- QUEENSFERRY, a royal burgh and a parish, in the county of Linlithgow, 9 miles (E. by N.) from Linlithgow, and 9 (W. by N.) from Edinburgh; containing 721 inhabitants. This place, which is of great antiquity, appears, from the numerous remains of sepulchral urns, burnt bones, and other relics discovered at various times, to have been visited by the Romans, who probably deemed it the most convenient spot for crossing the Frith of Forth, and by whom it was called Freti Transitus. Its proximity to the military way leading to the wall of Antonine, also, affords presumptive evidence of its early importance. At the time of the conquest, in 1066, Edgar Atheling, with his sister Margaret, afterwards Queen of Scotland, fleeing from England, arrived here to take refuge at the Scottish court; and the place where he landed, to the westward of the town, is in commemoration of that event still called Port-Edgar. After her marriage to Malcolm Canmore, in 1067, this place was frequently visited by the queen, in her way to and from the royal palace of Dunfermline; and the particular spot where she was in the habit of crossing the Frith obtained the appellation of the Queen's Ferry, from which the town derives its present name. Malcolm IV. granted to the monks of the abbey of Scone a free passage to this place, which in his charter to that effect is designated Portus Regina, and the same privilege was granted also to the abbey of Dunfermline, by Pope Gregory, in 1234, and by Robert I. and III., and confirmed to it by charter of James II. in 1450. Though the place had been constituted a port in the reign of Malcolm IV., it was not erected into a royal burgh till 1636, when the inhabitants obtained a charter of privileges from Charles I. From this time the town rapidly increased in commercial importance; the inhabitants carried on a considerable trade with Holland, and in 1641 there were about twenty ships of large burthen belonging to the port, and several coastingvessels. During the war in the reign of Charles I., the town suffered frequent depredation from the contending parties, and in the time of Cromwell was injured by the cannon of some ships of his fleet. At the rebellion in 1745, it was threatened by the Highland troops in the Pretender's service; but was saved from being plundered by a ship of war at that time lying off the harbour.The town is situated on the south side of the Frith of Forth, which is here about a mile and a half in breadth. It consists chiefly of one street, extending for about a quarter of a mile in length, and containing several good houses of modern erection; and is plentifully supplied with water, conveyed into a reservoir formed at the expense of the Earl of Rosebery, who also gave to the inhabitants a piece of ground for a bleach-green. The town has been greatly improved; new houses have been built, and handsome shops opened. There is a subscription library containing about 600 volumes; and the place is much resorted to for sea-bathing. A considerable degree of traffic arises from the numbers of persons crossing the ferry; but there are no large vessels now belonging to the port, nor is any foreign trade carried on; though occasionally a few coasting-vessels land cargoes of barley for the distilleries in the vicinity, and also of rape-cake, draining-tiles, and manure, for the use of the farmers, who frequently during the winter send potatoes to the London market. Coal, also, for the supply of the steamers on the ferry, and for the consumption of the neighbourhood, is brought in boats carrying from ten to twelve tons; and freestone from the quarries at Humbie, about three miles distant, is sometimes shipped at the port. The manufacture of soap, which was formerly extensive, and also a brewery, which had been long established, have both been discontinued; but a distillery under the Glenforth Distillery Company, making about 2000 gallons of whisky weekly, and employing twenty persons, is in high repute for the quality of the spirit.The inhabitants are, however, chiefly engaged in the fisheries. To the west of the town a salmon-fishery has been recently established, and is carried on with success; stake-nets are employed, and during the months of July and August great quantities of salmon, grilse, and sea-trout are taken, and sent regularly to the Edinburgh market. During the winter months, many of the inhabitants are occupied in the herringfishery, which was first established at St. Margaret's Hope, and in the bay of Inverkeithing, nearly opposite to the town, in the year 1792, and has since been pursued with various success. In favourable seasons, from forty to fifty carts have been daily in attendance to purchase the fish taken, each carrying away from 6000 to 12,000 to different places; so that comparatively few are cured here. There are twelve boats belonging to the town, each having a crew of five men; besides which, from fifty to 100 boats from Fisherrow, Prestonpans, and other villages are employed in the fishery, the greater number discharging their cargoes here. Many of the females spin hemp, which is made by the younger children into nets. The shore is level and sandy, with the exception of some ledges of rock extending considerably into the sea on the east and west extremities of the parish, at the latter of which is the harbour, where a substantial stone pier has been erected, and several important improvements made, under the direction of Mr. H. Baird, civil engineer. The tide rises at the mouth of the harbour to the height of eighteen feet; and during the fishing-season, the harbour is generally crowded with the vessels employed in that trade. Since the discontinuance of the soap manufacture, however, which contributed largely to the excise-duties, the harbour-dues have been greatly diminished; and they at present scarcely produce £100 per annum.The ferry, of which the history is rather obscure, is supposed to have been at first private property, to the owner of which the lands of Muiry Hall, consisting of about fifteen acres, were granted by Queen Margaret, in order to keep it in due repair. It was subsequently divided among several individuals, under whose management it was much neglected. The piers on the south side were in a very dilapidated condition; on the opposite shore of the Frith, where the boats were kept, and all the boatmen lived, there was only one pier; and much delay and inconvenience were experienced in crossing. In 1809, application was accordingly made to parliament, and an act obtained for the construction of proper landing-places, for purchasing sites for the erection of houses to receive the boatmen, for altering the system of management, and other things connected with the improvement of the ferry. Under the provisions of this act, the ferry was purchased by trustees from the various shareholders, for the sum of £8673, including which the total amount expended on the works was £33,824, whereof £13,500 were