Wick, Caithness

"WICK, a parish, seaport, market town, royal and parliamentary burgh, in county Caithness, Scotland. The parish contains, besides the town of its own name, which may be considered the political capital of Caithness-shire, the suburban towns of Louisburgh and Pulteneytown, the villages of Ackergill, Keiss, Sarclet, and Staxigoe. It is bounded on the E. and S.E. by the North Sea, and on the other sides by the parishes of Bower, Canisbay, Latheron, and Watten. It extends in length from N. to S. about 14 miles, with an extreme breadth of 7 miles. The coast, which is indented with numerous creeks, is rocky and precipitous, except towards the N., where it forms Keiss and Wick bays, stretching several miles inland, and skirted by a low beach of siliceous sand. The chief promontory is Noss-Head. The surface is nearly flat, comprising several straths varied only by the hills of Bruan, Camster, and Yarrow. It is now well cultivated, except towards the southern and western borders, where are extensive tracts of bog and moss. It is drained by the rivers Wick and Wester-Water, and by numerous small lochs, as Yarrow, Kilminster, Dhu, Hempriggs, Wick, and Windless. The prevailing rocks are clay-slate and graywacke-slate, with some limestone and sandstone, alternating with pyritous shale near the coast. Traces of iron, lead, and copper are met with in several places, the last-named having been formerly worked. The soil is generally stiff clay and peat earth, alternated with loam and siliceous earth. The largest proprietor is Sir G. Dunbar, Bart. The chief seats are Hempriggs House, of the Dunbars; Ulbster, of the Sinclairs; Keiss House, Harland, Stirkoke, Rosebank, Sibster, Tarmach, and Thrumster. The town of Wick, the principal seat of the northern herring fishery and the county town, occupies a convenient site at the head of Wick Bay, on the left bank of the river Wick, over which is a bridge connecting it with Pulteneytown, which nearly rivals it in population, and contains the only good streets and squares. The town consists of Wick-Proper and Louisburgh, the former irregularly built and dirty, but the principal seat of trade. It contains a town and county hall, court-house, Pulteneytown Academy, branches of the City of Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Commercial banks, also a distillery, brewery, and grain and saw-mills. The principal trade is connected with the herring fishery and herring curing establishments; the other manufactures are rope and net-making, boat-building, and an iron-foundry. There are resident here an agent of the British Fishing Society, and vice-consuls of Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and the United States; it is also the seat of customhouse establishment. The value of the boats, nets, and lines employed in the herring fishery is about 70,000, and the yield of herrings cured, 165,000 barrels, besides 6,250 not cured. Two weekly newspapers, the John o' Groat Journal and Northern Ensign, are published in the town. Nick was erected into a royal burgh by charter of James VI. in 1589. The town council consists of a provost, 3 bailies, a dean of guild, treasurer, and 9 common councillors, but their authority is limited to Wick-Proper, the British Fishing Society being superiors of Pulteneytown, by whom it was established in 1808. The court of quarter-sessions for Caithnessshire is held here four times a year; also the sheriff's ordinary and commissary courts are held on every Tuesday and Friday, and the sheriff's small-debt court every Tuesday, but the justice of peace small-debt court every alternate Monday. The parliamentary burgh, which includes, besides the royal burgh, all the suburbs, unites with Kirkwall, Dornoch, Cromarty, Tain, and Dingwall in pageing one member to parliament: the constituency in 1857 was 264. The parish is in the presbytery of Caithness and synod of Sutherland and Caithness. The minister's stipend is 268 6s. 7d. The parish church was built in 1830, besides which there is a chapel-of-ease in Pulteneytown, built in 1843, and a quoad sacra parish church at Keiss. There are Free churches at Wick, Pulteneytown, and Bruan, a Freechurch preaching-station at Keiss, also Reformed Presbyterian and United Presbyterian churches in Pulteneytown, and Independent, Baptist, Evangelical Union, and Roman Catholic chapels within the parish. There are a parochial school, Pulteney Academy, two General Assembly schools, two Free Church schools, two Society's schools, and several private schools. Market day is on Friday. Fairs are held on the Tuesday after Palm-Sunday, 24th June, 29th July, and on the 17th November (old style), or on the Tuesday after."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]

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