Lasswade is one of the most ancient Parishes in Scotland and local burial grounds suggest that a church may have been active in Lasswade on a site not far from St Edwin’s Church from around A.D 992. The possibility of the site being the location for early Christian worship is raised by two cross arm fragments that were found and presented to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in 1867.

In a history of Lasswade Church, written in 1936 by the Rev J.C. Grant Fleming (Minister at Lasswade 1931-1935) it is said that “St Edwin’s was the Mother Church of an area which covered the present quoad omnia Parish of Lasswade, parts of the quoad omnia Parishes of Dalkeith, Newbattle and Glencorse and also included parts of the pre-Reformation Parishes of Pentland and Melville. The Parish Church of Lasswade was also the Mother Church of the quoad sacra Parishes of Rosewell, Roslin and Loanhead ”.

The old Parish Church of St Edwin was consecrated by David De Bernham, Bishop of St Andrews, in 1240 AD. Between the years 1240 and 1276 some seventy Scottish churches including St Giles, were consecrated by the Bishop, and Lasswade had the distinction of being among the earliest, if not the first.

The Bishop was of Norman extraction, a Bishop under the Roman Order, there being no other Christian organisation; we are indebted to Roman Catholic scholars for the precise date of dedication which comes from records held in Paris. 

The Vicarage at Lasswade appears in the papal tax-collectors accounts of Scotland for the years 1274/75 and then in the tax records of 1298, when it’s described as a parsonage appropriated to the episcopal mensa of St Andrews.

Prior to 1420, there are few names of Clergy that emerge from the mists of pre-Reformation times. However, in 1296, Edward I of England in his invasion and subjugation of Scotland, held a parliament in which every man of note was required to pay homage to him. One such man was Nicholas, Vicar of Lasswade who swore fealty to Edward and so had his living and parish restored to him. Others in the district who did the same were: Malcolm de Ramsay, Parson of Cockpen; Stephen de Kynghorn, Parson of Pentland; John, Abot of Newbotill; William Douglas of Dalkeith; Hugh de Penicok;  and William Edgar, Parson of Penicuik.

The next recorded names come from the 15th century, which are provided in a “Corpus of Scottish Medieval Parish Churches” (St Andrews University 2008). Here we learn the names of the Clergy of Lasswade dating from the 1420’s, found in surviving records. In 1420, Patrick Stephens, the former Rector of Penicuik, was appointed to Lasswade, with the vicarage valued at 40 Merks. In 1451, Bishop James Kennedy revoked the episcopal mensa, with the annexation of Lasswade to the College of St Salvator, which the Bishop was founding in St Andrews University. The aim was that the annexation would become effective on the death of the incumbent Vicar, John Gray. 

However, it’s not clear if the annexation was effected at this time, as in 1453 and presumably prior to the death of John Gray, Walter Stewart had been appointed to the Parsonage. He was followed three years later by James Livingston M.A. as the perpetual Vicar. Walter Lindsay held office in 1460, followed in 1464 by John Inglis. 

Following Inglis, George Abernethy, was appointed to Lasswade and there’s also mention of him also becoming a Canon of St Salvator College.

On the death of Abernethy, Robert Blackader was appointed Rector at Lasswade in 1476 and in 1477, he sought permission and funds from Pope Sixtus IV to build a hospital at Lasswade, which was granted and so the Hospital of St Mary of Consolation came into being. A year later, the Pope granted permission for the Church of St Edwin’s to become a prebend of the collegiate of St Salvators, St Andrews.

Earlier, in 1471, Robert Blackader had been sent as a messenger by James III to Pope Paul II,  with whom he appears to have had great favour; Blackader would become Bishop of Aberdeen in 1481 and later Archbishop of Glasgow by a Papal bull (decree or charter) in 1491. 

In 1487, upon the request of King James III, the parsonage and vicarage of Lasswade Church was transferred by Pope Innocent VIII to the King’s new Collegiate Church of Restalrig. The Vicar of Lasswade was generally the Dean of Restalrig, enjoying the emoluments of the Parish and being responsible for “two singing boys” in the Church at Lasswade until, that is, 1592, when an Act of Parliament dissolved the Deanery of Restalrig and erected Lasswade into a separate Parish.

