Dumfries

   DUMFRIES, a royal burgh, county town, port, and the seat of a presbytery and synod, in the county of Dumfries; comprising the parishes of St. Michael and New-Church, with the villages of Georgetown, Locharbriggs, Lochthorn, and part of Kelton; and containing 11,409 inhabitants, of whom 10,069 are in the burgh; 71½ miles (S. by W.) from Edinburgh. This place is supposed to have derived its name from its situation on an eminence rising from a tract of sterile soil abounding in brushwood or furze. Little is recorded of its early history, though, from numerous relics of antiquity, it would appear to have been of some importance prior to the 8th century. The ancient castle of the Comyns family, of which the site, overlooking the river Nith, still retains the name of Castle-dykes, has long since disappeared; nor is the date of its erection known, though it is noticed as a place of formidable strength before the reign of Edward I. A monastery was founded by Dervorgilla, daughter of Allan, Lord of Galloway, and mother of John Baliol, King of Scotland, about the beginning of the 13th century, for Franciscan friars, on an eminence above the Nith, by which it is washed on the north and west; and a noble bridge, originally of thirteen arches, was erected by the founder over the river, for the accommodation of the brethren. In 1305, Robert Bruce, attended by Roger de Kirkpatrick and James Lindsay, held a conference in the chapel of this monastery with John Comyn, surnamed the Red, and in a dispute with that nobleman, whom he charged with treacherously revealing to Edward I. the designs he had formed for the emancipation of his country from the English yoke, stabbed him with his dagger. Upon this he hastily rejoined his attendants; but Kirkpatrick, resolving to make sure of Comyn's death, returned into the church, despatched the wounded chieftain, and also killed his brother who interposed for his defence. The church, being thus polluted with blood, was soon afterwards deserted, and the friars removed their establishment to the chapel of St. Michael, south-east of the town. There are no remains of the monastery, and the only memorial of it preserved is the name of the narrow street leading to it from the bridge, and which is still called the Friars' Vennel.
   In 1307, Edward II. of England, after his coronation, advanced to Dumfries to receive the homage of several of the Scottish nobility; and the town was afterwards repeatedly attacked by the English, by whom it was burnt in 1448, and also in 1536. In retaliation of the latter injury, Lord Maxwell of Terregles, a powerful nobleman, with a body of his retainers, crossed the border, and, penetrating into England, assaulted the town of Penrith, which he reduced to ashes. The Maxwells, who had an ancient castle near the site of the monastery, supposed to have been built in the 12th century, erected a more spacious and magnificent structure, partly out of the ruins, and almost on the site of the deserted friary; and this castle, in 1563, was visited by Mary, Queen of Scots, who, attended by her privy council, came to Dumfries to ratify a treaty of peace with England. In 1565, the disaffected Lords Argyll, Murray, Rothes, and others having assembled a hostile force in the neighbourhood, the queen advanced to the town with an army of 18,000 men; the discontented nobles, on her approach, fled into England, and Lord Maxwell, having incurred her displeasure, conciliated her favour by surrendering his castle, of which, however, he was permitted to retain the government. In 1570, this castle was taken and plundered by the English forces under the command of the Earl of Essex and Lord Scrope, who also laid waste the town.
