Abercorn


Abercorn
   ABERCORN, a parish, in the county of Linlithgow, 5½ miles (E. by N.) from Linlithgow; containing, with the villages of Newtown and Philipstown, 950 inhabitants. This place, which derives its name from its situation at the influx of the small river Cornie into the Frith of Forth, is of very remote origin; and its ancient castle occupied the site of a Roman station between the wall of Antonine and the port of Cramond on the Frith, in the harbour of which the Romans moored their ships. A monastery appears to have been founded here at a very early period by the Culdees, which, in the seventh century, became the seat of a bishopric; but, after the death of Egfrid, King of Northumbria, who, in 696, was killed in a battle with the northern Picts, the bishop who then presided over the see, not thinking the establishment sufficiently secure, removed it to a place less exposed to danger. Of the monastery, which is supposed to have occupied a site near the present parish church, there are not the slightest vestiges remaining; and its only memorial is preserved in the names Priestinch, Priest's Folly, and others, by which several lands in the parish that most probably appertained to it, are still distinguished. The castle, and the lands belonging to it, in the 12th century, were the property of the Avenale family, from whom they passed, by marriage, to the Grahams; and in 1298 they were held by Sir John Graham, the friend and firm adherent of Sir William Wallace, under whose banner, fighting for the independence of his country, against Edward I. of England, he fell in the battle of Falkirk. The estate subsequently became the property of the Douglas family, and on the rebellion of the Earl of Douglas, the castle, which was one of the strongholds of his party, was besieged by James II., and taken by storm on the 8th of April, 1455, when the earl's retainers were put to death, and the fortifications demolished; the castle eventually became a complete ruin, and every vestige of it has long since disappeared. The lands were afterwards granted by the crown to Claude Hamilton, third son of the Earl of Arran, and the first Viscount Paisley, by whose devoted attachment to the fortunes of Mary, Queen of Scots, they became forfeited; but they were subsequently restored by James VI. to his son, whom, in 1606, that monarch created Earl of Abercorn. From this family, the estate passed successively to the Muirs, Lindsays, and Setons; and in 1678, the lands, which had been greatly diminished in extent, but to which was still attached the sheriffdom of the county, were sold by Sir Walter Seton to Sir John Hope, ancestor of the earls of Hopetoun.
   The parish is situated on the south shore of the Frith of Forth, and comprises about 4500 imperial acres, of which 3700 are arable, meadow, and pasture, 670 woodland and plantations, and the remainder roads and waste. The surface is pleasingly undulated, rising only in two points into hills of any considerable eminence, of which the highest, Binns, has an elevation of about 350 feet, and Priestinch of nearly 100 feet. The former of these, at the western extremity of the parish, rising gradually from the shore of the Frith, is arable to the very summit, and commands an interesting and extensive view; and the latter, on the south border of the parish, is a precipitous rock of trapstone, of elliptical form, on the flat summit of which are some remains of an ancient fortification. The shore, for about four miles, is beautifully diversified with bays, headlands, and undulating banks, enriched with plantations to the water's edge, and occasionally interspersed with verdant patches of sloping meadow-land. The only rivers are, the Nethermill burn, and the Cornie, a still smaller stream, which, uniting near the church, flow into the Frith; and the Blackness and Linnmill burns, of which the former separates the parish from that of Carriden, and the latter from the parish of Dalmeny. The soil is chiefly a clayey loam, producing grain of all kinds of good quality, with potatoes and turnips; the pastures are rich, and the meadows yield abundant crops of hay. Considerable attention has been paid to the rearing of cattle, in which much benefit has been effected by the introduction of the Teeswater breed; and all the recent improvements in husbandry, and in the construction of agricultural implements, have been generally adopted. The plantations, which are extensive, and carefully managed by regular thinning and pruning, consist mostly of beech, elm, oak, sycamore, lime, and chesnut, with larch, Scotch, silver, and spruce firs, of all of which many beautiful specimens are found. There are quarries of valuable freestone in various parts of the parish, which have been wrought for many generations, varying in colour from a light cream to a dark grey; and in the hill of Priestinch is a quarry of trap, which affords excellent materials for the roads. Limestone is also abundant, and of very pure quality, better adapted for agricultural purposes than for building; it occurs in beds of ten feet in thickness, generally at a depth varying from 15 to 25 feet below the surface. There is likewise a small mine of coal near Priestinch, of moderate quality, in working which about twenty persons are employed.
   Hopetoun House, the seat of the Earl of Hopetoun, originally commenced after a design by Sir William Bruce, in 1696, and completed under the superintendence of Mr. Adam, is a spacious and handsome mansion, consisting of a centre connected by colonnades of graceful curvature, with boldly projecting wings, terminating in octagonal turrets crowned with domes. Being seated on a splendid terrace overlooking the Frith, it forms a truly magnificent feature as seen from the water. The interior contains numerous stately apartments, decorated with costly splendour; the library contains an extensive and well assorted collection of scarce and valuable books and manuscripts, with numerous illuminated missals and other conventual antiquities, and the picture gallery is rich in fine specimens of the ancient masters of the Flemish and Italian schools. The grounds are tastefully laid out, embellished with plantations, and the walks along the heights overlooking the Frith, command diversified prospects; the eastern approach to the mansion is through a level esplanade, and the western under a stately avenue of ancient elms. His Majesty George IV. visited the Earl of Hopetoun at this seat, on the day of his return from Scotland, in 1822, and, after partaking of the earl's hospitality, embarked at Port-Edgar, for London. Binns House is an ancient castellated mansion, beautifully situated on the western slope of the hill of that name, and surrounded with a park containing much picturesque and romantic scenery; the grounds are pleasingly embellished with plantations, interspersed with lawns and walks, and on the summit of the hill is a lofty circular tower forming a conspicuous landmark. Duddingston House is a modern mansion in the castellated style, situated on an eminence in the south-east of the parish, and commanding an extensive view. Midhope House, formerly a seat of the earls of Linlithgow, is an ancient mansion still in tolerable preservation, and now occupied in tenements, to which an old staircase of massive oak affords access; the building consists of a square embattled tower with angular turrets, and above the entrance is a coronet, with the letters J. L.
   The inhabitants are chiefly engaged in agricultural pursuits, and in the quarries and mines; and about thirty persons are employed in a salmon fishery at the mouth of the Linnmill burn, where several stake-nets are placed. The quantity of fish taken was formerly very considerable, but is, within the last few years, very much diminished; the lessee of the fishery pays a rent of £60 per annum, and the whole produce is estimated at about £200. Facility of communication is afforded by the turnpike-road from Queensferry to Linlithgow; the Union canal intersects the southern portion of the parish, and the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway, which in some parts of its course pursues a direction parallel with the canal, frequently approaches within a few yards of it. At Society, in the parish, is a small bay, where some vessels with coal land their cargoes on the beach, and occasionally take back lime; there are two cornmills propelled by water, and a saw-mill has lately been built by the Earl of Hopetoun, on the Nethermill burn. The ecclesiastical affairs of the parish are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Linlithgow and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The minister's stipend is £188. 15. 2., with a manse, and the glebe is valued at £16 per annum; patron, the Earl of Hopetoun. The church, a very ancient building, was enlarged at the time of the Reformation; it is an irregular building, previously affording very indifferent accommodation, but in 1838 was thoroughly repaired. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church. The parochial school is well conducted; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house and garden, and the fees average about £40 per annum. A parochial library was established in 1833, but was superseded in 1844 by a parish church library, which now contains upwards of 300 volumes.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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