Life and Benvie


Life and Benvie
   LIFF and BENVIE, a parish, chiefly in the county of Forfar, but partly in the county of Perth; containing, with the villages of Benvie, Dargie, Invergowrie, Liff, Muirhead, and part of Lochee, and the hamlet of Backmuir, 3980 inhabitants, of whom 136 are in the village of Liff, 5 miles (W. N. W.) from Dundee. The word Liff is a North British or Pictish term signifying "a flood" or "inundation," but the reason of its application to the first-named of these two ancient parishes is not known: the name of Benvie is supposed to be derived from the Celtic term beinn buidhe, "the yellow hill or mount." The parishes were united in November, 1758; but that of Liff, long before this, had received considerable augmentations. The parish of Invergowrie had been annexed to it before the middle of the seventeenth century; and the parish of Logie, including the lands of Balgay and Blackness, had been united to it quoad civilia a short time after that period. The lands of Logie, Balgay, and Blackness, however, containing a large portion of the suburbs of Dundee, have been from time immemorial, and are still, connected quoad spiritualia with Dundee. The present parish is situated at the south-western corner of the county of Forfar, and is bounded on the east partly by Dundee, and on the west and south-west by the parishes of Fowlis Easter and Longforgan, both in Perthshire. The river Tay forms the southern limit; and the Dighty, a small stream, divides the parish from Auchterhouse and Lundie on the north. It measures six miles from east to west, and four from north to south, comprising about 6000 acres, of which nearly 5000 are under cultivation, and the remainder in plantations, except fifty or sixty acres of pasture. The surface rises gently from the Tay for nearly three miles, and attains an elevation of 400 feet, but afterwards declines towards the north. Several rivulets, flowing from the west, water the different lands, and, being joined, at the distance of a mile from the Tay, by a stream running from the east through Lochee, form together the burn of Invergowrie, and, after passing and impelling the flour-mills of Invergowrie, fall into the bay of that name.
   The soil in the lower grounds is either a black loamy earth, or clay, and is much enriched by the facilities afforded to the industrious tenants of obtaining manure from the town of Dundee; on the higher grounds the earth is generally light and sandy, resting upon rock or lime. All kinds of grain are raised; and great attention is also given to green crops, especially turnips and potatoes, of which latter large quantities are usually grown, many of the farmers letting out fields in small allotments for the purpose. The ground is mostly cultivated under the five-shift course; and the tenants are skilful and indefatigable, and farm their lands to the best advantage. Dairy husbandry is much on the increase, and numerous cows are kept, of the Ayrshire breed: the rest of the cattle are the Angus, and the sheep the North Highland, but little attention is paid to the improvement of these. The farm-buildings are in general convenient. The substrata of the parish comprise many varieties: the stratified rocks are red and grey sandstone. Great interest has recently been excited among geologists by the discovery of fossil organic remains in the denes of Balruddery, most of which have been determined, by competent authority, to belong to entirely new species; and in consequence also of various doubts with respect to the precise formation of their beds, a minute investigation is expected to take place. Several quarries of excellent freestone are in operation, particularly at Lochee, where they have long been wrought; and from one of these, a large portion of the material was taken for the construction of Dundee harbour. The yearly value of the whole of the stone raised is estimated at £1800. The plantations are extensive and interesting, and add much to the general beauty of the scenery; they comprise a great variety of trees, some of them, especially about the mansions, of very fine growth, and the whole are in a thriving condition, and produce, by the sale of cuttings, £800 a year. The rateable annual value of the parish is £10,503.
   The House of Gray, the property of the representative of the ancient family from which it is named, is a noble and commanding edifice, built in the manor-house style, with turrets, in the year 1716; and the whole is in very good condition. It is surrounded by a beautiful park of 200 acres, finely ornamented with choice and venerable old trees; and on the estate are valuable plantations. Camperdown, formerly Lundie, House is an elegant modern Grecian structure, embellished on the east with a portico supported by eight massive Ionic columns; it is built of white Killala sandstone. The interior contains a beautiful saloon, lighted by a cupola; and among the ornaments of this splendid mansion is a striking and much-admired painting by Sir John Copley, representing the scene on board the Venerable immediately after the battle of Camperdown, in which De Winter appears as one of the principal characters, delivering up his sword to the British admiral. Adjoining the house is a large mass of wood exhibiting the effigy of a lion, which was the bulkhead of De Winter's ship, Vryheid; and about a quarter of a mile from the house are extensive shrubberies and gardens. The mansion of Invergowrie, lately much enlarged, is delightfully situated on a slope near the Tay, and commands a view of the bay of Invergowrie, of the course of the river, and of the Carse of Gowrie. Balruddery House is a modern edifice, of considerable elegance, and embraces, from its elevated site, fine prospects of the surrounding scenery, including numerous romantic dells of great beauty, and several rich and extensive tracts in the distance.
