A place of worship seems to have been founded where the present church stands, or thereabouts, around 680AD when St Serf passed through the area and established places of worship in the small communities along the Hillfoots on the south side of the Ochil Hills. Whether these were some primitive buildings, or simply consecrated gathering points is not clear, although small wooden worship booths are likely.
The first record of a clergyman was Robert, Curate of Clackmannan, in 1195. He was almost certainly seconded from Cambuskenneth Abbey near Causewayhead in Stirling, and is thought to have been the chaplain to King Alexander II. It is very likely that by that time there was a stone church on the site. In the 1240s the Pope was concerned that many churches still retained their Celtic consecration. He sent a Papal Legate to England to encourage the proper dedication of church buildings there. The Legate was not sent to Scotland, which had a separate hierarchy, but the instructions came north, and the Bishop of St Andrews, David de Bernham, spent the years 1245 to 1249 dedicating 140 churches in his care. They included great buildings like St Giles in Edinburgh, St John's in Perth, and St Michael's in Linlithgow, The very last one he dedicated, on 24th August 1249, was Clackmannan. In 1249 the Church building at that time was dedicated to St Serf.
Clackmannan Parish Church
That church lasted for another 600 years, though the Kirk Session records of 1795 say that the building was in a poor state of repair, and hardly fit for worship. It was then, under the ministry of Rev Dr Robert Moodie, plans were drawn up to build the present church. It was constructed around the old building, which was used until the present building was at roof level. The old church was then dismantled but its foundations are still beneath the present building, the gallery pillars of the new church resting on them. The new building was opened for worship on 24 August 1817, dedicated to St Andrew's, and named St Andrew's-on-the-Hill.
The local Laird's right to impose a minister on the congregation caused divisions in the church in 1788 and 1843. This resulted in two other congregations being formed in the town. These both continued until 1932, when they joined together again. At that point, while others gave up their buildings, St Andrew's-on-the-Hill gave up its name and became, as it is today, Clackmannan Parish Church.
Clackmannan Church and its Ministers
Very little is known about the early days - nothing from 680 to 1195, and only occasional references to 1562. They included three Abbots - an indication that the pastoral oversight of the congregation was in the hands of the Abbots of Cambuskenneth. In 1409, however, the name of Henry Wardlaw appears. It may be that he was at that time, Bishop of St Andrews with oversight including Cambuskenneth. Certainly he was Bishop by 1410, when he began the founding of St Andrews University. So, the church on this site has seen many figures of history. And of course, Robert the Bruce and other Scottish Kings came here to hunt in the oak forests of Kennet, and to use the oak to build their castles and ships. The church on the hill must therefore have been known to them all as they passed on their way to Clackmannan Tower, or came from the tower to worship within its walls.
Since the Reformation reached Clackmannan and the first reformed minister, the Rev John White, took office, many of the incumbents of the Parish Church have served long ministries (details can be found here); the present minister is the 27th since 1562.
The names on the Roll of Ministers carved into the oak panelling inside the church include those of the other two churches - the Relief Church formed in 1788, and the Free Church formed in 1843 (The Free Church still stands at the bottom of Kirk Wynd but now serves as the Masonic Hall). The Manse of the Relief Church, later known as Erskine Church, is positioned halfway down Kirk Wynd, and overlooks the War Memorial. It is now owned privately.
The stained glass windows are a particular feature of the church and these can be viewed on their own page.
Typical Ancient Headstone
The Church is surrounded by an ancient burial ground dating back to 1655 and it continued in use until 1940. There are 369 plots where the lairs hold many local families and dignitaries including Rev Dr Robert Moodie, the minister responsible for the present church being built, and his family.
A map of the cemetery and a register of burials is kept in the church for visitors with a family connection to research. It must be emphasised that the register was compiled from the headstone inscriptions and in some cases where these have been eroded due to weathering some listings may be incomplete.