   In 1617, James VI., after his accession to the crown of England, visited his ancient dominions, and, passing through Dumfries, remained for one night in the town. He was received with every demonstration of affectionate loyalty, and presented to the corporation a silver gun, to be periodically contested for as a prize for the successful competitor, among the several crafts, in shooting at a target. The house in which the king lodged was built by a poor labourer who, having found a large treasure while digging peat in the Lochar moss, took a journey to London, where, in a personal interview with the monarch, he was allowed to retain possession of it, and advised to build a house, in which the king promised to lodge when he visited his Scottish dominions. The inhabitants displayed a marked opposition to the union of the two kingdoms in 1706, and to testify their aversion to that measure, burnt a paper containing the articles of union and the names of the commissioners at the market-cross. At the time of the rebellion in 1715, however, they zealously asserted their allegiance to the reigning monarch; and on being apprised of the design of Lord Kenmuir to visit the town with a large body of insurgents, they so completely fortified it where it was most exposed to any attack, that the party were induced to abandon their intention. In 1745 the Pretender, on his return from England, advanced to Dumfries with a body too powerful to be resisted, and took up his quarters in the town. In resentment of the opposition which his troops had experienced on their march into England, he levied a fine of £2000 in money, and a supply of 1000 pairs of shoes; but, being intimidated by a report that the Duke of Cumberland was rapidly marching to attack him, he hastily withdrew, taking £1000 of the fine, and the provost and one of the bailies as hostages for payment of the remainder.
   The town is pleasantly situated on the east bank of the river Nith, and is about a mile in length, and a quarter of a mile in breadth; the streets are regular and well formed, intersecting each other at right angles. The houses are uniformly built of red freestone, generally painted of a colour resembling Portland stone; those that are of ancient date are substantial and of handsome appearance, and those of more modern erection are conspicuous for elegance. There are also some handsome ranges of building, of which Queensberrysquare is embellished in the centre with a stately Doric column, erected in 1780 to the memory of the Duke of Queensberry. An elegant and commodious bridge was built over the Nith in 1794, a little above the ancient bridge of thirteen arches, reduced by frequent alterations to seven arches, and now solely appropriated to foot passengers. The streets are all well paved, and lighted with gas from works established in 1828; gas has also been introduced into the shops and most of the public buildings, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with excellent water from springs in the neighbourhood. A public subscription library was founded in 1792, and has a valuable collection on general literature; there are also several circulating libraries, a public newsroom, and four reading-rooms, all supplied with daily journals and periodical publications, besides a mechanics' institution which has a good collection of books. Card and dancing assemblies are held in a handsome suite of rooms recently erected for the purpose in George-street; and a theatre, a commodious and well-arranged building, in which Kean made his first appearance, is open for two or three months during the season. Races take place annually on the Tinwald Downs, and are well attended; a regatta is celebrated by a club established here; and the members of the Caledonian hunt hold their meetings by rotation in the town. The Dumfries and Galloway Horticultural Society, instituted in 1812 for the promotion of improvements in horticulture, also meet here periodically.
   The cotton manufacture, consisting chiefly of checked cottons, formerly carried on to a very considerable extent, has been for some time nearly discontinued, and the few spinners of the town who remain are mostly employed by the Carlisle and Glasgow manufacturers. The principal manufactures now are those of hats and stockings; of the former there are three establishments, affording employment to about 200 persons in the aggregate, and in the latter 279 looms are constantly in operation. The tanning of leather is also pursued, and the hides are sent to Glasgow, London, and other parts of the United Kingdom, in large quantities. The manufacture of shoes is very extensive, giving occupation to about 300 persons; and a considerable number are engaged in the making of clogs, or shoes with wooden soles, a trade not now, as formerly, confined to the supply of the south of Scotland, and which has been introduced with great profit. There are also several public breweries, and a large basket-making establishment. A very lucrative trade is carried on in the sale of pork, of which, during the season, commencing about the close of December, and ending about the beginning of April, many thousand carcases are sent to the south to be cured; not less than 700 are sold weekly for this purpose, upon an average, and frequently sales to the amount of £4000 or £5000 have been effected in one day. The foreign trade of the port consists chiefly in the importation of timber from America, in which several large vessels are engaged; the traffic in tobacco, formerly extensive, has been for many years discontinued. The coasting trade is mainly with Liverpool, Whitehaven, Maryport, and other parts of the English and Irish shores. The imports are, timber to the amount of nearly £10,000 per annum, coal, slate, iron, tallow, hemp, and wine; and the exports, cattle, sheep, wool, freestone, oats, barley, wheat, and other agricultural produce. The number of vessels registered in 1843 was 220, of the aggregate burthen of 12,380 tons; the jurisdiction of the port, which includes the Creek of Annan, extends from Sark foot at the head of the Solway Frith, to Glenluce on the Galloway coast, and the amount of duties paid at the custom-house in the year 1843 was £8764.
