Our History

Inside St. Columba's Church in LondonThe presence of Scots in London goes back to the early 17th century, when the Crowns of England and Scotland were united and King James I and VI set up his court in the southern capital; but not until the end of the Stewart regime did it become easy for non-Episcopal churches to get established in England.

About 1700, a Scots congregation was meeting in St. Peter’s Court, St. Martin’s Lane (near Trafalgar Square), and the need for a purpose-built church was soon being addressed. Scottish sources were contacted to good effect and advantage was taken following the Union of the Parliaments in 1707 to meet the daily arrival of the Scottish coach to solicit subscriptions from its passengers, amongst whom would be Scottish nobles and members of the new British Parliament.

Before long, the building of Crown Court Church in Covent Garden provided a suitable place of worship and a centre of support for a growing congregation. Our sister congregation of Crown Court continues a lively witness on the same site to this day.

But there was a time in the mid-19th century when a far-sighted decision had been taken to build a new Kirk. Thus was born St. Columba’s on its strategic corner in Pont Street.

Image of St Columba's Church completed in 1884

St Columba’s Church completed in 1884

Image showing the state of the church after the Blitz

The building was destroyed during The Blitz, May 10th 1941

 The new congregation in its fine original building of 1884 flourished under the pioneering ministry of Donald MacLeod of Jedburgh. He was succeeded at the turn of the century by Archibald Fleming, whose 40 years at Pont Street brought him to prominence in the life of Church and Nation, both on account of his preaching, broadcasting and literary gifts and for the wonderful welfare work provided during World War I to passing troops and later to young Scots men and women coming to London to work. It was during this period that St. Columba’s became known abroad as a church to visit when passing through London.

Then disaster struck on the night of 10 May 1941. An incendiary bomb dropped from an enemy aircraft destroyed the whole building in a matter of hours, to the stunned bewilderment of the congregation who turned up for service the next morning. For more than a decade the large congregation continued to operate without benefit of building, using the facilities of Imperial College (Jehangir Hall) for Sunday services and the courtesy of local churches and Manse for other activities.

The spirit of the congregation during the dark days of World War II was sustained by the wise leadership and fervent preaching of the Reverend Robert FV Scott. From the morning of the blitz, when a lady parishioner had pressed her purse into his hands, saying, “Take this. We must rebuild. More will follow.” until the proud day in 1955, when the splendid new St. Columba’s was finally dedicated, Dr. Scott had nourished the faith and hope of the congregation and co-operated with the architect to achieve as fine a facility as any modern church could hope for.

In 1972 St. Columba’s was augmented by the accession of St. James Church of Scotland, Dulwich, the most tangible link with which remains the organ situated in an alcove of the Lower Hall.

A century of work and worship at Pont Street was celebrated on 21 March 1984 when HM the Queen graciously visited St. Columba’s and unveiled a plaque commemorating the centenary 1884-1984. This happy occasion coincided appropriately with the year of office of the minister of the time, Dr. Fraser McLuskey, as Moderator of the General Assembly.

Queen’s Mother laying the foundation stone

Now at the start of the 21st century, St. Columba’s continues its vigorous life, its very presence in Pont Street being testimony to the truth of the Burning Bush, the emblem of the Church of Scotland:

Nec tamen consumebatur.
“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.”
Exodus 3:2