The Early History 1843-1903
The history of Cults East Church begins with the Disruption in 1843, when 474 ministers withdrew from the Church of Scotland to form the Free Church of Scotland. Before 1843, there were no church buildings in Cults or Bieldside. the district was then in the parish of Banchory-Devenick and the parish church was situated on the south side of the river. Parishioners crossed the Dee by ferry until 1837, when a bridge was erected by the parish minister, Rev Dr George Morison. A good many parishioners on the north side of the river threw their lot in with the dissenters. During 1843, influential laymen, aided occasionally by clergymen from Aberdeen, held services in the open air for a church on a piece of waste ground west of the Den, about 300 yards north of the turnpike road the the new church was formally opened early in 1844.
It was after this building that Kirk Brae later got its name. Services were conducted by probationers for 17 years until the first minister, Rev William Anderson, was ordained in 1861, and records show that in 1866, the congregation numbered 119. In 1900, the Free Church amalgamated with the United Presbyterian Church to form the United Free Church of Scotland. By this time the congregation numbered 340 and the Church on Kirkbrae was proving to be too small. The Minister, Rev Hugh Morrison and the congregation set about raising funds and making plans for a new church at 404 North Deeside Road, which was built 1902-1903, the architect being Duncan McMillan.
For many years this bridge provided safe passage for the congregation to reach their chosen place of worship. As populations on the North bank of the river continued to increase a need for a place of worship somewhat closer to the residences of many of the congregation became required.
The New Church 1903-1941
The new church was dedicated by Professor Orr on 3 April 1903. Described as one of the finest ecclesiastical edifices in or near the city, the church was furnished with many gifts, including a beautiful stained glass window dedicated to a previous minister, Rev Robert Barbour.
Behind and connected to the church was a suite of rooms for the activities of the various organisations connected with the congregation, and soon a manse was built at the top end of the site. In October 1929, the United Free Church was finally reunited with the Established Church of Scotland and Cults UF Church became Cults East Church. The church continued to thrive under Rev Hugh Morrison, who retired in 1921 after 34 years ministry in Cults. Morrison was succeeded by Rev John Elder, who served for even longer, retiring in 1965 after 44 years.
One of the most significant events in the history of Cults East Church occurred during the bitterly cold early hours of 19 January 1941, when a disastrous fire devastated the entire building. The fire was believed to have started, not by 'enemy action', but in the boiler house ans was attributed to a 'defective vent'. All that remained of the original building was the spire and stair tower. These were demolished in 2012 to make way for a new Church Centre, which will open in 2013.
The Local Authority granted the use of the public School as a place of worship. Immediate steps were taken to have the Church hall rebuilt, but, during and subsequent to the war, neither materials nor labour was available. It was not until January 1947 that the Ministry of Works finally authorised a licence to rebuilt the Church hall, which was dedicated on 26 March 1950. The replacement Church, designed by George Watt & Stewart, was built later, at a cost of some £16,156, and dedicated on 13 September 1959. The roll at that time had grown to about 600.
The Upper Hall
By 1967, there were 150 children in the Sunday School, which posed accommodation problems on Sunday mornings. The solutiion was the erection of the Upper Hall and Sunshine Room, which were dedicated in October 1972. Unfortunately, the new facilities did not ensure that the Sunday School remained buoyant, but the upper halls have provided valuable amenities for many church and community activities, encouraged by Rev Donald Rennie.
Centenary Year 3 April 2003 - 3 April 2004
A hundred years after the Church on North Deeside Road was dedicated, Cults East Church commemorated its centenary with a year long celebration, all the more poignant since discussions on union with Cults West Church had already begun.
In 2005 Cults West and Cults East Kirks agreed to a union from which Cults Parish Church was formed. The final service at Cults East Church took place on 24 April 2005, bringing to an end its 162-year history.
The information for this web page is from Irene Paterson and Walter Scott, published in "The History of Cults East Church 1843-2005". It is available from:-
Dr Irene Paterson, 22 Manor Place, Cults. AB15 9QN, tel 01224 861140. Minimum donation of £5. Proceeds go to Cults Parish Church.