One of Edinburgh’s most iconic and historically significant buildings has joined the Land Register of Scotland.
We are delighted that St Giles’ Cathedral has been added to our digital, map-based record of land and property.
This registration offered us the chance to reflect on our registers and the stories they contain.
When James Joyce wrote his masterpiece, Ulysses, he said “I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.”
At RoS we don’t often think of ourselves as being in league with literary figures such as Joyce, but the great man himself could have done worse when looking for inspiration than turning his eyes to our registers.
We have been leading the way in recording the stories of our towns, cities and country for centuries now – first through the Sasines Register, the world’s oldest continual register of land, and now with the Land Register of Scotland. Contained within our registers is a complete picture of Scotland.
St Giles’ has been firmly at the heart of Edinburgh’s story since its founding in 1124. Its association with John Knox, its role in the reformation and the unusual tale of the Edinburgh woman, Jenny Geddes, who threw a stool at a Minister and prompted a mass uprising in the 17th century, are just the tip of the iceberg.
Carolyn Birrell, a claims settler at RoS, and Gareth Davies, a plans settler, worked together to pull together this registration.
The title with which they worked provides a fascinating insight into the history of the building and Scotland as a whole. Elspeth Annan, senior solicitor in the Church of Scotland Law Department explained that it was granted in 1926 when the Scottish Ecclesiastical Commissioners were empowered to frame Schemes for future ownership, maintenance and administration of the Churches in Edinburgh. Prior to that date, individual Acts of Parliament had to be enacted in order to oblige Burghs to erect and maintain churches and pay their ministers.
However, the deeds don’t just tell us about the ownership and maintenance of the Cathedral. Ritual and religious celebration also play an important role in the church’s deeds.
Visitors to St Giles’ will have noted that The Chapel for the Order of the Thistle is an integral portion of the Cathedral. The deeds themselves state that the Knights of the Order of the Thistle are entitled to have exclusive use of the Chapel for the purpose of worship and service. The City of Edinburgh Council is also allowed to use the bells on occasion of national mourning or celebration, as cited in the deeds.
Carolyn describes the beginnings of registering a title such as St Giles’ as ‘the magnifying glass process.’
“I worked with a copy of the original deeds, which I read with a magnifying glass as they are handwritten and often difficult to make sense of. This is why the land register is so important, it is easy to read and work with, and it brings clarity for future generations and the owners of properties themselves.”
Meanwhile Gareth worked on creating the cadastral map which ultimately defines the land ownership for the title.
He noted: “Because the title was so good and we are used to this type of work at RoS it was a reasonably straightforward process.”
Once the map had been drawn up, Carolyn and Gareth worked in consultation with the Church of Scotland to make sure that they were happy with the title.
David Robertson, Secretary and Clerk of the Church of Scotland General Trustees, the title holding corporation of the Church of Scotland told us:
“We are pleased to be working with the Registers of Scotland to support their efforts to have all properties in Scotland registered in the Land Register by 2024. We are delighted that one of the most significant buildings in the history of the Church of Scotland has now been registered.”
Once completed Carolyn and David entered the title into the register where it will be available for all to see on ScotLIS, bringing the deeds, the stories and the history of this important building right into the 21st century.