- ARBROATH, or Aberbrothock, a thriving seaport, burgh, and parish, in the county of Forfar, 15 miles (S. E. by E.) from Forfar, and 58 (N. N. E.) from Edinburgh; containing, with the late quoad sacra parish of Abbey, and part of that of Lady-Loan, 8707 inhabitants, of whom 7218 are in the burgh. This place derives its name, originally Aberbrothock, of which its present appellation is a contraction, from its situation at the mouth of the river Brothock, which falls into the North Sea. An abbey was founded here in the year 1178, by William the Lion, King of Scotland, for monks of the Tyronensian order, brought from the abbey of Kelso, and was dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury, in honour of the Archbishop Thomas à Becket. This establishment was amply endowed by the founder and his successors, and its abbots had a seat in parliament; in 1320, a general assembly of the Estates of Scotland was held in the abbey, when a declaration was drawn up, in strong and emphatic terms, asserting the independence of the Scottish Church of the Roman see, and renouncing all subjection to the interference of the pope. In 1445, a battle took place here, between the retainers of the families of Lindsay and Ogilvie, which originated in a contest concerning the election of a bailie of the burgh, and in which the chieftains on both sides were killed, and nearly 500 of their dependents. In the 16th century, the abbey was nearly destroyed by Ochterlony, a chieftain in the neighbourhood, who, having quarrelled with the monks, set fire to the buildings; and at the Dissolution, which followed a few years afterwards, this once extensive pile was little more than a wide heap of scattered ruins. The revenues were returned at £2483. 5. in money, with about 340 chalders of grain, and the patronage of thirty-four parish churches; and the site and lands belonging to the abbey, were, after its dissolution, erected into a temporal lordship, in favour of Claude Hamilton, third son of the Duke of Chatelherault, who was created Lord Arbroath, which still forms one of the inferior titles of the Duke of Hamilton. In 1781, the town was menaced by the commander of a French privateer, who approached the port, and commenced a brisk firing for a short time, which was succeeded by his sending a flag of truce, demanding from the provost and inhabitants the payment of £30,000, as a ransom for the town, which, on their refusal, he threatened to set on fire. The authorities of the place obtained, by parley, a short interval, in which having armed several of the inhabitants, they set him at defiance, and he left the coast, making prizes of some small craft which he met with in his retreat. A battery was soon afterwards erected, in front of the harbour, to protect the town from similar insult, and was kept up till the termination of the last war, when it was dismantled.The town is situated at the mouth of the river Brothock, and consists principally of one spacious and handsome street, intersected by several of inferior appearance, extending into the parish of St. Vigean's, and forming suburbs. Many of the private houses are elegant and substantial, and all of the houses are built of the stone obtained from the valuable quarries in the neighbourhood; the villas in the suburbs are embellished with gardens and shrubberies, which produce a pleasing effect, and the general aspect of the town is prepossessing. The streets are lighted with gas made by a jointstock company; but the supply of water is rather indifferent, and is partly derived from private wells. There is a public subscription library, supported by a proprietary of £5 shareholders, in which is a collection of about 4000 volumes on subjects of general literature; and smaller libraries, of miscellaneous and theological works, are attached to the quoad sacra churches. A mechanics' library, now containing about 400 volumes, was established in 1824, and connected with it is a mechanics' institution, or school of arts, for which an appropriate building has been completed, containing a reading-room well supplied with periodicals and newspapers; there are also three masonic lodges and a gardener's society. The principal manufactures are, the spinning of yarn from flax and tow, the weaving of canvass and sail-cloth, brown and bleached linens, the tanning of leather, the making of candles, the smelting of iron, and the grinding of bones for manure. The number of mills for spinning yarn is nineteen, of which by far the greater part are in the suburbs, affording employment, at present, to nearly 3770, and, when trade is prosperous, to more than 5000, persons, of whom about one-fourth are females. The trade of the port consists chiefly in the exportation of the manufactured goods, especially sail-cloth, of which nearly 7000 ells were exported in a late year, and in the importation of bark, flax, hemp, hides, oak, and fir timber, and guano for manure, with groceries from London, and numerous articles of Baltic produce. There are at present belonging to the port 89 vessels, of the aggregate burthen of 9100 tons; and the number of vessels