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Bexholme, Kincardineshire

Historical Description

BENHOLME, a parish, in the county of Kincardine, three miles (S. W.) from Bervie, and on the road from Aberdeen to Dundee; containing, with the village of Johnshaven, 1648 inhabitants. The name is derived from ben, a hill, and holme, a piece of low level ground; terms which are descriptive of the peculiar features of the district. Very little is known concerning the early history of the locality. It appears that the ancient Tower of Benholme, a strong building still in a good state of preservation, was formerly the residence of the earls-marischal, memorials of whom remain in inscriptions upon two monuments transferred from the burying-aisle of the old church, and now forming part of the wall of the present edifice. The parish is nearly square in form, and contains about 5400 acres, of which upwards of 4000 are under cultivation, and 325 in wood. It is bounded on the south-east by the German Ocean, and the surface is considerably varied, though there is no elevation deserving the name of a hill, except that of Gourdon, which rises to a height of 400 feet at the boundary between Benholme and Bervie. The shore is about three miles in length, and along it is a plain extending the whole distance, and varying in breadth from 100 yards to a quarter of a mile. Beyond is an acclivity of equal extent, the surface of which is furrowed in many places with lofty ridges; and from this the ground gently rises till it reaches the high lands of Garvock, on the western boundary of the parish. The coast, which in general is rough and cragged, has neither cliffs nor headlands, and is altogether barren and uninteresting in its aspect; it is indented with the small bay of Johnshaven, and that of the Haughs of Nether Benholme. There are three small streams in the parish, two of which meet a little below the church, at the corner of the manse garden, and after running about a quarter of a mile, fall into the German Ocean. These rivulets, during heavy rains, frequently swell to a considerable size, and, augmented by the waters from the drainage of the lands, overflow the banks of the deep and narrow hollows through which they flow, and commit great havoc upon the neighbouring grounds.

There is every variety of soil, from fine soft loam to wet heavy clay, the latter of which predominates. In some places the earth is light and sandy, and consists to a very considerable extent of a deep alluvial deposit, intermixed with boulders of different sizes, some of quartz, some of granite, others of greywacke, and a few of trap, and which are scattered in great quantities over the fields. Most of the plantations are of recent growth, except those about Benholme and Brotherton: they consist chiefly of fir, ash, beech, and oak; but the trees invariably pine and become stunted in growth when within the range of the sea-breeze, those only exhibiting a tolerably healthy appearance which are further removed and under some protecting cover. The state of husbandry is excellent: the lands are well drained, and many of the farms are provided with threshing-machines, more than half of which are driven by water; the farm-buildings are generally good, and much spirit and enterprise have been shewn within the last twenty or thirty years in recovering desolate wastes. The annual value of real property in the parish is £5501. The prevailing rock is the old red sandstone and conglomerate, the strata of which are intersected from east to west with dykes of trap; these rocks are diversified by almost every variety of quality and intermixture, and in the trap formation agates have been found in different parts of the parish. There is a considerable quarry of sandstone on the farm of Forth, upon the Brotherton estate, on the western boundary of the parish. The seats are, the mansion-house of Benholme, the entrance to which, in the direction of Benholme Tower, is by a passage formed over the moat on the west of that ancient structure; and Brotherton House, a very ancient edifice, with a terraced garden. The linen manufacture employs about 230 hands; and there is a fishery, the produce of which, consisting of cod, haddocks, and turbot, with a few small fish, is cured, and sent to Laurencekirk, Fordoun, &c., and sometimes to Montrose. Herrings are also taken; and salmon are caught with tolerable success by means of bag-nets, the shore being too rocky to allow of the use of stake-nets.

Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Fordoun, synod of Angus and Mearns. The patronage belongs to the family of Scott of Brotherton, and Lord Cranstoun, proprietor of Benholme, the former for two turns, and the latter for one: the stipend of the minister is £232. 4., with a manse, built in 1826, and a glebe of six acres, valued at £12. 10. per annum. Benholme church, built in 1832, is a neat edifice in good repair, accommodating 768 persons: the old church, which was taken down in 1832, was furnished with a font for holy water, an incense altar, and a niche in the wall, supposed to have been a receptacle for sacred relics; and there are several curious inscriptions on the stones yet preserved, one of which points to this edifice as the burying-place of the Keith family. Here are places of worship belonging to the Free Church and United Presbyterian Synod. The parochial school affords instruction in Latin and the usual branches of education, under a master who has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with £22 fees. A parish library consisting of 500 volumes, and a juvenile library with 400, are extensively used by the inhabitants. There are also two friendly societies, one of which has a stock of £600; and a clothing and fuel society has been established.

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