Historical description of Linlithgowshire, Scotland

LINLITHGOWSHIRE, a county, in the south of Scotland, bounded on the north by the Firth of Forth; on the east and south-east, by the county of Edinburgh; on the south-west, by Lanarkshire; and on the west, by the county of Stirling. It lies between 55° 49' and 56° 1' (N. Lat.) and 3° 18' and 3° 51' (W. Long.), and is about twenty-one miles in length and twelve miles in extreme breadth; comprising an area of 112 square miles, or 71,680 acres; 5675 houses, of which 5333 are inhabited; and containing a population of 26,872, of whom 13,797 are males and 13,075 females. This division of the country, sometimes called West Lothian from its forming the western district of the ancient and extensive province of Lothian, was at the time of the Roman invasion inhabited by the British tribe Gadeni. It afterwards became a portion of the province of Valentia, and the western boundary of the Roman conquests in this part. No district of the province abounded more with Roman works than this county. A Roman road from the village of Cramond extended along the shore of the Firth to Carriden; where, indeed, the wall of Antonine, of which a very considerable portion traversed the district, is supposed to have also terminated. Upon the departure of the Romans, great numbers of the emigrants from the Irish coast, who had established themselves in Cantyre, removed to these parts, and for a long period retained possession of their settlements, though much harassed by the Picts and others. After the union of the two kingdoms under Kenneth II., they became identified with the Scots: and in the reign of David I., this district of the Lothians was erected into a separate sheriffdom.

With respect to ecclesiastical matters, the county was included in the archdiocese of St. Andrew's, and subsequently in the diocese of Edinburgh, of which it constituted the archdeaconry of Linlithgow. It is now in the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and comprises one presbytery and twelve parishes. The civil affairs are transacted at Linlithgow, which is the county-town and a royal burgh, where all the courts are held; the shire contains also the royal burgh of Queensferry, the burgh-of-barony of Bathgate, and the burgh-of-regality of Borrowstounness, with some smaller towns and populous villages. Under the act of the 2nd of William IV., it returns one member to the imperial parliament. The surface is for the most part pleasingly diversified with gentle undulations, and is intersected nearly in the centre by a range of eminences of moderate elevation. In the east and south the land is generally level; but towards the west are some hills, though of inconsiderable height, which are clothed with verdure, and crowned with woods. The principal river is the Almond, which has its source among the hills of Lanarkshire, and, intersecting the county in a north-eastern direction, flows into the Firth of Forth at the village of Cramond: it is navigable for boats and small craft for a quarter of a mile from its mouth. The river Aven, or Avon, after forming for some distance a boundary between the county and Stirlingshire, falls into the Firth to the west of Borrowstounness. The only lake of any importance is Linlithgow loch, about a mile in length and a quarter of a mile wide, comprising an area of 154 acres. It is beautifully situated among rising grounds richly wooded, and embraces much picturesque and romantic scenery. On the south bank are seated the town and palace of Linlithgow, the gardens of which latter extend westward along its margin; and at the north-west extremity is a small rivulet called the Loch Burn, which, after a short course, flows into the Avon.

About four-fifths of the land are arable, and the remainder woodland, plantations, and waste. Though various, the soil is in many parts extremely fertile; in the lower districts, a gravelly loam; and in the higher parts, chiefly clay resting on a retentive subsoil. Considerable progress has been made in draining, and great improvements have taken place in the system of agriculture; the lands have been inclosed with fences of thorn; the pastures are rich, and the dairy-farms under excellent management. The cattle are principally of the Teeswater and Ayrshire breeds, and the horses chiefly of the Clydesdale breed. There are not many sheep; they are the black-faced, with a few of the Leicestershire breed, which appear to thrive well. The ancient forests, which were very extensive, have mostly disappeared, and have been replaced by modern plantations, adding greatly to the general beauty of the scenery; they are of oak, ash, elm, beech, lime, sycamore, chesnut, and larch, Scotch, silver, and spruce firs. A large portion of the land is also laid out in gardens. The substrata are mainly coal, limestone, and freestone. Ironstone is likewise found in abundance in some parts; lead-mines were formerly wrought in the Bathgate hills, and the ore contained a considerable proportion of silver. The coal is extensively worked, especially in the vicinity of Borrowstounness; and there are large quarries of the limestone and freestone, which latter is of fine texture. Marl, and clay for the manufacture of bricks and pottery, are also abundant. In this county the seats are Binns House, Hopetoun House, Duddingston House, Dalmeny Park, Amondell, Kinneil, Houston House, Wallhouse, Lochcote, Bonhard, Kirk Hill, Middleton, Champfleurie, Balbardie House, Boghead, Polkemmet, Binny, Newliston, Dundas Castle, Craigiehall, and various others. Of the palace of Linlithgow, the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, which was destroyed by fire in 1746, the walls, and some of the principal apartments, are still remaining. Among the principal manufactures are those of salt and of shoes; the spinning of cotton, and printing of calico, employ a considerable number of persons, and there are extensive tanneries, breweries, and distilleries. The chief commerce is the exportation of coal, of which large quantities are shipped from Borrowstounness. Facility of communication is afforded by turnpike and parish roads, kept in excellent order: among the former are the great north road to Edinburgh, the Edinburgh and Glasgow road, and the road from Lanark and Glasgow to Queensferry, where steamers convey passengers across the Firth of Forth. There are also the Union canal, the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway, and the Bathgate railway. The annual value of real property in the county is £109,322, of which £82,842 are returned for lands, £21,149 for houses, £3561 for mines, £831 for quarries, and the remainder for other kinds of real property. Numerous vestiges remain of Roman roads, camps, altars, vases, coins, and other memorials of that age; also ruins of ancient castles, Druidical remains, monasteries, and other relics of antiquity.

Transcribed from Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851