Friday, 11 July 2014
The Sad Demise Of An Historic Part of Crieff : Part One
The Old Parish Church in Church Street Crieff
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
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 .