   Since the channel of the river has been made deeper, vessels of considerable burthen can approach the town, by which means the inhabitants obtain with great facility a supply of coal from Whitehaven; there are also a commodious quay near Castle-dykes, another for vessels of greater burthen about a mile below it, and one at the mouth of the river for vessels engaged in the foreign trade. The various improvements connected with the harbour were completed at a cost of £18,530. A steam-vessel plies weekly between Dumfries and Whitehaven, during the summer months, and great quantities of live stock, especially sheep, are thus sent to the English markets. The post-office has a good delivery; and branches of the Bank of Scotland, the National and Commercial banks, and of the bank of the British Linen Company, have been established in the town. The market, which is abundantly supplied and numerously attended, is on Wednesday, when a great amount of business is transacted by cattle-dealers, on an open area near the river, called the Sands; and the fairs, chiefly for cattle, are held at Whitsuntide and Martinmas, and for horses in February and October, at all of which extensive sales are made. At the fair in February, large numbers of hare-skins are sold, averaging generally about 30,000. A cattle-market is also held in September, about the time of the Broughillfair, in Cumberland, when, upon an average, about 4500 head are exposed for sale, mostly three-year-old Galloways, and others of the Highland breed; and on some occasions business to the amount of £30,000 has been transacted. The market for meal is still held in a building appropriated to that purpose; but the shambles for butchers' meat have been long deserted, the butchers finding it more profitable to open shops in different parts of the town.
   The town was made a royal burgh by William the Lion, prior to the year 1214. In 1396, Robert III. conferred upon the inhabitants various valuable immunities, which were confirmed by James I., who by charter in 1415 granted additional privileges; and in 1469, James III. gave to the corporation all the lands and revenues which belonged to the monastery of the Grey friars. The corporation consists of a provost, three bailies, a dean of guild, treasurer, twelve merchant and seven trade councillors, these seven being the convener and six other deacons of the incorporated trades; and all the officers are elected under the provisions of the late Municipal Reform act. The incorporated trades are the hammermen, masons, weavers, tailors, shoemakers, skinners, and butchers; the fee for admission as a member is, for a stranger £10, and for the son or sonin-law of a freeman £1. 1. The jurisdiction of the burgh extends over the whole of the royalty; and the magistrates hold courts for the determination of civil pleas and the trial of petty offences, in which they are assisted by the town-clerk, who acts as assessor. The police is under the direction of a body of commissioners chosen by the £10 householders, and of whom the provost, the bailies, and the convener are members ex officio; the number of commissioners is twelve, two of whom have the superintendence of each of the six wards into which the burgh is divided. As the county town, the courts of assize and quarter sessions, the sheriff's courts, and those of the commissary are regularly held here, and the public business of the county transacted. In the centre of the High-street stands what is called the Mid Steeple, a handsome building erected by the celebrated Inigo Jones, and comprising a hall and other apartments for the meetings of the town-council; and opposite to it is the Trades-hall, a neat structure erected in 1804. The County hall, or court-house, is a spacious and elegant edifice, comprising an ample hall for the county meetings, rooms for holding the several courts, with apartments for the judges, and accommodation for witnesses and others connected with the business of the sessions. A building originally intended for a bridewell has been appropriated as a depôt for the county militia, and that which was at first designed for the court-house has been arranged as a bridewell; it is, however, small and ill adapted for classification. Behind the bridewell is the County gaol, erected in 1807, and inclosed with a high wall, in the area between which and the building prisoners for debt have the privilege of exercise: a subterranean passage leads from the prison to the court-room, and by this prisoners are led to trial. The burgh is associated with those of Annan, Kirkcudbright, Lochmaben, and Sanquhar, in returning a representative to the house of commons; the parliamentary boundary includes the whole of the royalty, with the exception of some lands to the south and east of the town, and also includes the suburb of Maxwelltown, a burgh of barony on the west side of the river. The right of election under the Reform act is vested in the £10 householders; the sheriff is the returning officer.
