Penicuick

   PENICUICK, a parish, in the county of Edinburgh; containing, with the hamlets of Howgate, Nine-Mile-Burn, and Kirkhill, 2572 inhabitants, of whom 907 are in the village of Penicuick, 9 miles (S. by W.) from Edinburgh. The present name of this place is supposed to be derived from a British or Gaelic word signifying "Cuckoo's hill;" and as several places in the neighbourhood also received their epithets from this bird, it is probable that it was a frequent visiter in these quarters. The parish was formerly called St. Mungo, this being the popular name of St. Kentigern, to whom the first church was dedicated, and of whom some memorials still remain, especially a spring near the church, called St. Mungo's well. Penicuick was considerably augmented in 1635 by the annexation of the parishes of Mount-Lothian to the east, and St. Catherine's to the north-west: the former of these was an ancient chapelry belonging to the monks of Holyrood, who pastured their flocks on its rich and extensive grounds, from which it was often called by the name of Monk'sLothian. There are few events of historical importance to record; but mention may be made of New-Hall House, an ancient and interesting edifice, situated about three miles above Penicuick House, and which appears to have been a religious establishment. It was held in 1529, and during the rest of the 16th century, by a family of the name of Crichtoune; and not far from it is the ruin of Brunstane Castle, which was occupied by a family of the same name in 1568. New Hall lies on the border of a desolate moor, on the principal route from Edinburgh to the south-west, from which there was a pass here over the Pentland hills to the north; and it is supposed that the house afforded a refuge and lodging for travellers, at night, in the midst of their dreary journey, the lands in the neighbourhood and a farm-house being still denominated Spital. There was formerly a cross on the summit of the pass 1500 feet above the sea, intended, as is thought, for a signal or directory, and of which the stone forming the pedestal still remains. The lands of New-Hall passed from the families of Crichtoune, Penicuick, and Oliphant, into that of Forbes in 1703, in which they long remained. It is also worthy of notice that, near Logan House, surrounded on all sides by the Pentland hills, was the favourite hunting tract of the Scottish kings, where the celebrated match took place between the hounds of Robert Bruce and Sir William St. Clair, of Roslin. This match led to the erection by the latter, out of gratitude for his victory, of the chapel of St. Catherine's, the beautiful ruins of which were submerged some years ago in the construction of the great reservoir of the Edinburgh Water Company.
   The parish is nearly twelve miles long, averaging four in breadth, and contains 20,000 acres. It is bounded on the north by Glencross, Colinton, and Currie parishes; on the south by the county of Peebles; on the east by the parishes of Temple and Lasswade; and on the west by Kirknewton. The surface is greatly diversified, exhibiting in the south-eastern parts a tolerably level country, but rising in numerous undulations and abrupt breaks towards the north-west, and comprehending a considerable portion of the Pentland hills, which rise 1700 feet above the level of the sea, and are overspread with numerous flocks of sheep. The proportion of wet moorland is very large; and this circumstance, together with the lofty elevation of many of the hills, renders the aspect of the parish in several parts wild and barren, and the climate bleak, damp, and unhealthy. Much interesting scenery, however, is formed by the Pentland hills, running from north-east to south-west; and the lands are enlivened by the river Esk, which, rising among the mountains, and flowing for about seven miles, leaves the parish a little below the village of Penicuick. The romantic valley of the Logan water, also, which divides the Pentland range, constitutes scenery worthy of admiration. There is only one loch, and this of small extent; but the numerous springs throughout the parish, and the several beautiful and copious streams, tributaries to the Esk, and issuing from the Pentlands, afford an abundant supply of the finest water for the ornamental scenery of pleasure-grounds, the uses of rural economy, and the extensive operations of the paper-mills established in the district.
   The soil about the village consists of sand and gravelly earth resting upon sandstone and schistus; but in other parts clay is predominant, with large tracts of moss beneath which, at the depth of ten or twelve feet, is found a soil of great richness and fertility. About 1000 acres lie under wood; some thousands are mere barren heath, moor, and moss, capable, however, to a great extent, of profitable cultivation; while the remaining land consists of arable ground producing most kinds of crops of good quality, the total annual value of which is upwards of £20,000. Sheep are bred in considerable numbers, and, as well as the cattle, have been of late much improved by crossing the breeds. The Galloway cattle formerly prevailed; but the Ayrshire are now preferred, especially in dairy-farming, which is much attended to, being chiefly relied on by the tenants for the payment of their rent. The horses are mostly of the Clydesdale breed. Among the changes recently introduced, the superior character of the farmhouses and steadings deserves particular notice: all of these, in the Penicuick barony, have been rebuilt with good slated roofs, or improved in various ways. Large tracts of waste land have been progressively brought into tillage, particularly on the Springfield estate; and south-west of the village is a vast tract of barren moor, the reclaiming which, for some time commenced, has recently received an impulse by the formation of two turnpike-roads through the whole property. Inclosures and drains have to a considerable extent been constructed in the parish, the former consisting generally of stone dykes, though on the superior estates hedges and ditches are usually to be seen: furrow-draining also is gradually working its way; and tile-draining, so advantageously employed in the west of Scotland, has just been introduced. Lime is used as manure in very large quantities; and for obtaining it, in order to the reclaiming of waste, great facilities are afforded by the landlords. The land is portioned among numerous heritors, of whom Sir George Clerk, Bart., occupies more than one-half; and the rateable annual value of the parish amounts to £6070. The rocks most common are, sandstone, limestone, and schistus, which are abundant in every direction. In the eastern quarter the limestone is quarried to a considerable extent, and on the plains the sandstone and schistus run into the various alluvial formations of clay and gravel; fossils of shell-fish and plants have frequently been found, and of the latter class a very fine fossil-tree was taken out some years ago. The Pentland hills consist chiefly of porphyry, and on other high grounds chlorite, granite, and sienite are often seen: sometimes garnets are found, and iron-ore is met with in beds and veins of schistus. Coal, also, is abundant, and is now rather extensively wrought.
