- ORWELL, a parish, in the county of Kinross, 2 miles (N. N. E.) from Kinross; containing, with the villages of Middleton and Milnathort, 2715 inhabitants. This place derives its name, of Gaelic origin, from an estate so called on the banks of Loch Leven; and the term is supposed to be descriptive of the parish as situated in a green or fertile retreat. The parish is about seven miles and a half in length, and three miles and a half in breadth; it is bounded on the south by the loch, and comprises 13,500 acres, of which 8000 are arable, about 700 woodland and plantations, and the remainder rough pasture and waste. The surface is finely undulated, rising in some places into gentle eminences, and on the north having a gradual ascent to the Braes of Orwell, and thence to the Ochil hills, which are partly within the parish, and vary from 1000 to 1100 feet in height above the level of the sea. The principal river is the North Queich; it rises in the higher land, and falls after a course of five or six miles into Loch Leven, which also receives various smaller streams that intersect the parish. This river abounds in trout, with which it supplies the lake; perch, pike, and eels, also, are found occasionally. The lands abound with springs of excellent water, and wells may be easily formed at a small depth below the surface. The scenery is finely varied, and enriched with thriving plantations; and there are some few trees of majestic growth still remaining; but the river is not distinguished by any striking features, though in its progress through the hilly part of the parish it displays some pleasing falls diversifying the landscape. The soil in the more level lands is mostly of a clayey nature, intermixed sometimes with sand or gravel, but in the higher districts is of lighter quality, and well adapted for potatoes and turnips; a small portion of rich loam is also found in some parts. The crops are, oats of every variety, barley, of which the quality has been much improved within the last few years, and a small quantity of wheat on some of the richest lands, with potatoes and turnips. The system of husbandry is in a very advanced state; the lands have been well drained, and inclosed partly with stone dykes and partly with hedges of thorn. The farm houses and offices have been also greatly improved; those of more recent erection are substantially built; and threshing-mills have been erected upon most of the farms, several of which are propelled by water-power. The hills afford good pasturage for cattle, which are generally of the Fifeshire breed. The woods consist principally of oak and ash; and the plantations, of larch, and spruce and Scotch firs, intermixed with various kinds of forest-trees. The chief substrata are, the old red sandstone, whinstone, varying in colour, and claystone-porphyry; the sandstone is quarried in several parts, as is likewise the whinstone, which is used for the construction of stone dykes. A post-office has been established at Milnathort (which see), as a branch of the principal office, and facility of communication with the neighbouring towns is maintained by roads kept in good order by statute labour, and by turnpike-roads which pass for fourteen miles through the parish. A weekly grain-market is held on Wednesday, and several fairs for cattle take place during the year. The rateable annual value of Orwell, according to the returns made under the incometax, is £12,533.The parish is within the presbytery of Dunfermline and synod of Fife, and in the patronage of Sir Graham Montgomery, Bart., of Stanhope: the stipend is £156, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum. The church, erected in 1729, is an exceedingly plain cruciform edifice, but conveniently situated, standing on a knoll above the village of Milnathort; it is adapted for a congregation of 646 persons. There is a place of worship for the United Associate Synod: a chapel, which formerly belonged to the Original Burghers, is now a chapel of ease to the Established Church. The parochial school, situated at Milnathort, affords a liberal course of instruction; the master has a salary of £34. 4., with £40 fees, and a house and garden. A branch of the Kinross Savings' Bank has been established here, which tends in some degree to diminish the number of applications for parochial aid. On the shore of Loch Leven are the remains of the old parish church, once an appendage of the monastery of Dunfermline; and near the village of Milnathort are the remains of Burleigh Castle, anciently a place of considerable importance and of great strength. Little more, however, than a portion of the inclosing rampart is remaining; all the timber has disappeared, and among it an ash of large dimensions, in the hollow trunk of which one of the lords Burleigh concealed himself from the pursuit of justice, but was at length apprehended and sentenced to be beheaded for murder. Upon a branch of the Ochil hills is Cairn-a-Vain, formerly an immense heap of stones raised over the grave of some warrior chief, but now much reduced by removing the stones for building dykes to inclose the lands: in the centre of it was found a rude stone coffin, containing an urn filled with burnt bones and charcoal. Urns of clay, containing burnt bones and ashes, have been discovered in various other places along the ridge of these hills. On the lands of Orwell farm are two upright stones about eight feet in height, supposed to be part of a Druidical circle; and near the same spot, stone coffins have been occasionally found, and great quantities of calcined bones and ashes are frequently turned up by the plough, at a depth of a foot and a half below the surface, and covered by a layer of loose small stones. Dr. Young, in whose arms the gallant General Sir Ralph Abercromby expired, was a native of this parish; and Dr. Coventry, late professor of agriculture in the university of Edinburgh, was proprietor of the estate of Shanwell.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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