Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

Old Church of Scotland Manse, excluding stable block to the north, walled garden, boundary walls and gatepiers, Manse Road, Lairg LB8025

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NC 58222 7094
258222, 907094


A mid-19th century, two-storey, three-bay, south facing former manse, possibly designed by William Leslie. It is roughly L-plan, with an additional wing to the northwest. It is built of squared and coursed grey rubble, with dressed rubble quoins. The left bay to the principal elevation is advanced and has a three-light canted window at the ground floor. There is a flat roof and square plan stone-built porch with two-leaf timber panelled doors in the re-entrant angle. There are two breaking-eaves gabled and finialled dormers (to south and west elevations).

There are predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows throughout the building. The west elevation has metal replacement windows. There are prominent diamond-shafted gable end and wallhead chimneystacks. There are stone saddle skew copes (sloping to either side of a high point), decorative moulded skewputts and finialled gables. The roof is slated.

The interior was seen in 2017. There are some decorative cornices in the principal rooms with plain cornices in the other rooms on the ground floor. The ceilings are coombed and with plain cornices on the first floor. There are fireplace openings in most rooms throughout, however many were previously boarded up and the surrounds removed. There are timber panelled doors and a number of window shutters are intact.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: stable block to the north, walled garden, boundary walls and gatepiers.

Statement of Special Interest

The former manse at Lairg is a good surviving example of its building type and is particularly relevant to the social history of a rural Highland parish during the period of religious disruption in mid-19th century Scotland. The manse retains much of its historic rural setting, including the site of the old parish church and graveyard which are nearby. In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: stable block to the north, walled garden, boundary walls and gatepiers.

Age and Rarity

The former Church of Scotland manse was constructed around the same time as the Parish Church of 1846. The manse is set a distance away from the church which is in the centre of Lairg, and is situated closer to the old burial ground and site of the old parish church on Manse Road, on high ground overlooking the town of Lairg. The manse replaced an earlier parish manse of 1795 (now the grounds of Gilmorehill House, near and to the west of the current manse, see Ketteringham, p.86, 154-155) and is associated with the earlier parish church which was then located in the burial ground.

The manse appears as a U-plan building on the first edition Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1873. The walled garden and offices to the northeast are also evident on this map. The manse and glebe are described in the Ordnance Survey Name Book as the 'Ph. [Parish] Minister's house two stories high slated and in excellent repair situated about 1/4 of a mile North of Ph. [Parish] Church' and 'the portion of land attached to the Ph. Ministers Manse'. Both were the property of the parish heritor.

The site of the old parish church, dedicated to St Maelrubha and on record in the early 13th century, is located in the graveyard. A church was built in 1794, and was in use until 1844. The Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, of 1846, mentions the church as being ruinous and that 'a new church and manse are in the course of erection' (p.141). In 1843 the Rev Farquhar Matheson became the parish minister, however many worshippers had moved to the new Free Church. The remaining congregation were mainly the employees and tenants of the Duke of Sutherland who continued to support the established church (Ketteringham, p.86). The Duke also forbade dissenters to worship on his estate. Compared to the new Free Church, the existing parish church was old and outdated and so a new parish church was constructed in a more convenient location at the centre of town. This was funded by the parish heritors. According to Ketteringham, the Duke of Sutherland commissioned the manse at Lairg noting that it was an 'elegant new manse [as a] gesture to the Disrupters, who built their own church and rather humbler manse on a site across the river' (p.156).

Manses are not a rare building type, especially following the Disruption of 1843 when large numbers were built. However, in small remote communities such as Lairg, manses are often buildings of relative prominence. The manse at Lairg, while typically simple in its design and moderately altered, retains its historic character and mid-19th century appearance and while not considered to be rare, is a good surviving example of its building type.

