WEST LOTHIAN, Scotland - History and Description, 1868


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

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

"LINLITHGOW, (or West Lothian), a small county in Scotland. It is of a very irregular figure, lying on the S. shore of the Frith of Forth, having the county of Edinburgh on the E. and S.E., the county of Lanark on the S.W., and the county of Stirling on the W. Its extent from N. to S. is 20 miles, and from E. to W. 15 miles, its area being 112 square miles, or 71,680 statute acres. Its surface is partly flat and partly hilly. The most remarkable eminences form a range running obliquely across the middle of the county. The central and western parts have the most hilly ground, while on the E. and S. the land is mostly level.

With the exception of Cairnmaple, in the parishes of Torphichen and Bathgate, which rises 1,498 feet above the level of the sea, the mountains of this district are not of great altitude, nor are they numerous. Cocklerue and Binny Craig are the only other eminences that attract notice, being about 500 feet high. The Almond (or Amond) is the only river of consequence, but there are a number of considerable burns, and the Forth yields advantages which amply compensate for deficiency of river navigation. The Almond rises in the high grounds of Lanark, and pursuing a N.E. course, falls into the sea at Cramond. There is a considerable lake on the boundary between Kirkleston and Dalmeny, also Lochcoat in Torphichen, and Linlithgow Loch in the parish of Linlithgow.

There are medicinal springs in the parishes of Linlithgow, Barrowstounness, and Torphichen. The climate is in general temperate, the extremes of heat and cold being rarely experienced - the S.W. is the wind which most prevails. The county contains a store of minerals of the most useful kind. Coal has been worked here since the reign of Alexander III., and the present annual produce amounts to many thousand tons. Limestone is abundant, and in some parts ironstone is found in profusion. The whole surface seems to rest upon a bed of sandstone of the finest quality. Silver was formerly worked at Linlithgow and Bathgate, and there is plenty of marl, potters' clay, brick clay, and red chalk.

Many places in the county present volcanic appearances, particularly at Dundas Hill, in the parish of Dalmeny, where there is a bold front of basaltic rock, exhibiting in some instances columns of that character. The soil of the county is clayey, with loam and sand and plenty of shell marl. The average size of the farms is from 70 to 200 acres; some, however, run to 300 acres, while others do not attain 50 acres. The farms generally are let at 19 years lease, and the farmsteads on the whole are in a very creditable condition.

Until the year 1723 there was little improvement in the agriculture of the district. Soon after this period John Earl of Stair introduced new and advantageous modes of husbandry, and commenced the cultivation of the cabbage, carrot, and turnip by the plough. The example of this nobleman was beneficially followed by Charles Earl of Hopetoun, but both dying in 1740, before their plans were matured, thirty years elapsed before the agricultural spirit was again actively displayed.

In more recent times some practical farmers, possessing the advantages of skill and capital, have brought the cultivation of the shire to comparative perfection. According to a recent return the estimated gross produce of the chief crops was 89,775 bushels of wheat, 180,323 bushels of barley, 470,256 bushels of oats, 168 bushels of bere, 50,707 bushels of beans, 73,336 tons of turnips, and 6,532 tons of potatoes. The following comprised the live stock of the county: 3,223 horses, 3,489 milch cows, 1,932 calves, 6,563 other bovine cattle, 14,239 sheep, and 2,093 swine. The old valued rent of the county was £6,237. The valuation for 1860-1 (exclusive of railways and canals, and without deductions) was £149,994.

Linlithgow, although rich in minerals, has but very few manufactures. The inhabitants are for the most part employed in agriculture, and in the working of coal, iron, freestone, &c. Three principal roads intersect the county, connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow. The following lines of railway run through the county: the Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Bathgate branch, and the Monkland system of railway. It is also traversed by the Union canal. There are two royal burghs - Linlithgow and Queensferry, the latter being a seaport, as are also Borrowstounness and Blackness. The county sends one member to parliament, and the county town is Linlithgow, which is 17 miles W. of Edinburgh.

The sheriff and commissary courts are held at Linlithgow every Tuesday and Friday during session. The sheriff small-debt ordinary court is held at Linlithgow every Friday. The sheriff small-debt circuit court is held at Bathgate on the third Wednesdays of January, April, July, and October; the justice of peace small-debt court on the first and third Tuesday of every month. Quarter sessions are held on the first Tuesday of May, first Tuesday of August, last Tuesday of October, and first Tuesday of March. Population in 1851, 30,135; in 1861, 38,645.

The county contains twelve whole parishes, and part of two other parishes; of these, one of the parts is in the presbytery of Edinburgh, but the other part, together with the whole parishes, are in the presbytery of Linlithgow. The synod of Linlithgow includes the whole county. There are places of worship in the county belonging to the Established Church, Free Church, United Presbyterians, Original Secession, Evangelical Union, and Mormonites. Linlithgow was the seat of the Gadeni in the Roman Valentia, and was part of Northumbria until 1020. In the reign of David I. it was separated into a sheriffdom; it was placed by Robert, however, under the administration of a constable, and so continued until the time of James IV.

The oldest family in the shire is that of Dundas of Dundas; who can trace an unbroken line of descent and residence on the same spot up to the reign of William the Lion, 1165. The extinct peerages of the county are Livingstone and Linlithgow, and the existing ones are Abercorn, Hopetoun, and Torphichen. The chief seats are Kinnel House, a seat of the Duke of Hamilton; Hopetoun House, of the Earl of Hopetoun; Dalmeny Park, of the Earl of Roseberry; Kirkhill and Amondell, of the Earl of Buchan; and Binnshouse, of Sir W. Dalzell, Bart.

There are pillar stones at Bathgate, Abercorn, and Catstane; also a Druid circle, cromlech, camp, and cairn, are visible at Torphichen, together with an ancient tower, church, and remains of the head Scottish preceptory of the Templars. There are cairns at Lochcoat and Kirkliston, a camp at Binnshill, ancient churches at Dalmeny and Kirkliston; castle ruins at Barnbougle, Niddry, Tartreven, and Mancerston, and Linlithgow Palace, where Queen Mary was born. Colonel Gardner was a native of Carriden, and Walter Stuart (Bruce's son-in-law) died at Bathgate."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcription ©2003]