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Heritors of Barvas Parish

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Heritors of Barvas Parish

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After the Reformation it became accepted that the landowners in each parish in Scotland were responsible for the maintenance of the parish church and the minister. These responsibilities mainly fell on the body of Heritors. In particular they were required to provide and maintain a parish church capable of holding two-thirds of the population aged over 12 years, a manse and a glebe of set proportions and a stipend (the money or foodstuffs for the support of the minister), the churchyard and school. The heritors were landowners, and to defray all the expenses heritors were due, assessments were imposed on lands and heritages within the parish in proportion to their valued or real rent. Burghs were slightly different from landward areas, in that in a burghal church (a parish church wholly within a burgh) the magistrates were the heritors, as they represented the community. It may be stressed that heritors had no spiritual responsibilities for parishioners. The heritors had a shared responsibility with the kirk session for the provision of poor relief, which in some cases the heritors dealt with by making voluntary contributions in preference to formal assessment. The intention of the Poor Law (Scotland) Act 1845 was that the newly-established parochial boards would become responsible for poor relief. In those rural parishes, at first a majority, where there was no compulsory assessment, the parochial board would consist of the heritors and kirk session. Gradually, however, assessment became more or less universal, and the role of the heritors in this area ceased to exist. Schools were maintained or replaced by the heritors, and in addition they taxed themselves in proportion to their landholdings to pay the parochial schoolmaster’s salary. The Education (Scotland) Act 1872 transferred the upkeep of schools and provision of education to the newly-established school boards. The obligation on heritors to provide and maintain kirkyards (cemeteries) was not a statutory one, but one which they nevertheless accepted. The kirkyard belonged to the heritors, one of their number often having supplied the land required for it in the first instance. The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1894 permitted heritors to transfer the property of any kirkyard they held to parish councils, but heritors retained for the time being the power, duty and expense of extending kirkyards. The Church of Scotland (Property and Endowments) Act 1925, which was designed to prepare for the Union of the Church of Scotland with the United Free Church of Scotland, effectively extinguished the powers and duties of heritors. The Church itself would receive all ecclesiastical properties and endowments, and have responsibility for their maintenance and control. The Act made it clear that once its stipulations had been effected there would no longer be need for heritors to record any further business.


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