So far as is known, the last two Roman Catholic incumbents of St Edwin’s Old Parish Church before the Reformation, were Vicars John Crawford (circa. 1501) and William Niddrie ( circa.1529). 

Following the Reformation, the first Minister to be appointed at Lasswade Parish Church appears to have been William Barbour, circa. 1565. From then until 1793, a period of 228 years, the Parish Church of St Edwin’s continued to be used as a place of worship, now following the reformed protestant faith.

The National Covenant was thought to have been read from the pulpit by Rev James Porteous of St Edwin’s Church, Lasswade, on the Sunday following the Jenny Geddes protest on 23 July 1637 at St Giles Kirk, when the Minister there tried to read from the Book of Common Prayer, which was being forced upon the Church in Scotland by Charles I. The Covenant was solemnly sworn to by the whole congregation at Lasswade, with “tears of joy and heads held high”. This would have been a clear rejection of the Book of Common Prayer. (reference: J,B, Cairns, Lasswade Church Elder; The Advertiser 19 April 1956).

St Edwin’s was a small church, some twenty feet square, with a small loft or small gallery and yet it had a communion roll of over 600. Therefore, the twice yearly communion service  was held in a large field tent, erected in the grass-land surrounding the church (later used as a churchyard).

On 6 June 1664, Sir William Drummond, Sir John Nicholson and Andrew Lauder of Melville Papermill, Lasswade were ordained ruling Elders of the church. Sir John’s wife was the first and last Lady Lasswade and was buried in the Canongate Churchyard. The Nicholson home was situated within a garden in what is now Nicholson Square, Edinburgh, hence the name.

Therefore, the Church at Lasswade dedicated to St Edwin, was used as a place of worship for over 500 years, firstly following Roman Catholic Orders, and then after the Reformation, as a place of protestant worship until its closure in 1793, with the building close by of the then “new” Lasswade Parish Church. 

The ruined remains of St Edwin’s lie in Lasswade churchyard and in a small arched Aisle lies Drummond (1585 – 1649) poet and Laird of Hawthornden to whom the memorial was erected in 1893 with his own epitaph: Here Damon lies whose songs did sometimes grace…. the murmuring Esk. May roses shade the place. 

Historic Environment Scotland considers the church ruin of St Edwin’s to be a monument of national importance; a fine example of a medieval church dating from the 13th century which has undergone a variety of modifications up to, and beyond, its disuse for parish worship, thus contributing to our understanding of ecclesiastical and architectural development.

By 1793 the population of the parish had greatly increased and a new church to seat 1000 was built by the heritors. Robert Adam had designed a cruciform church in 1791 but it was the design of his brother-in-law, John Clerk of Eldin, that was built. 

The church was situated on the brow of the hill, looking down the Esk Valley. It presented an imposing appearance, solid and stately in its lonely grandeur with a needle-like spire, mounted with a weathercock. Over the years, many people would have come up the hill as the sound of the church bell echoed through the valley, calling the faithful to service; ladies in their crinoline dresses, gentlemen in velvet coats and hose; workers in sombre clothes with their wives in plain dresses and their children all eager to hear the word of God. Each one would be greeted by the Minister, standing at the Church door in his robes, with an outstretched hand of welcome for all.

Writing in a local paper in July 1948 on the 150th Anniversary of the Old Parish Church, J.B. Cairns, then an Elder of the Church, states that “the first Minister of the then “new” church was the Rev John Paton, who was licensed by the Presbytery of Dalkeith in 1745. He had succeeded his father, the Rev Robert Paton, who was ordained as Minister at Lasswade St Edwin’s in 1746. Robert was the son of the Rev James P Paton, Minister of Carrington”

The Rev John Paton wrote an account of the Parish for the “Old Statistical Accounts of Scotland” published in 1794 in which he states that “ one of the best Manses [Lasswade] in the Country was built in 1789 at a cost of £500. He goes on to say that “if the sum expended on building the Manse is proof of the liberality of the heritors, they deserve no less credit from the Church now being erected, which in point of accommodation and magnificence of structure, will far exceed any modern country Church in Scotland”.

The Rev John Paton’s son, another Rev John Paton, became his assistant, eventually succeeding him as Minister in 1830. Therefore, between 1746 and 1830, a trilogy of Patons were Ministers at Lasswade: Father; Son; and Grandson.

