Another problem was parishes which were not only large but in which the church had ended up being in the wrong place due to shifts of population as a result of the Highland Clearances or the creation of new fishing villages (such as Tobermory and Ullapool) in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A good example of the latter syndrome was the parish of Assynt in Sutherland.
The church was at Inchnadamph at the head of Loch Assynt which was a nice central location when the population lived in the inland glens but quite useless once it had been cleared out to the western and northern coastal strip and the new village of Lochinver. (Note, incidentally, that these two maps are not at the same scale. They make Kilmallie and Assynt look roughly the same sort of size but Kilmallie is actually much larger than Assynt.)
Ever since the Reformation (1560 in Scotland), there had existed a statutory procedure for building a new church where required, jurisdiction over such matters being vested in the sonorously titled "Commission for Plantation of Kirks". But the responsibility for actually paying for kirks, manses (Scottish equivalent of the vicarage) and the salaries of the ministers of the Church of Scotland rested with the "heritors" (landowners) of the parish. The initiative to "plant" (build) a new kirk had to come from the heritors and they were generally reluctant due to the multiplication of expense to themselves this involved.
|A Highland heritor reluctant to put his hand is his sporran to pay for a new church.|
This provided £50,000 of public money to build not more than 40 new churches (with relative manses), none to cost not more than £1,500. Provision was also made to renovate not more than 10 dilapidated churches and provide them with new manses. A stipend of £120 a year would be paid by the government to the ministers appointed to these "Parliamentary Churches", as they became known, and thus the heritors had nothing to fear bar the cost of maintaining the church to an amount not exceeding 1% of its building cost (i.e. max. £15 per year) so far as that wasn't covered by the pew rents of 2 shillings and sixpence per sitter a year. Imagine having to pay for the privilege of sitting in church! It was standard at the time and the 1823 Act provided that a third of the pews were to be set aside for the free use of poorer parishioners (and imagine the sort of "do you live in a coonsil hoose or a bought coonsil hoose" sort of snobbery that must have engendered!).
The Act set up a Commission to oversee the building of the new churches and appointed as its consulting engineer (to use an anachronistic modern expression) the celebrated Scottish engineer, Thomas Telford: hence they are also sometimes referred to as "Telford Churches". They were all built in the late 1820s to a standard design (by William Thomson rather than Telford). For the manses, there was the option of the one or two storey design.
The example at Ullapool (now a museum) is typical with the Tudor "Y tracery" latticed windows and "spikily pinnacled birdcage bellcote" being characteristic of the Parliamentary Churches:-
|Photo credit - The Poss|
|Photo credit - RCAHMS|
According to the Tenth Schedule of the Church of Scotland (Property and Endowments) Act 1925 (a more authoritative source it's hard to think of), 35 Parliamentary Churches (PCs) were built plus eight extra manses alongside churches which were renovated.
As well as those built in huge parishes like Kilmallie - which had two PCs built within its bounds, one at Corran of Ardgour and the other at North Ballachulish (Onich), these both to be served by the same minister whose single storey manse was at the latter location - and parishes in which the population had moved (Assynt where a PC was built at Stoer on the coast north of Lochinver), others were built on islands which weren't parishes in their own right (Iona, Ulva and Berneray). Others were built in the "new" fishing villages of the era (Tobermory, Ullapool, Plockton, Shieldaig, Portnahaven.)
|The Parliamentary Church and Manse on Ulva - the "H-plan" is distinctive of the single storey manse design.|
|The derelict Parliamentary Manse at Kinlochbervie - the little wings on either side are a classic part of the original design - Photo credit Gary Sutherland|
The second (and more prevalent) cause of the PCs losing their congregations so soon after they were built was "the Disruption" in 1843 whereby many Highland congregations walked out of the Church of Scotland to form the Free Church. Both syndromes (clearance and Disruption) are exemplified at what's probably the most famous of all the PCs, Croick in Easter Ross.
|Croick Parliamentary Church - Photo credit Frank Stephen|
|Scratchings on the window of Croick PC - Photo credit thefourthcraw|
|Inside Croick Parliamentary Church - photo credit Lee Carson|
No doubt there are other Parliamentary Churches with good stories to tell. I'd particularly like to hear about how Kinlochbervie came to be the only one: (a) in use today other than by the Church of Scotland (it's a Free Presbyterian Church); and (b) where the manse is derelict.
I leave you with a map of all the PCs and manses - click to enlarge.