Peterculter

   PETERCULTER, a parish, in the district and county of Aberdeen, 7 miles (W. S. W.) from Aberdeen; containing 1259 inhabitants. This place is said to have derived the latter portion of its name, a compound of the Gaelic terms Cul, signifying "a back," and Tir, "a country or district," from its situation on the side of the river Dee; and the former, from the dedication of its old chapels and wells to St. Peter. It lays claim to a very remote antiquity, and is supposed, upon very unquestionable authority, to have been a Roman station. On a hill of moderate elevation, in the south-west of the parish, are still some small remains of an ancient camp called Norman Dykes, which, till it was more minutely examined within the last few years, was generally thought to have been constructed by the Danes or Norwegians, during their invasions of this part of the country in the 11th century. But, from its form, and situation on an eminence commanding the fords of the river, and also on account of its distance from a similar station on the river Ythan, which corresponds exactly with the distance given in the Iter, it has been clearly identified with the Devana of Ptolemy and Richard, raised after the recall of Agricola from Britain. The rampart and ditch on the north side, of which some considerable portions are remaining, appear to have extended for nearly three-quarters of a mile in a direction from E. N. E. to W. S. W.; and from each extremity were carried, at right angles, a similar rampart and ditch, of which small parts can be traced; inclosing a rectangular area 938 yards in length and 543 yards in breadth. Of its identity with the Devana, constructed by Lollius Urbicus in his progress northwards through the county of Aberdeen, a strongly corroborating testimony is afforded by its dimensions, which are precisely the same as those of Rae-Dykes, on the river Ythan, in the parish of Auchterless, which is the second station in the Iter.
   The parish is bounded on the south by the Dee, and is about seven miles in extreme length; an extent, however, including a large portion of the parish of Drumoak, by which Peterculter is deeply indented on the west, and exclusively of which its length cannot be estimated at more than five miles. It varies from four to five miles in breadth; but, from the great irregularity of its form, the superficial contents have not been strictly ascertained, though by estimation they are supposed to be about 10,000 acres, of which 5686 are arable, 1600 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, and waste. The surface is very ununiform; rising in some parts abruptly into rocky hills interspersed with level tracts of moss; towards the south, ascending by a gentle acclivity from the banks of the river; and in other parts, undulating with greater or less degrees of boldness. The Dee is subject to frequent inundations; and in the summer of 1829 the water rose to such a height as greatly to damage the crops growing near its banks, and to sweep down many stacks of hay. The salmon-fisheries on this river, previously very lucrative, have been much injured by the introduction of stake-nets at its mouth, and now scarcely remunerate the labour of the fishermen. There are numerous rivulets flowing through the lands into the Dee; the principal are, the Leuchar, the Culter, and the Murtle. The Leuchar burn issues from Loch Skene, in the adjoining parish of that name, and, running eastward, near the northern boundary of this parish unites with the Culter, which passes at first from north to south, and, receiving the waters of the Gormack burn at the eastern boundary of Drumoak, afterwards flows south-eastward into the Dee near the church. The prevailing scenery is boldly diversified, and in many places enriched with thriving woods and plantations, and the tastefully embellished demesnes of numerous gentlemen's seats, imparting to it a highly pleasing aspect. In the vicinity of a papermill situated in a hollow surrounded by hills rising almost perpendicularly to a height of 400 feet, is an aqueduct of wood, 700 feet in length, supported on pillars of stone; it crosses the Culter, at a height of ten feet from its surface, and conveys water to the mill from an extensive reservoir in the rear.
