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Abercrombie, Fifeshire

Historical Description

ABERCROMBIE, or St. Monan's, a parish, in the district of St. Andrew's, county of Fife, 2 miles (W. by S.) from Pittenweem; containing 1157 inhabitants, of whom 1029 are in the town of St. Monan's. This parish, which appears to have been a distinct parish since the middle of the twelfth century, is in ancient documents invariably called Abercrombie, or Abercrumbin; but towards the close of the year 1647, on the annexation of the barony of St. Monan's, previously in the adjoining parish of Kilconquhar, it obtained the latter appellation, by which, till within the last thirty or forty years, it was generally designated. It is bounded on the south by the Firth of Forth, and is about a mile and a half in length from north to south, and a mile in breadth from east to west. The surface rises abruptly from the coast to the higher lands, which are agreeably undulated, and the general appearance of the parish is enriched and varied with thriving plantations. A small rivulet called the Inweary, rising in the marshy lands of Kilconquhar, intersects the parish, and, after a course of nearly two miles, falls into the Firth near the church; while on the north-east flows the burn of Dreel, which, after bounding that portion of the parish, falls also into the river Forth at Anstruther Wester.

The soil is mostly a light and friable loam, partly intermixed with clay, and generally very fertile; the system of agriculture is in an improved state, and the crops are oats, barley, wheat, beans, potatoes, and turnips. There is comparatively little land in pasture. The substratum is chiefly sandstone and limestone, with some till, of which the rocks on the coast principally consist; ironstone is found in great abundance on the beach, and coal in various parts of the parish. In the barony of St. Monan's are not less than six seams of coal, of different thickness, varying from one foot and a half to eighteen feet: they were formerly worked to the depth of nearly thirty fathoms; but from want of capital, they have been for some time discontinued. There are also several seams in the lands of Abercrombie, which have never been wrought. The limestone is of excellent quality; but the depth from the surface rendered the working of it unprofitable, and since the coalworks have been discontinued, the quarries have been altogether abandoned: the want of lime is, however, supplied by the great quantities of sea-weed thrown upon the shore, which is carefully collected for manure. The ironstone is chiefly obtained in nodules from one to two pounds in weight; it is found to contain from twelve to eighteen hundred weight in the ton, and considerable quantities are sent away as ballast by shipmasters. Freestone is also found. The annual value of real property in the parish is £2134.

Ecclesiastically, the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of St. Andrew's and synod of Fife; patron, the Crown. The stipend of the incumbent amounts to £162. 0. 11., of which about a fifth is received from the exchequer; the manse was rebuilt in 1796, and enlarged in 1819, and the glebe comprises about twelve acres of good land. The church, formerly the chapel of St. Monan, is said to have been originally founded by David II., about the year 1370, and by him dedicated to St. Monan, the tutelar saint of the place, in gratitude for the deliverance of his queen and himself from shipwreck on this part of the coast. It is a beautiful specimen of the style prevailing at that period, and forms a cruciform structure, with a square tower rising from the centre, surmounted by an octagonal spire. The nave had become a complete ruin, and had been altogether removed; the transepts were roofless and dilapidated, and the choir, the only portion, except the tower, which remained entire, was for many years used as the parish church; but in 1828, the building was restored, with the exception of the nave; the walls of the transepts were raised to a height equal to that of the choir, and the whole now forms one of the most beautiful edifices in the country. It is adapted for a congregation of 530 persons. The parochial school is under good regulation; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., and fees £34, with a house and garden.

At the north-east end of the parish, near the lands of Balcaskie, are some remains of the ancient church of Abercrombie, which, after the annexation of the barony of St. Monan's, was abandoned as a place of worship; they are situated in a secluded and romantic spot, formerly the churchyard, and still the burying-place of the Anstruther family, and of others. There are also some remains of the old mansion-house of Newark, the ancient residence of the family of Sandiland, lords of the barony, consisting of three stories. The northern part is still in tolerable repair, but the other portion is roofless and much dilapidated; the ground-floor contains several apartments with vaulted roofs, and the upper stories had, till lately, some comfortable rooms occupied by servants belonging to the farm. The building is so near a lofty rock rising precipitously from the sea-shore, that there is scarcely room for a person to pass between the cliff and the southern gable. Lieut.- General Sir David Leslie, son of Lord Lindores, resided at Newark, which he had purchased from the Sandiland family, and was created Lord Newark in the reign of Charles II.; he distinguished himself greatly in the civil wars, and was interred at this place. See Monan's, St.

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


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