   The chief mansion is Penicuick House, the seat of Sir George Clerk, an elegant structure built in 1761, in the Grecian style, with a portico of great beauty, and commanding a fine prospect of the valley along which the Esk flows, terminated by the western extremity of the Pentlands, and embracing the interesting ruins of Brunstane Castle. The library is well selected and extensive, and there is a superior collection of Roman antiquities; but the chief attraction to the visiter is Ossian's Hall, a spacious room the ceiling of which is ornamented with numerous designs from the poems of Ossian, painted by the celebrated Runciman, whose death is supposed to have been occasioned by the painful position and the flexures of his body rendered necessary in painting this roof. The house of New-Hall, the residence of the Brown family, is handsomely built in the manor-house style. The village of Penicuick, the only village in the barony, has good shops of every description; and two fairs are held in it during the year, one on the 3rd Friday in March, and the other on the 1st Friday in October, the chief business being the hiring of servants. A bailie holds a monthly court, and has at command a police force consisting of several special constables, whose services, however, are seldom required.
   The three hamlets, Kirkhill, Howgate, and Nine-Mile-Burn, contain together about 600 persons. There are a few weavers; but the leading manufacture is that of paper, which has been long established, and is carried on to a great extent. The mills, impelled by the stream of the Esk, consume 1000 tons of rags annually, manufacturing paper to the amount of £80,000; and about 400 hands, including men, women, and children, are employed in the works. The premises were in 1810 turned by the government into a depôt for prisoners of war, and the adjacent cottages adapted to military purposes; the paper-mills were fitted up to receive 6000 prisoners, and the Esk mills, used at that time as a cotton-manufactory, quartered 1500 British troops. At the close of the war in 1814, however, the premises reverted to their former occupation; an event which was hailed throughout the parish with joy, manifested by a public illumination. An iron-foundry employs about thirty hands. Three great turnpike-roads run through the parish from north to south, all passing by different routes to Dumfries; viz., the old road by Howgate, the new road by Penicuick, and one recently formed by NineMile-Burn. Another road has been opened, connecting Penicuick with Linton; and all are in good order.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are directed by the presbytery of Dalkeith and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and the patronage is vested in Sir George Clerk: the stipend of the minister is £158, of which about a third is received from the exchequer; with a manse, a commodious residence, and a glebe of six or seven acres, worth, with the farm-offices, about £26 per annum. The church is a neat structure in the Grecian style, with a chaste portico of four Tuscan columns supporting a pediment with architrave and entablature; it was built in 1771, and is in good repair. It formerly accommodated only 500 persons; but in 1837, 300 sittings were added at an expense of £600, and in 1845 two additional galleries were erected. There are a place of worship for members of the Free Church, and two for the United Associate Synod; one of the latter, at Howgate, was built in 1750, and accommodates about 400 persons. A parochial school is supported, the master of which has the maximum salary, with a house and garden, and £40 fees; but only the common branches of education, as reading, writing, and arithmetic, are taught. There are also several private schools in the parish, supported by fees; two infants' and four Sunday schools; and a good subscription library, containing about 1200 volumes, with one or two others of a minor character. Of three friendly societies one has a capital of £1200; and there is a savings' bank, to which the manufacturing classes chiefly contribute. It may be observed in reference to this parish, that the romantic scenery about the Esk, at New Hall, is generally supposed to have furnished the celebrated poet, Allan Ramsay, with some of the pictures of his admired pastoral, The Gentle Shepherd; and on the opposite side of the river is an obelisk raised to his memory. Near Valleyfield is a neat monument in memory of 300 prisoners of war who were buried in a beautiful spot here, while the mills constituted a government depôt. It has upon it the following inscription, Grata quies patriæ, sed, et omnis terra sepulchrum; and underneath is added, "Certain inhabitants of this parish, desiring to remember that all men are brethren, caused this monument to be erected." Chalybeate and petrifying springs are to be met with in the parish.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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