   The parish is nearly seven miles in length, and from two to three in breadth, comprising about 9280 acres, of which 7930 are arable, 320 pasture, and the remainder, of which the far greater portion will probably be brought under profitable cultivation, moss and waste land. The surface, though generally level, is diversified by the elevated site of the town, and by a ridge of hills near the southern extremity, of no great height, sloping gradually towards the river on the south-west, and rising abruptly on the north-east. On this latter side, about a mile below the town, is a singular cavity in the face of the rock, named the Maiden Bower; and towards the south-east of the parish is an eminence called Trohaughton, supposed to have been the site of a Roman camp. The river Lochar, which rises in the adjoining parish of Tinwald, and falls into the Solway Frith, bounds Dumfries on the east, forming in the south an extensive tract of marsh called Lochar Moss, partly in this parish, and partly in Torthorwald and Mousewald. There are also several lakes, of which the principal are Black loch and Sand loch, both abounding with trout and perch. The soil in the north and north-east is generally a light reddish sandy loam, resting on a substratum of freestone; and in other parts, and especially near the river, a retentive clay, with a substratum of gravel. The crops are, oats, barley, wheat, turnips, and potatoes; the rotation system of husbandry is practised, and the state of agriculture is much improved. Considerable attention is paid to live stock: with the exception of Ayrshire cows on the dairy-farms, the cattle are usually of the pure Galloway breed. The farm-buildings, though inferior to many others, are still commodious; the lands are well inclosed, and portions of the Lochar moss were some years ago brought into cultivation, yielding abundant crops of oats, potatoes, and rye-grass. Upon this moss, ploughing by steam was first attempted in Scotland, and has proved quite successful; but, although many thousands of pounds have been spent in thus reclaiming the moss by the plough, it is the opinion of many practically acquainted with the subject, that a considerable quantity of sand, clay, or some other solid earthy substance must be laid upon it so as to consolidate it. Some idea of the weight and bulk of the ploughing machinery may be formed from the mention of the fact, that the expense of carting it from Glencaple-Quay, only three miles distant, was as much as £15. There are several quarries of red sandstone in the parish, of which four are extensively wrought; and also some salmon and trout fisheries, the rents of which yield about £500 per annum. The rateable annual value of the parish is £24,743.
   For ecclesiastical purposes the parish was divided, in 1727, by authority of the presbytery, with the concurrence of the magistrates of the burgh, into two districts, and an additional church was erected, which still retains the appellation of the New Church, and has a minister appointed by the Crown as patron of both. The minister of the old parish, now the district of St. Michael, has a stipend of £332, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £25 per annum. The church, situated at the south-east end of the town, was built on the site of the ancient structure in 1745; it is a neat edifice with a lofty graceful spire, and contains 1250 sittings. The churchyard, which is spacious, contains a large number of monuments, including many of deeply interesting character. The remains of the poet Burns were originally interred in the northern angle of the burying-ground, under a plain slab placed by his widow; but in 1815 his ashes were removed into a handsome mausoleum erected by his countrymen, at an expense of £1450, and above the entrance of which is a representation of the Genius of Scotland throwing her mantle over the poet while at the plough, finely sculptured in marble by Turnerelli. It has been calculated that the vast number of monuments in this churchyard must have cost more than £100,000. The minister of the New Church district has a stipend of £281. 13., of which £151. 13., including an allowance of £50 in lieu of manse and glebe, are paid by the exchequer. The church, situated at the north-west end of the town, was erected on the site, and partly with the materials, of the ancient castle, at the expense of the town-council, in 1727; it is a neat structure containing 1185 sittings. The subordinate church of St. Mary, fronting the road to England, was erected in 1838, at a cost of £3000, by subscription; it is an elegant structure after a design by Mr. Henderson, of Edinburgh, in the later English style of architecture, with an embattled tower surmounted by a lofty spire strengthened with flying buttresses. An episcopal chapel was erected in 1817, at a cost of £2200; and there are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Secession, the Relief Church, Reformed Presbyterians, Independents, and Wesleyans, and a Roman Catholic chapel.
