Ratho

   RATHO, a parish, in the county of Edinburgh; containing, with the village of Bonnington, 1815 inhabitants, of whom 689 are in the village of Ratho, 7 miles (W. by S.) from Edinburgh. The name of this parish is supposed to be derived from an ancient British word signifying "a bare or plain place," originally used in reference to a conspicuous spot in the parish, on which a mansion stands. The historical information respecting Ratho runs back to 1315, in which year the barony, with other estates, was granted by Robert I. to Walter, the eighth hereditary high steward of Scotland, upon his marriage with Margery, Robert's daughter, through whom the sovereignty eventually came into the Stuart family. On the accession of Robert II., in 1371, the barony, with its pertinents, was settled on the king's eldest son, as the prince and steward of Scotland; and the whole estates of the Stuarts, in 1404, were formed into a principality, with regal jurisdiction. In 1563 the Ratho estate was purchased by Alexander Fowlis, who obtained from the king, as superior, a charter of confirmation. In 1778 Mr. Archibald Christie succeeded as heir to the Fowlis family; in 1786 the lands were purchased by Thomas Mc Knight Crawford, of Belville, in North Carolina; and again, in 1818, they came into the possession of A. Bonar, Esq., in whose family they still remain. At present, the principal estates in the parish, besides Ratho, are those of Hatton, Dalmahoy, Norton, Bonnington, and Ashley, the two first-named of which are most worthy of notice. That of Hatton, which once comprehended nearly half the parish, was formerly a possession of the Earl of Lauderdale, and was sold, together with the patronage of the church, in 1792, to the Duchess of Portland. The estate of Dalmahoy was held in the time of Alexander III. by Henry de Dalmahoy, in whose family it continued till the middle of the 17th century, when it came into the hands of the Dalrymples, and afterwards to the earls of Morton, with whom it yet remains. The church of Ratho was anciently dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The teinds and patronage were early made over by the archbishops of St. Andrew's to Sir John Forrester, who, thus obtaining funds, in 1444 caused the collegiate kirk of Corstorphine to be founded, for the endowment of four prebendal stalls. The ecclesiastical resources of Ratho appear to have been applied in this way until the Revolution, when, the Presbyterian form of government being established, Ratho became in every respect a distinct parish; its tithes reverted from their appropriation to the ecclesiastical institutions of Corstorphine, and the patronage was annexed to the estate of Hatton.
   The parish is in mean length about four miles, and in breadth about two and a half miles, and contains 5818 acres. It is bounded on the north by the parishes of Kirkliston and Corstorphine; on the west by Kirkliston and Kirknewton; on the east by Corstorphine and Currie; and on the south by Currie only. The general aspect of the surface is picturesque and engaging. In many parts are beautiful and well laid out gardens, verdant fields, and luxuriant plantations, all combining to enrich the scenery; and the effect is greatly heightened by the undulating character of the ground, which consists of hill and dale in quick succession throughout. The distant prospects, also, are extensive and commanding, parts of no less than twelve or fourteen counties rising to view from the South Platt Hill. To the north-east and north appear the Lothian plains, the Frith of Forth, the coasts of Berwick and Fife, the counties of Kinross and Clackmannan, Stirling, and the immense range of the Grampians. On the west, the nearer view of the surrounding parishes is extremely pleasing; and in the opposite direction, Edinburgh, with its far-stretched suburbs, supplies a very fine landscape, composed of some bold general features and a profusion of minute and interesting detail. The lands, however, are not much relieved by water; the only stream is the Gogar burn, separating Ratho and the parishes on the east; and springs are also unusually scarce, on which account the inhabitants are obliged to sink wells.
   The soil varies considerably, being in some parts a clayey loam upon a retentive subsoil, and in others a rich soft loam resting in the lower grounds upon gravel or sand, and in the higher parts upon whin or clay stone. On the very lowest grounds are a few small tracts of black moss. About 4978 acres are cultivated or occasionally in tillage; 444 are always in pasture, and 396 under wood. Grain of all kinds, especially wheat, is raised in fine crops, together with turnips and potatoes, to which part of the soil is well suited; and the total annual value of the produce averages £27,500. The rotation on the soft loamy ground is a four-years' change; but on the stiffer soils it is judiciously varied according to circumstances, husbandry being well understood. The few cattle that are bred are of a cross between the short-horned and the Ayrshire, which is preferred both for stock and for dairy use. The farm-buildings and inclosures are generally good; most of the steadings are formed of whinstone, and edged with freestone; and the improved method of threshing the grain by steammills has been introduced. Much waste land, also, has been reclaimed, among which Ratho and Gogar moors may be especially noticed. Draining has been carried on to a considerable extent; and by the abundant supply of manure obtained from Edinburgh by means of the Union canal, much larger quantities of green crops than formerly are now raised. Whinstone rock predominates in the parish; but in Dalmahoy hill is a bed of sandstone, and much claystone is to be found on the estate of Ratho. Coal, also, is supposed to exist; but the several attempts to obtain it have proved unsuccessful. The rateable annual value of the parish is £9471.