There is a two storey former stable block to the rear (north) of the manse which was once linked to it. The link was demolished in the 20th century, sometime before the building was listed in 1984. There is a rubble boundary wall delineating the perimeter of the property, with simple gatepiers to the south and north. There is a walled garden to the east and some elevations are not up to wallhead. These structures were found to be standard examples of their type, and in the case of the walled garden the loss of fabric has reduced its interest in listing terms.

Architectural or Historic Interest


The interior decorative scheme retains a number of mid-19th century architectural details, such as decorative cornices and a well staircase with simple timber balusters and timber handrail. There are fireplace openings to most rooms throughout, however many were previously boarded up and the surrounds removed. There are timber panelled doors and a number of window shutters are intact. These surviving architectural features add to the building's special interest in listing terms.

Plan form

The plan form of the house itself is typical for its building type. The section to the rear of the building, which likely would have been maid or housekeeper accommodation, has been demolished moderately altering the plan form. This change has not adversely affected the building's interest in listing terms.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The former manse is designed in a simple Tudor revival style and has some good stone detailing, including the distinctive diamond shafted chimneystacks. The external principal elevations are largely unaltered since the building was constructed.

While there is no known architect for the design of the manse it is possible that it may be attributed to Highland architect and builder, William Leslie. Leslie is known to have been responsible for the construction of the associated parish church in Lairg. A comparison between the principal elevations of the old manse at Lairg and the manse at Dunnet, attributed to Leslie and constructed in 1846, reveals a number of similarities in architectural composition: the advanced left bay with canted window at ground level, the porch at re-entrant angle, and the first floor windows breaking the eaves are almost an exact replica. Leslie was also known to have worked predominantly on the Sutherland Estate (of which Lairg was part of until 1919) further suggesting he was responsible for the design of Lairg manse.

William Leslie was born in 1802 and established his practice in Aberdeenshire by 1828. He was appointed agent for the Sutherland Estates in 1836 and undertook architectural and civil engineering work. He established a partnership, McDonald & Leslie, in 1838 which was dissolved in 1853. He became a town councillor in Aberdeen and later Lord Provost. The buildings known to have been designed by him are few in number and mostly on the Sutherland estate. He died in Aberdeen on 18 February 1879.


The immediate setting of the former manse is largely unchanged since the mid-19th century, with the stables and walled garden remaining in situ. The buildings stand within their own grounds, set back from the road, and surrounded by a boundary wall and this is typical for a rural parish manse. The proximity of the old parish church and graveyard also contributes to its historic setting. The manse is intervisible with the remaining building of the former offices, the graveyard and site of the old parish church, and this functional association is significant in listing terms.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2017).

The manse was patronised by the Sutherland Estate and this historical association is of local importance.

Statutory address, category of listing and listed building record revised in 2017.

Previously listed as 'Lairg Manse (Church of Scotland)'.



Canmore: CANMORE ID 111014

Ordnance Survey. Sutherland Sheet XCIV.12 (surveyed 1873, published 1878). 1st Edition. 25 inches to the mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey Name Book (1871-1875) Sutherland, Volume 31. Lairg. p.27. [OS1/33/31/27]

Lewis, Samuel (1846) Topographical Dictionary of Scotland. Volume II: from Keanlochbervie to Zetland. pp.140-141. [accesses 17-07-2017]

New Statistical Account. (1834) Parish of Lairg, County of Sutherland. Vol. XV. pp.58-64.

Ketteringham, L. (2004) A History of Lairg. Lairg: Lairg Local History Society. pp.85-87, 154-156.

Maxwell, D. (2006) New Uses for Old Churches and Manses in MacLean, C, Veitch, K (Eds.) Scottish Life and Society: A compendium of Scottish Ethnology. Religion. Vol 12. John Donald (Birlinn Ltd): Edinburgh. pp.598-615.

Dictionary of Scottish Architects. [accessed 19/07/2017]

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

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Old Church of Scotland Manse, east elevation, looking west, during daytime with blue sky
Old Church of Scotland Manse, principal elevation, looking north, during daytime, on clear day with blue sky.



Printed: 18/06/2024 22:14