Musselburgh


Musselburgh
   MUSSELBURGH, a burgh of regality, in the parish of Inveresk, county of Edinburgh, 6 miles (E.) from Edinburgh; containing, with the suburb Fisherrow, which is noticed under the head of Northesk, 6331 inhabitants. This place, which is of great antiquity, is supposed to have derived its name, in ancient documents Muskilburgh and Muschelburgh, from an extensive muscle-bank near the mouth of the river Esk. Under the appellation of Eskmuthe it became, after the departure of the Romans, the seat of the Northumbrian Saxons, and in the 12th century was bestowed by David I. upon the abbey of Dunfermline. In 1201, the barons of Scotland assembled at this place to swear allegiance to the infant son of William the Lion, afterwards Alexander II., who, in 1239, granted additional powers to the abbots of Dunfermline, under which the town had all the privileges of a burgh of regality. About a century afterwards, Randolph, Earl of Murray, Regent of Scotland, returning from the frontier of Berwickshire to defend Edinburgh from an expected invasion by the English, was surprised by sudden indisposition on the confines of this parish, in which emergency the magistrates of Musselburgh removed him on a litter to a house in the east port of the burgh, and carefully attended him till he died on the 20th of July, 1332. In grateful acknowledgment of their kind attention, the earl's nephew and successor in the regency, the Earl of Mar, proffered the inhabitants any reward in his power to confer; and on their declining any remuneration for the mere performance of their duty, he in 1340 granted them a charter of additional privileges, with the motto Honestas for the arms of the burgh. In 1530, James V. made a pilgrimage on foot from Stirling to the shrine of the Virgin Mary, in the chapel of Loretto, at this place, which in 1544 was destroyed by the English army under the Earl of Hertford, together with the town-house and the greater part of the town.
   
   On the arrival of the Duke of Somerset at Newcastle with 14,000 men, in 1547, to compel the Scots to sign a contract of marriage between the infant Princess Mary and Edward VI. of England, the Scots raised an army of 36,000, and took up a strong post here on the steep and densely-wooded banks of the Esk, to await his approach. The duke advanced with a fleet of thirty-five ships of war and thirty transports, and anchored in the bay of Musselburgh, whence landing his troops, he took post on Falside Brae, with his right extending over the grounds of Walliford towards the sea, and threw up a mound in the churchyard of Inveresk, which he planted with cannon, and other works, to prevent the Scots from crossing the river. After a severe skirmish, in which 1300 of the Scots were slain, and Lord Hume, their leader, severely wounded, and some ineffectual offers of treaty exchanged between the contending parties, the Scots passed the Esk, and a general engagement took place on the 10th of September, on the plains of Pinkie, to the east of the town, which terminated in the entire defeat of the Scots with the loss of 10,000 men. In the following year, Lord Grey with a powerful army entered Scotland, and, ravaging the districts of Merse and Mid Lothian, destroyed the towns of Dalkeith and Musselburgh. In 1567, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Bothwell held a meeting in the neighbourhood with Kirkaldy of Grange, who had been commissioned by the confederate lords for that purpose: the meeting took place on Carberry Hill, near the field of Pinkie. During the parley, Bothwell, who had taken leave of the Queen, fled to Dunbar, and Mary suffered herself to be introduced to the regent Morton and the lords, by whom she was conveyed to the castle of Lochleven. In 1632, Musselburgh was by charter of Charles I. erected into a royal burgh; but the magistrates of Edinburgh, by compromise with those of the town, obtained from the Privy Council, the same year, a decree reducing it to a burgh of regality. During the war in the reign of Charles, Cromwell encamped a part of his army on the Links of Musselburgh, in 1650, and took possession of the town, which he held for two months; he converted the church of Inveresk into barracks for his cavalry, and planted cannon on the mound in the churchyard. In 1745 the Highland army, headed by Prince Charles, entered the suburb of Fisherrow, and, crossing the old bridge over which the Scots marched to the field of Pinkie, passed through the town on their route to Prestonpans.
