The present church of Pettinain is the successor of earlier places of Christian worship upon or very close to this site. Little is known of the church’s origins, but it was a chaplainry attached to St Kentigern Church, Lanark, in 1150, when both churches were granted by David I to the abbot and canons of Dryburgh Abbey. In the mid-fifteenth century Pettinain appears to have been separated from its mother church, but it remained one of the possessions of the Dryburgh monks until after the Reformation in 1560. The lordship of the parish was granted to the Earl of Mar in 1604, and from the 1630s until 1874 patronage was exercised by the Carmichaels of Westraw, later the earls of Hyndford. The parish enjoyed its own minister until 1952, when it was linked with nearby Carmichael. In 1972 the parish was linked with Covington and Thankerton, and in 1995 all were united in the new parish of Cairngryffe. Pettinain Church was taken into the care of the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust (SRCT) in May 2000. The elevated position of the church, its east-west alignment in common with mediaeval churches, and its setting within what may be a very old burial ground, all point to the church occupying an ancient site.
In 1588 the church is recorded as having a thatched roof and two glass windows. A floor of beaten earth was later replaced by flagstones and then by the existing wooden floor. The present church probably dates from about the end of the seventeenth century or early eighteenth century, and has a typically simple rectangular plan. A striking feature of the church is the extraordinary west gable, like a giant buttress with tiers of masonry tapering up to support the bellcote. The external stair leads to a door set in the gable, giving access to the gallery or ‘loft’ inside. The fine ‘birdcage’ bellcote boasts fluted pilasters, a bold entablature, ball finials at each corner, and a giant ball to cap the pyramid roof. Barely legible round the frieze is the inscription “Holiness becomes the house of God”. The bell is by the Edinburgh founder John Meikle, dated 1622.
The church is cared for by the Friends of Pettinain and used for occasional worship and as a venue for community events.
Episodes of the TV series, Taggart, shown in 1992 and 2008 were filmed at the church, and the graveyard is the fictional resting place of Jim Taggart’s Aunt Hettie.
Building Date: Late 17th-early 18th century