- MELDRUM, a burgh of barony and a parish, in the district of Garioch, county of Aberdeen; containing 1873 inhabitants, of whom 1102 are in the burgh, 17 miles (S. S. E.) from Turriff, and 17¾ (N. N. W.) from Aberdeen. This place, anciently called Bethelnie, is supposed to have derived that appellation, signifying in the Hebrew language "the House of God," from the erection of a church at a very early period, and which at that time was the only religious edifice within a very extensive district. Its modern name, which is of Celtic origin, implying "the ridge of a hill," appears obviously to have been derived from the general acclivity of the surface, which towards its northern extremity attains a very considerable degree of elevation. The town, situated on the turnpike-road from Aberdeen to Banff, consists of several irregularly-formed streets; the houses are mostly well built, and many of them of handsome appearance. The cotton manufacture is pursued to some extent, there being two establishments belonging to the manufacturers of Aberdeen, in which a considerable number of persons of both sexes are employed in hand-loom weaving, under the superintendence of agents residing in the town. The knitting of worsted stockings also affords occupation to many of the females, and there are a distillery and a brewery; the different handicraft trades requisite for the supply of the neighbourhood are carried on here, and there are shops for the sale of various wares. The town was erected into a burgh of barony by charter of Charles II., in 1672, in favour of James Urquhart, Esq., and continued for some time to be governed by two baronbailies nominated by the superior; but there is at present neither any public magistrate nor any regular police. The town-hall is a handsome building surmounted with a spire. The market, which is abundantly supplied with provisions of every kind, is on Saturday: a market for cattle and grain is held every alternate week during the winter and spring; and there are fairs for hiring farm-servants in May and November. The post-office has four deliveries daily; and facility of communication is afforded by the turnpikeroad from Aberdeen and Banff, which passes through the town, and for five miles through the parish.The parish is about seven miles and a half in extreme length, varying in breadth from two to five miles, and comprises an area of 7474 acres, of which 5774 are arable, 500 woodland and plantations, and the remainder moor and waste. The surface is diversified with hills of no great elevation, of which a range extends across the parish from the north to the north-west: several small rivulets, which have their source within it, flow in various directions, and give motion to some corn-mills. The soil in the southern portion of the lands is a strong rich loam, superincumbent on a bed of clay, and in the northern parts of a thinner and lighter quality. The crops are, oats, bear, and a small proportion of wheat, with potatoes and turnips. The system of husbandry is improved; the lands have been drained, and inclosed partly with stone dykes and partly with fences of thorn. The farm-buildings are substantial and commodious, and well adapted to the extent of the farms; and such has been the progress of improvement that the prize of the Aberdeenshire Agricultural Society, for the best cultivated farm in the county, was awarded to the tenant of Bethelnie, in this parish. The cattle reared in the pastures are of the Old Aberdeenshire breed, with a few of the Teeswater; the sheep are of the South-Down, Leicestershire, and the native breeds. The plantations are chiefly ash, elm, oak, plane, beech, and the various kinds of fir, all of which are in a thriving state. The substrata are mostly whinstone, limestone, and hornblende-rock, of which last detached masses are occasionally found, the limestone was formerly wrought, but the workings have been discontinued. The rateable annual value of the parish is £4999. Meldrum House, the seat of B. C. Urquhart, Esq., superior of the burgh, is a spacious and elegant mansion completed in 1840, and beautifully situated in a demesne enriched with ancient timber and with thriving plantations of modern growth.The ecclesiastical affairs of Meldrum are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Garioch and synod of Aberdeen. The minister's stipend is £223. 19. 10., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £28 per annum; patron, Mr. Urquhart. The church, an ancient structure erected in 1684, and repaired and reseated in 1810, is centrically situated, and contains 700 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and United Secession, and an episcopal chapel. The parochial school is well attended: the master has a salary of £28, with an allowance of £6 in lieu of a dwelling-house, and the fees average about £14 per annum; he has also the interest of a bequest of £200 for the gratuitous instruction of poor children. On the lands of Bethelnie were some vestiges of a Roman camp, which have recently been levelled by the plough; and on the site of the original church is a burial-ground, in which is the sepulchral vault of the Meldrum family. There are some remains of an ancient chapel on the farm thence called Chapelhouse, with a well inclosed by masonry, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Near it was found within the last few years a rudely-formed stone coffin containing an urn, with a human skull and some bones; and on the same farm were also discovered two similar urns, placed under a kind of pavement.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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