The second Rev John Paton was succeeded by the Rev Mungo Campbell Mackenzie, who wrote an account of the Parish of Lasswade, published in 1845 in the “New Statistical Accounts of Scotland”.

In 1843, there was discontent within the Church of Scotland, known as the Disruption, with many ministers unhappy with what they considered to be too much interference from the State. At the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 18 May 1843, the Established Church split and the Free Church of Scotland emerged, with some 415 Ministers and Elders joining the new Church. By decision of the Court of Session, in the Stewarton case, the ministers, quoad sacra, were declared to be unconstitutional ministers and hence in seceding, have only made a virtue of necessity.   

A report in October 1843 stated that at the time of the Disruption, there were 1195 ministers in Courts in the established church, with 53 vacant charges. Of that number, 454 adhered to the Free Church, with 741 remaining with the Established Church. The minister at Lasswade during this time, Rev Mungo Campbell Mackenzie, remained with the Established Church at Lasswade, while the Minister of Cockpen, Rev Thomas Pitcairn, left to form a Cockpen Free Church in Bonnyrigg. The Rev Pitcairn and the Rev Patrick Clason, were jointly authorised as Clerks to the newly formed General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland.

During the ministry of the Rev J. A. Burden, who succeeded the Rev Mackenzie, extensive renovations and improvements were made to Lasswade Church during 1884-85. There are accounts which state that the central part of the church initially had a flat roof, with the weight of the spire causing concerns. Photographs now show the central part of the church with a pitched roof and an apparently smaller spire. During the renovation work, the congregation worshipped in the Church Hall. The improvement cost was £1608. 13s 8d, of which the heritors contributed £230, and the whole sum was paid off by 1889. The church reopened for worship on 12th December 1886.

This was a great achievement for a country church, particularly so, as at the same time the congregation was paying off the debt of £661 10s 5d for the purchase of the old school down in the village, converting it into their Church Hall (Eskside). During this period, they were also contributing to funds for the building of new churches in Rosewell and Loanhead, which would also reduce the congregation at Lasswade.

In the late 1940’s, an inspection of the Church building identified an advanced stage of dry rot, which threatened the safety of the building. The congregation was forced to vacate the church in 1949 and like 65 years earlier, decided to move down the hill into the village and make their Church Hall a new place of worship. Many of the pews were brought down from the old church and on either side of the pulpit there were plaques commemorating the dead of the First and the Second World wars. The minister at this time was the Rev D Graham Lyle.

To raise much needed funds, the church organ was sold to St James Church, Arklay Street, Dundee, with the deal including St James’ manual organ in part exchange. The Lasswade organ was built in Dundee in 1897 by Mr John R Miller, so was returning ‘home’. The organ when installed at Dundee would be dedicated as a war memorial for St James Church, with a plaque.

In June 1950, the Kirk Session wrote in a letter to Dalkeith Presbytery of their dissatisfaction of having to use their hall as the place of worship and they were seeking permission to look for a suitable location for the building of a new church as soon as it was financially possible.  The Presbytery Clerk reported that a committee had been appointed to deal with this very important matter.

However, permission to build a new church was not granted and the hall was now transformed into the ‘new’ church, with worship continuing there until 1956. Prior to then, in 1951, Dalkeith Presbytery sealed the fate of the Lasswade Old Parish Church following yet another refusal by the congregation, to accept a union with Lasswade Strathesk Church of Scotland. The ultimatum was “accept the union or receive a short-term ministry, “terminable appointment”, with the latter being forced on the Lasswade congregation. 

Following the departure of the Rev Lyle to Rosebank Church, Cambuslang, the vacancy was covered by pulpit supply, provided by the Rev Spence. Then, in 1953, the Rev Victor Wands was appointed Minister under the terms set out by the Presbytery in 1951.

Three years later,  the congregation of the Old Parish Church finally, after several years resisting, agreed to unite with the congregation of Lasswade Strathesk Church on Polton Road, Lasswade, to form one united congregation, to be named Lasswade Church of Scotland.

In early March 1956, the Presbytery accepted the estimate from John Hunter & Sons for the demolition to ground level of the old Parish Church, at a cost of £850. Demolition work commenced once the negotiations to unite the congregations of Lasswade Strathesk and Lasswade Old churches were complete. 

