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Bathgate, Linlithgowshire

Historical Description

BATHGATE, an independent burgh of barony, and a parish, in the county of Linlithgow, 7 miles (S. by W.) from Linlithgow, and 18 (W. by S.) from Edinburgh; containing, with the village of Armadale, 3928 inhabitants, of whom 2809 are in the town. This place, the name of which, in a charter of Malcolm IV. written Batket, is of unknown derivation, formed part of the extensive possessions given by King Robert Bruce, in 1316, with his daughter the Princess Marjory, on her marriage to Walter, high steward of Scotland, ancestor of the royal family of Stuart, who had one of his principal residences at this place, where he died in 1328. Of this ancient castle, some slight traces of the foundations only are discernible, in a morass about a quarter of a mile from the town, in which, though the land has been drained and brought into cultivation, kitchen utensils of brass, and coffins rudely formed of flat stones, have been discovered by the plough. The barony, with the sheriffdom of Bathgate, which had been annexed to it, was granted by Charles II. in 1663 to Thomas Hamilton, and subsequently became the property of the Hope family, of whom John, the second Earl of Hopetoun, on the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions in 1747, claimed £2000 as an indemnity. There are few events of importance connected with the history of Bathgate, with the exception of some occasional encounters which took place during the time of the Covenanters, between the inhabitants and the soldiery who were sent to disperse their meetings.

The TOWN is chiefly situated on the acclivity of a hill, on the north side of the middle road from Glasgow to Edinburgh, and consists of several well-formed streets of neatly-built houses, from which others, of inferior character, branch off in various directions. The principal streets are paved, and well lighted with gas from works erected by a company; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. A subscription library has been established, which has a collection of about 300 volumes, and is well supported. The post-office has two deliveries from Glasgow, and one from Edinburgh, daily; and branches of the National Bank of Scotland and the Glasgow Union Bank, have been opened in the town. The cotton manufacture is carried on to a considerable extent, affording employment to about 500 of the inhabitants, in hand-loom weaving, chiefly for the Glasgow houses; and about 160 women and girls are engaged in tambour-work. A distillery and a brewery, both on an extensive scale, are in active operation; and there are two brick and tile works, where several hands are employed. The market, which is abundantly supplied with grain, and numerously attended, is on Wednesday. Fairs for cattle and horses are held on the third Wednesday in April, the first Wednesday after Whitsuntide (O. S.), the fourth Wednesday in June, the third Wednesday in August, the fourth Wednesday in October, and the first Wednesday after Martinmas (O. S.). Of these the principal are the Whitsuntide and Martinmas fairs, which are attended by dealers from all parts of the country. Facility of communication is afforded by the Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the Lanark and Borrowstounness, turnpike-roads, which pass through the parish, and by other roads kept in good repair by statute labour. But the chief means of intercourse are those presented by the railway, lately opened, from Bathgate to the Edinburgh and Glasgow line near the Ratho station.

In 1824 the inhabitants, with the concurrence of the superior of the town, obtained an act of parliament conferring a charter of incorporation, and vesting the government of the town as an independent burgh of barony in a provost, three bailies, a treasurer, and twelve councillors, annually elected by the burgesses, who must be holders of houses or tenements valued at £3 per annum, and are entitled to become burgesses on the payment of fees not exceeding £2. 2. Originally the town was a burgh of barony, a baron-bailie being appointed by the proprietor of the estate. The jurisdiction of the magistrates, which is confined to the limits of the burgh, extends to civil pleas not exceeding £25, and to the trial of petty offences, for which they hold courts as occasion may require; but the number of causes is very inconsiderable. A sheriffs small-debt circuit court is held four times in the year, under the sheriff of the county, who is also appointed sheriff of Bathgate. There is a small prison, containing three cells for criminals, and a room for debtors, under the management of the corporation; but it is rarely used. The seal of the burgh simply bears the inscription, "Sigillum Commune Burgi de Bathgate", in an outer circle; and, within, the words, "erected by act of parliament 5th George IV. 1824", with a crown.

