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MIDLOTHIAN, Scotland - History and Description, 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]
"EDINBURGHSHIRE, (or Mid-lothian), a seaside county in the S.E. of Scotland, lying between N. lat. 55° 39' 30" and 55° 59' 20", and between W. long. 2° 52' and 3° 45' 10". It is bounded on the E. by Haddington, on the S.E. by Berwick, on the S. by Selkirk and Peebles, on the S.W. by Lanark, on the W. by Linlithgow and the river Almond, and on the N. by the Frith of Forth. It extends from E. to W. 36 miles, from N. to S. 18 miles, with a circuit of 108 miles, of which 12 are coast line.

Its area is 397 square miles, or 254,300 acres, of which more than two-thirds are cultivated, and the remaining one-third hilly grounds, inaccessible to the plough. The northern and western sections of the county are on the whole fertile and richly cultivated, being chiefly arable, while the southern and south-eastern sections are chiefly pastoral. In ancient times the greater part of the fertile lands were covered with forest, and were occupied by tribes called the Ottudeni and Gudeni, who were subsequently vanquished by the Romans, and their territory included within the province Valentia.

Three years after the departure of the Romans, viz: in 449, it was conquered by the Saxons, and formed part of the kingdom of Northumbria, till overrun by the Scoto-Irish in 843, who came in from the W., and acquired entire ascendency, as is evidenced by the superinduction of Gaelic names upon Anglo-Saxon ones. In 1020 this, together with the adjoining counties, was ceded to Malcolm II., and was amalgamated, with the rest of Scotland, by David I., who made it shire ground. This monarch did much for the improvement of agriculture and horticulture, becoming himself the greatest farmer in Mid-Lothian, and maintaining many agricultural establishments, including the palace garden mentioned in his charter to Holyrood.

Edward III., during his occupation of Scotland, carried agricultural improvements further, by clearing the forests, and alleviating the condition of the cultivators of the soil, who held their farms by a strange tenure called the "steel bow", by which they were bound to deliver up all they possessed whenever they vacated their farms. This system for long retarded all permanent improvement; and it was not till the close of the 18th century that agriculture had advanced beyond a very rude state, though the greater part of the county is well adapted for tillage. The farms, which are now let on lease of nineteen years, are of medium size, well adapted for the scientific system of high farming, for which the Lothians are so justly famed.

The lands immediately around the capital are laid out in nurseries, market gardens, and orchards, with occasional patches of meadow land, for the pasturing of cows to supply the city with milk; those beyond and to the W. are planted in potatoes, turnips, and clover, all being kept in a high state of luxuriance by the judicious application of sewage manure, conveyed from the city chiefly by means of the Union canal; on the more distant arable lands wheat is chiefly cultivated, with barley, oats, clover, and green crops up the hill sides.

The old valuation rental of the county was £15,921; the new valuation for 1861, £376,498, exclusive of railways, which give an addition of £71,045. The assessment for prisons is one and three-eighth pence, for police and rogue money one and five-eighth pence in the pound.

The general character of the soil is clayey, though much diversified with sand, loam, and gravel, which are all frequently met with in the same field; in other parts moorland and moss occur, but these are not unfrequently rendered subservient to cultivation, while in the hilly districts to the S. and S.E., and along the banks of the Gala, the unploughable lands are covered with short sweet pasture, admirably adapted for sheep, of which large flocks are kept.

The chief ranges of hills are the Pentlands, extending from the confines of Peeblesshire, across the county, to within 4 miles of Edinburgh, and, in places, rising 1,800 feet above the sea level. From various points of this range a magnificent view is obtained, taking in almost the whole of the county, with its richly cultivated plains, numberless villas, and old country seats, half hidden in the well-wooded parks which surround them.

The Moorfoot hills also enter from Peeblesshire, forming a continuation of the Lammermuir hills, and penetrate the county of Edinburgh in two lines, running N.E. and S.E. Besides these there are several brief hilly chains, as Corstorphine Hill, and the remarkable congeries of elevations environing the capital, including Arthur's Seat, Calton Hill, &c.

The rivers, or rather streams, which water the county, are the Esk, the Almond-water, the Water of Leith, the Tyne, and the Gala, with its tributaries, the Heriot and the Luggate. Although these streams are too small to admit of navigation, the county is well supplied with the facilities of water carriage by means of the Union canal, and the noble estuary of the Forth, which washes the whole of the N. boundary of the county, and is from 7 to 12 miles broad, abounding in herrings, white fish, and shell-fish.

