- CRIEFF, a parish, in the county of Perth; containing 4333 inhabitants, of whom 3584 are in the town of Crieff, 17 miles (W. by S.) from Perth, and 56 (N. W.) from Edinburgh. This place, of which the name, of Gaelic origin, is derived from its situation on the side of a hill, appears, from various old documents, to have been, at a very remote period, the spot where the ancient thane of the district usually held his court in the open air, and dispensed justice to the inhabitants. It was from an early date regarded as the chief town of Strathearn, and was the seat of an earldom until the heiress of Malise, the last earl, marrying the English Earl de Warren, was led into rebellion against Robert I., in 1320. It continued, however, to be the capital of that district, and was the seat of the jurisdictions of the king's steward of Strathearn, which office became hereditary in the family of Drummond, with whom it remained till the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions in 1748. About half a mile to the east of the town, is a spot till of late surrounded with a low wall of earth and stone, now hardly to be traced. Here the courts were held; and a little to the west of the town, is a rising ground where criminals were executed, and which still retains the appellation of Gallow Hill. The town was occupied by the army of Montrose during some of the disturbances of the civil war, but was at other times the head-quarters of the insurgent forces. It was burnt by the Highlanders in 1715, and in the rebellion of 1745 was saved from destruction only by the interposition of the Duke of Perth. During all these conflicts the inhabitants maintained a firm and stedfast loyalty to their legitimate sovereign. On the 10th of September, 1842, the town was visited by Her Majesty, in the course of her tour in Scotland; she was rapturously received by the inhabitants of the place, by whom a triumphal arch had been erected at the entrance of the town, and through this the Queen passed to Drummond Castle, in the vicinity.The town is beautifully situated on the sloping acclivity of an eminence near the base of the Grampian hills, commanding an extensive and richly-varied prospect of the country towards the south, which is in a state of high cultivation, and thickly studded with the residences of the gentry. It consists of one principal or high street, in the centre of which is St. James's-square, a handsome range of building, and of several other well-built streets, one of which leads to a bridge over the river Earn, affording a communication with the parish of Muthill. The inhabitants are amply supplied with excellent water from springs in the immediate vicinity, from which it is conveyed into a reservoir in the centre of St. James's-square, where a handsome building of stone has been erected, which, surrounded with some lime-trees of great beauty, forms an interesting and picturesque ornament in the town. Nearly in the centre of the high street is the ancient cross, of rude workmanship, consisting of a block of stone raised on a plinth of hewn stone. It is about six feet three inches high, about two feet in breadth, and little more than six inches in thickness; the front is embellished with a cross, carved in relief, and there are traces of a legend, of which the characters are so greatly obliterated by time, as to be altogether illegible. A subscription library has been established, and is well supported; the number of volumes at present is above 1000, and it is supposed that the number will soon be greatly extended. A circulating library is also kept; and two reading-rooms are supported by subscription. Assemblies are held in the ball-room of the chief inn, and also in the large rooms of St. Michael's Lodge, and the Weavers' Hall.The principal trade carried on is the weaving of cotton, for the manufacturers of Glasgow, in which nearly 500 persons are employed at their own homes, in producing checks and handkerchiefs. The quantity of yarn annually sent to this place from Glasgow is valued at £15,000; the average value of the goods when manufactured is about £20,000. About 400 looms are engaged regularly at this work, which forms the staple manufacture of the town. The manufacture of woollen-stuffs is also carried on to a moderate extent, in a factory lately erected on the banks of the river Turret, and affords employment to about forty persons. The articles are, blankets, plaiding, shawls, and various coloured stuffs; and all the processes are performed with machinery propelled by water, of which the river affords an abundant supply. Several other persons are occupied in the manufacture of linen-cloth, chiefly for home consumption, and a considerable number of females in tambour work, and in working figured-muslins. There are three tanneries, employing a considerable number of hands, and producing a very large quantity of leather; likewise two distilleries, which produce about 73,000 gallons of whisky annually, and pay duties