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Blackness, Linlithgowshire

Historical Description

BLACKNESS, a village, in the parish of Carriden, county of Linlithgow, 3 miles (E.) from Borrowstounness; containing 107 inhabitants. This place was formerly the sea-port of Linlithgow, and the residence of numerous merchants, who carried on an extensive trade with Holland, Bremen, Hamburgh, and Dantzic, in which they employed thirty-six ships of large burthen. It is now an inconsiderable hamlet, distinguished only by its royal castle, which is one of the four Scottish fortresses kept in repair according to the articles of the union of the two kingdoms. The harbour and quay are in a ruinous state: the custom-house has been converted into lodgings for the few individuals who, during the summer, resort to this deserted spot for the benefit of bathing; and the only business carried on is the occasional shipping of bricks and tiles made at Brickfield, in the immediate vicinity, and the landing of lime and manure. Stake-nets for salmon have been laid down from the point of Blackness.

The castle, which is still entire, is situated on a promontory on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, near the influx of the Black burn, and at a small distance from the village. It is supposed to occupy the site of a Roman station on the wall of Antonine, which, according to most writers, terminated at this place; but the date of the present structure is not distinctly known. In 1481, the castle, with eight ships at that time in the harbour, was burnt by the English fleet; and in 1488, the nobles who had rebelled against James III. held a conference with that monarch here, which was called the "Pacification of Blackness". In 1542, Cardinal Beaton was imprisoned in the castle by the Earl of Arran, then regent, but he was soon liberated, through the influence of the clergy; and after the battle of Pinkie, in 1547, Lord Clinton, the admiral of the English fleet, took three and burnt seven of the vessels lying in the harbour. The castle was garrisoned by the French forces under the command of General D'Esse in 1548, and also under the regency of Mary of Guise; but in 1560 it was taken by the sheriff of Linlithgow. In 1571, it was garrisoned by Claude Hamilton, a zealous adherent to the interests of Mary, Queen of Scots; and by him it was held in her name till 1573, when it was delivered up to the Earl of Morton, then regent. During the progress of the Reformation, and the contests that arose between the advocates of Presbytery and Episcopacy, the castle was frequently a place of confinement for the non-conforming clergy; and in the latter part of the eighteenth and earlier part of the nineteenth century, it was chiefly occupied by French prisoners of war. The Earls of Linlithgow were hereditary constables of the castle till 1715, when that office was forfeited on the attainder of James the sixth earl, for his participation in the Earl of Mar's rebellion. There are a governor and a lieutenant-governor attached to the castle, neither of whom is resident; and the garrison till lately consisted of two gunners, a Serjeant, two corporals, and fifteen privates; but at present the only inmates are an inferior officer and his family. The buildings consist of a principal tower, with ramparts commanding the entrance, and a court-yard, and have accommodation for 100 men.

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