Lochmaben


Lochmaben
   LOCHMABEN, a royal burgh, the seat of a presbytery, and a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 8½ miles (E.N.E.) from Dumfries, and 68 (S. by W.) from Edinburgh, containing, with the hamlets of Greenhill, Heck, and Smallholm, and the villages of Hightae and Templand, 2809 inhabitants, of whom 1289 are in the burgh, which contains also forty-one persons in the adjoining parishes of Tinwald and Torthorwald. This place, which is supposed to have derived its name from the numerous lakes in the parish, is of very remote antiquity, and at an early period formed part of the possessions of the ancient lords of Annandale, whose baronial castle was on an eminence close to the town, called Castle hill, and surrounded by a deep moat and fosse. The castle thus situated continued to be the residence of the Bruces, lords of Annandale, till the end of the thirteenth century, and was the birthplace of Robert Bruce, subsequently King of Scotland, who, after his accession to the throne, erected a much larger fortress on a peninsula south-east of Castle Loch, and in the completion of which the stones of the former castle were used. This second castle was by far the largest and the strongest of the border fortresses, and, including the outworks, occupied an area of sixteen acres in extent. It consisted of three courts, inclosed with massive walls twelve feet thick, and was surrounded by a triple fosse, in which was a spacious basin defended by walls of hewn stone, affording to the boats belonging to the garrison and the town secure shelter, either from the weather, or the attacks of any enemy.
   
   The town, which had arisen near the site of the castle, is supposed to have been first erected into a royal burgh by Robert Bruce, soon after his elevation to the throne; but, from the frequent inroads of the English, by whom the town was often plundered and burnt during the border warfare, all its ancient records were either lost or destroyed. In 1463, the Earl of Warwick plundered and burnt the town; and in 1479, the Duke of Albany, at that time Lord of Annandale, being accused of treason, was publicly cited at the castle of Lochmaben, and at the market-cross of the burgh, to appear and answer to the charge. In 1592, a sanguinary feud took place between the Maxwells of Nithsdale and the Johnstones of Annandale, in which the former were defeated with great slaughter: a number of the Maxwells, in their flight from the field of battle, sought refuge in the church of Lochmaben, which the Johnstones on that occasion burnt to the ground. The castle, which had been annexed to the crown in 1487, was maintained as one of the strongest frontier garrisons, under the superintendence of the lords of Annandale, till the union of the English and Scottish crowns in the reign of James VI., after which time it was suffered to fall into decay. The only remains now are the shapeless walls, from the surface of which the hewn stone has been taken for building materials, leaving only the internal rubble, which is firmly cemented into a solid mass. In 1612, James VI. granted to the inhabitants a charter embodying all the privileges they had previously enjoyed under the charters that had been destroyed; and in the same year, that monarch bestowed the barony of Lochmaben, with the tithes and advowson of the church, upon John Murray, whom in 1625 he created Earl of Annandale and Lord of Lochmaben, and whose descendant, the Earl of Mansfield, is the present proprietor.
   The town is situated between the Castle loch, on the south, and the Kirk loch on the south-west, and consists chiefly of one spacious street, in which are the church, the town-house, and the market-cross, and of a street extending nearly at right angles with it, on the road that leads to Dumfries. A public library is supported by subscription, and contains a valuable and well-assorted collection of literary and historical volumes. Neither any manufacture nor trade is carried on, with the exception of a few stocking-looms; there are three good inns, and some shops for the supply of the neighbourhood, but so little traffic takes place that the town has all the appearance of a large rural village. The government is vested in a provost, three bailies, a dean of guild, and ten councillors: there are several incorporated guilds, into which the fees of admission are, for strangers £1. 10., and for sons of burgesses 10s. 6d.; but they are very little regarded. The jurisdiction of the magistrates, comprehending that of royal burghs, is exercised chiefly by the provost, who ex officio is justice of the peace for the county; and the burgh is associated with those of Dumfries, Annan, Kirkcudbright, and Sanquhar, in returning a member to the imperial parliament; the number of qualified voters being forty-eight. The town-hall, erected in 1745, is a good building with a tower and spire; and underneath it is what was once the gaol, consisting of two rooms, one for debtors, and one for criminals. In front of the town-hall is an arched weigh-house for the use of the market, as well as a market-cross. A market is held every alternate week during the winter for the sale of pork; all other produce is sent to the markets of Annan or Dumfries. There is neither river nor canal navigation; the chief medium of communication is by the road to Dumfries. It is expected, however, that a railway in contemplation, to connect Scotland with England, will pass not far from the parish. The post-office in the town has a tolerable delivery.
