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Bervie or Inverbervie, Kincardineshire

Historical Description

BERVIE, or INVERBERVIE, a royal burgh, and a parish, in the county of Kincardine, 82½ miles (N. N. E.) from Edinburgh; containing, with the village of Gourdon, 1342 inhabitants. This place is named from the small river Bervie, on its north-eastern boundary, and the stream is so called from an ancient British word signifying a boiling or ebullition, and descriptive of the peculiar course of the water. The town appears to have been of importance in early times, and to have attracted some attention. The fine old castle of Hallgreen, which is romantically situated on the shore, a little to the south of the town, and has been recently repaired with due attention to its original style, has a date on the west front, which, though partially effaced, is traced to the year 1376. The walls of this building are massive, and perforated with arrows; and it seems to have been formerly surrounded by a moat, with a drawbridge and a portcullis near the outer gate of the court. Above one of the doors in the court, the date of 1687, with the initials of the proprietor of that period, is still visible. In one of the principal rooms, on the stucco ceiling, is a coat of arms, with the motto spero meliora, and the date 1683; and on the old wainscots are some Dutch paintings, consisting of two landscapes and a flower-piece. A spacious mansion indicating, like the castle, the ancient residence of important personages, and which is said to have belonged originally to the Marischals, and was recently in the possession of the noble family of Arbuthnott, was removed about twenty or thirty years since, to make way for improvements of building and agriculture; and several other old buildings are still pointed out as having been the town residences of neighbouring lairds. There was also, in former times, a religious establishment of White friars; and the discovery of some graves, in the construction of a turnpike-road, near a place called Friar's Dubbs, is supposed to mark the spot where this monastic order had a burying-ground.

At the time of the Rebellion in 1745, the troops of the Duke of Cumberland, suspecting that the inhabitants of the neighbouring parish of Benholme had transported provisions, by means of the Bervie boats, for the use of the Pretender's troops who were passing by sea, began to destroy and plunder the village of Johnshaven, in Benholme parish, and to burn the boats of the Bervie fishermen. The minister of Bervie, Mr. Dow, upon hearing of this, repaired to the bridge of Benholme, three miles distant, where he met the army, headed by the royal suite, and so satisfied the duke of the loyalty of his parishioners, that his royal highness went with the minister to his house, and became his guest for the night. An unusual occurrence took place here in the year 1800, when a French privateer made its appearance off the coast, and pursued several merchant vessels, which were compelled to take shelter in the port of Gourdon. A small body of volunteers belonging to the place were immediately assembled, and marched down to the beach in two divisions, to face the enemy; and one party, stationed among the rocks on the shore, exchanged several rounds of musketry with the guns of the sloop; upon which the crew, suspecting that a battery was about to be opened upon them by the other division, who had proceeded in the direction of the old castle of Hallgreen, crowded sail and made off.

The TOWN is situated at the eastern extremity of the parish, near the small bay of Bervie, on the shore of the German Ocean. The approach on the north-east is by an elegant bridge over the river Bervie, of one arch, the height of which from the stream is about eighty feet. A meal and barley mill stands on the haugh below the bridge, and near it a small spinning-mill; on the upper side of the bridge is a spinning-mill of three stories, the first that was erected in Scotland for yarn and thread. At the north entrance to the burgh stands the head inn, commanding a fine view of the scenery above the bridge, the remote distance being adorned by the old castle of Allardice, with its trees and shrubbery, in the parish of Arbuthnott. Water of the best description, from springs in the parish, is conveyed into the town by leaden pipes, and deposited in reservoirs of metal for general use. The chief manufacture is that of the linens usually called duck and dowlas, which is carried on to a considerable extent through the medium of agents, who superintend for merchants in Aberdeen, Dundee, and Arbroath. A kelp manufacture existed for some time; but, like most others of the same description, it was given up when the duty was taken off foreign barilla. The small port and fishing-village of Gourdon, upwards of a mile distant, but within the parish, is a place of some trade: vessels, however, are not chartered here, but have to clear out at the custom-house in Montrose. Two shipping companies are connected with the place, and vessels frequently come in with coal, lime, pavement, wood, tiles, slates, and sometimes Orkney and Shetland cattle and ponies; and in return take ballast or grain, grain being the only article exported from Gourdon.

The principal fisheries are of salmon, cod and ling, and haddock. The first of these is carried on in the bay, commencing on the 2nd of February, and ending on the 14th of September; and the fish taken are considered of superior quality. The cod and ling fishery begins on the 1st of October, and ends on July 15th: about 300 cwt. are shipped every year, at Montrose, for the London market. The haddocks which are caught are dried and smoked, and consigned by a company established here, to dealers in Glasgow and London, with whom an extensive traffic is maintained. Six boats are also engaged in a turbot and skate fishery, which begins on the 1st of May, and ends on the 15th of July. A herring-fishery formerly carried on was some time since broken up, in consequence of the shore being deserted by the fish. Crabs and lobsters are taken in great numbers among the rocks near the bay, and there is a good supply of shrimps on the sands.

