Middlebie

   MIDDLEBIE, a parish, in the district of Annandale, county of Dumfries, 2½ miles (N. E. by E.) from Ecclesfechan; containing, with the villages of Eaglesfield, Kirtlebridge, and Waterbeck, 2150 inhabitants, of whom 1482 are in the rural districts. This place, which consists of the united parishes of Middlebie, Pennersaughs, and Carruthers, derives its name from a Roman station in the old parish of Middlebie, which formed the central post between the stations of Overbie or Upperbie, in Eskdalemuir, and Netherbie, in the county of Cumberland. The station, situated at Birrens, is considered one of the most perfect and interesting remnants of Roman antiquity in Britain, and is identified with the Blatum Bulgium of Antonine. It occupies an eminence on the north bank of the Mein near its confluence with a smaller stream, and is of quadrilateral form, surrounded by five ramparts of earth and four fossæ; parts of it have been damaged by the inundations of the river, but the prætorium is still in good preservation. Within the area have been found a statue of the goddess of the Brigantes, and also of Mercury, with a votive altar dedicated to the latter, numerous inscribed stones, and various other relics of Roman antiquity; and nearly adjoining it was a less important camp, which, being situated on the lands of a small proprietor, has been completely destroyed.
   The parish is partly bounded on the south-east by the Kirtle water, and is about nine miles in length and four and a half in breadth; comprising 30,000 acres, of which nearly 7000 are arable, 350 woodland and plantations, and the remainder (of which 2000 might be made arable) pasture, moor, and waste. The surface, though generally level, is diversified with gently-rising hills of moderate height, which, towards the eastern and north-eastern boundaries, attain almost mountainous elevation, and are finely contrasted with intervening valleys of great fertility and in a high state of cultivation. The Kirtle has its source among the hills near the north-eastern boundary of Middlebie, and, flowing southward, intersects it in part of its course for some distance, then forms its boundary for the remainder of its progress in the parish, and runs through much romantic scenery into the Solway Frith at Kirtle-foot, in the parish of Graitney. The river Mein has its source within the parish, and, after constituting a portion of its western boundary, joins the Annan at Meinfoot, in the adjoining parish of Hoddam. There are also several small rivulets, which, as well as the larger streams, abound with trout; and the parish contains numerous springs of excellent water. The soil is various, though generally fertile; in most places, clay alternated with loam and gravel; and in the higher districts, of inferior quality, but well adapted for pasture. The crops are, oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, and turnips, with the usual variety of grasses. The system of husbandry is in a very advanced state, and has been greatly accelerated in its progress by the encouragement of the landed proprietors; much waste land has been improved by draining, and brought into profitable cultivation by a liberal use of lime for manure, of which abundance is made in the parish. The lands have been inclosed; and the farm-buildings, formerly of inferior order, have been generally bettered, and are now substantial and well arranged, more especially on the lands of the Duke of Buccleuch, the principal landed proprietor. The hills afford excellent pasture for cattle and sheep, of which considerable numbers are reared; the cattle are mostly of the Galloway breed, but the cows on the dairy-farms, of the Ayrshire. The sheep are usually the white-faced; and large numbers are bought in the autumn, and, when fattened in the pastures, sold in the following spring to dealers for the English markets, whither, also, many young oxen are sent annually. Swine are fed by the cottagers; and great quantities of bacon are forwarded to Newcastle, where it finds a ready sale, and returns a considerable profit.
   The plantations consist chiefly of the various kinds of fir, interspersed with the usual forest-trees; they are mostly well managed and in a thriving state, and though not extensive, add much to the beauty of the scenery. The principal substrata are sandstone and limestone; it is supposed that coal, also, may be found at a considerable depth below the surface; and though some recent attempts have been made without success, they have tended rather to increase the probability of its being eventually wrought. The limestone is of excellent quality, and is extensively quarried for manure and also for building purposes; it has contributed greatly to promote the improvement of the lands not only in this parish, but in the surrounding districts, to which much of it is sent. The rateable annual value of Middlebie is £8192. There are some few seats, the residence of the smaller landholders; the principal are, Kirtleton, Blackwoodhouse, and Burnfoot, the first ancient, but the two last modern mansions. The several villages of Eaglesfield, Kirtlebridge, and Waterbeck are described under their respective heads. The cotton and linen manufactures are carried on, affording employment to a considerable number of the inhabitants; a circulating library has been established, and there are several friendly societies. Facility of communication is maintained by good roads, of which the turnpike-road from Glasgow to Carlisle passes for two miles through the parish; the statute roads have been greatly improved within the last few years, and are kept in excellent repair. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Annan and synod of Dumfries. The minister's stipend is £218. 11., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £40 per annum; patron, the Duke of Buccleuch. The church, erected in 1821, is a neat plain structure, containing 700 sittings; and there is a place of worship in the village of Waterbeck for members of the Relief Church. Two parochial schools are maintained, together affording instruction to about 150 children; the master of each has a salary of £25. 13., but without either dwelling-house or garden, and the fees average £25 per annum to each. There are still some remains of a stronghold called Blacket House, one of the ancient fortresses occupied during the border warfare; these consist chiefly of the tower and portions of the walls, but they are rapidly going to decay. Numerous fossils and organic remains are found in the limestone quarries; and there are several mineral springs, some of which are strongly impregnated, but they have long been disused for medicinal purposes. Among the most distinguished persons connected with this parish was the late Dr. Currie, of Liverpool, author of the Life of Burns and other works, whose father was minister. The Duke of Buccleuch takes the inferior title of Baron Middlebie from this place.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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