   The parish, which is bounded on the east by the river Annan, and on the north and north-west by the water of Ae, is about ten miles in length and three in breadth, comprising an area of 10,750 acres, of which 5500 are arable, ninety woodland and plantations, and the remainder, with the exception of 400 acres of waste, good meadow and pasture. The surface is generally level, with a considerable ascent towards the west, and is diversified by numerous lakes, of which the most considerable are, the Castle loch, 200 acres in extent; the Broomhill loch, eighty acres; the Mill loch, seventy; the Kirk loch, sixty; and the Hightae loch, fifty-two acres in extent. Their average depth is about fifty feet; the water is peculiarly soft, and they all abound with various kinds of fish, among which are, pike, perch, two species of trout, one weighing from two to five pounds each, and the other from twelve to fourteen pounds, roach, chub, eels, loach, and minnow. In the Castle loch are found also bream, the greenback, and a sort called the vendace, resembling a small herring, but of more delicate flavour, and which is not found in any other water in Scotland. The vendace is remarkable for a thin membrane on the top of the head, in the form of a heart, of a brownish hue, and perfectly transparent, under which the brain is distinctly visible; it is from four to six inches in length, of a bright silvery colour, inclining to blue, along the back, and dies immediately on its being taken out of the water. The chief rivers are, the Annan; the water of Ae, which, after washing the north-western part of the parish, unites with the Kinnel, and flows into the Annan; and the Dryfe, which separates a portion of the parish from that of Dryfesdale, and runs into the Annan at Halleaths. The Castle loch, being free from the currents that occur in rivers and estuaries, is peculiarly adapted for aquatic sports; and accordingly, in the year 1843, a regatta club was formed, which has been attended with considerable success, the novelty of such races in the interior, and the beautiful wood and water scenery around the town, attracting strangers from all parts of the county. A vendace club, also, meets annually at Lochmaben in July or August, and is supported by the chief gentlemen of the district.
   The soil along the banks of the rivers is a rich alluvial loam, producing luxuriant crops of every kind, and in many parts nine feet in depth; to the westward, or in the upland portion, it is light, gravelly, and cold. The only uncultivated portions are some tracts of peat-moss, which afford fuel for the inhabitants. The system of agriculture has been gradually advancing, and all the more recent improvements in husbandry have been adopted; the lands have been drained and inclosed; bone-dust has been introduced for manure, and the farm-buildings and offices are now generally substantial. The dairy-farms are well managed, and great attention is paid to the rearing of live-stock. The cattle are of the Galloway breed, except on the dairy-farms, where the cows are chiefly of the Ayrshire; they are usually sold to dealers when two years old, and fattened in the English pastures for the London market, where they obtain a ready sale. A considerable number of horses are reared in the parish; they are of good size, and by many judges are preferred to the Clydesdale breed. Great numbers of swine are also fed on the different farms, and almost every cottager feeds a couple of pigs. Few sheep are bred; such as are reared are fed chiefly on turnips. The plantations, which are mostly on the demesnes of the resident landed proprietors, consist of oak, ash, plane, and horse-chesnut, of which there are many stately specimens. The substrata are principally red sandstone and whinstone; the sandstone occurs in thin layers easily separated, and is quarried for the roofing of farm-buildings. The rateable annual value of the parish is £7708.
   The residences are, Elshieshields, a handsome castellated mansion; Halleaths; and Newmains. Besides the burgh, there are several villages in the parish, of which the principal are, Hightae, containing 436, Greenhill eighty-nine, Smallholm eighty-two, and Heck fifty-seven, inhabitants. The lands attached to these were portioned out by Robert Bruce to his retainers, whose descendants hold them by Udal tenure, under the Murrays, against whose encroachments on their privileges they have frequently appealed to the sovereign, and obtained redress. These lands, which are called the "Barony of the Four Towns of Lochmaben," are transferable by any of the possessors under a simple deed of conveyance, enrolled in the rent-book of the lord without fee or reward. A large tract of common in which the tenants of the barony had also an interest, with the inhabitants of the burgh, was by mutual agreement divided many years since; and several portions have been purchased by different proprietors, and greatly improved. The largest portion was purchased by Mr. Bell, of Rammerscales. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Lochmaben and synod of Dumfries. The minister's stipend is £264. 19. 2., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum; patron, the Earl of Mansfield. The church, which is at the south extremity of the burgh, is a handsome and substantial structure, erected in 1819, at a cost of £3000, and contains 1200 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, Burghers, and Cameronians. The parochial school, situated in the burgh, is well attended: the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees, averaging about £25; also the interest of a bequest of £200 by Mr. Richardson, of Hightae, for teaching ten poor children gratuitously, There is likewise a school at Hightae, of which the master has a salary of £17. 2. 2., with a house and garden, and fees averaging £21; he also receives the interest of £150 bequeathed by Mr. Richardson. Other schools in the parish are supported exclusively by the fees. There are some remains of Roman encampments, and part of the Roman road to Bodotria may be traced. Rochall Mount, situated on the side of a ridge of hills which overhangs the castle, and supposed to have been anciently a station for administering justice, and also a beacon for signals in times of danger, is perfectly circular at the base, and terminates in a sharp point. On the north of the parish are the remains of Spedlin's Tower, once the residence of the Jardines, of Applegarth; it is a massive quadrangular structure with circular turrets at the angles. The walls are of immense thickness; the entrance is on the north side; and over the circular gateway, near the summit of the tower, is the date 1605, thought to be the time when it was last repaired. In the Castle loch, ancient relics have been found at various times, spear heads, pieces of armour, and a gold ring without inscription; and in a tract of moss near the town, several silver groats of Alexander I. of Scotland and Edward I. of England, and other coins, have been discovered.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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