   The mansions are, Hatton House, an ancient and venerable building, surrounded with beautiful gardens and grounds to a wide extent; Dalmahoy House, built about 130 years ago, the family seat of the earls of Morton, situated in the midst of a large park inclosed by one of the finest walls in Scotland; Ratho House; Milburn Tower; Bonnington House, built in 1622; and Norton House; with several others belonging to different proprietors, which are also tasteful and elegant mansions, situated in the midst of agreeable scenery. The villages are Ratho and Bonnington. The former stands upon a slope, and consists of a single street of houses one story high, chiefly built of whinstone from a neighbouring quarry: it has been considerably improved within these few years by the addition of many good cottages, and the formation of drains. All the population of the parish are employed in husbandry, with the exception of about ten men regularly at work in the quarries, of which there are four of whinstone and one of sandstone; and till lately the same number were engaged in a distillery connected with the Ratho property, which produced 42,000 gallons of whisky in a year. There is a post-office in the village of Ratho, and public coaches run upon the Uphall and Calder roads. The Union canal and Glasgow and Edinburgh railway, also run through the parish: the former was intended originally only for the conveyance of heavy goods between Glasgow and Edinburgh, but is found likewise of eminent benefit to the coal districts in the west, for the supply of the capital. Manure in very large quantities is carried into the interior by this canal from Edinburgh, and coal is conveyed in return. The railway cuts the north-east corner of the parish.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are subject to the presbytery of Edinburgh and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and the patronage is vested in the trustees of Dr. Davidson. The stipend of the minister is £300, with a glebe consisting of two separate portions of land, one of which is about four and a half acres in extent, and of superior quality, and the other a piece of grass land, of little value on account of the wetness of the soil; together they are worth about £18 per annum. The manse, situated near the church, was built in 1803. The church, supposed to have been built about 1683, stands north of the village, and is encompassed with thick foliage, through which it is partially seen by the traveller. It was originally a long and narrow ordinary building, with the pulpit in the centre; but an addition was raised a few years since, on the south side, at an expense of between £500 and £600, by which it has been made to accommodate altogether 800 persons, and has received an improved appearance. The two communion cups, of massive silver, were presented by Lord Richard Maitland, one of the heritors, in 1684; and the baptismal plate and ewer, inscribed with the Lauderdale arms, were presented by the same nobleman in 1685. The members of the Free Church have no place of worship. There is a parochial school, in which the classics, French, and mathematics are taught, with all the usual branches of education; the master has the maximum salary, a house and garden, and fees amounting to about £45 per annum. Another school in the village of Ratho is conducted by a female, and is supported by subscriptions, and fees paid by the children's parents. There is a library under the management of the Kirk Session, consisting of nearly 400 volumes; and three friendly societies are maintained in the parish, for the support of members in sickness, and for insuring an allowance to defray funeral expenses. The most conspicuous relic of antiquity is an encampment, the lines of which are clearly discernible, on the Kaimes' hill, and which is surrounded by a double fosse and rampart; it is thought by some to have been a stronghold of the Norwegians, but others trace it to a Roman origin. It may be mentioned that at Dalmahoy House, in the possession of the Earl of Morton, is the Bible of his ancestor the Regent Morton, supposed to be the only complete copy remaining of the original Scotch Parliamentary Bible; it is a beautifully-printed folio, ornamented with numerous emblematical devices, and, according to the notice in the title page, was published at Edinburgh by order of James VI. in 1579. Here are also preserved the keys found a few years ago, in the process of draining Lochleven, as mentioned in the article on Kinross. They are supposed, from strong circumstantial evidence, to be the identical keys thrown into the loch by George Douglas, at the time of his assisting the escape of Queen Mary; they are five in number, and held together by an iron chain, and are now in the possession of Lord Morton. The same nobleman has in the library at Dalmahoy the original warrant upon which Mary was confined in Lochleven Castle, and also a letter of Knox, the Reformer, to the lord of Lochleven, dated 31st March, 1570. The incumbency of Ratho was at one time held by William Wilkie, denominated by some biographers the "Scottish Homer."

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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