to the excise of more than £7000. Five malting establishments are also conducted, yielding in the aggregate nearly 7000 quarters of malt, and paying a duty of £5420 per annum. An oil-mill has been established, which is in constant operation; and there are corn, flour, and barley mills, all belonging to one proprietor, who disposes of the produce at the Glasgow and Dundee markets. The trade is principally with Glasgow, but certain portions of it are carried on with Edinburgh, Perth, Stirling, Dundee, and several towns in England. Great facility of communication with the neighbouring towns is afforded by good roads which pass through the parish, and of which the Tay-bridge road, traversing Glenalmond, is one of the best in the country. Mail and stage coaches pass daily through the town. The market is on Thursday, and is well attended by the farmers, and abundantly supplied with provisions of all kinds for the supply of the inhabitants. From its central situation, the town has been made the seat of numerous fairs previously held in the neighbouring parishes; and nine fairs, for which a commodious situation has been provided by Lady Willoughby de Eresby, are now regularly held. They are on the first Thursday in January, the third in February, the second in March, the first in April, the first and last in June, the second in July, the third in August, and the Thursday preceding the October Falkirk tryst.The government of the town, which is a burgh of barony, is vested in three baron-bailies and a committee, appointed by the three proprietors of the lands on which the town is built, of whom Lady Willoughby de Eresby is the chief. The common funds, amounting to about £100 per annum, are appropriated by the committee in watching and lighting the streets, and supplying the inhabitants with water. A court is held four times in the year by the sheriff of the county for the recovery of small debts and the determination of minor offences; but there is neither a regular magistracy nor police, and the whole management is vested in the committee of the inhabitants of the town. The Masons' Hall, or St. Michael's Lodge, was built in 1816, at an expense of £2000, under the direction of a committee, for the transaction of the society's business; it is a handsome edifice, containing a good assembly-room, and the requisite offices. The Weavers' Hall, a neat building also containing an assembly-room, was erected by that company in 1786. The old Tolbooth was built in 1665, for the accommodation of the officers of the stewards' court after the proceedings ceased to be conducted in the open air. It contained a prison in the lower part, in which offenders were temporarily confined; a court-room where the smalldebt and other courts were held; and above, a room for the use of the public library. The building has been demolished by the County Prison Board, and a larger edifice is in progress of erection on its site.The parish is separated into two divisions by the intervening lands of the parish of Monzie. The Highland division comprises the larger portion of the district of Glenalmond, through which the river Almond has its course, and abounds with every variety of mountain scenery, in its wildest and most romantic features. The Lowland division, which may properly be regarded as the parish, is about four miles in length, and three in breadth, and comprises 3800 acres; it is bounded on the north-west by the river Shaggy, on the east by the Pow, on the south by the Earn, and on the west by the Turret. The surface is generally level, being broken only by the Knock of Crieff and the hill called Callum's, the former of which has an elevation of 400 feet above the sea. These eminences, which are both richly wooded, add greatly to the diversity and to the beauty of the scenery. The Earn, which issues from the lake of that name, forms the boundary of the parish for nearly three miles, and at Crieff receives the waters of the Turret. It is crossed by a good stone bridge of four arches, one of which, in 1715, was broken down by the Highlanders to arrest the pursuit of the royalist forces, and has been replaced by one that does not harmonize with the others. The rivers generally abound with trout, and the Earn with salmon, eels, perch, and pike, which are taken in great numbers, and are of superior quality.The soil in the north, west, and south, is light and sandy, intermixed with gravel; nearer the town, a rich loam; and in the east and south-east portions, a stiff reddish clay. Of the 3800 acres in the parish, all, with the exception of about 600 in plantations, are under cultivation; the system of agriculture is in a highly improved state, and draining has been extensively practised in the most efficient manner. The crops are, oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips, of which great quantities are grown, of excellent quality; wheat is also raised, but to a very limited extent, the soil not being so well adapted for it. Considerable