- KINGHORN, a royal burgh and a parish, in the district of Kirkcaldy, county of Fife; containing, with the village of West Bridge, and the island of Inch-Keith, 2935 inhabitants, of whom 1389 are in the burgh, 3 miles (S. by W.) from Kirkcaldy, and 9 (N.) from Edinburgh. This place, at a very early period, was one of the residences of the Scottish kings; and till within the last few years, there were to be traced the remains of an ancient castle, situated on rising ground near the town, and commanding a view of the whole of the Frith of Forth. This castle, of which the portion lately existing was called Glammis Tower, was probably selected as a temporary residence for the diversion of hunting in the extensive forest which lay immediately behind it; and the town is fancifully said to have derived its name from the frequent soundings of the horn during the royal sports of the chase; the true derivation being from the Gaelic terms Kean or Kin, a "chief or headland," and Gorn, "green." The date of the foundation of the town cannot be precisely ascertained, though, if not at an earlier period the abode of fishermen, whom its advantageous situation might have attracted to settle on the coast, it would naturally have arisen from the proximity of the castle. Whatever its origin, it appears to have attained such a degree of importance in the reign of David I. as induced that monarch to confer upon it the privileges of a royal burgh. This grant was confirmed by Alexander III., who, some time afterwards, returning to Kinghorn Castle from a hunting excursion late in the evening, by a road winding along some precipitous cliffs, was thrown, with his horse, about half a mile to the west of the town, and killed on the spot, on the 16th of March, 1285. A cross was erected at the place where the king fell, and remained till the reign of James II.; but no vestiges of it can now be traced. The castle of Glammis, with the lordship of Kinghorn, was granted by Robert II., as a marriage portion with his daughter, Janet, to Sir John Lyon, whose successors were invested by James VI. with the title of earls of Kinghorn, which in the reign of Charles II. was merged in that of the earls of Strathmore.The town is situated on the shore of the Frith of Forth, directly opposite to the port of Leith, and on the great road from Edinburgh to Dundee; it is built on the slope of some gently rising ground which, towards the north-west, attains a considerable elevation. The principal street has lately been much improved, and many of the houses have been rebuilt in better style; but the inferior streets have a very indifferent appearance. There are two public libraries, supported by subscription; but the reading-rooms, supplied with the leading journals, have just been discontinued. The chief trade carried on here is the spinning of flax, for which there are three extensive mills; the machinery is partly impelled by steam, and partly by water-power, the latter derived from the loch of Kinghorn, about half a mile from the town. In these mills 470 persons are employed, of whom more than 300 are females. There is also a bleachfield, in which about seventy persons are generally engaged; and a considerable number of the inhabitants are occupied in hand-loom weaving. A harbour which, from its situation near the church, was called the Kirk harbour, is now in a ruinous condition; but it is in contemplation to restore it, for which an estimate of the expense has been made, amounting to from £20,000 to £30,000. At present, it gives accommodation only to a few fishing-boats; but a considerable traffic is maintained by another harbour, Pettycur, half a mile west of the town, and which is one of the principal ferries between Fife and Mid Lothian. The quay at Pettycur affords convenient opportunities of landing passengers, goods, and cattle, when the state of the tide will permit vessels to approach. The harbour and anchorage dues produce to the town a revenue of about £180 per annum.The burgh was formerly governed by a provost, two bailies, a treasurer, and a council comprising thirteen merchants, sailors, and brewers, and the deacons of the five trades. The magistrates held their various courts, and exercised, both in civil and criminal cases, all the jurisdiction of a royal burgh. The incorporated trades consisted of the hammermen, weavers, shoemakers, tailors, and bakers, all possessing exclusive privileges. This state of things continued, with little alteration, till the year 1841, when, on the day fixed for the election of the corporation officers, a quorum of the council could not be mustered, and the burgh was consequently disfranchised. Application, under these circumstances, was made to the court of session; but nothing could be done beyond the appointment of three resident managers to preside over the affairs, without being invested with any judicial authority; and the peace of the town is now under the superintendence of the county police. The town-hall, to which a gaol is attached, is a handsome building in the Elizabethan style, standing in the centre of the town, and erected in 1826, at an expense of about £2400, under the direction of Mr. Hamilton, of Edinburgh, who designed the new High School, and other edifices in that city. The postoffice has a good delivery; and facility of communication with Edinburgh is maintained by the ferry, and with the neighbouring towns by roads, kept in excellent order. Four public coaches pass daily, as well as the mail, between Edinburgh and Dundee. The burgh is associated with those of Kirkcaldy, Dysart, and Burntisland, in returning a member to the imperial parliament.The parish is about four miles in length and three and a half in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 5440 acres, of which 4800 are arable, 250 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, and waste. The surface is beautifully varied, rising in some places gradually, and in others more abruptly, from the frith; and is intersected with narrow straths, watered by small rivulets, and stretching from the shore to the hill of Glassmount, which has an elevation of 601 feet above the level of the sea. To the north-west of this hill, the surface undulates gently, and with occasional tracts of table-land. The coast is bold, and in some parts precipitous. Near Burntisland, to the west, is the projecting cliff memorable for the death of Alexander III., whence, towards the harbour of Pettycur, the shore is a level sand, terminating in a rock of columnar basalt, forming