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Alyth, Forfarshire

Historical Description

ALYTH, a parish, partly in the county of FORFAR, but chiefly in that of PERTH, 17 miles (N. W.) from Dundee; containing 2910 inhabitants, of whom 190 are in the county of Forfar, and 1846 in the village or town, which is a burgh of barony. This place appears to have derived its name, signifying in the Gaelic language an "ascent", from the gradually sloping eminence on which its ancient church, and the older portion of the village, are built. The most ancient document where its name occurs is a charter of Alexander II., in 1232, granting the lands of Bamff, in the parish, to Nessus de Ramsay, ancestor of Sir James Ramsay, Bart., the present proprietor of that estate; the remainder of the lands belonged to the Lyndesays, Earls of Crawford, for many generations, till the year 1630, when they were purchased by the Ogilvy family. During the wars of the Covenanters, the army of the Marquess of Montrose was frequently stationed in the immediate neighbourhood; and during the siege of Dundee by General Monk, a meeting of the principal inhabitants, held in the village, to deliberate on the best means of defence, was surprised by a detachment of the English, who took many of the members prisoners.

The parish is bounded on the south-east by the river Isla, and is about fifteen miles in length, and from one mile to six miles in breadth, comprising 34,160 acres, of which about 8100 are arable, 1070 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow and pasture land. Its surface is diversified with ranges of hills, of which those of Alyth, Loyall, and Barry divide it into two unequal districts: the southern is in the valley of Strathmore, and the northern includes the forest of Alyth, and the Blacklunans, which last are in the county of Forfar. The height of the lands varies from 130 to nearly 1700 feet, ascending from the Isla to the summit of Mount Blair; the hill of Kingseat has an elevation of 1178 feet, and the hills of Alyth, Loyall, and Barry rise about 700 feet above the sea. The principal rivers are, the Isla; the Ericht, a tributary of the Isla; and the burn of Alyth, which rises in the forest of that name, and falls into the Isla at Inverquiech, about two miles east of the village. Salmon occasionally ascend the Isla, and trout are found in most of the streams, and in some, pike.

The SOIL is greatly diversified. On the level lands near the river, it is a deep rich black loam; in the Blacklunans district, a lighter, but fertile, loam, much encumbered with stones and rock; on the sides of the hills, a fine sharp gravelly soil, well adapted for oats, turnips, and potatoes; and in many parts, peat moss, and moor, of which a considerable portion might be brought into cultivation. The lands have been drained and inclosed, and much waste has been reclaimed; the farm-buildings, and the houses of the cotters, are substantial, and the lands near the Isla, which were exposed to frequent inundation, have been protected by embankments. The hills afford good pasture for sheep, of which from 2000 to 3000 are reared in the parish, all of the black-faced breed; the cattle, on the uplands, are of the native Angus breed, and on the lower farms a cross between the Angus and the Teeswater. In general the rocks are trap and conglomerate; and the principal substrata are, mica, and clay-slate, sandstone of the old red formation, with some small beds of a light-grey colour, and a yellowish compact limestone, well adapted for building. The natural wood, of which but little remains, is birch, hazel, and alder; and the plantations, the greater part of which are of recent date, are larch, Scotch, and spruce firs, interspersed with various kinds of hard-wood; but the larches are not in a thriving state. The annual value of real property in the parish is £10,396. Bamff House is a handsome mansion of great antiquity, with many modern additions and improvements, pleasantly situated about three miles from the village, in grounds commanding some fine views. Balhary, another seat, is a modern, substantial, and spacious mansion, built on a rising ground on the bank of the Isla; and Jordanstone is also a handsome residence.

The VILLAGE stands on the burn of Alyth, and consists of several streets of good houses, of which those in the older part of it are of great antiquity: the inhabitants are well supplied with water. There are three bridges of stone over the burn, the handsomest of which was lately built by Sir James Ramsay to improve the approach to Bamff House: one of the bridges is of considerable antiquity, bearing the arms of Lord Gray, who held property in the parish three centuries ago. Most of the population are employed in weaving coarse linen for the manufacturers of Dundee, producing annually more than 10,000 webs, of 150 yards each; there is a fulling-mill in the village, and also at Inverquiech. Alyth was erected into a burgh of barony in the reign of James III.: a baronial court is held on the first Tuesday in every month, under a baron bailie appointed by the Earl of Airlie, who is superior of the burgh; and a system of police has also been established. Fairs for sheep and cattle are held on the Tuesday after the second Thursday in March; the second Tuesday, and the 25th, of June; the last Tuesday in July; the Tuesday before the 10th of October; the first Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Tuesday after the 11th, of November; and the second Tuesday in December; all O. S. A post-office under that of Meigle, and a branch of the Western Bank, have been established here; and facility of communication is maintained by good roads, kept in repair by statute labour.

For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Meigle and synod of Angus and Mearus: the minister's stipend averages about £235, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £14 per annum; patron, the Crown. The church, situated in the village, is a handsome and spacious structure in the Norman style, built in 1839, from a design by Mr. Hamilton of Edinburgh, and contains 1290 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church, and a small Episcopal chapel. The parochial school was erected in 1835; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house, and an allowance in lieu of a garden, and the fees average £20 per annum. Five boys and five girls are instructed and clothed from a rent-charge of £30 on the Ballindoch estate. On Barry Hill are some remains of a Pictish encampment, and of a narrow bridge over the fosse by which it was surrounded; and to the south of the hill, on the low grounds, are several upright stones supposed to commemorate some warlike exploit. Stone coffins containing human bones have been dug up near these places. At the influx of the burn of Alyth into the river Isla, are the ruins of the ancient castle of Inverquiech; and at Corb, on the south-west of the forest of Alyth, are the remains of a castle, probably a hunting-seat of the Earls of Crawford. The parish gives the title of Baron Alyth to the Earl of Airlie.

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


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

CountyPerth and Kinross
Postal districtPH11
Post TownBlairgowrie