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St. Brycedale Church

History of St Brycedale Church Kirkcaldy, Fife

The story of St. Brycedale Church begins in 1843 when the Disruption of the Church of Scotland took place. In conflict with the idea of patronage, where the landowner or local gentry choses the minister, large numbers of clergy and laity left the national church. The result in Kirkcaldy was the establishing of a Free Church in Tolbooth Street.

When the premises became too small for the energetic and expanding congregation it was decided to build a new Church. The site at the top of Kirk Wynd - "in open parkland on the outskirts of the town" - was donated by Provost Don Swan in 1876 and the new church was designed to seat 1150 people. Also included in the plans were a vestry, a ladies' room, a young men's hall to hold 150 and a Sunday School room to hold 300. The spire was to be 200 feet high. And the cost? An estimated £11,500.

The architecture was Gothic of the 13th century, the structure being built of Fordell stone with the inside walls of the Tower being built of a hard stone from Gallatown Quarry. In March 1881 the church was officially opened.

Since 1881 there have been only eight Ministers serving in St. Brycedale. The development of the "new" St Brycedale Church was the brainchild of the present Minister, the Rev. J. Kenneth Froude, centring on the recognition that the building was extravagantly large for the needs of the relatively small gathered downtown congregation who used it only once a week for just over an hour.

The old church has been divided in two, horizontally at the level of the gallery, creating a two-storey structure. The upper part is now the Sanctuary, still a very large church as can be seen in the inside view of the building. The lower part, at ground level, consists of two large and several smaller rooms, an open reception area and a coffee bar. These new facilities allow more flexible use of the premises. The Church Centre which is open all day, every day, for people of all ages - from toddlers to senior citizens - is used by many organisations and charities and the general public.

St Bryce - a Short History

Based on a talk given to the Kirkcaldy Naturalist Society

We do not know where Bryce came from originally but when he arrived in Tours in France (sometime after Martin became Bishop in 371 AD), he was called Bricius, the Briton. He was converted to the Christian faith by Martin, and was named as his successor.

Although he had not always been an easy pupil, Martin was always attached to him and had faith in his character and capabilities. As a youth, he was so ardent and independent in mind and temper that he got into trouble over the strict rules of the monastery with some of the senior monks. Martin had to reason with him more than once, and was advised to give up trying to make anything of him and dismiss him. Martin replied with mild sarcasm, "If Christ endured Judas, cannot I Bricius?" Bryce became Bishop of Tours in 397AD a couple of years before Martin's death.
In the early part of the 5th century, northern Europe was in a state of unrest reaching a climax in 410 AD when the Goths sacked Rome.

Ninian of Whithorn also came from Tours, and Martin had instructed him and encouraged him to lead a mission to North Britain. The first church in Scotland, Ninian's house of St. Martin's at Candida Casa was really a daughter institution of Tours and when the Picts swept down through Roman Britain and occupied all the country down to the Tyne-Solway Wall, Bricius the Briton must have been deeply concerned with what was happening in Galloway at Whithorn.

Bricius left Tours with some of the priests who had been driven out of their homes and churches by the invading pagans. This may be the explanation of the names, Viventius, Mavorius, Florentius listed as "principui sacerdotes" i.e. bishops or chief clergy, engraved on the ancient memorial stones of Whithorn - stones that date from Ninian's time.

Ninian and Bricius (or Bryce) travelled north from Whithorn and worked the central part of Scotland. The name of Falkirk is derived via Gaelic and Anglo-saxon from Eglwys Brioc (church of Bryce) and Stirling now includes the village of St Ninians.

Our own town is also closely connected to Bryce and Ninian. The burgh now includes the village of Chapel, so called from the chapel of Ninian near Bogie Farm, and recognised as one of the original foundations of this saint. The Celtic custom was to call churches after the names of the men who first built them. Kirkcaldy, originally Kirkcaladin or Caer caladina, was, in the 12th century charters of Dunfermline and St. Andrews, the site of the church of St. Bryce or Birse, as he is sometimes called. There is no doubt either that he was traditionally remembered as the St. Bricius of Tours - his mitred face with flowing beard, and hand holding the Fleur de Lys of France, appear on the seal or coat of arms which the Lyon Office gave the town in 1672, as alternative to the soldier with lance guarding the triple towered fort which represents Kirkcaldy. The Fleur de Lys clearly indicates that it is Bricius from Gaul that is meant. The registers tell us also that David de Bernham, Bishop of St. Andrews, repaired the church of St. Brise in 1244 AD.

The area near Abbotshall retains memories of our saint, for the name of Bennochy means "the place where the saint gave his blessing" - Bryce being the saint in question.

Bryce is also remembered in the area around Montrose and Aberdeen where he is Patron Saint under the name of Machar. The village of Craig lies to the south side of the River South Esk and the burying ground for the parish is in a small island now called Rossie Island, but previously known as Inchbrayock, i.e. the isle of Brioc or Bryce. Here in the very heart of the Pictish territory he built a church and "muintir" for training his missionary co-workers. Brychan was a Pictish king, who had several sons who became energetic missionaries. He may have been called after Bryce, the famous missionary in the area and might even have been baptised by him. The devotion of his sons to the church, and his own burial in Inchbrychan or Inchbrayock, point to his personal connection with the saint. Bryce returned to Tours in 410 AD.

In England sheriffs were appointed in the middle of the Martin-Bryce festival 11-13th November, while the Scotland Martinmas or St. Martin's Day marked one of the four quarters of the year.

Bryce and his great teacher and friend Martin are commemorated together in the Calendar of Saints. Martin on November 11th & 12th and Bryce on the 13th. The adjacency of these dates indicates that in death, as in life and work, these two were devotedly linked together.

If you would like to visit this area as part of a highly personalized small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me:

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