A service of union took place on 22 April 1956, led by the Rev A. E. L. Paterson, Moderator of Dalkeith Presbytery, following which,  the two congregations were now one, with Lasswade Strathesk church now to be known as Lasswade Church. In January the following year, the Rev Ronald C. Kennedy was inducted as minister of the united charge of Lasswade Church.

The Statistical accounts of Scotland 1791-1845, Parish of Lasswade record, written by the Rev M Campbell Mackenzie, minister of Lasswade Parish Church, states that “there are two dissenting chapels in the Parish, one belonging to the Lasswade United Associate Church (Secession congregation) and the other the United Presbyterian Church, with their ministers being paid by voluntary contribution. About two thirds of the inhabitants belonged to the Established Church, with the remaining one third to the Dissenters”.

The Secession congregation was established as the result of a dispute within the Dalkeith Buccleuch Street Burgher Church, following the death in 1828 of Dr Thomas Brown, minister at Buccleuch Street. During the following year a petition from 110 inhabitants from Lasswade was presented to the Presbytery of Edinburgh requesting the supply of Sermon, and a second petition presenting the same request followed in November from an additional 86 inhabitants. 

Sermon was duly granted at Dalkeith in 1830 and in July of that year a new church was opened in Polton Road, Lasswade, to house the Lasswade Secession congregation. The first minister of the congregation, John Robson, was ordained on the 9th October 1832. Then in 1847, the Lasswade Secession congregation became part of the United Presbyterian Church. 

In 1894 the Church was renovated and several alterations carried out. Among the gifts which came to the congregation at that time were the present handsome pulpit, the stained glass windows at each side of the pulpit, the entrance porch and the bell.

Then, in 1900, the United Presbyterian Church united with the Free Church of Scotland, to become the Lasswade United Free Church. A further change took place in 1929 with the union of the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland, with the united church in Lasswade now named Lasswade Strathesk, Church of Scotland.

As stated earlier, in 1956 the congregation of Lasswade Strathesk was united with the congregation of Lasswade Old, under the name of Lasswade Church of Scotland, and a link was later established with the congregation of Cockpen and Carrington. Then, in 1991 both parishes were further linked with Rosewell Parish Church. 

A further unification occurred in 2008, when the congregations of Lasswade Church and Rosewell Church formally united, with a single Kirk Session, known as the “Congregation of Lasswade and Rosewell Parish Church”, with both places of worship being retained for now.

The congregation of Lasswade and Rosewell Church of Scotland, linked with Cockpen and Carrington, sits within the jurisdiction of the Presbytery of Lothian and Borders and as the Church of Scotland continues in its mission to review and restructure the Church in Scotland, the decision was taken by Lasswade and Rosewell Parish Church congregation to agree to the Presbytery’s proposal to close the Church at Lasswade. This forms part of a wider review of the three local Parishes in: Bonnyrigg; Cockpen and Carrington; and Lasswade and Rosewell.

The arrangements for the sale of the church building in Lasswade rests with the Church of Scotland Law Department. The process has only recently begun and there is some considerable way to go in pursuing the different stages of this, with the Church remaining open for worship until such times as the sale of the building is concluded.

Over the centuries the Parish has witnessed many changes – it has seen the valley a hive of industry, with paper mills and shops employing many people; seen many landowners, authors and poets, some held in high esteem throughout the world for contributions to art, literature and other achievements. 

There are records of an active church in Lasswade from 1240, with the possibility of an earlier Church being in existence from around 992 A.D.

Between 1240 and 1420, there was only one known incumbent, however, from 1420, there were ten known incumbents prior to the Reformation. For the period after the Reformation, according to J.B. Cairns, writing in a local newspaper in 1952, there have been 18 ministers at Lasswade, a period of 387 years.

From 1952 to 2024 there have been a further 8 ministers, including the present incumbent, Rev Lorna Souter, meaning that 26 ministers have covered a period of 459 years.

Therefore, when Lasswade Church finally closes its doors, after a period of around one thousand years, there will no longer be an active Church in the village of Lasswade. 

The Kirk Session records of Lasswade Parish Church date from 1615 and are held by the National Records of Scotland and can be viewed online at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk