HU4235 : Telford Church at Quarff

near to Easter Quarff, Shetland Islands, Great Britain

Telford Church at Quarff
Telford Church at Quarff
Another of the 'Parliamentary Churches' erected to a standard design by Thomas Telford (cf NG8580). This one is at Quarff.
Thomas Telford's Highland Churches
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.
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
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HU4235, 12 images   (more nearby )
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Geograph (First for HU4235)
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Date Taken
Friday, 26 May, 2006   (more nearby)
Friday, 2 June, 2006
Church   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! HU 428 354 [100m precision]
WGS84: 60:6.0588N 1:13.9281W
Photographer Location
OSGB36: geotagged! HU 427 352
View Direction
Northeast (about 45 degrees)
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