   The soil is in general light; on the banks of the river, gravel alternated with sand, with intervals of fine black mould; in the northern portions, mostly a red earth resting upon clay; and in some of the lower grounds, a mixture of black earth or peat-moss which has been rendered fertile. The crops are, oats, barley, a very little wheat, turnips, and potatoes, with the usual grasses. The system of husbandry has been greatly improved, and large tracts of waste have been brought into profitable cultivation; a due rotation of crops is invariably observed, and the trenching and draining of low lands have been extensively practised. The fields are well inclosed, usually with fences of stone. The farmhouses are substantially built of stone and lime, and commodiously arranged; they are upheld by the proprietor of the lands, and the cottages on the various farms are neat and comfortable. No sheep are kept, except merely for domestic use and for the sake of their wool, and these are all of the English breeds; the cattle are of the Aberdeenshire, polled Angus, and Galloway breeds, and are sent to the Aberdeen market, whither, also, is forwarded the agricultural and dairy produce. There are extensive tracts of wood, some of which are of ancient and luxuriant growth; they are chiefly beech, chesnut, oak, ash, pine, and plane. Among the earlier of the plantations are also some beautiful specimens, of which the most prominent are, a double avenue of spruce of stately dimensions, forming the approach to the mansion of Countesswells; and in the gardens of Murtle House, a fine row of Athenian poplar, and also one of arbor vitæ of unusual size. The more recent plantations, which are very extensive, consist principally of the various kinds of fir, of which the Scotch fir seems best adapted to the soil; they are regularly thinned, and, under the most careful management, are all in a thriving state. In the tracts of moss are frequently found remains of the ancient forests with which the district abounded. The rocks in the parish are generally a kind of conglomerate, of great durability, but irregular texture, and fit only for building fences; but in the south and west districts is granite of good quality, which is quarried, and of which formerly large quantities were sent to Aberdeen. The rateable annual value of Peterculter is £5588.
   The mansion-house of Culter is an ancient structure of which the date is unknown, situated in a richlyplanted demesne, but at present occupied by a tenant. The house of Countesswells, a handsome mansion of more modern date, and occupied by a family from Aberdeen, is to the north-east of the former, in grounds also tastefully embellished with plantations. Murtle House, an elegant mansion in the Grecian style of architecture, is beautifully seated on the bank of the Dee, of which it commands an extensive view; and Binghill and Bieldside are also substantial pleasant residences, recently erected by their respective proprietors. There is no regular village in the parish; but several of the inhabitants are engaged in different branches of manufacture. On the burn of Culter, near its influx into the Dee, is a snuff manufactory; it is carried on in a low thatched building, and the machinery is driven by a water-wheel of eight-horse power, producing on an average about three hundred weight of snuff weekly. The manufacture of paper is carried on in a spacious pile of building erected in a romantic dell higher up the burn. The works, originally established in 1751, have been recently purchased by Messrs. Arbuthnot and Mc Combie, by whom they have been greatly extended and improved; the machinery is impelled by two powerful waterfalls. The articles produced are printing, cartridge, and all kinds of wrapping, papers, in the manufacture of which more than eighty persons are constantly employed, to whose comfort the greatest attention is paid by the proprietors; the works return a large revenue to government, and are not inferior in extent, or in the quality of the articles, to any establishment of the same description in the county. A mill for carding and spinning woollen yarn, and for the weaving of the coarser kinds of woollen cloth, was erected on the Leuchar in 1831, since which time it has been gradually increasing: at present it affords employment to about twenty persons. Facility of communication is maintained by the turnpike-road from Aberdeen to BanchoryTernan, and by cross roads kept in good repair by statute labour. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery and synod of Aberdeen: the minister's stipend is £196, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £11 per annum; patron, R. W. Duff, Esq., of Fetteresso and Culter. The church, situated on the bank of the Dee, was built in 1779; it is a neat substantial structure, and contains 550 sittings. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school, for which a handsome and appropriate building has lately been erected, capable of receiving 120 scholars, is well conducted. The master has a salary of £28, with £3. 14. 2., being the interest of a bequest for the instruction of poor children, a portion of the Dick bequest, and a house and garden; the fees average about £28 annually. In a plantation on the lands of Binghill are the remains of a Druidical circle, and near it a large tumulus said to have been the burying-place of the ancient family of Drum, whose descendants now reside in an adjoining parish.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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