UK Genealogy Archives logo
DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we may receive a commission.

Abbotshall, Fifeshire

Historical Description

ABBOTSHALL, a parish, in the district of KIRKCALDY, county of FIFE; containing, with the village of Chapel, 4811 inhabitants, of whom 4100 are in the town of Abbotshall, consisting of Linktown and Newtown. This place derived its name from its having been the residence of the abbots of Dunfermline, one of whom erected a mansion here, the site of which is still pointed out by a yew-tree of very ancient growth. The lands, about the middle of the fifteenth century, belonged to the abbey of Dunfermline, and are supposed, after the dissolution of monasteries, to have been granted to the bailies and corporation of the town of Kirkcaldy, and by them transferred to the family of the Scotts of Balweary, from whom they passed into the possession of the Ramsays of this place, and were purchased by the ancestors of the present proprietor. The greater portion of the lands formerly in Kirkcaldy, was, in the year 1650, separated from that parish, and, together with the lands of Easter and Wester Touch, formerly in the parish of Kinghorn, and those of Wester Bogie, in the parish of Dysart, erected into a separate and distinct parish, under the appellation of Abbotshall.

The parish is situated on the Firth of Forth, by which it is bounded on the south-east, and comprises about 4000 acres, of which about 3320 are under tillage, and the remainder in natural wood and in plantations. Along the coast the surface is level; but the ground rises in a gentle slope, towards the middle of the parish, and thence is pleasingly undulated. A small stream issuing from the Camilla loch, in the parish of Auchtertool, on the west, flows through the lower lands into the river Tiel, near its influx into the sea. The soil is mostly fertile: towards the coast, it is light, but productive; on the rising grounds, more inland, it is a deep rich loam, and in other parts varies considerably in quality. The crops are, wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and turnips, with peas, beans, and other green crops; the system of husbandry is in a highly improved state, and the farm-buildings, and the inclosures and fences, are kept in excellent repair. Some sheep are fed, principally on the lands belonging to the principal seats; and these are generally of the Cheviot breed: there are also a few black-cattle reared, chiefly of the Fifeshire, and a mixture of the Fife, Angus, and other breeds. The plantations are mainly on the estate of Raith, and consist of oak, ash, elm, chesnut, sycamore, beech, spruce, and Scotch firs, with some larch, with the exception of which last all thrive well, and attain to a majestic growth. In general the substratum is carboniferous limestone, and coal interspersed with trap; the limestone is quarried for farming and other uses, and there are extensive lime-works in the village of Chapel, but the coal, from the immediate vicinity of long-established mines, from which an abundant supply is obtained at a moderate price, has not been worked for many years. Fossils of various kinds are found imbedded in the limestone. There are also some quarries of freestone in the parish, which is used for building purposes. The annual value of real property in the parish is £8777.

The chief seat is Raith: the mansion-house was partly built in 1694, by Lord Raith, who erected the central portion, to which two capacious wings were added by a late Mr. Ferguson; and the late proprietor, his successor, completed the building by the erection of a beautiful portico of the Ionic order, rendering the whole one of the most spacious and elegant mansions in the country. The demesne is very extensive, and richly planted; and the pleasure-grounds are ornamented by a picturesque lake, surrounded with fine walks, varied with parterres of flowering shrubs and thriving plantations. This lake, which covers more than twenty acres, was formed in 1812; it is in some parts twenty-five feet in depth, abounds with fish of various kinds, and is frequented by numerous aquatic birds: it is situated at the base of the eminence on which the mansion is built, and adds greatly to the beauty of the scenery. Within a short distance of the house, and nearly on the summit of a hill, is a lofty tower, from which is obtained, on a clear day, a view over fifteen counties. In front of the house is a remarkably fine beech-tree, measuring fourteen feet in girth; and among the plantations are numerous specimens of stately and venerable timber. Wester Bogie, another residence, is a handsome castellated mansion of modern erection, situated in a demesne of no great extent, but laid out in fine taste and embellished with flourishing plantations.

The chief manufacture is the weaving of ticking, which is carried on to a very considerable extent, employing nearly 500 looms; the weaving of dowlas has also been introduced, both for the home trade and for exportation. There is a factory worked by steam, for manufacturing a thin kind of linen sheeting, another for canvass for making sails, and also a bleachfield. The parish contains several mills for barley-meal and flour, all of which, together with one for grinding flint, are driven by water; a pottery for brown earthenware is carried on by the proprietor of the flint-mill, and there is likewise a large establishment for the making of bricks and tiles, for which purpose clay of good quality is found in the neighbourhood. Coal-gas works have been established for lighting the towns of Linktown and Newtown. A brewery is also conducted, but the only produce is small beer. Great facility of intercourse is afforded by the Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee railway. Fairs are held in Linktown on the third Friday in April and October, which were great marts for the sale of linseed and blackcattle; but both have for some time been declining, and the principal articles exposed for sale are shoes, brought from a distance, and articles of pedlery.

Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Kirkcaldy and synod of Fife; patron, R. Ferguson, Esq., of Raith. The stipend of the incumbent is £199. 11. 11.: the manse was rebuilt in 1772;, and has been recently enlarged; the glebe comprises six acres and a half of good land, valued at £36 per annum. The present church, which occupies the site of the ancient edifice, was built in 1788, and is adapted for a congregation of 825 persons. An additional church, in connexion with the Establishment, has been erected for the benefit of the surplus population of this and the adjoining parish of Kinghorn; and there are places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church. The parochial school affords a liberal education; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with £35 school fees, and money from other sources. There is also a free school endowed by Robert Philip, Esq., who bequeathed property to the amount of £80,000, for the foundation and endowment of schools in Abbotshall, Kirkcaldy, Dysart, and Kinghorn: the number of children attending the school in this parish is 100; they are all clothed, and supplied with books and stationery, and, on leaving the school, receive a sum of money to enable them to learn some trade.

Near the site of the tower in the demesne of Raith, have been found coffins of stone, rudely formed, and urns containing human bones. There are still some remains of the ancient castle of Balweary, consisting chiefly of the eastern wall, which is entire, and part of the north and south walls; they are more than six feet in thickness, and appear to have inclosed an area of about thirty feet. Balweary was the birth-place of Sir Michael Scott, who, from his eminence in the science of mathematics, and in general literature, was regarded as a prodigy: on his return to his native land, after many years spent in the universities of the continent, he was appointed, on the death of Alexander III., to bring home the young queen from Norway. William Adam, the architect, was also a native of Abbotshall parish. The parish has given title to many distinguished persons, among whom were, Thomas Scott and Andrew Ramsay, Lords Abbotshall; and George Melville, Earl of Raith. - See Linktown, and Newtown.

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