that entered inwards, in a recent year, was 599, of which 56 were from foreign ports, and 543 employed in the coasting trade.The harbour appears to have been first constructed in 1394, by the inhabitants, in conjunction with the abbot, who contributed the greater portion of the expense, in consideration of a certain duty to be paid annually from the lands of the burgh. A pier of wood was erected at the extremity of the High-street, which, being found ill-adapted to the purpose, was abandoned in 1725, and the harbour removed to the western side of the river, where a basin faced with stone was constructed, 124 yards in length, and 80 yards in breadth, and a substantial pier of stone built. These improvements, however, at length became insufficient, and in 1839 an act of parliament was obtained, under which a spacious new tidal harbour has been completed to the south and east of the old one, at a cost of £50,000. A sea-wall of great length and solidity defends the harbour from the violence of the waves during heavy gales, and at the western extremity of this bulwark is a lighthouse. Between the wall and a massive breakwater opposite to it, is the entrance to the harbour. The port was formerly a creek to the harbour of Montrose; but it has been made completely independent, and has now a collector of customs, a comptroller, and other officers of its own, established on the spot. Connected with the harbour is a patent-slip for repairing vessels, which is maintained by the harbour commissioners. At a distance of twelve miles from the shore, but opposite to the harbour, is the Bell Rock Lighthouse, erected under an act of parliament obtained in 1806, and completed in 1811; it is built upon a rock about 427 feet in length, and 230 feet in breadth, at low water, and rising to an average height of about four feet from the sea. The lighthouse is of circular form; the two lower courses of masonry, all of which are dove-tailed, are sunk into the rock: the diameter, at the base, is 42 feet, gradually diminishing to the floor of the light room, which is 13 feet in diameter. From the foundation, the elevation is solid, to the entrance, which is at a height of 30 feet, and is attained by a ladder of ropes with steps of wood; the walls here are 7 feet in thickness, and gradually decrease to one foot at the lantern, which has an elevation of 100 feet from the base, and is 15 feet in height, and of octagonal form. The lantern contains a light of Argand burners, with powerful reflectors, revolving round its axis in six minutes, and in each revolution displaying, alternately, a bright and a deep red light, which, in clear weather, may be plainly seen at a distance of eighteen miles. Two large bells connected with the lighthouse, are tolled by the machinery which moves the lights, when the weather is foggy; and on the harbour of Arbroath, a building has been erected for the accommodation of the keepers, three of whom are constantly at the lighthouse for six weeks, when they are relieved, and spend two weeks on shore. Attached to these buildings, is a signal tower, 50 feet high, by means of which the keepers on the shore communicate with those on the rock; the whole expense of the lighthouse, which is of such important benefit to the navigation of this part of the coast, did not exceed £60,000. The Arbroath and Forfar railway, constructed by a company empowered to raise a capital of £150,000 by shares, and a loan of £35,000, was completed, and opened to the public, in January, 1839; the line is 15 miles in length, worked by locomotive-engines, and the principal station is a handsome building with every requisite accommodation. The Dundee and Arbroath railway, along the coast, has also its terminal station here, and is connected with the Arbroath and Forfar railroad. The market is on Saturday, and is supplied with grain of all kinds; and fairs are held on the last Saturday in January, the first Saturday after Whit-Monday, the 18th of July, and the first Saturday after Martinmas.The town was made a royal burgh by a charter of James VI., in 1599, reciting that the original charters, with the title-deeds of the town, and other documents, were taken from the abbey, where they had been deposited for security, and destroyed by George, Bishop of Moray; the inhabitants appear to have been before incorporated by the abbots, who reserved to themselves the nomination of one of the bailies by whom the town was governed. By King James's confirmatory charter of all previous rights and privileges, the burgh and harbour were made free, and the lands called the common muir were conveyed to the burgesses, with power to levy anchorage customs and shore dues, and to apply the produce to the maintenance of the harbour; the amount of harbour dues is £3000 a year, but the corporation do not now receive them. Under this charter, the government is vested in a provost, two bailies, a dean of guild, and treasurer, with twelve councillors, all chosen subject to the provisions of the late Municipal Reform act. There are seven incorporated trades, the whole of which have the exclusive right of