The Church of Scotland

At the Reformation the Catholic Church was replaced by Presbyterianism as the state religion of Scotland. Authority resides in an annual General Assembly, descending through synods, presbyteries and kirk sessions. Cathedrals became redundant with the abolition of bishops. Some were simply deserted. Others survived, wholly or in part, as parish churches - kirks. The clergy are known as ministers or pastors and their residences as manses.

Schism and reunification

The Church has been prone to schism. The Secession Church broke away in 1733. In 1843 a third of the established Church's ministers broke away to form the Free Church of Scotland, and The United Presbyterian Church was formed in 1847.

Naturally all required buildings in which to worship, and manses for their ministers. Nearly 500 churches were built by 1844 for the Free Church. Many of these were simple constructions, built in haste, but some later churches were designed by architects of distinction, such as the remarkable three in Glasgow by Alexander 'Greek' Thomson, the survivors of which are the Caledonian Road (1856) and St Vincent Street-Milton (1859).

However most of the United Presbyterian and Free Churches merged in 1900 to form the United Free Church, which in turn united with the Church of Scotland in 1929.


The official repository for the records of the Church of Scotland is the National Archives of Scotland, including kirk sessions for much of Scotland from the mid-17th century. Information on churches, manses, graveyards, schools and schoolhouses can be found in the presbytery and session records [NAS CH2 and CH3] or the Heritors records - the records of the major landowners of the parish [NAS HR].