Turriff

   TURRIFF, a burgh of barony, a parish, and the seat of a presbytery, in the district of Turriff, county of Aberdeen; containing 3146 inhabitants, of whom 1309 are in the burgh, 11 miles (S. by E.) from Banff, and 34 (N. N. W.) from Aberdeen. This place derives its name, signifying in the Gaelic language "heights" or "towers," either from the hills surrounding the parish, or from its numerous ancient castles, of which, till towards the close of the last century, the ruins of several were remaining. The gateway and vaults of Castle-Rainy are only just removed. Of the original foundation of the town, which is of remote antiquity, little is accurately known; but it appears evidently to have been a place of importance at a very early period, and is generally supposed to have been the residence of one of the Pictish monarchs. An hospital here seems to have belonged to the Knights Templars. On the north side of the town are some lands retaining the appellation of Temple-Brae; and a house called Temple-Feu is still in existence, of which the original proprietors held their lands under Lord Torphichen, to whom many of the possessions of the order of Templars were at the time of its dissolution granted by the crown. Another hospital was founded here in 1272 by Alexander Cumyn, Earl of Buchan, with the consent of Hugo de Benham, Bishop of Aberdeen, for a warden, six chaplains, and thirteen poor brethren of Buchan, and was dedicated to St. Congan; it had also, to a limited extent, the privileges of a sanctuary, the warden being bound to deliver up only notorious malefactors for public trial. This hospital was in 1329 endowed with lands in the parish of Fyvie, by King Robert Bruce, for the maintenance of a chaplain to say mass for the soul of his brother, Nigel, who in 1306 had been taken prisoner, and put to death, by the English who besieged and made themselves masters of the castle of Kildrummy, in which he at that time resided. In 1412, Greenlaw, Bishop of Aberdeen, raised the wardenship of the hospital into a prebend of the cathedral church; and William Hay, the warden, who thus became prebendary of Turriff, built in the Chanonry of Aberdeen a house for the residence of himself and his successors, which is now the property of the corporation of Old Aberdeen. In 1511, James IV. granted to Thomas Dickson, then prebendary, a charter, erecting the town into a free burgh of barony, of which he was to be the superior, and granting to the burgesses power to choose annually bailies and other officers for the government of the burgh, with the privilege of holding weekly markets and annual fairs, and receiving all the tolls, customs, and dues. In 1589, James VI., in the course of his progress through the country, passed one night in the town, which, with the exception of some slight skirmishes between parties of loyalists and Covenanters in 1639, does not appear to have been subsequently distinguished by any event of historical importance.
   The town is pleasantly situated on the bank of a rivulet to which it gives name, about two furlongs from its influx into the Doveran; and comprises one principal street of moderate extent, and several others of inferior order, to which have been lately added two that are spacious and regularly formed. The houses are substantial and neatly built, and to most of them are attached small gardens tastefully laid out, which give to the town a cheerful and lively aspect; the streets are lighted with gas from works established by a joint-stock company in 1839, and the inhabitants are well supplied with water. A public library, in which are about 600 volumes of standard works, is supported by subscription; and the reading-rooms are furnished with most of the daily journals and periodical publications. There are several respectable inns. In the principal street is an ancient cross twenty feet in height, raised on a building of circular form. The environs abound with pleasing scenery. The spinning of linen yarn, and bleaching, are carried on here, but not to so great an extent as formerly; and the weaving of linen and woollen cloth by hand-loom, and the dyeing of woollens and silks, are also pursued, upon a moderate scale. There are numerous shops for the supply of the district with groceries, haberdashery, and hardware; and the inhabitants display a general spirit of enterprise in various branches of mercantile speculation: the handicraft trades are carried on with skill, and the articles produced by the artificers are equal in quality to those of the principal towns. Here are branches of the Commercial Bank of Scotland, and the North of Scotland and Aberdeen Banking Companies; and agencies for the different insurance companies. The nearest ports with which the town has intercourse are Banff and Macduff, to which the grain and other agricultural produce of the parish are sent, and from which supplies of coal, lime, bone-dust, &c., for manure, and the various kinds of merchandise, are brought for the consumption of the neighbourhood. A customary market is well supplied with butchers' meat, and other provisions. Fairs, chiefly for cattle, horses, sheep, and merchandise, are held on the Wednesdays after the 5th of February, April, and August; the Wednesdays after the 12th of October and December; the Friday after the 7th of May; the Saturday before Trinity Muir fair in June; and the Thursday after the 27th of October; all O. S. Fairs for hiring servants are also held at Whitsuntide and Martinmas, O. S. A post-office under that of Aberdeen has two deliveries daily from the north and south; and facility of communication is afforded by the turnpike-road from Aberdeen to Banff, which passes through the whole length of the parish; by good roads kept in repair by statute labour, which intersect the parish in different directions; and by bridges over the Doveran and the burn of Turriff. The sheriff-substitute holds a quarterly court in the burgh for the recovery of debts not exceeding £8. 6. 8., and from the number of causes brought before him for decision, it appears to be highly serviceable; justice-of-peace courts, and courts of lieutenancy for the district, are also held when requisite. The only place of confinement is a small lock-up house containing two apartments, in which offenders are lodged previously to their committal to the county gaol.
