- TORPHICHEN, a parish, in the county of Linlithgow; containing, with the village of Blackridge, 417 inhabitants, of whom 397 are in the village of Torphichen, 2¾ miles (N. by W.) from Bathgate. This place, which is supposed to have derived its name from its hills, was anciently the seat of a commandery of the Knights of Malta and St. John of Jerusalem, founded in the year 1153 by King Malcolm IV., and more largely endowed by his successors, Alexander II. and III. The establishment received additional grants of land, and various immunities, from succeeding sovereigns till the time of James IV., by whom the privileges were confirmed; and the possessions of the commandery were ultimately erected into a lordship, designated the Lordship of St. John and Commandery of Torphichen. In 1298, Sir William Wallace made the place his head-quarters for some time previously to the battle of Falkirk, in which Alexander de Wells, then commander of Torphichen, was killed. Many of the commanders were distinguished for the important offices they filled in the state, and as members of the council and of parliament; the last, Sir James Sandilands, took an active part in promoting the Reformation. Sir James was succeeded in the lordship of Torphichen by his nephew, Sandilands, of Calder, who made Calder House, which had long been the patrimonial residence of the family, the seat of the lordship. The commandery was now abandoned, and soon fell into decay; the only remains are the choir, which, however, is almost perfect, and is about sixty-six feet in length and twenty feet in breadth within the walls, which are of great thickness. The interior contains many interesting architectural details in the richer Norman style; and at each end is a beautiful window enriched with tracery, beneath one of which is an arched and canopied recess, where the remains of the commanders were placed, during the performance of the funereal rites previously to their interment. In the cemetery is a low square pillar of stone, with a Maltese cross rudely sculptured: from this were measured the limits of the sanctuary of Torphichen, marked by stones similarly sculptured, and within which all persons charged with offences not capital were safe.The parish is about ten miles in extreme length from east to west, and varies from a mile and a half to about two miles and a half in breadth, comprising an area of 10,430 acres, of which the greater portion is arable, and the rest composed of extensive tracts of hilly moorland, pasture, and plantations. The surface is diversified with ranges of hills, the highest, called Cairn-Naple, having an elevation of 1498 feet. Towards the north are Cockleroi and Bowden hills, from the summits of which are interesting views extending from North Berwick Law to Ben-Lomond, and embracing the city and castle of Edinburgh with Salisbury Craigs and Arthur's Seat, the Frith of Forth, the Fifeshire coast, the Ochils, the ancient town of Stirling, and the Grampians. The ridge of hills immediately above the village forms a continuation of bold circular eminences, and on the western side gradually diminishes into gentle undulations, among which are seen, with beautifully picturesque effect, the village, the church, and the venerable remains of the commandery. The small river Avon flows along the northern boundary of the parish, dividing it from that of Muiravonside; and the Loggie burn, a still smaller stream, for several miles separates the parish from that of Bathgate, and flows into the Avon near Craw Hill. About a mile to the north-east of the village is Loch Cote, a sheet of water about twentytwo acres in extent, surrounded by the hills of Bowden, Cockleroi, and Kipps, and which, after having been drained, has been restored by the present proprietor.The soil around the village is extremely fertile; and that in other parts, though wet, is well adapted to the growth of timber of every kind. The lands have been mostly inclosed, and improved by draining, and produce favourable crops of grain; the farms are generally small, but the farm-buildings are nevertheless substantial and commodious. Those parts not in cultivation afford good pasturage for the sheep and cattle, which are usually of the common breeds: of the latter, several of the Ayrshire kind have been recently introduced. There are quarries of limestone in the Hilderston and Bowden hills, the latter of which is worked by an adit from the side of the hill; and on Hilderston, and in the hollow between the Kipps hills and the Torphichen range, are coal-mines. At the former of these the coal crops out at the surface, which has an elevation of 800 feet above the level of the sea. There is also a mine on the lands of Bridgecastle; but the coal, though of good quality, is thin, and the mine not now in operation. In the parish are two quarries of granite, and one of sandstone; and on the banks of the Avon is a mine of ironstone, which, however, has not been wrought for many years. In the limestone quarry on Hilderston hill, silver-ore was formerly found, but not of any purity, or in quantity adequate to the expense of extracting it. The rateable annual value of the parish is £6644. The seats are, Wallhouse, Cathlaw, and Lochcote, the last a modern mansion, which, when completed, will be an elegant structure. Bridgecastle, formerly the seat of the earls of Linlithgow, still retains vestiges of its ancient character, and some of the venerable trees by which it was surrounded are in good preservation. Behind the old mansion-house of Craw Hill, on the banks of the Avon, is a chasm called Wallace's cave; and in some clefts in the rock are fine specimens of mosses, of several rare varieties. About two miles to the south-west of Bridgecastle are the foundations of the castle of Ogilface, the ancient seat of the family of De Boscos, barons of Ogilface, and which was a place of considerable strength. There are some vestiges of the castle of Bedlormie, comprising a square tower with a vaulted roof; also remains of the castle of Kipps, of similar character, but smaller dimensions.The village of Torphichen, consisting of scattered clusters of houses, is pleasantly situated. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in agricultural pursuits and in the quarries; there are likewise two corn-mills, two flax-mills, and two mills for the spinning of wool, part of which is manufactured into shawls. Blackridge is in the western portion of the parish, near the river Avon; it is noticed under its own head. Facility of communication with Linlithgow and the other towns in the neighbourhood is maintained by good roads; the Linlithgow and Glasgow, and the Edinburgh and Glasgow, turnpike-roads passing through the parish. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Linlithgow and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The minister's stipend is £163. 13. 7., of which £25. 7. are paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £12 per annum: patron, Lord Torphichen. The church, which is adjacent to the ancient commandery, near the eastern extremity of the parish, is a neat building erected in 1756, and containing 550 sittings, of which all are free. A church has been erected in the village of Blackridge, and the members of the Free Church have a place of worship. There are parochial schools at Torphichen and Blackridge; the master of the former has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house and garden, and his fees average about £14. There are also parochial libraries in both villages. Several stone coffins of rude construction have been found on the high grounds above the Logie burn.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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