A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1851), Samuel Lewis


TARVES, a parish, in the county of Aberdeen, 17 miles (N. N. W.) from Aberdeen; containing 2397 inhabitants. The level appearance and the fertility of this place are supposed to have led to the adoption of its name, derived from two Gaelic words. At a remote period the parish was made a regality, of which the abbots of Arbroath were superiors; and in the year 1299 one of the abbots, by virtue of his office, claimed a culprit from the king's justiciary at Aberdeen. About the time of the Reformation, the regality passed to James Gordon of Haddo, ancestor of the Earl of Aberdeen. One of the earl's titles is Baron Haddo, Methlic, Tarves, and Kellie; and he takes the title of Viscount Formartine from the district of that name, in which this parish is wholly situated, with the exception of a small portion in the district of Buchan. Tarves is about eleven miles and a half in extreme length, and six and a half at its greatest breadth, comprising about 12,000 acres, of which nearly 11,000 are arable and good pasture, 1000 woodland, and the remainder moss and moor. Its surface, though distinguished chiefly by several extensive levels, is diversified and ornamented with some pleasing undulations, slopes, and acclivities of moderate elevation; and the lower grounds are watered by numerous rivulets, carrying off the drainage, and emptying themselves into the river Ythan. This stream divides the parish into two portions, about seven-eighths of the whole being situated on the southern side.

The SOIL varies considerably. That which is most general is a good fertile loam, of brown hue, resting on a stony clay, and sometimes broken through by the crags of the substratum. The neighbourhood of the streams is covered with alluvial mould, and in other parts a tenacious earth is found interspersed with patches of peat moss. The crops usually raised are barley, oats, bear, turnips, potatoes, and cultivated grasses. Of these, the potatoes are grown only in small quantities for home consumption. Turnip husbandry is practised to a considerable extent, and with much success, the drill system being universally employed, and the first manure being farm-yard dung, followed by bone-dust. The grain is of excellent quality, and the crops heavy; while the pastures, covered with white clover spontaneously produced, are rich and prolific. The shipping of cattle from Aberdeen for the Smithfield market has of late years been practised to a considerable extent by the farmers of the parish. Mr. Hay, of Shethin farm, one of the finest farms in the parish, is the most extensive shipper of cattle in Britain. The long-horned Aberdeenshire cattle, formerly kept here, gave place to the polled Buchan, which were latterly crossed by importations from Galloway: a great proportion of the cattle are now crossed by the Teeswater breed. Agriculture throughout the parish has undergone a total change since the latter part of the last century. The lower grounds, where the stagnant waters rendered the operations of the plough impracticable, have been drained, and the higher parts cleaned, well prepared for the various sowings, and preserved by good inclosures. The quantity of arable land has been more than doubled: the produce has increased in a ten-fold degree; and the scythe, having been found far more economical, is used instead of the sickle for cutting the grain, which is usually threshed by the farmers at mills erected on their own premises. On most of the lands the farm houses and offices have lately been rebuilt with stone and lime. Stone and lime have been also extensively used in agricultural improvement; the stone, which is abundant in the parish, in the construction of numerous fences; and the lime, which is imported in large quantities, as a stimulant for the land. The rocks consist chiefly of granite and gneiss in alternate beds, sometimes found at a great depth, and at other places rising above the surface; besides which there is a range of mountain limestone in the eastern quarter. Formerly the lands were interspersed with massive blocks of blue sienite, which for a long period harassed the husbandman; but by skill and much labour and perseverance, these have been gradually, and nearly all, removed. The annual value of real property in the parish is £7610. Schivas a mansion situated on the north side of the Ythan, was built about two centuries since, and is ornamented with several fine beech-trees, and a large and beautiful planetree, planted, according to tradition, by a daughter of the Gray family. The Grays were Roman Catholics, and the present dining-room of the house was their private chapel; it still exhibits a cross, in a recess where the altar once stood, with the inscription I. H. S. Jesus hominum salvator, and there is also a niche in which the eucharistal elements and the holy water were kept. The estate of Schivas was purchased a few years ago by the Earl of Aberdeen, who is now proprietor of the whole parish. Good turnpike-roads run from Tarves to Aberdeen, and the sea-port of Newburgh ten miles distant; at both which places a market is found for the farm produce. From the latter, supplies of English lime are brought up the river Ythan, in lighters, to a place called Waterton, six miles from Tarves; and, on account of the good condition of the parish roads, the lime is easily sent in every direction. There are six ancient markets, or fairs, for horses, cattle, and grain.

Ecclesiastically this place is in the presbytery of Ellon, synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of the Earl of Aberdeen: the minister's stipend is £192, of whic about £30 are received from the heritors by a privat agreement; with a manse, and a glebe of four acres valued at about £10. 10. per annum. Tarves church wa built in 179B, and repaired and improved about 1823; it is a spacious and comfortable edifice, capable of accommodating 870 persons with sittings. There is a place of worship for dissenters at Craigdam. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches; the master has a salary of £28, with a house and garden £23 fees, and an allowance of about £35 from t Dick bequest. A school is supported at Craigdam by the bequest of a person named Barron, whose legacy of £600 produces £18 per annum, as a salary to the maste and the Earl of Aberdeen allows a house and a piece of land to the master of a school at Barthol chapel. In this parish the chief antiquity is the castle of Tolquhon, the seat of the ancient family of Forbes, built about 1589, and now a ruin. It is a quadrangular structure, inclosing a spacious area, and entered by an arched gateway defended by two towers with loop-holes for the discharge of arrows. The castle is nearly shrouded in wood, among which are some very fine old yews.

[From Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1851) - copyright Mel Lockie 2016]