- LEUCHARS, a parish, in the district of St. Andrew's, county of Fife; containing, with the village of Balmullo, 1901 inhabitants, of whom 592 are in the village of Leuchars, 7½ miles (N. E. by E.) from Cupar. This place appears to have derived its name, signifying in the Gaelic language "a marshy flat," from some low grounds to the east and west of the village, which, previously to the draining of the lands, were covered with water during the greater part of the year. It seems to have been the joint property of the earls of Southesk and the family of the Bruces, of Earlshall; but nothing of its origin prior to that period is known; nor has it been connected at any time with events of historical importance. From the style of the older portions of the parish church, it would appear that it was originally founded at a very early time; but by whom, or under what particular religious establishment, is not clear. There was also an ancient chapel dedicated to St. Bennet, which subsisted till the Reformation; but not a vestige of it is remaining. The parish is situated on the bay of St. Andrew's, and is about nine miles in length and five miles at its greatest breadth; it is bounded on the south by the river Eden, and comprises 12,350 acres, of which 7900 are arable, 3780 meadow and pasture, and about 500 woodland and plantations. The surface towards the bay on the east is an extensive level, but towards the west rises by a gradual acclivity to the height of nearly 300 feet above the level of the sea, constituting a range of hills which separate the parish from the parish of Logie: the principal of these hills, within the parish, are, the Lucklaw, the Airdit, and the Craigfoodie. The Eden receives the waters of the Moultry, which intersects the parish from north to south, and also of the Monzie burn, which falls into the Moultry before the influx of that stream into the Eden.The soil near the sea-shore, which is a dead flat measuring about two miles in breadth, is sandy and comparatively barren, but increases in richness towards the inland parts, where it becomes a deep loam, alternated with extensive beds of strong blue clay. The system of husbandry is in a highly-improved state; and, according to the quality of the soil, a five, six, or eight years' rotation is pursued: the crops are, oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, and turnips, with the usual green crops. The farm houses and offices are substantial and commodious; the lands have been well drained, and inclosed with dykes of stone; and on most of the farms are threshing-mills, of which some are driven by steam. The chief fuel is coal, brought from Newcastle and the Frith of Forth. Great numbers of sheep are fed in the pastures during the summer, and on turnips during the winter; they are of the Leicestershire, Cheviot, and Highland breeds, the last kind generally fattened for the butcher, and the two former kept for breeding. The cattle are of the Teeswater, crossed with the Fifeshire; and the horses mostly of the Clydesdale breed. The plantations are well managed; on the light and sandy soils Scotch fir thrives well, and attains to a stately growth. The substratum is various; to the north-west chiefly whinstone: Lucklaw hill is composed of trap, alternated with greenstone interspersed with veins of calcareous spar and porphyritic felspar; and near the Eden is a stratum of red sandstone, but not sufficiently compact for building purposes. The rateable annual value of the parish is £15,527. The chief mansion-house is Earlshall, a castellated structure of venerable antiquity, part of which is still kept in repair: the walls and roof of the great hall, which is very spacious, are ornamented with heraldic devices, and it displays a fine specimen of baronial grandeur. The grounds are extensive, and embellished with thriving plantations. Pitcullo and Airdit are also castellated mansions, partly fallen into decay. A large number of the working classes are employed in weaving towelling and sheeting for home use, and coarse linens, dowlas, Osnaburghs, and Silesias for the manufacturers of Cupar and Dundee, to be exported to America and the West Indies: 130 looms are constantly in operation. A distillery at Seggie, on the bank of the Eden, for many years previously to 1836 consumed 100 quarters of grain daily, affording employment to about 100 persons. On the Moultry and the Monzie burn are meal and barley mills, driven by those streams; and there are mills in the parish for linseed, oatmeal, and for sawing timber. The village of Leuchars is extensive, and neatly built, and appears to have increased since the conversion of the tract of land called the Tents Moor into farms, and the consequent removal of numerous cottages on it, the occupants of which now reside in the recently-erected houses. It is pleasantly situated, and has a cheerful and healthy appearance; the surrounding scenery, also, is diversified. The inhabitants, who are chiefly employed in weaving, and in the trades requisite for the supply of the parish, have facility of intercourse with the neighbouring market-towns by means of good turnpike-roads, by which the village is intersected. The Eden is navigable for vessels of considerable tonnage to Guardbridge, near the village, where a small harbour has been constructed for the convenience of trade; and at Seggie is a pier for the use of the distillery there. A large number of salmon are taken during the season; and near the mouth of the river are extensive beds of muscles, which are let to tenants who bestow great attention upon the management of them. Two annual fairs for the sale of cattle and pedlery are still held in the village; but they have been for some years declining, and are but thinly attended. Balmullo, consisting chiefly of scattered houses, is pleasantly situated.The parish is in the presbytery of St. Andrew's and synod of Fife, and in the patronage of the Crown The minister's stipend is £238. 11. 10., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £30 per annum, The church, situated in the village, is a highly-interesting structure, and appears to have been erected at different periods, exhibiting beautiful specimens of the ancient and later styles of Norman architecture, with additions of a much more recent character. It consists of three portions, of which that to the east, the most ancient, is of semicircular form, and decorated externally by a range of ten circular arches with zigzag mouldings, supported on double pillars: above is a series of nine similar arches and pillars, surrounding the walls. The interior of this portion of the building is lighted by a tier of three circular-headed windows of corresponding character, inserted in the intervals between the pillars; and above the upper series of arches are corbels grotesquely ornamented, from which spring the ribs of the groined roof. The central portion of the edifice differs from the former chiefly in having a series of pointed arches formed by the intersection of circular arches resting on the alternate columns, and in the higher elevation of the roof, which is not groined; it is lighted by two windows on the south, and one on the north. The western portion is not distinguished by any striking features of architectural embellishment: together with the central part, it has been fitted up as the parish church, and is adapted for a congregation of nearly 900 persons. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church, and in the village of Balmullo is one for a congregation of the Original Secession. The parochial school is under good arrangement: the master has a salary of £34, with £10 fees, and a house and garden; also a glebe of two acres of land, and the interest of 2000 merks Scotch bequeathed by the Rev. A. Henderson. A school for English reading and sewing is supported by the Lindsay family; and a parochial library has been established in the village of Leuchars, which already contains a collection of some hundred volumes of general and religious publications. The poor have the rent of lands in the hands of the Kirk Session amounting to £24. At a short distance from the village is a circular mound once surrounded by a moat, on which the ancient castle of Leuchars was erected, but no vestige of the buildings is remaining; it was a place of great strength, and one of the strongholds of the earls of Fife, but the fortifications were demolished by the English in the fourteenth century. On Craigie hill, an earthen vase containing about a hundred silver coins of Severus, Antoninus, and other Roman emperors, was turned up by the plough in 1808: most of them are now in the possession of the Lindsay family. Pitlethie, in the parish, is believed to have been a royal hunting-seat.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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