the headland of Kinghorn ness. From this the bay of Kinghorn curves towards the north, terminating in the Kirkcraig, a mass of rock near the church, projecting for a considerable way into the sea, and constituting a natural breakwater to the Kirk harbour. The low lands are watered by numerous copious springs, issuing from the declivities of the higher grounds, and to the west is the loch of Kinghorn, covering about twenty acres, and affording an abundant supply of water for the town, to which it is conveyed by pipes.The soil along the shore, for a considerable distance, is a deep black loam of great fertility; towards the hills, of lighter quality; and still further in the direction of the north-west, more variable, and inclining to clay. The crops are, oats, barley, wheat, turnips, and potatoes. The system of agriculture is in an advanced state; the lands have been well drained and inclosed; the farm-buildings are generally substantial and well arranged, and the various recent improvements in agricultural implements have been adopted. The cattle, of which few are reared in the parish, are of the Fifeshire and short-horned breeds; great numbers are annually bought, and fattened for the markets, in which they sell at from £20 to £30 per head. A considerable number of sheep are also pastured, chiefly of the half Cheviot breed. The rateable annual value of the parish is £7410.The whole parish lies within the coal basin of the Forth; but the coalfields are so disturbed by the trap rocks bursting through them, and overlaying them, that, with the exception of a few acres on which the town stands, and about a hundred acres near Auchtertool village, the substratum appears to be formed of trap. Indeed, the soil, which is remarkable for fertility, seems as if entirely composed of the decayed portions of this species of rock. The bearing of the stratified rocks, where they are least disarranged, is northward; and the coal-bed is the lowermost one of the coalfield which stretches from this parish eastward to Largo. Carboniferous or mountain limestone is obtained at Invertiel; it lies immediately under the coal strata, and has been extensively quarried for many years, both for building and agricultural porposes. Coal was formerly wrought; but the works have been discontinued. There are two annual fairs, and a weekly market is held on Thursdays, under a charter; the former are for cattle, horses, &c., and the latter for butter, cheese, and other country produce; but both are very ill attended, and for the last thirty years have been falling into disuse. Abden, the property of R. Stocks, Esq., is an ancient mansion originally belonging to the Bishops of St. Andrew's; and in the charters granting the lands to the predecessors of the present proprietor, is a distinct reservation that the king, in crossing the ferry to Kinghorn, should have lodging and hospitality in the house of Abden. The building is a plain structure on the north of the town, commanding a fine view over the Frith. Balmuto, the seat of John Boswell, Esq., in whose family it has been for more than four centuries, is an ancient mansion consisting of a square tower to which repeated modern additions have been made; it is finely situated in a demesne richly planted, and the gardens and pleasure-grounds are laid out with exquisite taste. Grangehill is also one of the chief mansions in the parish.The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Kirkcaldy and synod of Fife. The minister's stipend is £245. 19. 7., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £19 per annum; patron, the Earl of Strathmore. The parish church, which is near the old harbour, was rebuilt in 1774; it is a very plain structure, and contains 700 sittings. A church has recently been built on the eastern boundary of the parish, bordering upon Abbotshall, to which a quoad sacra district was until lately annexed, including portions of each of the two parishes. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Secession. Until 1830 there was no parochial school. In that year, Mr. Barclay, the town-clerk, applied to the burgh and the heritors to found a school; and he built premises for it, on an acre of waste ground, at his own risk. They have since repaid him, by subscriptions and donations, above £500 of his expenditure, £800; and they give the minimum salary to the master, who also receives £50 a year from the fund of the late Mr. Philp, for teaching fifty children, and £10 annually for teaching a Sunday school. A wide range of instruction is provided, in the usual branches, together with French, Latin, and Greek; and an infant school and a drawing school are maintained, by subscription, within the building. There is also an apartment appropriated to an extensive geological collection, and a small collection of other objects in natural history, and to a library consisting of about 800 volumes on historical and scientific subjects. In the grounds around the school-house is a shrubbery, where are arranged in regular order more than 250 plants; and the portion allotted to play-ground contains gymnastic apparatus. In the village of Invertiel is a good school, where the elementary branches are taught, and of which the master has a house, and the fees. The late Robert Philp, Esq., of Edenshead, left his property for the endowment of schools. One-eighth of the fund it produces is apportioned for the instruction and clothing of fifty children, now educated at the parochial school; and the residue is given to the children, on leaving school, in such portions as the managers of the fund deem proper. The Rev. Henry James, late minister of the parish, left £300 to aid in supporting a scholar for four years in his philosophical studies at the united college of St. Salvador and St. Leonard, in the university of St. Andrew's; it yields £15 per annum, and the appointment is vested in the Kirk Session of Kinghorn, the presbytery of Kirkcaldy, and the town-council of the burgh. An old chapel called St. Leonard's, of exquisite Saxon architecture, in which the courts were once held, having been struck by lightning, and being likely to fall, was removed by order of the Supreme Court, to make way for the present town-hall. William Kirkaldy, of Grange, who flourished in the reign of Mary; and Patie Birnie, a famous comic character, musician, and song-writer, immortalized by Allan Ramsay in his poems, were natives of this place.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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