St Dominic and the Crieff connection

St Dominic and the Crieff Connection

This Blog is dedicated to my dear friends Brendan and Pat Devine , Barnshaw Cottage , Crieff
The first Catholic School in Crieff after the Reformation was located at the top of Mitchell Street at a locus which is now occupied by the Bield Sheltered Housing development known as Strathearn Court . Prior to the building of these sheltered houses the site was occupied by a large Georgian detached house in grounds of some 3 to 4 acres and known originally as Springbank latterly Flowerhill and then finally and appositely as “ The Old Hoose “ . Riddled with dry rot , it was demolished and the site cleared about 1985 . The house itself was surrounded by a high stone wall and trees and could not be clearly seen from either Mitchell street or Strathearn Terrace . It extended down as far as Miller Street and the site of the old Municipal Bowling Green was it southern boundary . It was conterminous with the properties of Mr James Millar of Knock Cottage after whom Millar street is named . The grounds reflected a by gone age with a tennis court , gardener’s cottage and a multitude of out buildings .  Although Georgian in architectural style it is what would be termed “ late  Georgian “ which according to Fenton and Walker in their authoritative book The Rural Architecture of Scotland ( John Donald Publishers : Edinburgh : 1981 ) would be 1834 – 1840 . Reference to the Wood’s Map of Crieff published in 1822 does not show Springbank and refers to the upper part of Mitchell Street as the old road to Perth . It is probable that it was built around the time of that superb Georgian jewel in Crieff’s crown , Burrell Square or the Octagon .

Springbank was purchased 1889 by a Mrs Mary Helen Elwes who , according to Porteous in his History of Crieff , was a well known lady in the town . She had joined St Dominic’s Priory at Stone in Staffordshire and had had received permission from the Papal Authorities in Rome to found a similar community here in Crieff . She set about converting it to her requirements and thus St Dominic’s Convent or Nunnery had arrived . It was entitled “ Our Lady , Help of Christians “ and Porteous tells us that “ it was the first of the kind in Scotland  since the Reformation being of the third order of St Dominic . The adjoining houses were converted into a school for the education of Roman Catholic children , the first Government inspection of which took place in June 1892 , and the report was satisfactory . The Convent was not a success , and after a few year’s trial was given up , while a new school was built in close proximity to St Fillan’s Chapel . “  The reference to “ third order of St Dominic “ apparently refers to a secular set  up as opposed to a closed religious order . Interestingly , it was the Porteous family who lived in Springbank as noted in the 1881 Census for Crieff . The owned much of the adjoining land and subsequently built Croftweit , a large detached stone built  property directly opposite Springbank  . This eventually became a Morrison’s Academy boarding house before being sold and converted into flats about 2000. The 1891 census shows that most of the occupants of the new convent were in fact Canadian ! From their ages it would appear to have been more of a seminary than a Convent .
The second school built in proximity to St Fillans Church which was erected in 1871 . The school building was in what is now the Church car park and was a red sand stone building to blend in with the adjoining church . When the third St Dominic’s School was built , the old building functioned as a builder’s workshop and store for Messrs R& J Robertson a local contractor  . It was demolished about 1990 .

         The Catholic  Church of St Fillans was built in 1871  to the design of Andrew Heaton Jr and is delightful little  building with attractive stained glass windows  representing St Fillan and St John the Baptist .Although I was brought up as a closet Presbyterian , I find that any time I have visited this charming little Church ( and that apart from talking to the Ladies Guild has mostly been funerals )- I have enjoyed a pleasant , relaxed feeling within myself - we are of course all God's children !

CM 2018 

St Fillans Catholic Church Ford Road Crieff


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