GENUKI   CullenRathven

Cullen quoad sacra


When the ancient parishes were parcelled out, and churches built, the theory was that every parishioner should be within reasonable walking distance of the parish kirk. However, even allowing for our ancestors' ability to walk long distances (in the absence of any alternative means of travel), the theory sometimes failed, and some people found themselves too far from the parish kirk. The common solution in such cases was to establish a "chapel of ease", that is, a subsidiary church within the parish. But, for some reason, when it became clear that the inhabitants of the eastern part of Rathven parish were too far from their kirk, for some reason, a different solution was adopted: this eastern part became officially attached to Cullen parish (while remaining, for civil purposes, part of Rathven).

In consequence, there are implications for:

These are described in detail below.

Area covered

The clearest description of the annexed area was given by the writer of the original Statistical Account of Scotland arond 1790:

"The annexed part of the parish of Rathven, quoad sacra, is of extent about 3 miles in length, and 2 in breadth, forming together the figure of a quadrant, having a straight line on the N. and E. and the segment of a circle on the W. and S."

The main centre affected is the fishing village of Portknockie. Other places affected include: Bauds, Brunton, Cruats, Cullen House, Denhead, Denside, Farskane, Hillhead, Old Mill, Sharralds, Slack, Tochieneal

According to the article in the New Statistical Account, the "annexed area" had in 1793 a population of 505, compared to a total of 3019 for the rest of Rathven.


The earliest surviving OPRs for Rathven parish are dated 1710. However, the records for Cullen survive as far back as 1642 (for marriages) and 1668 (for baptisms). As early as 1689, the Register of Baptisms for Cullen includes persons resident in various of the places listed above in the "annexed part". Before that date, places of residence do not appear to have been recorded.

Around 1839, the anomalous situation of people in the "annexed part" was partly regularised by the erection of a new church at Portknockie, known as "Seafield Church". However, the Seafield district was not erected into a full-blown parish until many years after the introduction of civil registration.

Civil Registration (from 1855)

With the introduction of civil registration, the inhabitants of the "annexed part" were effectively "repatriated" to their original parish of Rathven - but only for a year, because in 1856, a new Registration District was set up, called "Seafield", which appears to have coincided with the "annexed area".


In the Census for 1841 and 1851, the "annexed area" appears in Enumeration Districts of the parish of Rathven. However, from 1861, it appears separately under Seafield.

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[Last updated: 7 Nov 2002 - Gavin Bell]