Anyone staying at the Stylish Converted Church near Kelso will be aware that they have booked a historic building that has been beautifully converted into an up-market self-catering holiday house, but what they may not know are its connections to Lily Langtry and the local grain merchants! Whilst a church had been on this site since 1739, the current structure is the one that was built in 1878, with some assistance from the local landowner.
George Alexander Baird owned the land at Stichill and was also a benefactor to fund the building of the new church, along with local farmers and businessmen. As a personality, he is the unlikeliest person to be associated with a church, though his family had been very religious! The Baird family had made a fortune in mining and iron-works and had bought the nearby estate of Stichill (and the Baird crest can still be seen at the old entrance gates), which he inherited from an uncle and on the death of his father, he had an annual income of £100,000, which was a small fortune. He led most of his life elsewhere and amongst other things, was a successful gentlemen jockey, horse owner (he won the Derby in 1887) and put up money for prize fights. His London address was 36 Curzon Street, which he bought during a drunken evening with friends, and woke with a hangover the next morning in the master bedroom to be told he was now the new owner!
In 1889, he met Lily Langtry (King Edward VII’s former mistress) a renowned actress and beauty and immediately became completely infatuated with her. It is alleged that she visited Stichill and accepted many gifts from her “eccentric young bachelor” with his estates in Scotland. His “spend, spend, spend” life continued for the next few years and it was while he was in America arranging a fight between “Gentleman Jim” Corbett and John Sullivan for the world title that the party stopped. On a drunken night out in New Orleans he collapsed and died on 18th March 1893 at the age of 31. His body was embalmed, encased in lead, and returned to Stichill Parish Church, where his remains are to this day.
The church had been one of two churches in Stichill, the other one, being the Parish Church and over the years it became too much to maintain two buildings, so it was the Parish Church that continued on. From 1938 onwards the church became redundant, and only used for parish meetings. From the 1960’s onwards it became a depot for grain and potatoes, and later to a local builder. In 2001, it was bought and the renovation process began. The church external structure was retained, with all stained glass windows, timber beams and buttresses intact, but the internal features were completely altered. The main defining feature is the glass floor which allows light to the floor below and an open-plan first floor living space, which is 60 foot by 40 foot in area.
Initially re-built for residential use, it has been adapted for holiday letting and successfully lets with Scotts Castle Holidays. It is offered on a self-catering basis for up to 10 people and has proved to be very popular. Why not contact Scotts Castle Holidays today to book this Stylish Converted Church near Kelso and find out more about the fascinating history and architecture?