A market for corn was established a few years ago, which commences at the close of harvest, and is open every Wednesday afterwards for six months. It is in a very flourishing state, being frequented by corn-merchants from Montrose, Brechin, and Stonehaven, and by farmers and millers from all the neighbouring parishes. About 40,000 quarters of grain are purchased yearly, and the greater part of it shipped at Gourdon. Two fairs have long been held annually for the sale of cattle, one on the Thursday before the 19th of May, and the other on the Thursday before the 19th of September. In 1834 three additional markets were established, for the hiring of servants and the sale of cattle: that for cattle in general, and for hiring servants, is on the Wednesday before the 22nd of November, and those for fat and other cattle are on the Wednesday before Christmas (O. S.), and the Wednesday before the 13th of February. The Aberdeen turnpike-road runs directly across the parish, and affords considerable facility of intercourse.

Bervie was erected into a royal burgh in 1362, by charter from King David II., who, having been forced by stress of weather to land on a rock in the parish of Kinneff, still called Craig-David, was received by the inhabitants of Bervie with so much kindness and hospitality that he raised the town to the dignity of a royal burgh as a mark of his gratitude and esteem. In the year 1595, James VI. renewed the charter, and confirmed the privileges before granted. The public property is distinctly marked out by the charter, comprehending nearly the whole extent of the parish; but the lands now belonging to the town consist only of a piece of moor, a few acres of haugh ground, and a range of braes about a mile in extent: the revenue is about £120 a year. The burgh is governed by a provost, three bailies, a dean of guild, nine councillors, a treasurer, and a clerk; and, with Montrose, Brechin, Arbroath, and Forfar, returns a member to parliament. The town-hall is an edifice of two stories, the upper of which consists of a hall and council-room, and the lower contains the flesh and meal market, with a small arched vault for the confinement of prisoners, which is very deficient as a place of security. On the top of the building is a handsome belfry, with a bell which is rung four times every day. Near the town-hall is a market-cross of great antiquity, formed of a column of stone that measures about fourteen feet high, with a ball on the summit, and a flight of steps surrounding the base.

The PARISH, which was formerly joined to that of Kinneff, but was separated from it about the time of the Reformation, is of quadrilateral figure, and contains about 1800 acres, of which 1222 are under cultivation, about 70 planted, and 500 acres waste. It is bounded on the south-east by the German Ocean, and embraces about a mile and a half of coast, which, with the exception of the part near the town, is covered with rocks, mostly hidden at high water. The craig where King David landed, also called Bervie Brow, bordering on the parish, is a conspicuous landmark for mariners; and Gourdon Hill, in the parish, is also seen at a great distance. The interior of the parish is considerably diversified in its surface, rising gradually from east to west, and being marked by two ranges of hills parallel to each other. The ground is flat near the southern and eastern boundaries, but the vicinity of the latter is ornamented with a small fertile valley, through which the water of Bervie (well stocked with trout) runs to the sea, and on each side of which the land is elevated and varied. The streams are, the Bervie, which rises in the Grampians, and falls into the sea at the eastern extremity of the district; and the burn of Peattie, which runs from the north-east boundary into the Bervie, and, though small, is of very considerable benefit to the tenants through whose farms it pursues its course.

The soil in the lower lands is a deep fertile loam, resting on a gravelly subsoil; the haugh lands adjoining the sea consist of black earth, mixed with large quantities of pebbles, upon which they are said to be dependent for their great fertility. In the upper district of the parish, some of the land is a strong soil, upon a clay bottom; but on the surface in the highest part, which reaches an elevation of about 400 feet, very little earth is to be seen, the ground chiefly consisting of naked rock. All kinds of corn and green crops are produced, of excellent quality; the plantations are flourishing, though of recent growth, and comprise every variety of trees usually to be met with. The system of husbandry is of the most approved kind, and the highest state of cultivation is indicated by the abundance and quality of the produce. Improvements have been carried on to a considerable extent within the last few years, especially in draining and reclaiming waste land; and the farmhouses and offices, which are roofed with slate or tiles, are in good condition. The annual value of real property in the parish is £3344. The predominating rock is sandstone, which in some places is marked by veins of trap, between one and two feet in thickness. Boulders of quartz, granite, mica-slate, gneiss, &c., are to be seen upon the shore, and near the village of Gourdon the beach consists of masses of small pebbles of jasper, porphyry, slate, and agate, of the last of which beautiful specimens are sometimes found among the loose soil on the higher grounds, as well as on the beach. Several quarries of sandstone are wrought in the parish, supplying an excellent material, of which the church and most of the new buildings in this and the neighbouring parishes were constructed.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Fordoun, synod of Angus and Mearns; the patronage belongs to the Crown, and the minister's stipend is £141. 12., with a manse, and a glebe worth £18 per annum. Bervie church, which was opened on the 1st of January, 1837, and contains 900 sittings, is an elegant structure, with a square tower more than 100 feet in height, ornamented with carved minarets. The site, which is gently elevated, at a small distance from the street, is highly advantageous; and the main entrance and imposing outer gate heighten the general effect of an object that has greatly contributed to improve the aspect of the town. There are places of worship belonging to the Free Church and the Independents. The parochial school affords instruction in the classics, mathematics, and the usual branches of education; the master has a salary of £29. 18. 9., with an allowance of £2. 2. 9. in lieu of a garden, and between £15 and £20 fees. A bequest of £500 was left to the poor, who receive the interest, by the late James Farquhar, Esq., of Hallgreen. The burgh confers the title of Baron on Lord Viscount Arbuthnott, whose ancestor Sir Robert Arbuthnott was knighted for his faithful adhesion to the fortunes of Charles I., and was afterwards raised to the peerage by the style of Baron Inverbervie and Viscount Arbuthnott, Nov. 16th, 1641: he died in 1655. The present peer is the eighth viscount.

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