Spynie, New

   SPYNIE, NEW, a parish, in the county of Elgin, 2½ miles (W. by N.) from Elgin; containing, with the village of Bishopmill, 1164 inhabitants, of whom 409 are in the rural districts. This place derived its name from Loch Spynie, originally an arm of the sea three miles in length and one mile in breadth, but which, by the receding of the waters, has become inclosed. Its distinguishing adjunct, New, arose from the desertion of its ancient church, which was situated at the eastern extremity of the parish, and the erection of the present structure, in 1736, on a more centrical and commodious site. On the foundation of the see of Moray by Malcolm Canmore, in 1057, the cathedral of that diocese was established at this place; and the castle of Spynie, of which the original date is not precisely known, became the chief residence of its bishops, and so continued till the removal of the see to Elgin, by Alexander II., in 1244. The palace, after this transfer of the seat of the diocese, was only the occasional abode of the bishops: the last of those prelates who resided here was Colin Falconer, who died in 1680, universally respected and regretted. The remains of the palace, which are in a very dilapidated condition, are situated at the eastern extremity of the parish, on the border of the ancient lake; and the precincts occupy a site of nearly ten acres. This once magnificent structure, with its various buildings, inclosed a quadrangular area 120 feet long and nearly of equal width, surrounded by a strong embattled wall, defended at the angles with lofty square towers of unusual strength, of which one, still remaining, is sixty feet in height: on the eastern side was an entrance under an embattled gateway tower protected by a portcullis and drawbridge. A few of the apartments are in a tolerable state of preservation; and on the walls of some of them, may be distinctly traced the outlines of paintings with which they were once embellished, chiefly representations of scriptural subjects. The whole of the precincts were till lately the property of the crown, of whom they were held under lease by the Earl of Fife; and within the last twenty years, the barons of the exchequer laid out a considerable sum for the preservation of the ruins, and erected a cottage for a keeper.
   The parish is bounded on the south by the river Lossie, and is about four miles in length and two in breadth, comprising 5000 acres, of which 3000 are arable, 1500 in natural wood and in plantations, and the remainder rough pasture and waste. The surface is varied: for about a mile from the eastern extremity it is tolerably level, but it is thence intersected by a ridge which gradually increases in height till it terminates at the western extremity in a hill of considerable elevation. The loch was drained in the year 1807, at a cost of nearly £11,000, in the expectation of bringing a large tract of land into profitable cultivation; but after it had been completely drained, the bottom was found impracticable for any agricultural purpose. The chief benefit derived from the undertaking is the preservation of the rich grounds around its margin from the inundations to which they were previously exposed. The land recovered affords only very coarse pasture, which is neither nutritious nor wholesome; and the black-cattle that are turned into it to graze, in a very short time lose their original colour, which changes into grey. The Lossie has its source in Loch Lossie, in the parish of Edenkillie, and, flowing in a north-eastern direction, passes the city of Elgin, and falls into the Moray Frith at Lossiemouth; it abounds with trout, and affords good sport to the angler. The soil on the banks of the Lossie, and on the lowlands on each side of the ridge, is richly fertile, though including almost every variety from the lightest sand to the most tenacious clay; the crops are, grain of all kinds, beans, peas, potatoes, and turnips. The system of husbandry is in an advanced state, and much waste land has been reclaimed by trenching, draining, and embankments: in several of the farms great efforts have been made by the tenants, under the inducement of premiums of £5 allowed by the landlord for every acre of waste brought into cultivation. The farms are generally of moderate extent, and the farm houses and buildings substantial and commodiously arranged; the lands have been well inclosed with hedges of thorn; and all the more recent improvements in the construction of implements are adopted. The number of sheep reared has been greatly diminished since the plantations have been so much extended, and is now very inconsiderable; the cattle are usually of the most approved breeds, and due attention is paid to their improvement. The agricultural produce is chiefly sent to Elgin, but considerable quantities of grain are shipped at the adjacent sea-ports for the southern markets.
   There are very large tracts of natural wood: on the south side of the hill at the western extremity of the parish, is a beautiful forest of oak belonging to the Earl of Fife. The plantations, which extend along the whole of the moorland ridge, consist of firs interspersed with various kinds of forest-trees, and are in a thriving state, adding greatly to the beauty of the scenery. The substrata are chiefly sandstone and clay-slate. The sandstone, which is of excellent quality for building, is of a yellowish hue, and susceptible of a fine polish; the principal quarries are at the base of Quarrywood hill, and from them was taken the stone for the erection of Dr. Gray's hospital at Elgin. There are also freestone quarries on the lands of Seafield and Findrassie, from the former of which the materials were obtained for building the village of Bishopmill; the latter quarry affords stone of good quality for dykes. Near the summit of Quarrywood hill is a quarry of hard and durable gritstone, from which are produced millstones for the supply of the surrounding country to a wide extent. The rateable annual value of the parish is £4295. The only gentleman's seat is Findrassie House, a handsome modern mansion situated about a mile to the west of the ancient palace, in a tastefully embellished and richly-planted demesne. On the north bank of the Lossie, near Bishopmill, is a bleachfield for linens and yarn; but no manufacture is carried on in the parish, the population being chiefly employed in agriculture. The village of Bishopmill is connected by a handsome iron bridge with the city of Elgin, of which it forms a suburb, and within the parliamentary boundaries of which it is included. Letters are delivered regularly from the post-office of Elgin; and facility of communication is maintained by the great north road from Aberdeen to Inverness, which intersects the south-western portion of the parish, and the turnpike-road from Elgin to the seaport of Lossiemouth, which passes through its eastern extremity. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Elgin and synod of Moray. The minister's stipend is £185. 4. 2., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £14 per annum; patron, W. F. L. Carnegie, Esq. The church, situated on the hill of Quarrywood, was erected in 1736, and is a neat substantial structure containing 400 sittings, all of which are free. The parochial school is near the church, and is well attended: the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house, an allowance of £2. 2. in lieu of garden, and the school fees, averaging about £15 annually; also a portion of the Dick bequest. A parochial library has been established at Bishopmill, and is supported by subscription. The only remains of antiquity beyond what have been previously noticed, are some vestiges of a Danish encampment on Quarrywood hill, now almost concealed among the plantations. This parish formerly gave the title of baron to a son of the Earl of Crawfurd, who in 1590 was created Lord Spynie.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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