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Alford, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

ALFORD, a parish, in the district of ALFORD, county of ABERDEEN, 26 miles (W. N. W.) from Aberdeen; containing 1037 inhabitants. This place, the name of which is of uncertain derivation, is situated in the south-western portion of a district nearly in the centre of the county, called the How of Alford, a valley comprising also the parishes of Keig, Tough, and Tullynessle and Forbes, and entirely surrounded with mountains and hills. The only event of historical importance is the battle of Alford, which took place here on the 2nd of July, 1645, and terminated in the entire defeat of the army of the Covenanters under General Baillie, by the royal forces under the command of the Marquess of Montrose, and in which Lord Gordon, the eldest son of the Marquess of Huntly, was killed. On the field of battle, the site of which is marked out by an upright stone, the body of a horseman in complete armour was found within the last century, by some men digging peat; and cannon-balls, military weapons, coins, and other relies have been discovered near the spot.

The parish is about seven miles in extreme length, and nearly three miles in breadth, comprising an area of 8715 acres, of which 4767 are arable, 1169 woodland and plantations, about 200 rich meadow, and the remainder mountain pasture, moss, and waste. In the north-eastern part the surface is almost level, but to the south and west are ranges of nearly contiguous hills of circular form, of which the bases have an elevation of 420 and the summits of 800 feet, and which increase in height towards the mountain of Callievar, on the western boundary, which has an elevation of 1480 feet above the sea. The principal river is the Don; it forms the northern boundary of the parish, and is here about 120 feet wide, flowing from east to west, between verdant banks of great beauty. The river Leochel has its source in the parish of Leochel-Cushnie, is scarcely twenty-five feet in breadth, and flows into the Don; the burn of Bents, a still smaller stream, skirts the parish on the east, and the burn of Buckie, the smallest, flows through the eastern portion of the parish. The Don and the Leochel abound with trout. There are also numerous springs of excellent water, and some slightly chalybeate.

The SOIL is mostly a dry friable loam, well adapted for turnips, and in some parts of great depth and fertility; the crops are oats, bear, potatoes, and turnips. The system of agriculture is in an improved state; much waste land has been reclaimed; the farm buildings are in general substantial and commodious, and the lands are inclosed with stone dykes. Great attention is paid to the improvement of live stock, for which the hills afford good pasture; the sheep, with the exception of a few of the black-faced, are usually of the Leicestershire and Merino breeds, reared chiefly for their wool, and about 800 are generally fed in the pastures. The rearing of black-cattle, however, is the main dependence of the farmers, and of these about 2000 head are kept, chiefly of the Aberdeenshire polled breed, and a cross between it and the short-horned: a great number are now fed off annually for the London market, where they command the highest prices. The plantations are of larch, Scotch, and spruce firs, beech, elm, ash, mountain-ash, lime, plane, oak, willow, birch, and poplar. The rocks are principally of the primitive formation, chiefly micaceous schist, and granite, of which latter there are several varieties, some resembling the grey granite of Aberdeen, and others the red granite of Peterhead: many of the rocks are almost in a state of decomposition. The annual value of real property in the parish is £4627. Haughton, the seat of the principal landed proprietor, is an elegant mansion of dressed granite, beautifully situated on the bank of the Don, in a wide demesne tastefully laid out, and embellished with thriving plantations. Breda, another seat, and Kingsford, recently built, are also handsome houses. The village consists for the most part of houses of neat appearance, to each of which is attached a portion of land, and extends for about three-quarters of a mile along the road to Aberdeen. A post-office has been established, and facility of communication is afforded by good roads, and by substantial bridges across the various streams, one of which, over the Don, an elegant structure of granite, was erected in 1810, by the Parliamentary Commissioners, at a cost of £2000. In 1846 an act of parliament was passed authorizing the construction of a railway from Alford to Kintore, nearly sixteen miles in length. Fairs are held for black-cattle, horses, and sheep, on the Tuesday before the second Wednesday in June (N. S.), and the Friday after the second Thursday in September (O. S.); and markets for black-cattle and grain, on the first Monday in every month, from October till May. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Alford and synod of Aberdeen: the minister's stipend is £206. 17. 4., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £6. 13. 4. per annum; patron, the Crown. Alford church, erected in 1804, and enlarged in 1826, is a neat structure containing 550 sittings. The parochial school is attended by about eighty children; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., augmented by the proceeds of bequests, &c., to £38, and the fees average about £15 annually. On the summit of a hill called Carnaveran (a name supposed to signify "the Cairn of Sorrow ") is a cairn in the form of a truncated cone, 120 feet in diameter at the base, in removing a portion of which were found several coffins of flat stones.

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


Online maps of Alford are available from a number of sites:

Postal districtAB33
Post TownAlford