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Auchterhouse, Forfarshire

Historical Description

AUCHTERHOUSE, a parish, in the county of FORFAR, 7 miles (N. W. by N.) from Dundee; containing, with the villages of Dronley and Kirkton, 769 inhabitants. This parish, the name of which is of uncertain derivation, is nearly of triangular form, and in its northern portion includes part of the range of the Sidlaw hills, separating it from Strathmore. Along its southern boundary runs the Dighty water, which falls into the Tay near the influx of the latter into the German Ocean. It has an undulated surface, and comprises an area of about 5450 acres, of which 3567 are in cultivation, 1406 in wood, and the remainder hill pasture. The ground rises from south to north, and the acclivities are under cultivation to the spot where the church stands, 800 feet above the level of the sea; but more northward the land rises considerably, reaching at the White-Sheets of Sidlaw, the highest part of the parish, to about 1400 feet above the high-water mark at Dundee, and being there only fit for pasture and forest-planting. The burn of Dronley, and that of Auchterhouse, turn several mills in their separate courses from the west and north-west, before their junction at the village of Dronley; after which, the united streams take the name of Dighty, for the rest of their passage to the ocean. The climate, in the higher district, is cold and bracing: in the lower division it has been much improved within these few years by extensive draining, and is pure and salubrious.

The soil of the uncultivated portions, with slight exceptions, consists of a thin moorish earth, lying on a retentive tilly subsoil with a substratum of sandstone. The land under tillage is mostly a black mould, in some places sandy, resting on till or marl, and with skilful management yielding good average crops of oats and barley, with the usual green crops, and sometimes wheat, though this last has been nearly discontinued, not having in general succeeded. The dairy is much attended to. Subsoil-ploughing and furrow-draining are extensively practised, with great advantage; and by the kindly feeling and steady co-operation of landlords and tenants, among many other improvements, nearly 500 acres of moor, moss, and bog have been reclaimed within the present century, and now produce fair crops. The annual value of real property in the parish is £5316. The soil throughout the parish is underlaid with sandstone very near the surface, and the Sidlaw hill consists of the same rock, occasionally intersected with trap dykes, and affording good materials for many useful purposes: a quarry is in operation on the estate of Scotstown, giving employment to five or six hands. Plantations comprising larch, spruce, and Scotch fir, elm, ash, plane, and beech, have been formed on the hills, and on the moors of Dronley and Adamstown, by the Earl of Camperdown, to the extent of nearly 300 acres; the spruce and Scotch fir, however, alone being likely to succeed. The late Earl of Airlie planted above 800 acres of the hill of Sidlaw. The House of Auchterhouse, with its orchards in front, is the best relic of an old baronial residence now existing in this part of the country: it is the property of the Earl of Airlie. Facility of communication is offered by the Dundee and Newtyle turnpike-road, running through the parish from the south to the north-west; and by the railway between the same places. Dundee is the nearest market-town to Auchterhouse.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Dundee, synod of Angus and Mearns, and in the patronage of the Earl of Airlie; the minister's stipend is about £200, with a manse, and a glebe of seven acres, valued at £15 per annum. Auchterhouse church was rebuilt in 1775, and consists of portions both old and modern: it has on the west a steeple, and on the east a very ancient burying-place containing the remains of some members of the Erskine, Lyon, and Ogilvy families. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with £20. 12. 4. fees. Near the mansion of Auchterhouse are the ruins of a square building called Wallace Tower, supposed to have taken its name from a visit paid here to Sir John Ramsay, the proprietor, by the Scottish patriot, Sir William Wallace, after landing at Montrose with his French auxiliaries. Not far from this spot, and in other parts of the parish, are some of those caverns styled "Weems", in which various relics have been found, indicating their former use as abodes of men. On the south of the hill of Sidlaw is a Druidical altar in good preservation.

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