Fala and Soutra

   FALA and SOUTRA, a parish, partly in the county of Haddington, but chiefly in that of Edinburgh containing, with part of the village of Faladam, 393 inhabitants, of whom 112 are in the village of Fala 8½ miles (S. E.) from Dalkeith. The name of Fala is derived from Fah, in the Anglo-Saxon, "speckled," and law, the description of hill upon which the church stands: Soutra signifies "the hamlet with a prospect.' In 1164, an hospital for the relief of pilgrims, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was founded at Soutra by Malcolm IV., who conferred upon it the privilege of sanctuary; and its endowments, which were very extensive, embraced the churches of Soutra, Wemyss, in Fife, St. Giles of Comiston, and several others. The revenues were subsequently vested in Trinity College and Hospital in Edinburgh, and afterwards, about 1560, in the town council of that city. The patronage of the church of Fala, of which the history is very obscure, belonged previously to the Reformation to the family of Edmestown; and in the year 1618, on the 20th February, the two parishes were united, and the property after some time descended to the Hamiltons of Preston, and the estate of Fala, through their heiress, to Sir John Dalrymple, of Cousland: the present proprietor of Fala proper is the Earl of Stair. The church of Soutra, having been abandoned, became a ruin; and the walls of one of its aisles, and some occasional irregularities of surface indicating prostrate dwellings, are now the only vestiges of the former village, once so considerable and populous.
   The parish is about five miles in length, from east to west, and three and a half in breadth, from north to south. The western division of it consists of a ridge of the Lammermoor hills, laid out, with the exception of some patches in tillage, for the pasturage of sheep; and the eastern division, which is chiefly of a clayey soil and of an undulated surface, is in good cultivation, producing all the crops common to the district of the Lothians. There are considerable tracts of moss and moorland, and a large extent of marsh, whence issues a sheet of water on Fala muir, called the Flow. The prevailing scenery, however, is very beautiful, and includes many objects of interest and admiration. Among these may be mentioned, Soutra hill, which forms the western point of the Lammermoors, and is upwards of 1200 feet above the sea; the mansion and lands of Woodcot; Costerton House, very romantically situated; the rich fields and wooded inclosures around the ancient halls of Hamilton and Fala; and the cascade of Linndean, and several intersecting rivulets. The wider prospect from Soutra hill presents numerous handsome residences, the highly-cultivated plains of the Lothians, the Pentland hills, and castle of Edinburgh, with the Frith of Forth and the coasts of Fife in the distance.
   The system of husbandry in the parish has been latterly much improved; the lands have been partly drained, and inclosed, chiefly with hedges of thorn; and material advantage will arise from the drainage of Fala Flow, a measure already in progress. The sheep, of which considerable numbers are reared on the moorland farms, are mostly a cross between the Gala-water and Tweedsmuir breeds, with a few of the Cheviot; and a moderate number of black-cattle, and a few horses for the plough, are also reared. The rateable annual value of the Edinburghshire portion of the parish is £1583, and of the Haddingtonshire portion £1298. The village of Fala is situated on a commanding eminence, and in its immediate vicinity are the commodious inn and hamlet of Blackshiels, the post-place of the district: a little northward of the latter is Faladam, partly in the parish of Crichton. The great road between Edinburgh and Lauder affords a facility of communication. The ecclesiastical. affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Dalkeith and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the stipend of the minister is £169, of which more than one-half is received from the exchequer, and there is a manse, with a glebe valued at £25. 10. per annum. The patronage is vested in the Earl of Stair and the Town Council of Edinburgh. The church, which is pleasantly seated on an eminence overlooking the village, is a plain and unpretending edifice, affording accommodation to 250 persons. There is a place of worship for Burghers. The parochial school is attended by about eighty children; the master has the maximum salary, with a house and garden, and the fees average about £25 per annum. A good parish library has been formed by the contributions of the inhabitants. On Soutra hill are some ruins of the hospital; and the aisle of the ancient church is used as the burial-place of a neighbouring family.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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