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Reformation times

Church of Scotland Ministers

Significant Parish Events


The first stone built church was erected

in the 12th century.



1176               TAXATIO OF LOTHIAN 1176

The church of St Giles, Ormiston given to Holy Trinity Hospital, Soutra, which was founded in 1164 by Malcolm IV, confirmed by William Bishop of St Andrews (1211- 1226), to the Master and brethren of Soutra.


1462               There is reference to a rectory:  March 1462 Mary Gueldres, widow of James II, annexed Soutra and its possessions to the Foundation of Trinity College Edinburgh, which she founded as a memorial to her husband. Thus St Giles church, Ormiston came under the control and guidance of the Provost of the collegiate church of Holy Trinity, and the revenues of the church and rectory were assigned in equal quarters between four Prebendaries.


1568               Some historians, however, aver the manse was built in the 16th century, for the first mention of a Minister in Ormiston occurs in Church records of 1568 when Rev. Andrew Blackball first occupied the Manse.





MemorialThe development of the village and locality.


1368               The Barony of Ormiston settled on one John de Cockburn on his marriage to Joneta only daughter of Sir Alexander de Lyndessay, Lord of Ormiston, founding the Ormiston branch of the Cockburn family.


1545               John Cockburn tutored by John Knox together with Francis and George Douglas sons of the Laird of Longniddry.  George Wishart was arrested, at Ormiston Hall, by Earl Bothwell, High Sheriff of Haddington-shire, and ransomed to Cardinal Beaton, who had him burned alive after a mock trial in St Andrews.


1546               At this time Ormiston was the centre of much intriguing and Carlyle, in his portrait of John Knox, refers to Ormiston as being a HAMESTOUN or City of Refuge.


1568               Rev. Andrew Blackball installed as the Minister of Ormiston together with Pencaitland and Cranstoun, after which the historical interest of the manse is made prominent by events, which surrounded it, and by association with the lives of notable incumbents.


1588               John Cockburn, a staunch Presbyterian, inherited the estate, joins the Privy Council and becomes 'Extraordinary Lord of the Court of Session'.  1591: Knighted and made Lord Justice Clerk.


1685            The most distinguished member of the Cockburn family, another JC was born in 1685 and in his time:


  • Was active in the union of parliaments.
  • MP for Haddington-shire from 1707 - 1741
  • Lord of the Admiralty until 1744.
  • Transformed the parish through the reform of agriculture and gardening.
  • The introduction of manufacture, which led to the 'planned' Ormiston village.


1692               At this time the two most distinguished persons in Scotland both had connections with Ormiston for together with the Lord Justice Clerk, William Carstairs was Principal of Edinburgh University, having been tutored in the manse by Rev. John Sinclair from 1656 while still quite young. For William Carstairs persuaded King William of Orange, at considerable risk to his own life, to change his orders concerning the Oath of Assurance thus preventing the dissolution of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.


          And it was said of William Carstairs, 'Shall not the people of Ormiston ever recall with pride that he was educated in their manse and by one of their own ministers'


1699               Great-Grand-son of John Cockburn, also John Cockburn, maintained the family connection when he was made Lord Justice Clerk, later to become, in 1699, Lord Treasurer Depute, (equivalent to Chancellor of the Exchequer today).


1732               The planned village was to accommodate the manufacturers and trades people. All house were to be two stories and of good proportions and the Main Street to be wide.  He established the first 'bleach-field' in the county and only the second in Scotland. (Before 1730 all linen was sent to Holland for bleaching).







                       CrossMINISTERS  and CHURCH post REFORMATION



1565               The REFORMATION


1568               Rev. Andrew Blackball inducted Minister of Ormiston together with Pencaitland and Cranstoun. He was a noted musician and set several psalms to music.  See – Wode's or Wood's Scottish Psalter 1635; No's 2, 18, 20 and 21.


1646               Rev. John Sinclair inducted in August of 1646.  He stood high in scholarship and steadfast in his convictions and wielded potent influence in fashioning the history of his generation, which extended over Scotland, England and The Netherlands.

He tutored the future principal of Edinburgh University, Sir William Carstairs, who became chief advisor to King William of Orange and leader of the General Assembly.

He refused the 'Test' in 1682, removed to Holland in 1683 and died in Delft in 1687.


1680               Rev. John Sinclair planted two Lime trees in the corner of the garden under which Mr. Ramsey, a future incumbent, (1872), composed the hymn 'The Gentle Shepherd'.


1683               Ormiston library contained over 60 books in Hebrew, Greek and Latin as well as many English language books.


1689               Rev John Cockburn, (no relation). Discharged in 1689 for not reading the proclamation forfaulting King James, (1687-1688), and joined the Court of James in France, then to Rotterdam and founded St. Mary's English Church, then to Northolt whence made Bishop to the American Colonies by Queen Anne. Died 1729 and buried in Northolt.


1696               A New church was built on the West Byres site.


1779               During Mr Colville's incumbency.

The roof and upper storey of the manse was taken down and two floors added together with an extending wing to the rear, which was also of three floors. (The stone came from Dean Glen).


1795               21st December

                       Birth of Robert Moffat, son of an excise officer, who had been brought into the village because of the distillery.



1812               Rev John Ramsey. Tutor to Henry Clay an American Statesman and editor of the Scotsman Magazine Vols. LXIV-LXV.


1817               William Begg, son of Isabella, (sister of Robert Burns), became the School Master and by 1845 no children between 6 & 15 were not able to read and write.


1832               Cholora Morbus struck the county and the manse was used for the storage of survival equipment.  (Village population was 335 at this time).


1833               Rev James Bannerman, quit the Church of Scotland at the disruption in 1843 and joined the Free Church, becoming minister of St John's Free Church in Ormiston and in 1849 he was made Professor of Divinity at New College.


1850               The manse received a further extension, using stone taken from an earlier church, which stood on a site adjacent to the present parish church.


1856               A new St Giles Church, (see 1176), was built by the Marquis of Linlithgow in place of the 1696 church.  It is the burial place of Lord Justice Clerk Hope.


1872               Reverend R. Moffat visited the village and stayed in the manse with Mr. Williamson, the minister.

                       Reverend Moffat died in 1883 and is buried in Leigh, Kent.


Ormiston Church Exterior

1938               A New church was built in the village to accommodate the two congregations of St John's, Free Church and St Giles C of S to be known as Ormiston Church.


1938               Dedication of Ormiston Church – Sunday 3rd December 1939.




 Ormiston Church Interior

2006               Ormiston Church refurbished and modernised with funds from sale of Church Hall, grants from charities and donations from the congregation.