History of Loudoun Kirk

For many centuries a castle or fort existed on or near the site of the present Loudoun Castle. Loudoun gave its name to a local parish, village and kirk.

Loudoun Village

Loudoun village

The kirk is situated next to the site of Loudoun village. The village was originally established for local miners but after the Second World War the houses fell into disrepair. With no gas or electricity supply, the residents were persuaded to move into the new houses in Galston and the village was demolished. Some evidence of its existance can still be seen in local fields if you know where to look.

In the parish the first notable religious foundation was Loudoun Kirk. Still a pleasant spot to visit, it is now mainly of interest as the burial vault of the Loudoun family, including the tragic Lady Flora Hastings. The Kirk itself dates from pre-reformation times as the first parish church situated near the castle of it's patron, and at the centre of the most populous area at that time.

Until recently, it was thought that the Kirk was founded in 1451 by the Lady Alicia Campbell of Loudoun, and has been recorded as such in all the local history books. Through the work of Alistair Hendry this "theory" has been found to be incorrect. The reason for the error was an incorrect translation from Latin of a page in the "Muniments of Irvine".

The following is a summary of the history of the Kirk uncovered by his research.

Loudoun Kirk, dedicated to St Michael, was established at the end of the twelfth century. The lands on which it was built, and which became Loudoun parish, had been given by Richard de Morville, King William the Lion's High Steward, to James, son of Lambinus, before 1189. James, the member of a Flemish family who had settled earlier in Lanarkshire, built the first motte and bailey castle overlooking the Hag Burn as the centre of his authority. At or soon after its foundation, the revenues of Loudoun Kirk, were allocated to support the monks of the newly-founded Kilwinning Abbey, and in return they were obliged to provide a priest (curate) to attend to the spiritual needs of the parishioners. In January 1491, James IV created for George Campbell of Loudoun the free burgh or barony of Newmilns. The castle was built there-and gradually, as more and more people moved to the new burgh, it became the main centre of population in the parish. During the bitter Campbell/Kennedy feuds of 1527/8, Loudoun Kirk was badly damaged, but rebuilt. Soon afterwards, however, in 1530, in recognition of the shift in population, a chapel was built at Newmilns. Loudoun Kirk remained the parish church until at least the 17th century, when the chapel in Newmilns was upgraded to parochial status. Thereafter Loudoun Kirk and its kirkyard continued in use for occasional church services, but more particularly as the last resting-place of generations of the parishioners of Loudoun.

The Earls of Loudoun

Among those interred in the vault are John, first Earl Of Loudoun and Lord High Chancellor of Scotland who died in 1652; John, fourth Earl, military Commander of the British Forces in North America, Governor of Virginia and famous agricultural improver, died in 1782: and the tragic Lady Flora Hastings, defamed by Queen Victoria and died aged 33 in Buckingham Palace in 1839.  

The Coat Of Arms

The coat of Arms of the Campbells of Loudoun, is found on the outside wall of the Kirk, indicating the helmet of a knight, the gyronny of eight on the shield representing the family name. It holds a crest of a double eagle with two stags acting as supporters. The family motto at the base declares "Bide Thy Time." The letters L H L appear along with the date 1622. This is thought to refer to "Hew", created Lord Loudoun in 1601, with the date shown to commemorate his death. The Coat of Arms of the Campbells of Loudoun - Click for bigger image

Lady Flora Hastings

  The obelisk as it looks today - Click for larger image There is an obelisk within the kirkyard, which serves as a monument to Lady Flora Hastings. Lady Flora was a Lady in Waiting to the Duchess of Kent (mother of Queen Victoria). In 1839 Lady Flora returned to Buckingham Palace after a holiday in Scotland and immediately consulted the Queen's physician. The rumour began that she was pregnant and her honour was cast into doubt, despite two doctors stating that the symptoms were no grounds for suspicion of pregnancy. Queen Victoria, however, believed the rumours and the argument caused great public outcry against the Queen.

Lady Flora died quietly in her sleep due to her illness (an enlarged liver) with no apology from the Queen. Her family were outraged and Lady Flora's sister Sophie, whilst waiting by her death bed, refused to sleep in a bed belonging to the Queen. The family, in retaliation, attached postage stamps, bearing the Queen's head, upside down. Portrait of Lady Flora Hastings

The Scottish Milkmaid

Dedication - Click for larger image

Janet Little, known as "The Scottish Milkmaid," local poet and contemporary of Robert Burns lies buried in the kirkyard. Born 1759; died 15th March 1813, daughter of George Little of Ecclefechan, she received a fair education as far as education went for girls in her station of life at the time. She was deeply interested in all she heard about Burns and a rhyming epistle along with a letter from Loudoun Castle was addressed to him. She later made a journey to Ellisland to have an interview with him.

In 1792 she published a volume of poems under the title of "The Poetical Works of Janet Little, the Scottish Milkmaid". The dedication, on page 3, of the book reads "TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE FLORA, COUNTESS OF LOUDOUN, THE FOLLOWING POEMS ARE WITH PERMISSION, HUMBLY INSCRIBED, BY YOUR LADYSHIP'S EVER GRATEFUL, AND OBEDIENT HUMBLE SERVANT, JANET LITTLE." The Full Text of this work is available online from the University of California, Davis library.

The Covenanters

The Covenanters were a group of people who had signed The National Covenant (1638) in protest when King James I attempted to bring the Kirk into line with the Anglican Church, complete with its hierarchy of Bishops and the English prayer book. The King responded by sending in the army. The Covenanters easily defeated them at the Battle Of Berwick and the army crossed into England and took Newcastle. Charles I conceded to their demands but with the King weakened the Parliamentarians rose up and civil war began.

The Parliamentarians asked for Scottish aid and an alliance was founded. The Solemn League and Covenant was signed so that presbyterianism was able to be fostered in England. This tipped the balance, the Royalists were defeated, and the King executed.

Cromwell, however, saw the Scots as a threat and invaded and occupied the country. When he died in 1658 his son and successor proved to be a weak ruler and the monarchy was restored to Charles II who began where his father had left off, in the persecution of the Scottish faith, following Cromwell's example.

Thomas Fleming's gravestone before repair - Click for larger image Thomas Fleming was one such Covenanter who died defending his faith at the battle of Loudoun Hill in 1670. He was buried in Loudoun Kirk. The stone was later vandalised and the Scottish Covenanting Memorials Association repaired it. The stone has now been re-positioned against the wall to ensure no further damage befalls it.

Belgian S.A.S.

In 1994 the Belgian S.A.S. veteran Paratroopers, who trained at Loudoun Castle in 1944, gifted a sum of money with the proviso that a plaque be displayed on the wall of Loudoun Kirk bearing the words "In memory of all members of the Belgian Special Air Service Regiment who under the command of Colonel E. Blondeel, D.S.O. were stationed at Loudoun Castle during 1944 and who wish to express their gratitude for the hospitality and friendship extended to them by the Loudoun Family and the people of Scotland. November 27th, 1994".
Veterans of the Belgian SAS visiting the Kirk in 1994