carrying on their trades within the burgh, with the exception of the weavers; the dean of guild also grants temporary license to trade. The magistrates possess all the jurisdiction appendant to royal burghs, and hold courts of pleas in civil actions weekly, to an unlimited extent, and also criminal courts, in which, though, by the charter, they have full jurisdiction in capital cases, they confine themselves to the trial of petty offences, the town-clerk acting as assessor. The magistrates have also, by the charter, power to replevy any action whatever against an inhabitant of the burgh, from all judges in the kingdom, upon giving security for administering justice within the term of law. The dean of guild likewise holds a court for enforcing compliance with the acts of parliament respecting weights and measures, in which he is assisted by a clerk and procurator-fiscal. Previously to the union of the two kingdoms, the burgh sent a member to the Scottish parliament, but after that event was associated with Montrose, Brechin, Bervie, and Aberdeen, in returning a representative to the imperial parliament; and the only change in this respect, under the act of the 3rd and 4th of William IV., is the substitution of Forfar in lieu of Aberdeen, and the extension of the elective franchise to £10 householders. The provost is the returning officer. The guildhall is a neat plain edifice, adapted for the business of the guild corporation; and the trades'-hall, erected in 1814, is a handsome building. The town-house, erected in 1806, is a spacious and elegant structure, comprising a great hall, and offices for the town-clerk and others, with apartments for the meeting of the council, and for holding courts. At a short distance behind the town-house, stands the new gaol for the burgh, with the gaoler's house, and a police-office, the whole forming a neat building; the cells are constructed on the best modern principles, and are well arranged for the health and classification of the prisoners. In the court-room for the police department, which is commodious though small, the magistrates of the town sit regularly every week, on Monday, for the summary disposal of petty delinquencies.The parish is about three miles in length, and of very irregular form, varying from little more than 200 yards to a mile and a quarter in breadth, and comprises 820 acres of arable, and twenty-six of common land in pasture; the surface is comparatively level, rising by a gradual ascent from the shore, till, at the opposite extremity, it attains an elevation of 150 feet above the sea. The only river is the Brothock, which rises in the adjoining parish of St. Vigean's, and, after a course of five or six miles, flows through this parish, for about a quarter of a mile, and falls into the sea at the harbour. A small stream which, in its course, gives motion to several spinning-mills, forms a tributary to the Brothock; but, unless when swollen with incessant rains, it is comparatively a shallow stream. The scenery is pleasingly varied; and the town, as seen from the sea, is an interesting feature, seated in the curve of a range of small hills, which rise behind it, and command an extensive prospect of the Lothians, the eastern portion of the coast of Fife, and the estuaries of the Forth and Tay, towards the south; the view terminating, towards the north, in the range of the Grampian hills. The soil, near the town, is a rich black loam; in the higher lands, thin, resting upon a retentive clay, which renders it scarcely susceptible of improvement; and along the coast, light and sandy. The chief crops are, grain of all kinds, potatoes, and turnips; guano is used for manure, and the farms are, in general, well arranged and skilfully managed. The rateable annual value of the parish is £17,314. A fishery is carried on with considerable success; cod, haddock, and flounders are taken in abundance off the coast, with herrings and mackerel, in their season; lobsters, crabs, and various kinds of shell-fish, are found in great plenty, and attempts have been made to procure a supply of salmon, by the putting down of stake-nets, but hitherto without much success.The parish is the seat of the presbytery of Arbroath, within the synod of Angus and Mearns; patron, the Crown. The minister's stipend is £219. 12. 6., with glebe valued at £4. 8. 11.; there is also an assistant minister, with a stipend of £75, appointed by the Kirk Session. The church, which was enlarged in 1764, and to which an elegant spire was added in 1831, at an expense of £1300, raised mostly by subscription, is a plain cruciform structure, situated nearly in the centre of the town, and adapted for 1390 persons. A chapel of ease was erected in 1797, on the grounds of the ancient abbey, and is thence called the Abbey chapel; it is a neat edifice for a congregation of about 1280, and a quoad sacra parish has been annexed to it, comprising a population of 2289; income of the minister, about £100. Another chapel of ease was erected in 1829, for the accommodation of the inhabitants of that portion of the suburbs within the parish of St. Vigean's; it