The Sad Demise Of An Historic Part of Crieff : Part One




The Old Parish Church in Church Street Crieff

July 2014

PART ONE

Introduction to set the scene

I have  been writing on the history of Crieff and the Strathearn area  over many years . This blog  has  been on the go for over two years and has published  well over one  hundred  “ blogs “ on a variety of local history topics covering  the Romans  , the Picts , the lost Abbey of Inchaffray and of  course the  fantastic  discoveries  of our Neolithic past – the Cursus and the timber  round  houses found in proximity .

Invariably  the  tone of  my writings  has  been positive and welcoming whenever  possible  and , I trust , objective  and critical when I deemed it in the public  interest .  I live  close by the old Parish Church of Crieff in Church Street  ( or Kirkgate as it was once known ) and know both  the old building inside and out  as well as having a genealogical  knowledge of the adjoining grave yard that surrounds it .

Problems – no one wants  to know !

The background as I see it

It really all started  in back in 1982 . The old Church functioned as the church hall for the Parish Church of St Michaels which was  located in Strathearn Terrace Crieff . The new church was built in 1882 and it quickly became the focal  point of the Established Church of Scotland (known generally as the “ Kirk “) in its open confrontation  with the breakaway Free Church  . For 100 years  the old building in Church Street fulfilled a purposeful role for  both the congregation and a multitude  of other organisations in Crieff

In 1982  the incumbent minister the Rev Dr ESP Heavenor  wrote this sad account of the building  :

“When a large piece of plaster  descended  from the ceiling  one day in 1977 – fortunately not on someone’s head , the alarm bells  rang . The cost of repairing  the plaster  , rewiring , redecoration  , and  improvements  to the kitchen  amounted to £ 3426. The installation  of six gas heaters in the Hall in 1972 was a welcome change  as members had shivered  all too often  when the old boiler  had  sullenly ( sic ) refused to produce adequate heating  . The problems  of inflation  have been met  by a generous  response through special appeals – May Fairs  and Bazaars and bequests  seemed  to appear   just when we needed  them most . The  problems will always  be met  when  members  love the Church   because they love Christ .”

Without being cynical history has caught up . The Kirk shunted off responsibility  for the nominal pound thus perhaps justifying the late Doctor’s faith . It has been  the slippery slope . The building itself  is another Drummond Hotel . It was sold  for a nominal sum to become  the Crieff Community Hall . This became a no go venture  because of  cost and it again was  sold of nominally  to a group  of Martial Arts persons . This venture foundered and it was repossessed by the Crown to cover unpaid taxes . The Crown now are the apparent owners  and be rest assured  NOTHING will happen to improve it’s current dilapidation   . It is  a gerry built  structure that  was cobbled  together in the 1780s . The building took over 40 years  to be constructed and occupied – even  being discussed at the Court of Session in  1781 . Services  were held in a tent until it  actually opened in  1827 . The people of Crieff  were not allowed in to it  unless they had  bought a pew seat ( each measured 18 inches !! ) and had to sit  on stools  in the aisles ! Seat rents prevailed in our old
Kirk !

The problems are compounded  by the fact that the adjoining graveyard is totally  neglected and overgrown  with a  jungle of  grass and  bushes.  What is the reason for this shocking situation ?The  graveyard  became  redundant to a certain extent in 1853  when the “ new “ cemetery in Ford Road  was opened .Families  with burial plots in the old cemetery continued  to have the right  to bury their deceased in the Church Street repository . As time  progressed this virtually ceased . The Council ( Perth and Kinross  and its predecessor ) cut the grass and generally maintained  the area . They firstly planted  the hedges on either  side of the  entrance  of Church Street . Their tacit  responsibility was  further acknowledged  when they determined  to facilitate the grass cutting process by removing  the majority of the 130 plus memorials . I understand that in accordance  with their statutory obligations as being the body responsible  for the churchyard ,they advertised  in the press  that this  was to happen and that anyone  with a title deed  to a burial plot  in that cemetery should  notify them , the Council . The “best “ stones  were  selected  for  display and aligned in a neat row . The remainder  “ disappeared “ into the coup/tip/dump south of the Broich Road .

In 2013 , the Council were forced  to implement “ savings “ and as a result decided that the grass in the churchyard  would  not  be cut at all ! I wrote to the council and received a reply from Mr Taylor responsible for the Council’s Environmental Service personnel here  in Crieff . I posted this on Facebook .Eventually  the grass was  cut on three occasions . This  year it has not been cut at all .

When I checked the Perth and Kinross web site


Surprise , surprise  there is NO MENTION or LISTING for the Church yard grass cutting ! Tacit responsibility is part of our  legal foundation  . The Council  do seem to have reneged on what is  in my opinion  a quite clear case of responsibility for the upkeep of this ancient and so very important part of our Crieff heritage .

Wonder  what Wills and Kate  would have said if the Royal Route had been down Church Street ??

I will follow this “ blog “ up in two more parts  These will illustrate why this  site is  of  such historical and  religious importance in the struggle to preserve our heritage .





Comments

  1. Well said. An area like this should be made the most of. Sad that it's been swept under the carpet for so long that it has almost become a fait accomplis.

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