Formation of the parish unit and community in Perthshire
Rogers, John Malcom
One of the most fundamental aspects of the twelfth century reformation of the Scottish Church was the establishment of a network of local parishes. The creation of parishes provided the revenues which, through appropriation, supported the reformed bishoprics and monastic houses which were the principal elements in the new ecclesiastical hierarchy. More significantly, however, parishes provided enduring local communities with an identity which has only been dislocated in recent times. The nature of parishes has not been fully appreciated, however, and their territorial and community aspects have received little attention from historians who have concentrated on parishes as ecclesiastical units. The institution of the parish was introduced to Scotland in the twelfth century, a late date by comparison with England and much of Continental Europe, and the provision of a full network of parishes was achieved in a remarkably short period of time. The formation of parishes has traditionally been attributed to Anglo-Norman influence and, in particular, to the settlement of incoming Anglo-Norman lords who built churches for parochial purposes on their new estates. The evidence for Perthshire, however, challenges this view and demonstrates that the principal persons involved in parochial establishment were the kings of Scots and the native earls who held much of the land there and who had organised their territories into parishes largely in advance of the settlement of Anglo-Norman lords. Furthermore, the forms taken by parishes were determined to a very great extent by the pre-existing patterns of settlement and secular territorial organisation. Similarly, churches which became parochial had, in many cases, a long history as local estate churches before the twelfth century. The parish units and communities of twelfth century Perthshire were largely the already established local units and communities in a new ecclesiastical guise.