DUMFRIES - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

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

"DUMFRIES, the assize, sessions, and county town of the county of Dumfries, Scotland. It is situated on a slight elevation on the E. bank of the Nith, about 9 miles above its junction with the Solway Firth, 33 miles N.W. of Carlisle, 60 S.E. of Ayr, and some 70 miles distant from Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is the metropolis of the S.W. of Scotland, and is a place of great antiquity, elegance, and importance, being a royal burgh, bonding port, and the seat of a presbytery and of a synod. The town is built of a dark-coloured freestone, and pleases the eye by the picturesque manner in which the houses are located along the river. The suburb of Maxwelltown on the W., or Kirkcudbright side of the river, appears to the eye to be part of Dumfries, and adds to the features of the latter town. Two bridges connect these two towns, but only the more northern, built in 1794, is available for carriages. The older, consisting of six arches, was built in the 13th century. The streets are clean, well paved, and lighted with gas. Among the principal buildings are the county gaol, built in 1807; the county court house, which was originally the tabernacle, built by the Haldanes during their missionary operations in Scotland; the town council chamber, in the middle of the High-street, and surmounted by the mid-steeple, built by Inigo Jones. In the middle of Queensberry-square, in which the weekly market is held, there is a Doric column, erected in 1780, to the memory of Charles Duke of Queensberry. Opposite the council chamber is the trades' hall. There are assembly-rooms and a high school. The Crichton Royal Institution is a large and handsome asylum, founded by the bequest of upwards of £100,000 by the late Dr. Crichton of Friars' Curse. The Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, founded in 1776, and maintained by contributions of various sorts from the counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, and Wigton, is a commodious structure, and has greatly benefited the district. The Commercial Inn, on the S. side of the High-street, was the head-quarters of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in December, 1745, on his retreat from England. The poet Burns died in a house of two stories in Burns-street, in 1796. It was purchased in 1850 by his son, Lieut.Col. William Burns. The remains of the poet repose under a splendid mausoleum, erected in 1815 in the cemetery adjoining the old parish church. That church, dedicated to St. Michael, and surmounted by a lofty spire, was built in 1745, and is situated at the S.E. end of the town. It is the most interesting ecclesiastical structure in Dumfries. The New church, built in 1727, is a fine edifice, surmounted by a spire, and is very conspicuous, as it occupies the northern extremity of the High-street. The quoad sacra parish church of St. Mary's is a fine building, with a spire supported by flying buttresses. Among the other ecclesiastical buildings in the burgh may be mentioned the Episcopalian chapel, the United Presbyterian church in Buccleuch-street, the Free church, and also the Reformed Presbyterian, the Independent, and the Roman Catholic places of worship. There are many social, literary, educational, and religious institutions in the town. There are three weekly newspapers: the Courier, published on Tuesday, the Standard on Wednesday, and the Herald on Friday. Some of the meetings of the Royal Caledonian Hunt are held here, and there are annual races every autumn at Tinwald Downs. The part of Dumfries which extends from Sarkfoot to Kirkandrewsburn was, prior to 1834, greatly improved by the removal of obstructions and the erection of quays at various points, at an expense of about £20,000. Its trade is chiefly coasting, the principal imports being iron, coal, timber, slate, wire, hemp, and tallow, and its exports live stock, wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, wool, and freestone. There are markets every Wednesday and Friday, the former being by far the larger. Great numbers of cattle and pigs are disposed of weekly, and also large quantities of pork from December to May. Large annual fairs for the sale of black cattle are held at Whitsunday and Martinmas, and in October and February for horses. The chief market is held in September, when great numbers of cattle change hands. During the droving season large sales of cattle for England are privately effected. Some 500 horses are disposed of at each of the horse fairs, and at that held in February some 30,000 or 40,000 hare skins are sold. Among the manufactures may be mentioned hats, hosiery, shoes and clogs, or wooden-soled shoes, brewing, tanning, and basket making. The facilities of communication in all directions are great, the Glasgow and South-Western railway affording the chief. Dumfries is a very ancient royal burgh, and is governed by a provost, 3 bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and 19 councillors. The incorporated trades are the hammermen, squaremen, weavers, tailors, shoemakers, skinners, and butchers, who formerly had great influence in the town council. The yearly revenue of the burgh is about £1,400. It unites with Annan, Lochmaben, Sanquhar, and Kirkcudbright in sending a member to parliament, and Maxwelltown is included in its parliamentary boundaries. Besides its quarter sessions, the circuit justiciary court for the southern districts of Scotland is held here, and also the sheriff and small debt courts. Population of the parliamentary burgh in 1851, 13,166; in 1861, 14,024. Dumfries appears to have existed as early as the 8th century. Its name, which signifies in Gaelic a hill covered with brushwood, probably points to its originally having been a fortress occupying the site of the castle which formerly stood at the north end of the High-street. In 1305 Robert Bruce slew, before the altar of the chapel of the monastery of Grey Friars of Dumfries, the Red Comyn, who opposed his claims to the throne, which he afterwards made good by the decisive battle of Bannockburn. The castle was taken by Edward I. after he had dethroned John Baliol, and was twice retaken by Bruce. During the troubles of the 17th and 18th centuries this town shared largely in the disasters which overspread the country. In 1745 the Pretender treated this burgh very severely, in consequence of the citizens having cut off part of his baggage at Lockerby. Dumfries gave, in 1633, the title of Earl in the Scottish peerage to the ancient family of Crichton of Sanquhar. After passing to a member of the family of Dalrymple and son of the first Earl of Stair, it subsequently fell to John Stuart, eldest son of the Marquis of Bute, in which family it still remains, the present proprietor having by royal licence taken the name of Crichton."

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