Baldernock Church Buildings
There has been a church or place of worship on this site since about 1236 AD. The present church building dates back to 1795. Little is known about the church buildings before the present one beyond the fact that the new church was required because the previous building had become dilapidated. It has been said that a still earlier one was destroyed by fire.
In 1795 the Heritors (Landowners) were not at all keen to provide a new church building. The country was at war with France and presumably there were many calls on public and private resources. However, they eventually agreed to build the new church, but made it clear that they wanted nothing fancy and accepted an estimate of £435. 17s. 5d. The grey sandstone building for 406 sitters was completed within the year. It was not, however, quite as we know it today. The floor was simply the bare earth, the pews were narrower than at present and there was no vestry projection on the north side. This was added later.
While little is known of the previous building there is good authority for believing that parts of it are incorporated in the present church. The two outside stairs leading to the Gallery are a distinctive feature of the building, and it is said that the steps of these (with the exception of the bottom step of each) date well before 1795. The steps are moulded just as in Glasgow Cathedral and possibly are of like date, which could take them back to re-Reformation times. Did they come from the old church? Similarly the moulding at the front of the Gallery and Pulpit is considered to be earlier than 1795 and it may well have come from the previous church. This seems by no means unlikely bearing in mind the Heritors’ quite understandable desire to keep down the cost and avoid anything fancy.
One of the most interesting features of the church building is the projection on the south wall which rises in stages above a moulded pediment and cornice to the bell-cote from which the bell-rope hangs outside the wall. Below the pediment there is a stone, said to have come from the Antonine Wall, on which is inscribed :
DEO OPTIMO MAXIMO P F S-Q S
The full text almost certainly reads:
DEO OPTIMO MAXIMO PATRI FILIO SPIRITUIQUE SANCTO
“To God Best and Greatest! To the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost”
The inscription is pagan in origin. Several altars have been found dedicated to Jupiter, the church God of the Romans bearing similar inscription “DEO (God) has been substituted for “JOVI” (Jupiter). This Christianisation of a pagan inscription may be unique. The use of the adjectives “OPTIMO” and “MAXIMO” (best and greatest) supports this. They are inappropriate as applied to God is not, according to Christian belief, the best and greatest but the ONLY, whereas they seem quite appropriate as applied to Jupiter as the first among others.
Another, quite unique, feature of Baldernock Parish Church is the small set of steps going over the perimeter wall.