Kirk Church in Dunoon was identified for closure. Having formulated an ambitious and exciting Mission Plan, the Cowal Kirk looked in more detail as to how it could be delivered throughout the community. The answer was the High Kirk Community Project converting the church to a community centre with an emphasis on youth.