quantities of cattle are reared here, for the supply of the south country markets, and for home consumption; about 1500 are annually fed by the various distillers in the neighbourhood, and particular attention is paid to the improvement of the breed. The black-cattle are the Highland or Teeswater, with a cross of the Dunlop. Few sheep are pastured, except for the use of the parish. The woods, occupying little more than ten acres, consist of oak (of which there are three kinds, the common, the scarlet, and the Turkey), ash, elm, beech, sycamore, chesnut, plane, walnut, and poplar; and the plantations, to which considerable attention is paid, are chiefly larch, spruce, Scotch, and silver firs. There are not many trees remarkable for their growth: at Inchbrakie, however, is an ancient yew of extraordinary size, in which the Marquess of Montrose is said to have concealed himself. The substrata of the hills are mostly mica and clay slate, with quartz, hornblende-slate, and some portions of granite. The lower lands are partly sandstone of a reddish hue, alternated in some places with trap dikes of limited extent, and partly greenstone, which is wrought for the roads. Quarries of freestone are worked in several parts, the stone possessing great durability, and being susceptible of a high polish; but the veins have not yet been wrought to a sufficient depth to produce the best specimens. The rateable annual value of the parish is £7600.The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Auchterarder and synod of Perth and Stirling; patron, Lady Willoughby de Eresby. The stipend of the incumbent is £182. 14., with a manse, built in 1701, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum. The church, built in 1786, and thoroughly repaired in 1827, affords accommodation for 966 persons; and an additional church was erected in 1837, at an expense of £1533, and until lately had a quoad sacra parish annexed to it, containing 2177 inhabitants, and called West Church. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, United Secession, and Relief Church, Original Seceders, and Roman Catholics. The parochial school affords a useful education; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden. There are numerous friendly societies, of which the Masons', instituted by the Duke of Perth in 1737, and the Weavers', in 1770, are the chief. On the taking down of the old parish church, which was a very ancient building, about forty gold coins of the reign of Robert I. were found in a niche in one of the walls; on the obverse was a head of the king, with the legend Robertus Rex Scotorum, and on the reverse, a figure of St. Andrew with his cross. There are some traces of the Roman road, which is supposed to have connected the camp at Strageath with that at Dalginross, passing through the lands at Broich; and in forming the present road through Burrel-street, a Roman pavement was discovered, in tolerable preservation, and at a considerable depth below the surface. Near the spot where the stewards of Strathearn were accustomed to hold their courts, is a large upright stone, of which the history is not clearly ascertained. From the well-known fact that many Druidical remains existed in the neighbourhood, it is, however, supposed to have been one belonging to a circle, of which the others may have been removed at various times, and applied to agricultural uses. This spot was the scene of a sanguinary conflict, in 1413, between Graeme, Earl of Strathearn, and Drummond of Concraig, steward of that district, in which the former was slain. It was also chosen by Sir John Cope for his head-quarters, in the rebellion of 1745; and there is still a fine spring called "Cope's well," near which an old sword was lately found. Some slight remains exist of the ancient house of Inchbrakie, the strongly-fortified residence of Patrick Graeme, colonel of the Posse Comitatus of the county of Perth, and cousin of the celebrated Marquess of Montrose, in whose cause he took a decisive part. He is said to have defeated the Duke of Argyll, and to have taken Aberdeen, in retaliation for which, his house at Inchbrakie was burnt by Cromwell. Mallet, the poet, and Dow, the historian of Hindostan, are said to have received their early education in the school of this parish; and Dr. William Wright, a physician and natural philosopher of eminence, and Dr. Thomas Thomson, the distinguished professor of chemistry in the university of Glasgow, were natives of the place. Sir David Baird, Bart., passed the later years of his life at Ferntower, in the parish; and the sword of Tippoo Saib, presented to the general after the storming of Seringapatam, is still preserved there. A marble tablet on the wall of the parish church records his decease, and the deep sympathy which it excited in the minds of the people of Crieff, by whom his memory is held in veneration.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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