A Heritor by definition Collins English Dictionary (1991) is a person who inherits - from the old French heriter to inherit.
In Scotland the term Heritor was used to denote the major "landowners" of a Parish until the early 20th century - for example - in the early 20th century the Heritors of the Highland Parish of Crathie and Braemar were the estates of Mar Lodge, Invercauld, Balmoral, and Abergeldie.
Historically - land-holding in Scotland is feudal in nature, meaning that all land is technically "owned" by the Crown, which, centuries ago, gave it out - or feued it - to various Tenants-in-chief in return for certain services or obligations. These obligations became largely financial in time, or ceremonial or at least notional. Similarly, these Tenants-in-chief gave it out to lesser "owners", and the resulting reciprocal obligations too became financial -feudal dues - or notional. Often, though, conditions were imposed by the feudal superior at the time of the transaction - used in the 19th century as a form of planning control. (Most financial obligations were abolished in Scotland in 1974).
The upshot was that "landowners" had differing rights to the land they "owned". However, those who held their land without limit of time - that is, only had a ceremonial or ancient financial obligation towards their notional "superiors" - were distinguished from others and were called Heritors. In effect, they were the gentry of the Scots countryside, with legal privileges and obligations. Most ordinary farmers, etc rented their land for a specific space of time - from the Heritors.
Like the gentry in other countries, the Heritors ruled the countryside. They were responsible for justice, law and order in their district and for keeping the roads in good repair. They were responsible for appointing - and paying - the Minister and the Schoolmaster, and for maintaining the church, manse and schoolhouse. They had also to provide for the poor of their Parish. For all this they levied a rate on all the Heritors in the Parish - and often included non-Heritor Tenant Farmers in the rate too.
- Sinclair, Prof. J.M (1991), Collins English Dictionary, HarperCollins, Glasgow
- New Parishes (Scotland) Act 1844 (c.44)
- Parochial Buildings (Scotland) Act 1862 (c.58)
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