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St Andrew's Church stands towards the south end of the village of West Linton with the large village green on one side and the main street on the other. Shaped like a fairly stubby rectangle, with a tower supporting a spire projecting from its north side, St Andrews is a church that keeps its charms hidden from open view behind the well developed trees to its south and west.
While the exterior of the church looks attractive and interesting, it does little to prepare you for what lies within. Many post-Reformation Scottish kirks were designed to focus the congregation's attention on the minister in his pulpit, and gave parishioners as little as possible to distract them from the sermon. The effect can often seem austere and unwelcoming. So when you walk into St Andrew's and find what must be one of the most beautiful and finely detailed interiors of any church of comparable age in Scotland, it really does come as a huge surprise.
St Andrew's has many of the normal elements of a "preaching box" church. The pulpit is set high in the centre of the south wall. The stalls that fill the ground floor of the church all face towards the pulpit. And there is a gallery around three sides of the church, again built to ensure everyone on the upper level is facing towards the minister. But there the similarities end. What really sets St Andrews apart is precisely the sort of detail and decoration that would have caused a sharp intake of breath in the post-Reformation Kirk.
Although the church you see today was built in 1781, most of the interior dates back to a major refurbishment undertaken in 1871. Perhaps the first thing that really brings St Andrew's to life for the first time visitor walking in through the door is the woodwork. Everything from the stalls to the galleries and the panelling on the lower parts of the walls comes in mid chestnut tone with an attractive sheen. And a great deal of that woodwork has been intricately and beautifully carved, including the entire length of the front of the gallery, the leaf patterns around the base of the windows, and the pulpit and the communion table. The carving was all the work of two ladies, Miss Fergusson and Mrs Woddrop. The generations who have used and enjoyed this church since their day have much to thank them for.
Another element which does much to contribute to the beauty of the interior of St Andrew's is the superb collection of stained glass windows. These have been added at various times, usually to commemorate notable parishioners. The two under the gallery serve as a memorial to the dead of the two World Wars and are the work of stained glass artist Sadie McLellan.
One element which seems to stand out as being very different to the rest of the church is the stone font. This is a pre-Reformation relic which was recovered from the nearby riverbed in 1929. It is one of three clues that the church has a history which dates back far beyond the construction of the current building in 1781. The second is the ironwork of the main gate, which incorporates the dates "1160" and "1960". The gates were erected to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the first charter mentioning a church here.
Christianity actually arrived in the area considerably earlier still, and it is possible that St Mungo and his followers established a religious community here in the late 500s under the patronage of Rydderich Hael, the Christian King of Strathclyde. The only evidence for this is in an early name for the parish, "Linton Roderick". As already mentioned, a church here entered the written records when it was given, with its lands and income, to Kelso Abbey by Richard Comyn in (about) 1160. It remained a property of Kelso Abbey until the Reformation in 1560, and then seems to have served as the parish church until the current building arrived on the scene in 1781.
The third clue that there was a church here before the current one can be found in the churchyard, which is home to a superb collection of old gravestones and grave markers. Some of these are very early, with one dated 1630. Many others carry fine carvings of the symbols of mortality often used in the 1700s: skulls, crossbones, hourglasses, angels and so on. And there are some exceptionally nice carvings of figures, including one that appears to depict a father and son, and another of a man with long hair and a cloak. Particularly interesting is a table grave slab which carries the high relief carving of two figures: and which seems to link together two different traditions, the effigies of lords, knights and clerics often found on medieval grave slabs, and the much later figures carved onto standing gravestones.