I never quite understood why the church changed its name.
You see, when the original Ardrossan Parish Church (built in 1744) in what is now Saltcoats became too small to hold the growing congregation, a new church was built in Ardrossan in 1844 and it was named the New Ardrossan Parish Church – and it kept this name until 1929 when it was changed to The Barony Church.
Apparently, Ardrossan was made a municipal borough or “Burgh of Barony” in 1846.
Now having lived in the Royal Burgh of Dornoch near the Royal Burgh of Tain in the Scottish Highlands, I knew of “Royal Burghs” but I hadn’t heard of “Burghs of Barony”.
After some investigative work, it would seem that “Burghs of Barony” were different from “Royal Burghs” in that the title was granted to a landowner who, as a Clan Chief or Tenant-in-Chief, held estates directly from the Crown.
Between 1450 and 1846, over three hundred Burghs of Barony were created and the last one, in 1846, was Ardrossan.
From 1833, in accordance with the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, residents in Burghs of Barony were allowed to form a Police Burgh governed by elected Police Commissioners. This gave the Burgh the power to create their own policing, road systems, paving, lighting, sewer systems, water systems, etc. and basically improve community life.
In some cases the Burgh of Barony existed alongside the Police Burgh and by 1893 all remaining Burghs of Barony were abolished in accordance with the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1892.
(Just out of curiosity I researched the police situation in Ardrossan and found that Ayrshire Constabulary was set up in 1839 and covered the whole of Ayrshire until it amalgamated in 1975 with others forces to become Strathclyde Police.)
So although I still don’t know exactly why the New Ardrossan Parish Church changed its name to The Barony Church in 1929, it does explain what the name Barony means and where it comes from.
I’m guessing that it was originally known locally as simply “the Parish Church” and when the parish became a Barony, it was known informally by the locals as “the Barony Church” and eventually, they decided to make that its official name.
The only other change took place in 1985 when St. John’s Church in Ardrossan closed down and was amalgamated with The Barony to become the Barony St. John’s Church – but locally, it has always been known as simply “The Barony”.
When I bought the buildings from the Church of Scotland in 2014, I didn’t really want it to be called the Barony St. John’s Church as I felt that, as it was no longer a church, this would be wrong (the apostrophe “s” basically means that the Church belongs to Barony St John).
I put a post out on Facebook and an article in the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald asking what local residents wanted the hall building to be renamed. The majority said; “It will always be The Barony no matter what you name it” but the second most popular name was the “Liberty Hall”, probably due to the fact that a few weeks beforehand I made public my plans to open a William Wallace Visitor Centre in the Church building.
Somehow, this seemed wrong, and somewhat ironic, to change the historical name of a building I was trying to save because of it’s historical value. So I decided to keep it as The Barony St John although you may have noticed that I no longer refer to it as a church but as a Centre and I have dropped the apostrophe “s” – what I mean by that is that is it is not The Barony St. John’s Centre.
Although it’s a minor point, I was surprised to receive a few complaints from people saying it was Barony St. John’s NOT Barony St. John, with one person saying that dropping the apostrophe “s” was sacrilege.
I wonder what they would have said if I had renamed it The Liberty Hall.
But I think the majority of locals are right, it will always be The Barony and if there wasn’t already a former church and now a museum called The Barony in West Kilbride, I would have renamed it simply that. But I think The Barony St. John Centre is a good compromise. Hopefully you agree.
Until next time,