- ROSLIN, a burgh of barony, and lately a quoad sacra parish, in the parish of Lasswade, county of Edinburgh; containing 1807 inhabitants, of whom 430 are in the village, 2 miles (S. W.) from Lasswade, and 7 (S.) from Edinburgh. This place at a very early period became the property of the St. Clairs, whose ancestor, William de St. Clair, second son of Margaret, daughter of Richard, Duke of Normandy, settling in this part in the reign of Malcolm Canmore, obtained large grants of land in the county of Mid Lothian, to which considerable additions were made by succeeding sovereigns. In the reign of David I. the barony of Roslin, to which that of Pentland and others were afterwards joined, was the chief residence of the St. Clairs, who were earls of Orkney, and of whose baronial castle there are still considerable remains, though the time of its original foundation is not precisely known. In 1302, the English army under the command of John de Segrave, regent of Scotland for Edward II. of England, was encountered near the village by the Scottish troops led by the Regent Cumming and Sir Simon Fraser, on the 24th of February, when the three divisions into which it had been formed were successively defeated. The lands attached to the castle were erected into a burgh of barony by James II.; and the place continued to flourish under the auspices of the St. Clair family, of whom William in 1446 founded the chapel of Roslin, which he dedicated to St. Matthew the Apostle, and endowed for a provost, six prebendaries, and two choristers. The castle was partly burnt by an accidental fire in 1447. It was also, with that of Craigmillar and others, burnt by the English in 1554; and in 1650 it was besieged and taken by General Monk.The chapel, which had been defaced and stripped of its ornaments at the time of the Reformation, was greatly injured in 1688 by a lawless mob who, in their zeal for the destruction of idolatrous monuments, reduced it almost to ruins, and afterwards attacked the castle, which they plundered of all its valuable furniture. The sacred edifice was, however, restored by General St. Clair, and has since been carefully preserved by the earls of Rosslyn. The remains of this beautiful structure, which was one of the richest specimens of the decorated English style of architecture in the kingdom, and contained also details of the early Norman and the various intermediate styles in their gradual transition, consist chiefly of the choir and part of the transept of the original church. The choir, which is sixty-eight feet in length and thirty-four in breadth, is divided into a nave and two aisles by ranges of clustered columns. These columns have richly-flowered capitals, are ornamented with numerous devices of exquisite sculpture, and sustain series of gracefully pointed arches deeply moulded, and embellished with foliage, heads of human figures and various animals, with other ornaments of elegant design and elaborate execution. The roof, forty feet high, is delicately groined; and the edifice is lighted by ranges of windows of beautiful design and symmetry, enriched with flowing tracery. Beneath the pavement of the chapel is the vault of the Rosslyn family, the soil of which is so perfectly free from damp that the bodies of many of its tenants have been found in a perfect state, eighty years after their interment: here are many of the ancient barons of Roslin buried in their armour without coffins, several of the earls of Caithness, and other distinguished descendants of the St. Clair family.The village of Roslin is beautifully situated on the banks of the North Esk, and in a district abounding with scenery of the most striking and romantic character. In the immediate vicinity is the ancient castle, now a majestic pile of ruins, situated on a rocky promontory overhanging a deep ravine said to have been formerly the bed of the Esk, and over which is a lofty narrow bridge, forming an approach from the village. The castle appears to have been about 200 feet in length and ninety feet in breadth; and the walls, of which some portions are still remaining, are nine feet in thickness: the only part now inhabited is a comparatively modern house, with the initials S. W. S. and the date 1622 over the entrance. The houses in the village are neatly built; and there is a small subscription library, containing about 300 volumes. The manufacture of gunpowder is carried on to a very considerable extent, affording employment to more than seventy persons; there is also an extensive bleachfield. The manufacture of writing and printing paper has been established with success, and gives employment to a large number of persons both male and female. The market formerly held here has long been discontinued; but the pedestal of the ancient market-cross is still remaining in the centre of the village. A pleasure fair, at which gymnastic sports take place, is held annually. The adjacent village of Rosewell contains 130 inhabitants who are chiefly employed in the neighbouring collieries, of which that on the lands of Dryden, though it has been in constant operation for many years, has been ascertained to have more than thirty millions of tons yet unwrought. Facility of communication is afforded by roads kept in due order; there are about five miles of turnpike road in the parish, and the great road to Dumfries intersects it for more than a mile. There is a post-office which has two pretty good deliveries daily.The late quoad sacra parish was formed from Lasswade by the presbytery of Dalkeith in 1835. It was bounded on the north by the rest of the parish of Lasswade, on the east by the parishes of Cockpen and Carrington, and on the south and west by those of Penicuick and Glencross; it was about five and a half miles in length and three and three-quarters in extreme breadth, comprising an area of nearly ten square miles, or 6400 acres. The soil of the district is fertile, and by far the greater portion of the lands in high cultivation; there are some extensive tracts of woodland and rich meadow and pasture. The system of agriculture is advanced; draining has been much practised, and there is little waste. The principal mansions are, Rosebank, a lovely residence; Dryden, beautifully situated on the right bank of the North Esk, in grounds tastefully laid out; and Firth, the seat of Robert Brown, Esq. The church was erected in 1827, at an expense, including the manse and school-house, of £1600, raised by subscription; it is a neat structure in good repair, and contains 444 sittings, to which number 250 might be added by the erection of galleries, for which the building is adapted. The minister, who is chosen by the male communicants, has a stipend of £150, derived from the seats, and secured by bond of the trustees. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, and United Secession; also several schools under the superintendence of the minister of Roslin, one of which is endowed with a small permanent salary.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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