Parish boundaries 1845-1930

This map shows the boundaries of the Parochial Boards and later Parish Council of the Outer Hebrides.  

If you are aware of an ancestor having been listed in the census as a pauper, or having died in a poorhouse in Stornoway or Lochmaddy, then parish records will usually hold some information about them.  Use this map to discover which parish your ancestor lived in so that you can then search the right records for information.

The Poor Law Act of 1845 established Parochial Boards who assessed land and heritages to levy a poor rate on owners and occupiers.  In the Western Isles area the following Boards were established:

  • Barvas (Lewis)
  • Lochs (Lewis)
  • Stornoway (Lewis)
  • Uig (Lewis)
  • Harris (including Berneray and St Kilda)
  • North Uist
  • South Uist (Including Benbecula and Eriskay)
  • Barra

Each board appointed an Inspector of the Poor to manage poor relief.  The Inspector brought reasonable applications before the Board which then determined whether relief was to be given and how much.  

The Act enabled the construction by parishes or combination of parishes of poorhouses.  Two poorhouses were established in the Western Isles:  the Lewis Combination Poorhouse at Coulregrein, Stornoway, and the Long Island Combination poorhouse at  Lochmaddy, North Uist.   The Boards were also responsible for dealing with those with mental illness, usually sending individuals to the mainland asylums.  “Harmless lunatics” were later sent to the Stornoway and Lochmaddy Poorhouses from 1911.

The Boards were abolished in 1894 and replaced by Parish Councils. In the Western Isles these covered the same geographic areas as the previous Parochial Boards.  Their main functions were the Poor Law, the registration of births, deaths and marriages, child protection, provision of burial grounds, registration of vaccinations, the mentally ill and handicapped. 

The Local Government Act 1929 saw the abolition of Parish Councils in 1930, the bulk of their functions being transferred to District Councils and Public Assistance Committees.