   The chief village is Lochee, situated partly in the parish of Dundee, and which contains a large population, closely connected in commercial matters and general traffic with the town of Dundee; it is described under its own head, as are the other principal villages. The Kirktown of Liff has about twenty-six families; and there are thirty-five in Birkhill-Feus, a locality recently let out in small allotments for houses, and likely to become a settlement for weavers and others, on account of its situation on the turnpike-road from Dundee to Meigle and Cupar-Angus, between four and five miles distant from the first of these places. Household linen was formerly made to a considerable extent; but the chief manufacture now carried on is the weaving of coarse linen-cloth principally for exportation, in which many young persons of both sexes, as well as adults, are engaged, except during the spring and harvest time, when they obtain agricultural work. It is supposed that, out of the population of Lochee connected with this parish, amounting to 2439, two-thirds, both male and female, are occupied in manufactures, and the remainder consist of mechanics, handicraftsmen, and common labourers. Three spinning-mills have been erected in the village since the year 1825, as well as one at Denmiln; and at Bullion, near Invergowrie, works of some extent have lately been established for bleaching and dyeing yarn and cloth. The turnpike-road from Perth to Dundee passes near the southern limit of the parish, and that from Dundee to Meigle and Cupar-Angus through the eastern portion. The agricultural produce is taken for sale to Dundee, only three miles distant from the boundary; and from the same place, coal and various other necessary articles are procured.
   The parish is ecclesiastically in the presbytery of Dundee and synod of Angus and Mearns, and in the patronage of Lord Gray: the minister's stipend is £268, with a manse, and a glebe of ten acres including the garden, valued at £30 per annum. The church, rebuilt in 1831, is beautifully situated in the park of Lord Gray, who liberally granted to the heritors sufficient ground for the site and precincts: seats are provided for 750 persons. The cost of the building was upwards of £2200, exclusive of the spire, which rises from a bell-tower, at the east end of the structure, to the height of 108 feet from the ground. A church was erected at Lochee about the year 1830, at a cost of £2000; it contains nearly 1200 sittings, of which 100 are free, and the income of the minister is derived from seat-rents and collections. There are also places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Associate Synod. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches; the master has a salary of £34. 4., with a house and about £37 fees. A school in connexion with the late quoad sacra parish of Lochee was established, and premises erected, in 1837, partly by subscription and partly by a government grant, at an expense of nearly £300: the sum of £12. 10. is annually allowed, as a kind of endowment, by the General Assembly's Education committee. There is also a school of industry, under the patronage of the Countess of Camperdown. The remains are still to be seen here of a castle or palace called HurlyHawkin, built by Alexander I., who, having narrowly escaped assassination, founded the church of Scone in gratitude for his deliverance, and made over to it his lands of Liff and Invergowrie. A subterraneous building, with several compartments, was discovered some years since near Camperdown House, and, from the domestic utensils found, and other circumstances, appears to have been inhabited. The walls of the church of Invergowrie, also, are yet standing; it is supposed to be the most ancient place of Christian worship north of the Tay. Among the remaining antiquities is a Druidical temple consisting of nine large stones; and a place on the borders of the parish, to the east, called Pitalpie, "Pit of Alpine," is supposed to have been the scene of an engagement in the 9th century, between the Picts and Scots, in which the latter were vanquished, and Alpine their king, with many nobles, slain. Not far distant is a stone designated the King's cross, where it is said the royal standard was planted during the battle. Near the village of Benvie is a strong chalybeate spring, formerly in great repute. The late Professor Playfair, of Edinburgh, was born at Benvie on the 10th of March, 1748; and Admiral Viscount Duncan resided occasionally at Camperdown, his family seat. The ingenious William Playfair, brother of the professor, was also a native of the parish.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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