is a neat structure, and contains 1080 sittings, from the rents of which the minister derives an income of £150; a district named Inverbrothock has been attached to it, containing 5195 persons. The church of Lady-Loan is also of recent date, and in the town. There are places of worship for Episcopalians, Free Church congregations, members of the United Secession, members of the Relief Synod, Original Seceders, and Independents; and for smaller congregations of Baptists, Bereans, Glassites, and Wesleyans. The burgh school, and also the parochial school, have merged into an institution of more recent establishment, called the Academy, for which a handsome and appropriate building was erected in 1821, at an expense of £1600, raised chiefly by subscription. This institution is under the controul of a rector, appointed by the corporation, and three masters, chosen by the directors; to each of these, a distinct department is assigned, and there are consequently four separate schools. The classical and mathematical school is under the superintendence of the rector, whose salary is £34 per annum, with an allowance of £6. 10. for house-rent, which, augmented by the proceeds of a bequest by Mr. Colvill, for the gratuitous instruction of five children, amounts to £60 per annum; and the commercial, English, and general schools are under the three masters, who have a salary of £25 each, exclusive of the school fees. All these salaries are paid from the various funds constituting the endowment of the schools. The Sabbath-evening School Society, which has been established for more than twenty-five years, comprehends the whole of the town and suburbs; and connected with the schools under its superintendence, is a library of more than 1100 volumes, containing many standard and valuable works, in addition to such as are requisite for the children attending them. Mr. Carmichael, in 1733, bequeathed £600, and some rent-charges, for the benefit of seven widows of ship-masters, producing, at present, about £130 per annum; and Mr. John Colvill, late town-clerk, in 1811, left £10 per annum to the minister of the Episcopal chapel, £10 per annum to the poor of the parish, and a sum for the assistance of twenty householders, which now produces to each £3. 10. annually.The chief relics of antiquity are the remains of the abbey, which occupied an area of 1150 feet in length, and about 700 in width, inclosed by a stone wall nearly 24 feet in height; at the north-west angle, is a tower 24 feet square, and 70 feet high, which is still entire, and at the south-west angle was another of smaller dimensions, which, becoming ruinous, was taken down. The principal entrance was through a stately gateway tower on the north side, defended by a portcullis and draw-bridge; and at the south-east angle, was a postern of inferior character, called the Darngate. On the north side of the inclosure, was the abbey church, of which only the south wall, with the east and west gables, and a portion of the two western towers, are remaining. The church is said to have been 270 feet in length, and 130 in breadth across the transepts; the nave, of which the length was 148 feet, was nearly 70 feet in height, but none of the columns that supported the roof are standing, though their bases have been laid open during the recent operations for restoring the ruins under the direction of the crown. The choir appears to have been more than 75 feet long; but little of the original character of this once proud pile can be discovered. The western entrance is tolerably entire, and there seems to have been a circular window above the doorway; but the portions of the towers by which it was flanked, are so dilapidated that scarcely any indications of their original style of architecture remain. Adjoining the south transept, are the remains of a building supposed to have been the chapter-house, containing a vaulted apartment; the cloisters have disappeared, and the remains of the abbot's palace have been converted into a private dwelling-house. In 1815, the ruins of the abbey were so far repaired as to secure them from absolute demolition; on the removal of the accumulated rubbish for this purpose, the pavement of the church was partially restored to view, and a diligent search was made, to discover the tomb of its royal founder, who was buried under the first step of the flight leading to the high altar, but only the lid of an ancient stone coffin, sculptured with the figure of a man, in alto-relievo, much mutilated, was found. Some scattered bones, indeed, have been collected, and placed in a box, which have been sometimes displayed as those of the king: but there is no foundation for the opinion, and though the fact of that monarch having been interred in the abbey, is generally accredited, yet every search for his tomb has been in vain. Cardinal Beaton, at that time also archbishop of St. Andrew's, was the last abbot of Aberbrothock. The place gives the inferior title of Baron to the ducal family of Hamilton.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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