Abbey Church of Scotland

North Berwick

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Features of Abbey Church building

 General view inside Abbey Church

We welcome you as a visitor to our church and hope that you enjoy this brief guide to interesting features in the building, which was built in 1868.


Burning Bush stained glass window

This small window over the main door with the symbol of the Burning Bush and the motto "Nec tamen consumebatur" ("And yet it was not consumed" - the motto of the Church of Scotland, taken from the story of Moses and the Burning Bush in the book of Exodus) was installed at the same time as the memorial windows in the balcony (1954). More information on the 2010 redecoration of the entrance area is at the end of this page.   

In the vestibule area, there are three memorials to people who played a significant role in the history of Abbey : One memorial (to the left) is to the Rev. William Calvert, minister at the time of the building of the church and the manse and a driving force behind these. The Latin inscription reads "If you seek his monument, look about you".


Rev. William Calvert
Memorial Tablet

  William Calvert memorial tablet  

To the right is a memorial with a grateful, loving inscription to the Rev. George Brown, the longest-serving minister of this congregation (1807-1843). A third memorial (also to the right) is to Benjamin Hall Blyth, a noted Edinburgh civil engineer. His significant gift persuaded the Board of Managers to take the decision to build the new church, replacing the previous building in Westgate.

Benjamin Hall Blyth Memorial

Rev. George Brown Memorial
Benjamin Hall Blyth memorial Rev George Brown memorial


Halfway up the stairs to the balcony, on both sides, are memorial windows dedicated to members of the Whitecross family. Mr. Peter Whitecross was the oldest member of the congregation when he laid the foundation stone on 13th January 1868.

The Whitecross windows
Whitecross stained glass window 1 Whitecross stained glass window 2


To the left, once you are through the inner doors, there is a plaque on the back wall in remembrance of those members of Abbey who lost their lives in the First World War.

World War One memorial

The large tri-part, traceried window behind the pulpit was presented by the Dall family, in memory of Mr. James Dall, who was connected with the church for 60 years.

Dall stained glass window

On either side of the pulpit you see two circular cusped windows presented by members of the congregation: that to the right, by Mr. John Whitecross, in memory of his father, Peter (with his initials, PW), and to the left, by Mr. John Fraser, the Preses, in memory of Miss Fraser (with her initials, LF) who was responsible for the building of the Fisherman's Hall (the building beside the Yacht Club; it is now a private residence)

Peter Whitecross stained glass window Miss L Fraser stained glass window

Beneath this window is a brass plaque which remembers those who lost their lives in the Second World War. This plaque was an inscription on an older communion table and was placed here when the church was redecorated in 2002.

World War Two memorial

The communion table came from Lothian Road Church, Edinburgh, hence the dedication on the brass plate. It was brought to Abbey by the Rev. James Lees when he was called to the charge in 1975; he had been the last minister of Lothian Road Church prior to its closure. In 1977 when an electronic organ was installed, the communion table was moved to the west side of the church.

Communion table

To the left, the unusual window of doves on the West Wall was designed by Sax Shaw (1916-2000), noted for his stained glass work and other artistic achievements, in memory of the Rev. John Robertson, minister from 1886-1903, and his niece, Ada Jean Bremner Jackson. It was installed in 1973 and was designed for easy removal if the need ever arose.

Ada Jackson stained glass window

Turn now so that your back is to the pulpit. On 11th June 1954, the windows in the south wall of the church (at the back of the balcony, overlooking the High Street) were dedicated to the Rev. Robert Small, minister from 1903-1937. He was the father of Rev. Leonard Small, a Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. 

Robert Small stained glass windows

In the smallest windows are a wheatsheaf and a bunch of grapes, representing the bread of life and the wine of Communion. Next, on the left is the ship of the Church, set in an anchor of hope, and on the right is the Lamb of God holding the pennant, the symbol of victory. Finally, in the middle are the Cross and the Crown of the Covenant, which are central to our Christian faith. These windows can be seen in greater detail from the balcony, and also from outside on the High Street.


In 1889, an organ of American design was installed, costing £81. In 1912 a Scovell pipe organ was installed, probably costing £500. This required considerable alterations including a new pulpit, wall panelling and a choir balustrade. The organ console was directly in front of the pulpit. On 27th February 1977 a Livingston electronic organ was installed on the east side of the church (a gift from Lt. Col. Aitchison in memory of his mother and his father, who had been an elder of the church; the plaque of dedication is on the north wall of the church near the organ). In 1993, on the 125th anniversary of the Church, an Allen digital organ was installed for £16,000.

Abbey Church organ


The original hall was opened on 29th September 1890. Mrs R. Whitecross put in part of the stained glass window in memory of her husband, the rest was raised  by a number of donors.

Kitchen premises were added during Mr Gunn's ministry (in the early 1950s). Major improvements costing £44,000 were made to the hall and kitchen in 1991.

The new hall and toilets and an enlarged kitchen were built in 2005 (officially dedicated on 24th March 2006). The vestry was rebuilt, with an access corridor into the church. In 2008, new office premises were built within the previous vestry area.

In 2018 the large hall was modernised, and a small meeting room built to the side.


The doors and vestibule area comprises an artwork which shows the history of Abbey Church and community, past and present, entitled ‘Pilgrimage and Settlement: a Scattering of Doves’ by Douglas Hogg DA(Edin) FMGP FSAScot FRSA

Front entrance doors

The fading footprints in the sand, obliterated by every movement of the tide, remind us of the transitory nature of our earthly journey, and are symbolic of a spiritual journey. The footprints were taken from children and adults in the congregation.

Inner doors & screen

Looking through the entrance doors to the inner screen, the presence of doves crossing water can be seen: the doves represent the timeless and spiritual nature of the pilgrimage taking place within ourselves and how our own modest involvement contributes infinitesimally, but in a valued measure, to the larger picture, as well as the more literal earthly sense of moving from one place to another. The wording on the vestibule wall serves to reflect the theme.

The coasts of Fife and East Lothian featured on the internal screen depict the shortest sea crossing of the Forth between North Berwick and Earlsferry in Fife. This was the route of the medieval pilgrims from North Berwick Abbey, the Border Abbeys and further afield to St. Andrews.

Inside the Sanctuary

The rising doves set against the far left-hand window were designed by Sax Shaw, who was head of stained glass at Edinburgh College of Art. Douglas Hogg was a former pupil of his, and stepped respectfully into his shoes at ECA in 1979.

The artwork broadens the scope of this, extending the range of the metaphor to the front of the sanctuary. Thus the full building space becomes part of the whole concept.

About the Artist

Douglas Hogg studied at George Heriot’s School & Edinburgh College of Art, where he was Head of stained glass for 21 years. A member of Council of the British Society of Master Glass Painters, he was also admitted as Freeman to the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass in London. Winner of the Saltire Society Award for Art in Architecture, he has exhibited widely in the UK, Ireland and Europe.

His commissions include Dean Parish Church, Edinburgh City Chambers, Bishop's Chapel, St Stephen's Comely Bank Church, Baillie Gifford Offices, Greyfriars Tolbooth & Highland Kirk, Craigmillar Park Church, St Philip's Church Joppa, Haddington West Church, Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Auchterarder Parish Church, Scottish Churches House, and Oriel College Oxford.

Books in which he features include "Contemporary Stained Glass Artists"; "Broken Glass - Glas in Kunst und Architektur"; "Glass: an Inspirational Portfolio"; and "The Beauty of Stained Glass". His articles have appeared in a number of national and international publications. For more information, please see

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