Thomas Telford's Highland Churches :: Shared Description

At the beginning of the 19th century, the provision of churches in the whole of Britain, and in the Highlands in particular, no longer matched the requirements of the population. Parishes were large, and many parishioners simply lived too far from the parish kirk to attend worship regularly. There were pockets of other religious denominations, including Roman Catholic and a variety of minor sects, which were seen as undesirable by the Church of Scotland and by the government.

After the Napoleonic Wars, Parliament made available £1,000,000, later increased to £1,500,000, for the building of churches and chapels of the Church of England, as an expression of gratitude to God for victory. 214 'Commissioners' Churches' were built; one of these alone cost almost £77,000.

A similar proposal to provide £200,000 for the Church of Scotland was long delayed by various political difficulties, and when an amended Bill was eventually passed in 1824, it provided just £50,000 for the whole of the Highlands. No more than 30 churches with manses were to be built, and no more than £1500 was to be spent on any one site. A similar Bill for the Lowlands failed in 1825.

The task of selecting the sites and overseeing the work was entrusted to the Commissioners for Building Highland Roads and Bridges, and in particular to their Chief Surveyor Thomas Telford. The Bill required that landowners should apply for a new church to be built on land that they would make available, and in August 1825 the Commissioners considered 78 applications; eighteen more were received by June 1826, and eventually, and not without difficulty, sites were chosen for 32 churches and 41 manses, the extra manses to be provided where there was already a church, but no manse.

Telford asked each of his three surveyors, James Smith, Joseph Mitchell and William Thomson, to prepare a specimen design for a church and manse within budget and 'particularly calculated to resist a stormy climate'. Some amendments were made to the designs, and eventually a simple basic plan was completed, with various options for adaptation of detail to suit local circumstances; landowners could add internal lofts or galleries at their own expense. The windows were standardised so that they could be supplied, ready to fit, by James Abernethy in Aberdeen.

Building commenced in 1826, though some work was delayed to reduce the cost incurred in any one year. All but three of the churches were built within the budget of £1500. Most were harled but there were problems with maintenance of the harling.

In most cases a 'quoad sacra' parish was erected around the new churches, giving the ministers of the new charges clear boundaries to work with, but even so, disagreements with the ministers of the pre-existing parishes did occur. The new churches were often referred to as Parliamentary Churches.
by Anne Burgess
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9 images use this description:

NC0428 : Telford Kirk by Anne Burgess
NC2256 : Telford Kirk, Kinlochbervie by Anne Burgess
NG8580 : Telford Church, Poolewe by Anne Burgess
HU4235 : Telford Church at Quarff by Anne Burgess
NH3162 : Kinlochluichart Kirk by Anne Burgess
NH3162 : Strathgarve and Kinlochluichart Kirk by Anne Burgess
NH1294 : Ullapool Museum, Telford Church by Anne Burgess
NH3162 : Kinlochluichart and Strathgarve Kirk by Anne Burgess
NH3162 : Strathgarve Parish Kirk by Anne Burgess

These Shared Descriptions are common to multiple images. For example, you can create a generic description for an object shown in a photo, and reuse the description on all photos of the object. All descriptions are public and shared between contributors, i.e. you can reuse a description created by others, just as they can use yours.
Created: Sat, 15 Mar 2014, Updated: Tue, 2 Dec 2014

The 'Shared Description' text on this page is Copyright 2014 Anne Burgess, however it is specifically licensed so that contributors can reuse it on their own images without restriction.