Along the shore of the frith are situated the important towns of Musselburgh and Portobello, both of which are resorted to in the summer months as bathing-places; also the ports of Leith and Granton, from which the steamers sail, and to the former of which 43 steamers, with a total tonnage of 8,383, and 138 sailing-vessels, with a tonnage of 21,585, were registered as belonging in 1861.

Musselburgh is a fishing station, and the chief port for the shipping of coal which is worked in the valley of the North Esk, the bed extending across the county from Carlops to Musselburgh, and being, in places, from 2 to 15 feet in thickness. The quantity annually raised yields a royalty of £12,000 to the proprietors of the mines.

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is the county town, and the only royal burgh in Mid-Lothian. It returns two members to the imperial parliament, and, with Dalkeith and Mid-Calder, is a polling-place for the county, which returns one member, and had, in 1860, a constituency of 1,922. The seaport towns of Leith, Portobello, and Musselburgh are municipal and parliamentary burghs, together returning one member to parliament. Dalkeith is a burgh of barony; Canongate and Portsburgh burghs of regality; besides which there are about 165 villages and hamlets.

The county is divided, for civil purposes, into 48 parishes, with parts of 2 others, and is governed by a lord-lieutenant, vice-lieutenant, sheriff, sheriff-substitute, and 22 deputy-lieutenants. The court of lieutenancy comprises 6 districts. The sheriffs' courts are held at Edinburgh and Leith, and a monthly circuit court at Dalkeith. The justices of peace hold courts monthly for the recovery of small debts, and for the administration of the roads trusts.

The ecclesiastical divisions coincide with the civil, except that there are, besides the 48 quoud civilia parishes, 4 quoad sacra parishes, and 19 chapels-of-ease. These are all comprised within the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and constitute the presbyteries of Edinburgh and Dalkeith, with 2 parishes in the presbytery of Linlithgow. Besides the Established Church, which has above 70 churches and chapels within the county, the Free Church, United Presbyterian, Reformed Presbyterian, Original Seceders, Episcopalians, Independents, Baptists, Society of Friends, Unitarians, Wesleyan Methodists, Primitive Methodists, Glassites, New Church, Roman Catholics, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and Jews, have places of worship. There are also 13 meeting-houses belonging to isolated congregations. The average stipend of ministers of the Established Church in the country districts is £250; in the city of Edinburgh and Leith from £400 to £500.

The number of day schools in Edinburghshire is about 500, exclusive of evening and Sabbath schools. In 1860 the number of the police force in Edinburgh was 339, in Leith 31, and in the country districts 46, giving a total of 416 fox the county. The number of criminal prisoners confined within the county prisons at Edinburgh and in the court buildings was 5,665 during the year 1858-9. The number of persons brought before the judges of police in Edinburgh in 1856 was 9,260; in 1857, 8,552; in 1858, 8,650; the number punished in 1856 was 5,748; in 1857, 5,350; in 1858, 5,651.

The number of persons found drunk in the streets of Edinburgh and kept by the police till they were sober, and the number who were drunk when apprehended for crimes and offences, was, in 1856, 7,736; in 1857, 7,785; in 1858, 8,308. The number of drunken persons taken charge of by the police on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays was, in 1856, 3,365; in 1857, 3,530; and in 1858, 3,742.

For the year ended 14th May, 1859, the returns of the Poor-law Commissioners show that there were at that time 9,296 permanent or registered poor within the county, costing a total expenditure of £56,023, besides 4,866 casual poor, costing £1,766. The number of pauper lunatics in the same year was 596, maintained by the county at an annual expense of £10,189, or £17 1s. 4d. per head.

The employments of the people are variously distributed between trade, commerce, manufacture, labourers, servants, independent persons, learned professions, and farmers. The first three include nearly one-fifth of the whole population, though Edinburgh is by no means a manufacturing county. Home-made paper first issued from this county, and is still the staple manufacture, employing about 4,000 hands. Papermills exist at Colinton, Pennycuick, Currie, Lasswade, Balerno, Polton, Auchendinny, and various other places on the rivers of Leith and Esk. Besides these there are numerous mills for corn, meal, sawing, fulling, snuff, flax, and other purposes. In 1835 a large silk-mill was erected on the banks of the Union canal, a little to the W. of the city of Edinburgh, but this branch of manufacture has not been so successful as was anticipated. The building, which has been much enlarged; is now occupied by the North British Rubber Company.

