Community call to action issued to save future of historic town church

A community “call to action” has been launched in a bid to stop a historic former church in the heart of Callander being sold.

We told last week how Stirling Council confirmed that the historic St Kessog’s Church, in Ancaster Square, is to go on the market.

St Kessog’s has stood in the town’s Ancaster Square since 1773 but has lay unused in recent years after falling into a state of disrepair.

With news that the B-listed structure is to be placed on the market, a community effort has been launched to save the building, retaining it for community use.

Callander Community Council formed a sub-group to explore the possible options over the church.

They have launched the bid, Saving St Kessog’s: A Callander Community Call to Action, urging locals to join the Save St Kessog’s Facebook Group; donate towards the effort; and volunteer their time into organising events and spreading awareness.

A spokesperson for the community council’s sub-group said: “For centuries, St Kessog’s Church has stood as the heart of Callander, embodying our town’s rich history and serving as a central hub for generations. However, in recent years, this iconic landmark has been closed, its future uncertain. Now, more than ever, your help is needed to save and revitalise St Kessog’s, ensuring it remains a vibrant part of our community.”

St Kessog’s’ origins trace back to the grounds of St Kessog’s Graveyard, where the original kirk was founded by St Kessaig.

The church has undergone numerous transformations since the 1700s. Its iconic spire, added in 1860 by Robert Baldie, is a beloved feature of Callander’s skyline.

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In 1985, St Kessog’s Church was closed as a place of worship. Ownership was transferred to Stirling District Council in 1989.

A government grant later allowed the building to be converted into a tourist information centre and small cinema. When the tourist board moved out, Stirling Council offered to sell the building to the Clanranald Trust.

The Trust occupied the building from early 2015 after the category B-listed property was placed on the market for £100,000.

Clanranald had been exploring opportunities to purchase the building from Stirling Council.

However, in September 2018, we told how the deal had fallen through and Clanranald had withdrawn its interest in the purchase. The Clanranald Trust opted to move its operations from the town back to Duncarron – a replica of a medieval fortified village in the Carron Valley.

The building has lain vacant since then.

The community council spokesperson added: “St Kessog’s has been more than just a building; it has been the site of countless weddings, baptisms, and community gatherings. Its presence in Ancaster Square is a constant reminder of our shared heritage. However, without action, we risk losing this vital part of our town.

“Callander, known as the Gateway to the Highlands, is a picturesque town with the River Teith flowing through it and surrounded by majestic Munros. It has the potential to be an idyllic place to live – a modern-day Camelot. But such a vision requires care and dedication from its residents. We need to come together to save St Kessog’s, making it a beacon of our community spirit once again.”

Stirling Council last week told the Observer: “Following the exploration of all options for commercial and community use, we can confirm our intention to market the former St Kessog’s Church.

“We recognise the importance of the building within Callander and will consider benefits to the community as part of any offers received.”

With almost £1million required to carry out a refurbishment of the facility, the community council are now exploring options on how to safeguard the building for the community.

“With an estimated £998,000 needed for refurbishment, the price tag may seem daunting. However, there are still avenues to explore. For instance, the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal includes £700,000 funding for a digital hub in Callander, which could cover a significant portion of the refurbishment costs.

“Despite the challenges, preserving St Kessog’s transcends mere financial considerations.
It’s about safeguarding the soul of our community.

“Together, we can ensure that St Kessog’s remains a cherished symbol of Callander for generations to come. Let’s make sure our town continues to be a place where history, community, and potential converge.”