A Brief History of the Free Church in Wick
The parish of Wick was served by the Wick Parish church (St Fergus). As Pultneytown grew (south of the river) it needed it's own church. This was completed and opened in November of 1842. When the Disruption came the Pultneytown church became a Free Church of Scotland. The original name for the Pultneytown Church was the Central Church. (It is unfortunate but the building has had several names, making it's history difficult to track).
The Free Church came into being in protest over the right of landowners to appoint a minister, over the heads of the congregation as it were. Some landowners did consult but others did not. The role of ministers then was much more significant than in our present society. Their support of landowners was significant in quieting the discontent at a time when landowners were "relocating" (evicting) their tenants, in what became known as the clearances. The Free Church wanted their ministers to be "free" and independent of any coercion or influence from landowners.
Not surprisingly, it was the Highlands that were most affected by the clearances and it was the here that the Free Church was strongest. The protests over the appointment of ministers came as the Central Church in Argyle Square was under construction. This would become the first Free Church of Scotland in Pultneytown (Wick south). The ownership of the building however was eventually contested by the Church of Scotland who won their case leaving the Free Church congregation temporarily homeless.
Pultneytown v Wick
The division of Wick into two is more than semantics, Wick became two parishes, one to the north of the river and one to the south of the river. The timeline below is for the Pultneytown congregation (Wick south_
When the Central Church sought to sell and build a larger church, the Church of Scotland felt it could no longer turn a blind eye and reclaimed the Central Church building. The congregation eventually built what is now called the Baptist church but was (I think) named after the congregation which had an identity as the Central Free Church (and the building they had forfeited).
Martys Church was a Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. They became affiliated with the Central Church and the Free Church. Subsequently both congregations moved to the Martyrs Church building and sold the Central church which would find a new role as the Baptist Church.
This ignores the merger with the Keiss Free Church and does not address the Free Church history in Wick (Wick north) which is associated with the Bridge St. building.
Should you have any additions or corrections to this history don't hesitate to contact us
The protests over the appointment of ministers came as the Central Church in Argyle Square was under construction (circa 1842). This would become the first Free Church of Scotland in Wick (1). The manse was built on Francis Street and is still there as the Queens Hotel (2). This sounds a very large manse but if my memory serves me correctly, hospitality dictated a large house. The ownership of church building however was contested by the Church of Scotland who won their case leaving the Free Church congregation homeless. They then built the church at Dempster St. (3). This became affiliated with the Martys Church when they joined the Free Church. When the Dempster St (Central Church) was sold. The Free Church then moved to Martyrs Free Church (4). The fellowship then sold this church in 2015 and moved to the Episcopal Hall (5)
Rough Timeline for Wick (north)