ARBROATH, Angus - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]

"ARBROATH, (or Aberbrothwick), a parish and market town, royal and parliamentary burgh and seaport, in the county of Forfar, Scotland, 13 miles to the S.E. of Forfar, and 64 miles from Edinburgh by rail. It is a station on the Scottish North Eastern, and the Dundee and Arbroath railways, which here meet. It is situated on the coast of the German Ocean, at the mouth of the small river Brothock, and is shut in on the northwest and east by an amphitheatre of hills. It contains the quoad sacra parishes of Abbey Inverbrothock and Lady Loan. Arbroath is a place of considerable antiquity. It was the seat of an abbey, which was founded a about the year 1178 by William the Lion. The abbey was occupied by monks from Kelso Abbey, and was dedicated to the saint, Thomas a Becket. A charter is still extant of King John of England granting the monks and citizens equal rights of commerce with his own subjects in every part of England, except London and Oxford. Various privileges were conferred by the popes on the abbots of Arbroath Pope Benedict raising the establishment to the rank of a mitred abbey. The town owes its origin to the abbey, and is believed to have been made a royal burgh by the founder of the abbey. As early as the close of the 14th century, the abbots engaged to uphold the pier. By one of them, the now famous Inch Cape Rock, which lies about 12 miles to the S.E. of the town, was deprived of its terror by a bell attached to it, which was rung by the motion of the waters as they flowed over the hidden reef. Southey has made old and young familiar with this bell, by his fine ballad story of Sir Ralph the Rover. It was in this monastery that the Scottish nobles met in 1320, and drew up their remonstrance against the claims of Edward II. to the sovereignty. The building was almost destroyed by the excited mob at the commencement of the Reformation. Cardinal Beaton was its last abbot. It was afterwards granted to the Hamiltons, with the patronage of thirty-four livings, and was purchased subsequently by Patrick Maule, of Panmure. The town, which is irregularly built, comprises 1,914 houses, inhabited in 1861 by 4,443 separate families, constituting a population of 17,591, of whom 2,770 are children under fifteen years of age, entered on the school books. It has one street running northward from the sea, and another crossing it, with smaller streets crossing each of these. But there are also, on the east side of the town, within the abbey lands, two modern streets, regular and elegant in construction. The town-house, which is of stone, and has a Grecian front, is in High-street. Near the townhouse are the new market buildings, a handsome structure of iron and glass. The town has greatly extended in recent times, and is an important key-post of railway traffic. In 1853 the revenue of the custom-house was £13,000. The linen manufacture is carried on in the town; there are twenty-one spinning-mills, and eleven power-loom factories, which give employment to above 3,000 hands. The rise of this manufacture, and the trade consequent on it, dates from about the middle of the last century. There are bleach works, plash and boating mills, ship-building yards, three foundries, a leather manufactory, one of the largest in the kingdom, and two tanneries. The original harbour is small, and protected by a breakwater, but a new one has been recently formed, capable of admitting vessels of larger size. On the pier is a lighthouse twenty-four feet high, which was erected in 1826. Its fixed red light is visible at the distance of eight miles. There were in 1853, 127 vessels, of 16,148 tons belonging to the port, most of which are employed in the coasting trade. The principal exports are linen and cotton manufactures of the town, ores from the mines of Forfarshire, paving-stone, barley, potatoes, fish, &c. The imports are flax, vitriol, hemp, hides, timber, groceries, bones, codilla, potash, manganese, salt, coals, bark. The paving stones exported from Arbroath are celebrated. They are obtained in thin slabs, and cut into oblong pieces of convenient size. About 400,000 square feet are yearly exported. Arbroath is a contributory burgh to Montrose, in sending one representative to parliament. Under the Reform Act, the burgh is governed by a provost, three bailies, and fifteen councillors. It has a revenue of £1,927. There are seven incorporated trades, who have an elegant hall belonging to them. A joint-stock bank was founded here in 1825, and the Bank of Scotland, the Royal, Commercial, and the British Linen Company's Banks, have branches in the town. The public subscription library contains 7000 volumes, and the Mechanics' Institute has a library of 1500 volumes. The High School is conducted by a rector and four professors. Near the pier is a signal tower, erected for the purpose of communication with the Bell Rock. The town is the seat of a presbytery, in the synod of Angus and Mearns. The living, value £220, is in the patronage of the crown, with a stipend of £100 for an assistant minister. The church, which stands near the ruins of the abbey, has a true Gothic steeple, erected about 1832, after a design by Henderson, of Edinburgh; it is 150 feet in height. There are two other churches, the abbey, and Lady Loan churches. The value of the former is £100, and the minister is appointed by the pew-owners; the patronage of the latter is with the heads of families. There are three chapels belonging to the United Presbyterians, four to the Free Church, and one each to the Episcopalians, Independents, Methodists, Roman Catholics, Baptists, and Glassites. The ruins of the fine old abbey are still beautiful and impressive. The chapel, which occupies the south side of the pile, was in the form of a cross, and measured 270 feet in length. Parts of the walls, towers, cloisters, and windows remain, to hint the sublimity of the whole. Much of the carving is still undefaced. The great eastern window is perfect, and at the vertex of the gable over it is a circular opening visible for some distance at sea, and called by seamen the "round 0 of Arbroath." The market is held on Saturday, and fairs on the 31st January, the third Wednesday in June, and the 18th July."

"ABBEY, one of the eleven ecclesiastical sub-divisions of the parish of Arbroath, in Forfarshire, Scotland. The living, value £100, is within the presbytery of Arbroath, and in the gift of the pew-holders. In the year 1178, a Tyronensian mitred abbey was founded here by William the Lion, whose remains were interred here. The estate is now in the family of the Panmures."

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