The PARISH is about seven miles and a half in length, and about four miles in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 11,214 acres, of which 8700 are arable, 800 pasture, 500 woodland and plantations, and the remainder, excepting the site of the town of Bathgate and the village of Armadale, roads and waste. Its surface, though generally level, is diversified by the hills of the Knock and the Reiving Craig, which nearly equal the Cairnapple in height, attaining an elevation of about 1450 feet above the sea. The only river is the Almond, which separates it for about a mile from the parish of Whitburn. There are numerous springs, and, in the grounds of Balbardie, a lake partly artificial, about eleven acres in extent, and averaging five feet in depth. The soil, on the slopes of the hills, is rich; in the lower grounds it is wet and marshy, though it has been greatly benefited by draining: the lands which are not under tillage, afford good pasturage for cattle. The system of agriculture is in an improved state, and a considerable portion of waste has been reclaimed; the crops are grain of every sort, with potatoes and turnips, and much attention is paid to the management of the dairy-farms. Few sheep are pastured, and the cattle are of various mixed breeds, but, on the dairy-farms, mostly of the pure Ayrshire kind. The farm buildings are inferior to others in the district; but improvements are gradually taking place under the auspices of an agricultural society in the town, which awards premiums at its annual meetings, when there is a show of cattle. A horticultural society has also been established. The plantations consist of oak, ash, elm, and plane, with larch, silver, spruce, and Scotch firs. The annual value of real property in the parish is £12,975.

The substratum is principally coal, forming part of the central coal-field of Scotland, and of which several mines are worked: the seams are frequently intersected with dykes of whinstone. Limestone is also found, both of the marine and lacustrine formation; in the former are various species of corrallines, ammonites, and marine shells, and in both are veins of lead containing portions of silver-ore. In one of the quarries, called the silver mine, the ore was wrought for some time, yielding a considerable quantity of silver, which gradually diminished till the working was ultimately discontinued. There are several limestone-quarries and lime-works, producing lime of good quality. In connexion with the strata of coal is found iron-ore, which was formerly wrought by the Carron Iron Company, and for the working of which, in another part of the parish, a company recently formed are carrying on operations. Thin layers of mineral pitch are occasionally found in the limestone. Freestone and whinstone are likewise abundant; one of the quarries of the former is constantly wrought, on the lands of Balbardie, producing stone of excellent quality for building, and the latter is wrought chiefly for the roads. Balbardie House is a handsome mansion, erected towards the close of the last century, after a design by Mr. Adam, and beautifully situated in a well-wooded park of more than 100 acres, containing much diversified scenery; and Boghead, another residence, is surrounded with thriving plantations, formed by the present proprietor.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Linlithgow, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale: the minister's stipend is £132. 8. 4., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £19 per annum; patron, the Earl of Hopetoun. The church, erected in 1739, is a plain building, situated in the town, and nearly in the centre of the parish; it is in good repair, and contains 719 sittings. There are places of worship for the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Synod, and United Original Seceders. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4½., with a house and garden, and the fees average £26 per annum. The Bathgate Academy was founded by Mr. John Newlands, a native of this parish, who died in Jamaica in 1799, and bequeathed the principal part of his property to trustees, for the erection and endowment of a free school here. The trustees, after resisting an attempt to invalidate the bequest, in which they were indemnified by the personal security of Mr. Majoribanks, received £14,500, and immediately opened schools in different parts of the parish, which, on the subsequent increase of the funds, were concentrated in 1833 in the present institution. It is under the superintendence of a rector, who is also the classical master, two English masters, and a master for writing, arithmetic, and the mathematics; and is attended by about 500 children, who are all gratuitously taught. The building is handsome; it consists of a centre and two wings connected by a colonnade, and comprises a house for the rector, with four ample class-rooms, a library, in which are more than 700 volumes, and other apartments, with a spacious play-ground in front. The poor are partly supported by the interest of £1100 bequeathed by Mr. Henry Calder, yielding £53 per annum. There are some Druidical remains in the vicinity; and in different parts of the parish have been found coins of Edward I., Queen Elizabeth, and Charles II. Several of the springs are strongly chalybeate; and on the estate of Couston, the water resembles in its quality that of the celebrated spring of Dollar.

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