   The Dumfries Academy, for which a spacious building was erected by subscription in 1800, is under the superintendence of a rector and four masters, appointed by the corporation. The rector, in addition to the fees, which are moderate, has the interest of £660. 6. 3., and each of the four masters the interest of £204. 8. 10., arising from endowments; and there are also a French and a drawing master, who are paid exclusively by the fees. The course of instruction comprises the Greek, Latin, French, and English languages, the mathematics, geography, arithmetic, book-keeping, writing, and drawing. Two schools, one for the instruction of children of both sexes in reading, writing, arithmetic, and the principles of religion, and the other for teaching girls to sew, and to read the Bible, are supported by the Highland Education Society and some benevolent societies established in the parish; the teachers have each a house rent-free, and the former a salary of £60, and the latter of £20 per annum. There are also two schools for adults, supported by contributions, and an infant school. The Crichton Royal Institution or asylum originated with the late Dr. Crichton, of Friars' Carse, who bequeathed £100,000 to his widow to be appropriated to charitable purposes in Scotland in any mode she might think proper. This establishment, which enjoys the reputation of being the best lunatic asylum in Scotland, is situated on an eminence about three-quarters of a mile from the south-eastern extremity of the town: the building was erected in 1839, after a design by Mr. Burn, in the Grecian style, and is of handsome appearance, and surrounded by ample grounds, very tastefully laid out. A house for poor orphans and aged persons was erected in 1733, with funds bequeathed for that purpose by William Muirhead, merchant, of Carlisle, and his cousin James Muirhead, of Castle-dykes. The establishment, which is further supported by annual subscriptions and donations, is under the direction of a committee chosen from the Kirk Session, the town-council, and others, who meet weekly. The building contains accommodation for twenty children and thirty aged persons, under the care of a master and mistress, who reside in the house. The children are taught writing, reading, arithmetic, and the principles of religion, and when of proper age are apprenticed to trades, or placed out to service; and connected with the establishment are forty-two widows, who receive pensions at their own dwellings. The expenses of the establishment average about £500 per annum.
   The Infirmary, with which was once connected a lunatic asylum, was founded in 1776, and is superintended by a committee of subscribers; the medical department is under the inspection of two visiting physicians and surgeons, and a resident house surgeon; and a licentiate of the Established Church officiates as chaplain. The average number of patients in the house is 30, and from 700 to 800 receive advice and medicines at the institution annually. The expenditure is about £1300 per annum, defrayed by bequests, donations, and subscriptions, and liberal contributions from the counties of Dumfries and Wigton, and the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, to all of which it is open. The Dispensary, situated at the western extremity of the town, is supported by public subscription, and administers extensive relief to the indigent poor. On an eminence near the entrance into the town from the English road, might lately be traced the foundations of St. Christopher's chapel, erected by the Bruce in memory of his fatherin-law, Sir Christopher Seton, who was hanged on that spot by order of Edward I. On the left bank of the river, just above the town, is Moat Brae, supposed to have been, during the Saxon era, a place for administering justice. A Roman sandal was found in the eastern part of the parish many years since, and in the river a gold coin, about the size of a sixpenny piece, but much thicker, bearing a Roman head, with the inscription Augustus. Among some scraps of old iron, also, was lately found an ancient seal about two inches in diameter, bearing a lion rampant in a shield bordered with fleurs de lis, with the legend Jacobus Dei. Gra. Rex. Scotorum in characters reversed; it is supposed to have been the privy seal of one of the Scottish kings.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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