The other manufactures, including flax, rope-walks, soap, candles, spirits, leather, printing, book-binding, hair, glass, brass, iron, nails, stockings, pottery, coach-building, shawls, and cotton, are chiefly carried on within the city of Edinburgh and the port of Leith. The only powder-mills in Scotland are situated at Stobbs and Roslin, within this county. The mineral productions of Edinburghshire are coal, which is extensively wrought, limestone, ironstone, building stone, and traces of copper at Currie. Gems used to be abundant, but are now rarely met with. There are several chalybeate and sulphureous springs, as Corstorphine, St. Bernard's Well, Mid-Calder, Pennycuick, St. Catherine's, and Cramond.

The antiquities scattered through the county are numerous, and of all periods of history, as Druid remains at Kirknewton and Heriot Hill; cairns at Colinton, Borthwick, and Mid-Calder; Roman stations at Cramond, Borthwick, and Inyeresk; camps at Crichton, Pennycuick, Heriot, Liberton, Lasswade, and Ratho; also a pillar or battle-stone at Kirkliston; besides numerous ancient castles and ruined churches, each of which has a history of its own, and will be mentioned under the parishes in which they are situated, as Lenox Tower, where Queen Mary lived; Baberton, the hunting seat of James VI.; Dalkeith, the stronghold of the Grahams and Douglases, visited by Froissart, &c.

The seats of the nobility and gentry are very numerous, and some almost regal in magnificence, as Dalkeith Palace, of the Duke of Buccleuch; Duddingston House, of the Marquis of Abercorn; Newbattle Abbey, of the Marquis of Lothian, where formerly stood the famous abbey; Dalhousie Castle, of the Marquis of Dalhousie; Dalmahoy House, of the Earl of Morton; Oxenford Castle, of the Earl of Stair; Melville Castle, of Viscount Melyille; Calder House, of Lord Torpichen, and in which Knox first celebrated the sacrament after the reformed manner; Colinton House, of Lord Dunfermline; Dalmeny, of the Earl of Rosebery; Hailes House, of Carmichael, Bart.; Pennycuick House, of Clark, Bart.; Prestonfield, of Dick Cunningham, Bart.; Greenhill, of Stewart Forbes, Bart.; Pinkie House, of Sir Archibald Hope, Bart.; Hawthornden, of Sir J. Walker Drummond, Bart.; Beechwood, of Sir David Dundas, Bart.; Coniston, of Forrest, Bart.; Clifton Hall, of Maitland, Bart.; Woodhouselee, with its ancient tower, of Tytler; and numerous others.

All the great lines of railway and the principal roads in the county diverge from the metropolis. The North British main line takes an eastward direction through Inveresk to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where it communicates with the English lines. A branch of this line goes off in a south-eastward direction to Peebles, Selkirk, Hawick, and Kelso. The Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee, recently amalgamated with the North British line, traverses only about 5 miles of the county in a direct line, to North Leith and Granton. The Edinburgh and Glasgow line traverses about 8 miles of the county in a W. direction, by Corstorphine, Gogar, and Norton. The Caledonian line traverses 20 miles of the county in a southerly direction, by Slateford, Currie, Mid-Calder and Harburn.

The roads may be grouped into nine heads - one leading along the coast, by Portobello, to Haddington, Berwick-upon-Tweed, and the E. of England; another, leading to Lauder and Kelso, passes through Dalkeith to Fala, at which point it quits the county, 1½ miles from Edinburgh; a third road passes through Newbattle and Middleton to Selkirk and Carlisle, or, by another route, through Jedburgh to Newcastle-on-Tyne; a fourth passes through Roslin and Pennycuick to Peebles; a fifth passes through Morningside to Biggar and Dumfries; a sixth through the villages of Slateford and Currie to Lanark; a seventh through East-Calder and Whitburn to Glasgow; an eighth through Corstorphine and Kirkliston, whence one branch leads to Bathgate and Glasgow, another to Linlithgow, Falkirk, and Stirling; a ninth road passes through the suburb of Dean to Queen's ferry, 10 miles, where a steam-boat crosses the Forth, continuing the great road to Perth and the N. A number of cross roads intersect the county, affording ready communication with all the villages, and are well repaired.

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


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[Created 02 Jun 2006. Last updated 02 Jun 2006 - 14:59 Gaz3 v1.34c by Rosemary Lockie]