Liberton


Liberton
   LIBERTON, a parish, in the county of Edinburgh, 2 miles (S. S. E.) from Edinburgh; containing, with the village of Morton, part of New Craighall, and the late quoad sacra parish of Gilmerton, 3450 inhabitants. This place, supposed to have been originally called Lepers' town, from an ancient hospital for lepers, of which the memorial is retained in the name of the lands near the site, is of considerable antiquity, and has been long celebrated for the beautiful remains of the castle of Craigmillar, which render it a favourite resort of the inhabitants of Edinburgh. At what time, or by whom, the castle was originally founded is not precisely known, but it was for more than three centuries, previously to its coming into the possession of the Gilmour family, the present owners, the baronial seat of the Prestons of Preston, whose armorial bearings appear on the walls. During the reign of James III., John, Earl of Mar, the younger brother of that monarch, was for some time detained in confinement in the castle, which was subsequently the residence of James V., when in his minority, while a contagious disease was prevalent at Edinburgh. The castle sustained considerable damage in 1543, and also in 1547, from the English, by whom it was partly demolished. It was soon restored, however, and, after her return from France, became a residence of Mary, Queen of Scots, whose retinue of French attendants lived in a small village situated at the base of the castle hill, and which, from that circumstance, obtained the appellation of "Little France." In 1566, after the murder of David Rizzio, a conference took place here between the Earls of Huntly, Argyll, and others, having for its object the procuring of a divorce between the queen and Darnley, which her majesty refused to sanction; and the castle was subsequently the scene of various historical events. The remains of this once stately edifice are situated on the summit of a rock rising, almost perpendicularly on the south, to the height of 360 feet above the level of the sea. They were once defended by an outer wall with a deep fosse; and within the line of this is still an embattled wall with circular towers on the east, built in 1427, and inclosing the court, into which is an entrance on the north. The ascent to the castle is by a flight of steps, leading into the ancient hall, which is yet entire; and there are several other apartments in good preservation, of which one, of very small dimensions, is said to have been the queen's bed-chamber. On the east is the ancient chapel, now in ruins, and used as a stable; the family chapel built by Sir John Gilmour is also a ruin. The grounds have been lately planted.
   The parish, which extends from the eastern confines of the Pentland hills nearly to the Frith of Forth, and from the vicinity of Edinburgh to within a mile of Dalkeith, is about seven miles in length and three in mean breadth, comprising an area of rather more than 4700 acres, of which almost 4000 are arable, 370 meadow and pasture, and the remainder woodland and plantations. The surface is boldly undulated, attaining in some parts a considerable elevation, and commanding views over a wide extent of richly-fertile and highly-cultivated country, with many interesting features, and much romantic scenery. The view from Craigmillar Castle embraces the city of Edinburgh, the Pentland, Braid, and Blackford hills, the Frith of Forth, the coasts of Fife and East Lothian, and various other objects. The soil in the lower districts is a rich loam; in the higher lands, a thin but retentive clay; and on the confines of the Pentland hills, a dry gravel. The crops are, wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips. The system of agriculture is in the highest state of improvement; the lands have been well drained, and, from the abundance of excellent limestone found in the parish, have been rendered extremely fertile. The lands are, however, but partially inclosed; and the farm-buildings are still in a very imperfect condition, though efforts for their improvement are now in progress. A considerable portion of land is laid out in gardens, and great quantities of fruit and vegetables are raised for the supply of the Edinburgh market: a sycamore-tree at Niddrie measures nineteen feet in circumference, and one at Morton Hall fourteen feet; and at Moredun, Drum, and Inch are also many fine trees. The horses bred are of a rather superior kind, and several of them have gained the prizes awarded by the Highland Society. One reared by Mr. Law, of Morton, and which gained the prize at the Glasgow meeting, 1838, is thought to be the finest horse ever bred in this part of the kingdom: another, reared by Mr. Jamieson, of Straiton, obtained a premium at the same meeting.