   The parish is bounded on the north-west by the river Doveran, separating it from the parishes of Forglen and Marnoch; and is rather more than six miles in length and five miles in breadth, comprising 21,300 acres, of which 13,555 are arable, 3000 woodland and plantations, and the remainder moorland pasture and waste. The surface is beautifully varied, rising gradually from the banks of the Doveran towards the south, and terminating in gently-undulating and richly-cultivated hills, of which the highest, Darra, attains only a moderate degree of elevation. The hills of Vrae on the north, Cotburn on the east, and Armiddle on the west, are also only of moderate height; but they all command from their summits extensive prospects over a richly diversified country, abounding with interesting features, and with varied scenery, in many parts beautifully picturesque. The Doveran has its rise on the confines of the county of Banff, and flows in graceful windings along the northern boundary of the parish to the mill of Turriff, where it changes its course abruptly to the north; it falls into the Moray Frith at Banff. The only other stream of any importance is the burn of Turriff, which has its source in the parish of Aberdour, and, after a course of about two miles and a half through this parish, in which it gives motion to several mills and the machinery of a bleachfield, flows into the Doveran below the mill of Turriff. There are numerous smaller streams, and also several springs of excellent water, with a few mineral wells, of which, however, none have obtained much celebrity. The Doveran abounds with trout and other varieties of fish, and salmon are also found in moderate quantities; the salmon-fishery was formerly very valuable, but from the use of stakenets near the mouth of the river, it has ceased to be advantageous. The burn of Turriff also contains trout, and affords good sport to the angler.
   The soil, on the banks of the river, and on most of the level lands, is an alluvial deposit, alternated with clay; on the higher grounds, and in other parts, sharp, light, and gravelly, generally early, and of great fertility. The crops are, oats, barley, bear, potatoes, turnips, and occasionally a few tares, with the various grasses. The system of husbandry has been greatly improved; and by a judicious use of lime, also, and the introduction of bone-dust as a manure for turnips, the soil has been rendered more productive: due regard is paid to a regular rotation of crops; and much of the waste land has been reclaimed, and brought in cultivation by draining. The farm-houses are in general substantially built of stone, and roofed with slate, and are commodious and well arranged; but the cottages are very inferior. On most of the farms are threshing-mills, many of which are driven by water-power; much of the land is inclosed with dry stone dykes, palings of wood, and hedges of thorn; and all the more recent improvements in the construction of agricultural implements have been adopted. Under the auspices of the Turriff Agricultural Association, of which the Earl of Fife is patron, and which holds two annual meetings for awarding premiums to the successful competitors in husbandry, and also a cattle-show annually, much emulation has been excited, both in the cultivation of the lands and the improvement of live-stock. The cattle are mostly of the Aberdeenshire breed; but recently, a cross between those and the Teeswater has been introduced: great numbers are conveyed by steam to the London market. The breed of horses has been also improved, and, under the encouragement of the Highland Society, many of those reared in the parish are equal to the Clydesdale: a considerable number, however, of the old small-sized kind are still bred, and are remarkable for their strength and agility. Few sheep are reared in the parish, and those are chiefly Cheviots; but during winter, numbers of the black-faced breed are brought by the Highland shepherds to pasture on the hills. Many pigs, mostly of the Chinese breed, are fed on the different farms, and sold to the curers, one of whom sends pork to the London market, frequently to the value of £3000 in the year. Little cheese is made; but large quantities of butter of excellent quality are produced, for the supply of the families in the neighbouring towns, and for dealers who salt it for distant markets.