   The town, which is situated on the east bank of the Esk, near its influx into the Frith of Forth, consists of several spacious and well-formed streets; and is connected with the suburb of Fisherrow, on the opposite bank of the river, which is here of considerable width, by three bridges, whereof two are of stone, and one of timber, supported on pillars of cast-iron, and repaired in 1838. The older bridge of stone, supposed to have been of Roman origin, is narrow and of steep ascent, consisting of three arches, and is solely used by foot passengers; the third bridge is an elegant modern structure of five arches, erected after a design by the late Sir John Rennie. The houses are substantially built, and of neat appearance; the streets are well paved, and lighted with gas from works erected in 1832 near the mouth of the river, and from which the town of Portobello is also supplied; and the inhabitants are amply furnished with excellent water. A public library, founded in 1812, is supported by subscription, and has now a collection of more than 1300 volumes; there is also a circulating library of 1200 volumes, as well as a reading and news room supplied with the daily journals and periodical publications. The Links of Musselburgh have from time immemorial been noted for the celebration of sports, for which they are peculiarly adapted; the game of golf is still kept up, and since 1774 a club has been established, which holds annual meetings to contest for the prize of a silver cup. The Royal Company of Archers also hold annual meetings on these downs, when a silver arrow is awarded as a prize, the winner of which receives from the town thirteen bottles of claret, on condition of returning the arrow, with a gold or silver medal attached to it, previously to the next meeting. Races have long been established here; and in 1817 the town of Edinburgh removed their races from Leith to this place, where they are held every autumn: the races of the Caledonian Hunt also take place here every third year; and at the west end of the course, a handsome and commodious stand has been erected. The environs of the town abound with pleasing, and in many parts with picturesque and romantic, scenery, and with numerous objects of interest. At the eastern extremity of the High-street is the site of the ancient house in which the Regent Murray died; and at the western end is the house where Dr. Smollett was entertained by Commissioner Cardonnel; opposite to which, in Fisherrow, is the villa of Dovecote, occupying the site of the residence of Professor Stewart and his son, Gilbert: the study of the professor, a small building in which he composed many of his writings, yet remains, overspread with ivy. Here, also, is an elegant mansion erected in 1840 by Mr. Legat, a leather-merchant of the town.
   The chief manufactures carried on are those of sailcloth, haircloth, fishing-nets, hats, and leather; there are also extensive works for bricks, tiles, and the coarser kinds of pottery, a salt-work, and a small establishment for dyeing. The sailcloth manufactory was established in 1811, and the building has since been considerably enlarged, and a steam-engine of fifty-five-horse power erected; the produce, which is of superior quality, is exclusively for the home market, and principally for the use of the British navy. The manufacture of haircloth was introduced in 1820, and has been progressively increasing under the superintendence of its proprietor, Mr. Turnbull. The articles are, satin and fancy-figured cloths, curled hair, kiln-cloths, hair-lines, and lines of all kinds for fishing, girth webbing, ropes, twines, and horse-hair carpeting, in making which 200 persons are engaged; the produce is mainly sent to the London market, and the chief towns of England and Ireland. There is a similar establishment belonging to a different proprietor, but only a small number of persons are employed. The manufacture of fishing-nets was established in 1820 by Mr. Paterson, who, after much laborious experiment, constructed a loom for the purpose; eighteen looms and a spinning-machine are in operation, affording occupation to fifty-two persons, and consuming thirty tons of hemp annually. A similar manufactory was till lately carried on by Mr. Robinson from England, who, without any communication with Mr. Paterson, invented a loom for the purpose differing only in the form of the knot; six looms and twenty-three persons were employed, and about fourteen tons of hemp annually manufactured. There are three extensive tanneries and establishments for the currying of leather; the raw hides are procured from the Edinburgh market, and imported from Hamburgh and Russia. In the former about eighty, and in the latter thirty, persons are employed; and the quantity