Laurencekirk

   LAURENCEKIRK, a burgh of barony, and also a parish, in the southern part of the county of Kincardine, 9 miles (N. by W.) from Montrose, and 10 (N. E. by N.) from Brechin; containing 1904 inhabitants, of whom 1356 are in the burgh. This place, anciently called Conveth, derived its present name from the dedication of its original parish church to St. Laurence. The burgh, which was previously a very inconsiderable hamlet, owes its importance to Francis, Lord Gardenstone, a judge of the supreme court of session, who, about the year 1765, purchased the lands of Johnston and Blackiemuir, in the parish, which he greatly improved, and divided into inclosures by hedges and plantations. He also laid out the plan of a village, and portioned off sites for the erection of houses: these, being leased on advantageous terms, soon attracted tenants; and in 1772 a thriving town had arisen, which, increasing in population, was erected in 1779 into a burgh of barony. The town consists chiefly of one street, about a mile in length, on the road from Perth to Aberdeen; the houses are well built, a few of them of handsome appearance, and to each is attached a portion of garden-ground, giving to the place a pleasinglyrural aspect. A public subscription library, originated by Lord Gardenstone, and to which he attached a small museum, still exists, though the number of volumes has materially diminished. The library of the episcopal clergy of the diocese of Brechin, founded chiefly by the late Bishop Drummond, and containing more than 1000 volumes, is deposited in the episcopal chapel in the town, and is accessible to persons of literary pursuits. The chief trade is the spinning of yarn and the weaving of linen. For the former there was once a mill at Blackiemuir, in which twenty-five women and seven men were employed, and the quantity annually produced was valued at £5000. The weaving of linen by hand-looms for the manufacturers of Aberdeen, Montrose, and Brechin, who supply the yarn, is carried on mostly in the burgh, affording employment to a very considerable number of persons, including many children. The manufacture of snuff-boxes of wood, also, for which this place has long been celebrated, is still carried on, by the son of the original inventor, Mr. Stiven: these boxes are remarkable for their beauty, and the peculiar construction of the hinge, the principle of which has recently been adopted in the binding of valuable books or prints in wood.
   
   The town was erected into a free and independent burgh of barony by royal charter, vesting the government in a bailie and four councillors elected triennially by the burgesses, and granting the privilege of a weekly market and an annual fair. Every resident proprietor of a house and garden is qualified as a burgess. The jurisdiction of the magistrates in civil cases has not been clearly defined, and scarcely any have been brought before them for decision; but in criminal cases their jurisdiction is exercised in petty delinquencies subject to small fines, though these have not in many instances been enforced. A treasurer, and a town-officer to whom the police is entrusted, are appointed by the magistrates, who hold their courts in a building used also for the purpose of a masonic lodge; and there is a gaol lately erected, but seldom used. The establishment of a weekly market has been attempted, but hitherto without success, except for the sale of grain, which, when purchased for exportation, is sent to Montrose and Gourdon. Fairs are held on the third Wednesday of January, O. S., for cattle, and for hiring servants; the last Thursday in April, for cattle; the 27th of May, or the day after Whitsunday, O. S., for hiring servants; the Thursday after the third Tuesday of July, O. S., for cattle and horses; the first Thursday in November, for cattle; and the 23rd of November, or the day after Martinmas, O. S., for hiring servants. Markets, also, for sheep, cattle, and horses, have been recently established, commencing on the second Monday after the first November fair, and continuing to be held on the second Monday of each month until the April fair. The post-office has a tolerably good delivery; and facility of communication with Montrose, Aberdeen, Perth, Dundee, and the city of Edinburgh, is afforded by roads kept in excellent repair.
   The parish, which is situated in the eastern portion of the valley of Strathmore, is about four miles in length, and varies from less than one mile to almost three miles in breadth, comprising an area of 5381 acres, of which 5000 are arable, 60 pasture, 220 woodland and plantations, and the remainder roads and waste. The surface rises gradually towards the north and south, but is not diversified with hills or striking inequalities, the highest ground in the northern portion attaining only an elevation of 220, and in the southern of 450 feet. The river Luther, which intersects the parish in a direction from north-east to south-west, has its rise in the lower range of the Grampian hills, and falls into the North Esk, receiving in its course numerous burns, which flow into it both from the northwest and south-east. The soil of the district to the southeast of the Luther is a deep clay loam of great fertility; on the banks of the river are large alluvial deposits of clay and sand; and in the lands north-west of the river the soil is of inferior quality, generally cold, and comparatively sterile. The crops consist of oats, barley, small quantities of wheat, peas, beans, potatoes, and turnips, with the usual grasses: the system of agriculture is improved; the lands have been drained and partly inclosed, and a wide tract of unprofitable marsh has been reclaimed. The farm-houses, though not large, are convenient, and generally roofed with slate. Great attention is paid to the management of the dairyfarms, and large quantities of butter and cheese are sent to Montrose. The cattle are chiefly of a mixed breed between those of the Angus and Aberdeenshire; they are partly sold when three years old for the English markets, and some are fed in winter for Glasgow, where they obtain high prices. The horses used for agriculture are chiefly reared in the parish, and resemble the Lanark and Clydesdale breeds. The plantations, mostly of recent growth, consist of larch, and spruce and Scotch firs; and in the hedge-rows are some good specimens of ash, elm, beech, oak, birch, and sycamore, of more ancient date. There is nothing peculiar in the geology of the parish. Sandstone and freestone were formerly quarried, and Johnston Lodge was erected with stone raised from the quarries; but the working of them has been discontinued since the opening of the Laurieston quarries, in the adjacent parish of St. Cyrus, from which stone of finer texture and more durable quality is raised. The rateable annual value of Laurencekirk is £7388. Johnston Lodge is a handsome modern mansion, commanding a fine view of the valley of Strathmore and the Grampian hills.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Fordoun and synod of Angus and Mearns. The minister's stipend is £243.9.8., including £10. 4. 6., the rent of some land attached to the living from time immemorial; and there is a manse, as well as a glebe valued at £40 per annum: patrons, the Principal and Professors of St. Mary's College, in the University of St. Andrew's. The church, erected in 1804, and enlarged in 1819, is a very plain structure containing 766 sittings, a number inadequate to the increased population. An episcopal chapel was erected, and endowed chiefly, by Lord Gardenstone; and there are places of worship for members of the Free Church, and Independents, in the town. The parochial school is attended by about seventy children; the master has a salary of £20, with ten bolls of meal, and an allowance of £10. 2. in lieu of house and garden. The school fees average £30 per annum; and he also receives £3. 6. 8., the interest of a bequest of Sir Alexander Falconer, of Glenfarquhar, ancestor of the present Earl of Kintore, for teaching seven children gratuitously. The parochial library contains nearly 300 volumes, chiefly for young people. There are few monuments of antiquity in the parish; but coins have been found at various times, among which was a Roman coin with the heads of the Emperors, Aurelius on the one side, and Antoninus on the other. About forty large silver coins, mostly Spanish, and in good preservation, with dates from 1616 to 1623, were found about thirty years since on the farm of Northhill. Thomas Ruddiman, the grammarian, was master of the parochial school of this place from 1695 till 1700; and Dr. Beattie, author of the Minstrel, was a native of the parish. The lands of Halkerton give the title of Baron to the Falconer family, Earls of Kintore.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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