   The substrata of the parish are chiefly coal and limestone. The former, consituting part of the coalfield of Mid Lothian, was extensively wrought for many years at Burdiehouse, and also at Gilmerton; but the works at the latter place have been suspended, partly from the expiration of the lease, but chiefly from the abundant supply brought to Edinburgh at a more moderate cost. A vein of ironstone has, however, been recently discovered at Gilmerton, the working of which may probably tend to increase the population of that village to the same extent as the discontinuance of the colliery has diminished it. The limestone is of excellent quality and very pure, containing about ninety-five per cent of carbonate of lime; there are quarries at Burdiehouse and Gilmerton, both in extensive operation. The stone of the former occurs in a seam twenty-seven feet in thickness, of a deep blue colour on the upper surface, and of a light grey beneath; and contains numerous shells, some perfect impressions of different plants, small fishes, and other remains. The stone of the latter, about nine feet in thickness, contains various organic remains, which are exclusively marine. On the north side of the castle hill at Craigmillar was an excellent quarry of freestone, from which materials were raised for the erection of the Regent's-bridge, George-square, and many of the streets in the southern district of the city of Edinburgh, the barracks at Piershill, and other buildings. The rateable annual value of the parish is £23,715. Inch House, the seat of Walter Little Gilmour, Esq., is an ancient spacious mansion erected prior to the year 1617, and is beautifully situated in an extensive demesne enriched with wood, and commanding some fine views. Morton Hall, the seat of Richard Trotter, Esq., erected in 1769, and improved by the present proprietor, is a handsome mansion in a demesne tastefully embellished with thriving plantations. The house of Drum, the residence of Miss Innes, is also handsome; it was erected by Lord Somerville. Moredun, the seat of David Anderson, Esq., built by Sir James Stewart; Brunstane, erected in 1639, by Lord Lauderdale; and the houses of Southfield, Sunnyside, St. Catherine's, and Mount-Vernon are all beautifully situated. The chief village is Gilmerton, which contains 548 inhabitants. There is a branch office here, connected with the Edinburgh post-office; and facility of communication is maintained by the Musselburgh, Dalkeith, Dumfries, and London roads, which intersect the parish; and also by the Edinburgh and Dalkeith railway.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Edinburgh and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The minister's stipend is £326. 14. 7., including £10 prebendal fees; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum; patron, the Crown. The church, erected in 1815, is a handsome structure with a lofty embattled tower, forming an interesting object in the landscape, and contains 1430 sittings, all of which are free. A church, to which a quoad sacra parish was till lately annexed, was erected at Gilmerton in 1837; and this is now a preachingstation, supplied regularly by a minister of the Establishment, who receives an annual salary of £80, raised by subscription and collections. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship and a school. The parochial school is attended by about eighty children; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average £45 per annum. There are schools also at Gilmerton, Burdiehouse, and Niddrie, the teachers of which have each an endowment by the resident proprietors, in addition to the fees; and at Kames is a girls' school, established and supported by Mrs. Trotter. To most of the schools are attached libraries for the use of the children. There are some slight remains of the ancient chapel of Niddrie, formerly a distinct parish; it was founded in 1387, by Robert Wauchop, of Niddrie-Marshall, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and made subordinate to the abbey of Holyrood. Its burial-ground is still used. The ancient chapel and burying-ground of St. Catherine have long since disappeared. Near their site is a mineral well, the water of which has been found efficacious in the healing of cutaneous disease: a black oily substance constantly floats on the surface of the water. This well was inclosed by James VI., who visited it in 1617; but it was destroyed and filled up by Cromwell's soldiers in 1650: it has, however, been restored, and is now in good preservation. In the vicinity of Morton Hall are several tumuli; and to the west is the hill of Galachlaw, on which Cromwell encamped his army of 16,000 men previously to the battle of Dunbar. At Gilmerton is an artificial cavern of several apartments, excavated in the solid rock in 1724, by an eccentric individual who lived there with his family till 1735, and carried on the trade of a blacksmith. On the lawn in front of the house of Drum are the remains of the ancient market-cross of Edinburgh, placed there in 1756 by the Somerville family.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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