of bark consumed every year averages 1000 tons, procured from England, Belgium, Germany, and Holland, and some of a peculiar quality from Smyrna. The produce is mostly forwarded to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London. The ale brewery belonging to Mr. Whitelaw consumes annually 1750 quarters of malt, made upon the premises; and the ale is sent to the principal towns in Scotland, to London, Hull, and Newcastle, in England, and to the East and West Indies. There was once an extensive distillery. The trade of the port consists in the exportation of bricks, tiles, oats, coal, and staves; and the importation of grain, oil-cake, timber, bark, hides, and bones for manure, from foreign ports; and, in the coasting trade, chiefly the export of coal, and the import of grain, bark, mineralsalts, fullers'-earth, potters'-clay, wood, pavement, slates, and stone. The harbour, originally constructed for the fishing-boats of Fisherrow, has little more than four feet depth at neap tides, and is therefore accessible only to vessels of inconsiderable burthen. Previously to 1806, it was formed only by bulwarks of dry stones: but since that time a substantial quay has been constructed, and the trade materially increased; and further improvements are in contemplation by extending the pier. No vessels are registered as belonging to the port. A salmon-fishery at the mouth of the Esk is conducted on a small scale, by means of stake-nets; it is the property of the burgh, to which it pays a rental of £20 per annum.
   The burgh, of which the superiority was in 1709 purchased from the Earl of Lauderdale by Anne, Duchess of Monmouth and Buccleuch, is, under previous charters confirmed by charter of Charles II. in 1671, and slightly altered by the Municipal act, governed by a provost, two bailies, a treasurer, and a council now reduced to nine members, of whom nearly one-half are resident in Fisherrow, which is included within the limits of the burgh. There are seven incorporated companies, viz. the hammermen, shoemakers, gardeners, weavers, butchers, tailors, and bakers, of one of which an individual must become a member to qualify him for being a burgess; the fees of admission vary from ten shillings to £1 for sons of burgesses, and from £1. 6. 8. to £3. 6. 8. for strangers. The magistrates hold bailie-courts for the determination of civil pleas to any amount, and also a court for the recovery of debts not exceeding £5: such criminal cases as are of a trivial nature are summarily disposed of by the magistrates, but offences of a more aggravated character are, after examination, remitted to the sheriff of the county. The burgh is associated with those of Leith and Portobello in returning a member to the imperial parliament; the number of qualified voters is 238. The town-hall is a neat building in the Highstreet, containing the courts, council-rooms, an assemblyroom, and others for transacting the public business. Attached to it is the town gaol, built with the materials of the ruined chapel of Loretto, the site and grounds of which are occupied by a private seminary under the superintendence of the Rev. Thomas Langhorne, of the Episcopal chapel; and fronting the street leading to Newbiggin, is the ancient cross. A fair for two days, commencing on the second Tuesday in August, and which was formerly well attended by cattle-dealers, and supplied with various kinds of merchandise, is now merely a pleasure-fair. The post-office has a good delivery. Facility of communication is afforded by the London road, which passes through the whole length of the parish, connecting the town with Haddington and Dunbar; and the Edinburgh and Dalkeith railway, opened in 1832, runs near the western boundary of the parish, and is joined by a branch from Fisherrow, about a mile from the harbour. Branches of the Western Bank and the Commercial Bank of Edinburgh, and a custom-house subordinate to that of Leith, have been established. The Establishment churches of this district are those of Inveresk and Northesk; and there are a Free church, and places of worship for the Associate Synod, the Relief, Independent secession, Congregationalists, and Episcopalians. The grammar school of the burgh is under the patronage of the magistrates and town-council, who pay the master a salary of £27. 4. 5., and provide him with a good house. There are also, under the same patronage, an English school at Musselburgh, of which the master has a salary of £21, with good premises free; and another at Fisherrow, of which the master has a salary of £10, with a schoolroom and dwelling-house rent free. At Fisherrow is a sailors' society, established in 1669.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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