   The old woodlands and the plantations are very extensive; of the latter, more than 700 acres are of comparatively recent formation. The former consist chiefly of beech, oak, ash, and elm; and around the principal houses are some plane and horse-chesnut trees of stately and luxuriant growth. The plantations consist of larch, spruce and Scotch firs, and alder, interspersed with various kinds of forest-trees; they are all under excellent management, regularly thinned, and in a very thriving state. The rocks are mainly composed of greywacke and clay-slate, in which are imbedded veins of quartz and felspar; the substrata are mostly red sandstone and clay-slate. The sandstone is quarried for building purposes; and considerable quantities of coping-stone, and ashlar for mill-courses, are raised for the supply of adjacent parishes. Several attempts have been made to work a quarry for roofing-slates, which have been met with of good quality; but from the great labour and expense attending the undertaking, no quarries are wrought. The rateable annual value of the parish is £10,422. Delgaty Castle, once the residence of the earls of Errol, is now the seat of General the Honourable Sir Alexander Duff: the ancient structure, in the castellated style, and of great strength, forms the central range of the present mansion, there having been recently added two wings of corresponding character, connected by corridors. The house is situated in a demesne embellished with stately timber and thriving plantations; it contains many spacious apartments, with some paintings by the old masters, and portraits of the late Earl of Fife and his second son, Sir Alexander. In the grounds is a lake, with a small island in the centre, to which access is afforded by a rustic bridge of pleasing design. Hatton Castle, the seat of Garden Duff, Esq., is a handsome castellated mansion with turrets at the angles, situated in an ample and richly-wooded demesne, to which are approaches by two neat lodges. The lawn in front of the house is interspersed with clumps of trees, and the gardens and shrubberies are tastefully laid out: in the grounds are also some artificial lakes, on which swans are to be seen, and the whole of the scenery is picturesque. The other mansions are, Muiresk House, a pleasant residence on the south bank of the Doveran; Scobbach House, a building of recent erection, in the ancient style; Gask, a sporting lodge belonging to the Earl of Fife, but at present let, with the adjacent lands, to a farmer; and Towie-Barclay, an ancient mansion in the Elizabethan style of architecture.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Turriff and synod of Aberdeen. The minister's stipend is £232. 4., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £15 per annum; patron, the Earl of Fife. The church, erected in 1794, and enlarged in 1830 by the addition of an aisle, is a neat plain structure, conveniently situated. There are an Episcopal chapel, a Free church, and a place of worship for Independents. The parochial school is attended by more than 100 scholars: the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house and garden, and the fees average £45; he has also a share of Dick's bequest, but pays an assistant £28 per annum. There are four Sabbath schools in the town, and four in the rural districts of the parish; and several private schools, of which the teachers are solely supported by the fees. The late Dr. Hall, in 1829, bequeathed £200 towards a fund for the supply of coal to the poor, to which £50 were added in 1834 by Mr. Johnstone, of Aberdeen; this fund is under the management of the Kirk Session, and is assisted by annual collections made at the church, and other contributions. There are some remains of the ancient church, supposed to have been founded by Malcolm Canmore, consisting of the choir and the belfry, in which latter is a bell with the date 1557. In the churchyard are some very old monuments with Latin inscriptions, to proprietors of the parish. On the lands of Laithers were, till lately, some remains of a chapel dedicated to St. Carnac; and on the hill of Ardmiddle and other high grounds tumuli and cairns, supposed to have been raised over the remains of those who fell in battle with the Danes, by whom this part of the country was much infested. On the burn side near Delgaty, urns have been found, containing ashes and calcined bones; and arrow-heads of flint, fragments of ancient weapons, and silver and copper coins of great antiquity, have been dug up at various times.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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