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Having a closer look!

Polbeth Harwood Church

For the origin of the congregation we have to step back to the year 1794. For a list of the ministers over the years access the menu on the left.

The congregation met for a time on what was known as the "Napkin Brae", at the foot of the Cleugh, and when the weather was stormy the meetings were held in the barn at Polbeth Farm. Mr. Flint, the proprietor of Polbeth Farm was a member of the congregation. He granted a site for a church or "Meeting House" at the junction of the Harburn and Mid Calder roads, near to where the Police Station now stands (Polbeth Terrace).

 

Painting © Alan Mercer 1996

 

Mr. Flint also gave the congregation a small field in front of the building, the rent of it being a free seat in the church. The field came to be known as the "Meeting House Green", as it was the scene of many a well attended Sacramental-tent preaching. The minister had a small tent, and the congregation sat on the grassy slope, or, if the weather was wet, they stood under dripping umbrellas while the service proceeded.

When the church was opened the membership was about 90, but under Mr. Fleming's ministry it rapidly rose until it reached nearly 400.

The "Meeting House" was built at a cost of fully £500, and had seating for 470, afterwards increased to 498

 

 
Harwood Church (1874-1962) 
Painting © Alan Mercer 1996

 

A new church was built and opened in November 1874 on the Harwood Estate and was known as Harwood Church. The cost of the building was £3,500 and had seating accommodation for 720.

 

 
Polbeth Harwood Church (1962-Present Day) 
Painting © Alan Mercer 1996

 

Harwood Church was one of two Church of Scotland churches in West Calder. There had been a vacancy for almost five years during which negotiations had been held concerning the future of the two congregations in the township. It was obvious that there was no longer room for both and a solution was sought. The outcome was to transport the Harwood congregation to the neighbouring community of Polbeth in which there was no church presence.

In 1959 the congregation accepted the proposal to move. Even then when the shape of the future was unknown most who belonged to the congregation saw it as an exciting project and prospect. Pioneering was in the congregational blood. Since its conception and inception in the 18th century it had always been prepared to move out and march on. This was another opportunity to be a pilgrim church.

Now that the decision to move the congregation had taken place a minister was called. Towards the end of 1959 the Rev. David Robertson, a young and very forward thinking minister was inducted.

On the third Sunday in February 1960, the usual service was held in Harwood Church a little earlier than normal, followed by a second service in the new community. So the pattern for the next two and a half years was set.

Worship in Polbeth took place in what previously had been the Engine House of Shale Pit 26. When mining ceased in the community the Engine House was converted into what is now known as Polbeth Hall. Worship took place here while the new church was being built.

Now that the church was located in Polbeth allbeit in the old Engine House, it was of significant importance to the community as a whole. It was known that the minister was there as well as the building for all, even those not labelled members. The vast majority of the people in Polbeth soon thought of themselves as part of the church.

The entire community contributed regularly and liberally via a direct giving monthly envelope scheme and through countless exciting money making ventures, the new building fund grew rapidly. In 1961 plans were produced for the initial phase of a suite of buildings. The proposal was to build a large hall plus a smaller one, a couple of rooms, kitchen and toilets on a site in the middle of Polbeth. This was completed by May 1962, as a multi functional building providing for worship, amateur dramatics, highland dancing and other activities.

When Phase 1 opened Harwood Church closed. The final service in the old building took place on the afternoon of Sunday the 27th of May 1962.

Later that week on Thursday 31st May, on the evening of the opening ceremony a cheque for the building work was handed over for the amount asked. It is worthwhile noting that on the day in 1972 when the rest of the building was complete the congregation was not in any financial debt to the Church of Scotland.

No doubt this was not unprecedented but in an area where money was never plentiful on account of unemployment and other factors this was no mean achievement.

The building today is still in the heart of the community, and continues to be used by many groups.