advanced by government, and the remainder raised by loan. With part of these funds, the pier at Port-Edgar, to the west of the town, which had become much dilapidated, was rebuilt on a larger scale at an expense of £4764; it is 378 feet in length, and has been rendered perfectly commodious. A pier, also, 722 feet in length, was constructed at New Halls, about half a mile to the east of the town, at an expense of £8700; and is now the principal landing-place on the south side of the ferry. A small pier was erected at Port-Nuick, at an expense of £587; and several houses for the boatmen were built, at a cost of nearly £1000. The pier on the north side of the ferry was erected at a cost of £4206: a signal-house and a house for the superintendant, were also built, at an expense of almost £700. A second grant was obtained from government, and a new subscription opened, in 1812, by which means a pier was constructed at the Long Craig, 1177 feet in length, and also a small pier at the East Battery; while on the north side, the West Battery pier was enlarged, and the North Ferry pier considerably lengthened.Previously to 1821, there were but two sailing-boats and two pinnaces regularly employed in the ferry; but in that year steam navigation was introduced, and a fine steamer called the Queen Margaret was built at a cost of £2400, which, with three large sailing-boats, a half-tide boat, and three pinnaces, the several crews together amounting to thirty-six men and boys, performed the whole business of the ferry. In 1838, a larger steamer, of forty-eight horse power, called the William Adam, was substituted in the place of the Queen Margaret, which had been found inadequate to the work. Since this time, only two large sailing-boats and two pinnaces have been employed; and the number of persons engaged in navigating the steamer and the boats has been diminished to sixteen, with a shore-master, clerk, and two porters, on each side of the ferry. The William Adam leaves the South Ferry every hour, and the North pier at the half hour daily, from sunrise till sunset; and with such regularity is the business conducted, that passengers know the precise moment of their departure, and, by well-regulated signals while on the passage, may procure carriages waiting to forward them on their landing. Her Majesty Queen Victoria, attended by Prince Albert, crossed the Frith in the William Adam on the 5th of September, 1842, in her visit to the north, on which occasion the shore on both sides was crowded with spectators, and the Frith with vessels adorned with flags in honour of Her Majesty, who was hailed with the most joyful acclamations. There are several good houses at New Halls, and an excellent inn for the accommodation of passengers crossing the ferry; and the pleasingly romantic scenery in the neighbourhood renders the town the frequent resort of visiters and parties of pleasure. A fair is held annually in August; and facility of intercourse with Edinburgh, Linlithgow, and the other towns in the vicinity, is afforded by roads kept in excellent order, of which the chief are the great north road and the road to Edinburgh. The Edinburgh mail arrives daily at the post-office at half-past six in the morning, and at five in the afternoon; and the mail from the north at five in the morning, and at eight in the evening.The government of the burgh of Queensferry is vested in a provost, two bailies, and seventeen towncouncillors, by whom all the other municipal officers of the place are elected. There are three incorporated trades or companies, the wrights, tailors, and weavers, in one of which it is necessary to enter previously to becoming a burgess; the fees of admission are, for the son or son-in-law of a burgess £2. 1. 2., and for a stranger £5. 2. 2. The jurisdiction of the magistrates is confined to the royalty. They hold courts for the determination of civil pleas to any amount, though for some years not more than ten causes have been tried annually; they also hold criminal courts, but for the trial of petty offences only, the more serious cases being sent to Linlithgow. The town-hall contains a room for the meetings of the council, with the requisite accommodation for holding the courts, and offices for transacting the other public business of the burgh; there is also a small room for the temporary confinement of prisoners. The police is under the superintendence of a townofficer, assisted by six constables, and appointed by the magistrates. The inhabitants appear to have sent a representative to the Scottish parliament in 1639; the burgh is now associated with Stirling, Inverkeithing, Culross, and Dunfermline, in returning a member to the imperial parliament. The right of election is vested by the Reform act of 1832 in the £10 householders, of whom there are within the parliamentary boundaries thirty-nine.The parish was separated from the parish of Dalmeny in 1636, by charter under the great seal, ratified by act of parliament in 1641; it comprises only the site of the main part of the town, and the gardens and lands of the royalty, in all from eight to ten acres. The rateable annual value is £689. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Linlithgow and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The stipend of the minister is £171.8.6., of which £52. 2. 1. are paid from the exchequer; with an allowance, in lieu of manse and glebe, of £50 per annum, granted by a late act of parliament; patrons, the Town-council. The church, situated in the centre of the town, is a neat plain structure with a belfry, erected in 1635, and thoroughly repaired in 1821 at an expense of £500; the interior is well arranged, and contains 400 sittings, of which some are free. The parochial school is well attended, and the master has a salary of £29. 4. 6., and the fees, averaging about £44: a new building has recently been erected for the school, which is handsome and well adapted for the purpose. There is also a Sabbath school, to which is attached a library for the children. The poor of the parish have the yearly rent of land, and interest of money, amounting to £23, and part of the proceeds of a bequest by Capt. Henry Meek, of £5000, to the town of Queensferry, in which the poor of those small parts of the town that are within Dalmeny parish are allowed to participate. The Countess of Rosebery, also, gives employment to widows and industrious females in spinning, which contributes to their relief. In the western portion of the town are some remains of the ancient church of the Carmelite Friars, founded about the year 1330, by the Dundas family, whose place of sepulture it still remains; and there was formerly a house on the beach, called the Binks, erected for the accommodation of Queen Margaret while waiting for the arrival of her boat from the opposite shore of the ferry.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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