In 1835 St Leonard’s Church in King Street (now an auction house) was established as a “chapel of ease” (what we would now call a new charge development church) to help meet the spiritual needs of Perth’s growing population at a time of rapid industrial expansion and the introduction of factory-scale dyeworks. Under Reverend John Milne, the congregation soon grew to over 800 members and adherents.
In May 1843, at the Disruption, Mr Milne and the vast majority of the St Leonard’s congregation left to join the fledging Free Church. They responded to the crisis with vigour and determination, and by December of that year had built and paid for their own church building, on the corner of Scott Street and Victoria Street (later a cinema, then bingo hall, now replaced by Housing Association flats). This church was fairly soon regarded as inadequate in size and scale, and a building fund was set up during the 1860s. By the early 1880s, it was felt possible to go ahead: the site for the present church in Marshall Place was acquired in 1882, building work started the following year, and the new church opened on 3 September 1885.
Free St Leonard’s (from 1900, St Leonard’s United Free Church) grew to be Perth’s leading Free Church, and it was often said that there were few, if any, charitable and benevolent organisations in and around the city in which its members did not play a leading role. In 1929, after the United Free Church reunited with the Church of Scotland, and after alternative titles were discussed, the name was changed to St Leonard’s-in-the-Fields, to avoid confusion with the original St Leonard’s Parish Church.
In 1982, St Leonard’s-in-the-Fields united with Trinity Church, and until 2008 the congregation was known as St Leonard’s-in-the-Fields and Trinity. Trinity Church was itself formed in 1937 by the coming together of three congregations, York Place Church of Scotland (founded in 1858 by members who had left Free St Leonard’s), Knox Free Church (established in 1856), and the East Church of Scotland, whose roots can be traced back to the Relief Church of 1786.
Following lengthy discussions involving Perth’s city centre kirks, the Presbytery of Perth, and the central committees of the Church of Scotland, in the autumn of 2008 a formal linkage was established between the congregations of Perth: St Leonard’s-in-the-Fields and Perth: St John’s, and a Parish Grouping (“Perth City Centre Kirks”) set up between the four congregations of Perth: North, Perth: St Matthew’s; Perth: St John’s, and Perth: St Leonard’s-in-the-Fields.
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