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Borthwick, Edinburghshire

Historical Description

BORTHWICK, a parish, in the county of EDINBURGH, 3 miles (E. by N.) from Temple; containing, with the villages of Clayhouse, Dewartown, Middleton, North Middleton, Newlandrig, and part of Stobbsmills, 1617 inhabitants. This place, anciently called Locherwart, assumed the appellation of Borthwick about the time of the Reformation, from the family of that name. The most remote possessors of the extensive estates in this district of whom we have any account, were the family of Lyne, who occupied the domain till the reign of Alexander II., when it passed to the Hays, who in the time of James I. disposed of the lands to Sir William de Borthwick, founder of the magnificent castle afterwards so celebrated in Scottish history. This personage was created Lord Borthwick in 1433; and the castle thus became the seat of a barony, and, by a special license obtained from the king, was fortified in a very complete manner, and supplied with every thing necessary for its safety and defence. The descendants of this baron were illustrious for the general character of integrity and honour which they sustained, and for the part they took in the public transactions of their times. William, the third lord, was slain, with James IV., at the fatal battle of Flodden. John, the fifth lord, was a zealous supporter of Queen Mary, who occasionally visited his castle, and made it an asylum, before the commencement of her long series of troubles. John, the eighth lord, in the time of the civil wars, strenuously supported the cause of the Royalists, and, being besieged in his castle by Cromwell after the execution of the king, was obliged at length to surrender. In 1449, the ecclesiastical revenues of the parish were appropriated to the collegiate church of Crichton. But in April 1596, James I. of England dissolved from that establishment several prebendaries, with two boys or clerks to assist in the performance of divine service here, assigning to them proper salaries; and these prebends, with the vicarage of Borthwick, manse, and glebe, were then by royal charter erected into a distinct charge, called the parsonage of Borthwick. This arrangement was ratified by parliament, in 1606, and confirmed by the Archbishop of St. Andrew's as patron of the prebends.

The PARISH is about six miles long and four miles broad, and contains about 21,000 acres, of which 19,100 are in tillage or pasture, 700 in plantations, and 1200 are uncultivated. The surface is of an undulated character, presenting an agreeable succession of eminences, most of which are well cultivated; and these, as well as the low grounds, are in many cases sheltered and ornamented with thriving plantations. The rising grounds are intersected by a number of picturesque and beautiful valleys, watered by winding streams. The south-east corner of the parish lies high, and strikes the traveller from the south as bleak; but as he proceeds a short distance on the road to Edinburgh, and obtains a view of the rich and wide valley of MidLothian, of which Borthwick at this point is the entrance, the character of the landscape rapidly improves, and presents, if not a rich, at least a romantic and agreeable aspect. From the summit of Cowbrae Hill, at the upper boundary of the parish, an extensive prospect may be obtained of the surrounding country, well repaying the labour of ascending the eminence. In the proper seasons, the great profusion of plants and flowers, especially of wild roses, for which Borthwick is famed, makes it alike inviting to the admirer of garden scenery and the lover of botanical research. Two burns traverse the higher part of the parish, called the North and South Middleton, which, after their junction at the end of the neck of land on which the castle is situated, take the name of the Gore, and at length, winding through the whole extent of the valley, fall into the South Esk at Shank Point. The soil is various, being in some parts a fine light mould, and in others loamy, and approaching to heavy clayey earth; in the vicinity of the rivers, it consists of a soft alluvial bed, subject to occasional inundations. All kinds of grain are raised, with the usual green crops, and the lands are plentifully manured with farm-yard dung, lime, and bone-dust. The cattle bred here are the short-horned, and the sheep principally the black-faced and the Cheviot, although a cross between the Leicester and Cheviot has been preferred on some of the large estates. A long barren moor at the base of the Lammermoors, with other ground of the same description, has to a considerable extent been cultivated; and the river localities, with several low swamps, have been cleared of their wild wood, and intersected with drains. The annual value of real property in the parish is £6837. The rocks consist chiefly of greywacke, limestone, and sandstone; of the first kind are the Lammermoor hills, on the southern boundary of the parish, and the substance of Cowbrae Hill is the same. On the abrupt borders of Currie Wood, a coarse-grained reddish sandstone is found, in layers, interlined with some lighter-coloured varieties of the same rock. The sandstone hitherto discovered in the parish contains a strong admixture of calcareous matter, which greatly deteriorates its value as a building material; but the district contains very superior limestone and coal, which are wrought extensively, and sent to Edinburgh and some of the southern towns of Scotland. Lime-burning is regularly carried on, and large quantities are used for agricultural purposes. Great facilities of intercouse are afforded by the Edinburgh and Hawick railway, which has a station near Fushie-Bridge, in the parish.

Among the chief mansions is the House of Arniston, an extensive and majestic structure of baronial appearance, ornamented by numerous ancient trees of unusual size, with rich plantations, and finely laid-out grounds, watered by the beautiful stream of the South Esk. Most of the old wood is supposed to have been planted by the first baron of Arniston, Sir James Dundas, who was knighted by James V., about the year 1530. Middleton House, situated in the higher part of the parish, is in a similar style, but of smaller dimensions; it stands in the midst of thick woods and verdant fields, and is surrounded by grounds that are much admired. Currie House was formed about thirty or forty years ago, by enlarging and improving a house upon the property. In the vicinity is Currie Wood, the prospects from which comprise almost every object the union of which may be conceived necessary to constitute a landscape of finished and perfect beauty. Vorgie House is a narrow long building, with little pretension to architectural taste; but the adjacent grounds are rich, consisting of romantic glens, ornamented with many fine and majestic trees. Harrieston House, in its external appearance, is somewhat similar to that of Vorgie; it was originally of exceedingly plain appearance, but some additions were judiciously made to it a few years ago, and the lands around it have been greatly improved. For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Dalkeith, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the Dundas family are patrons, and the stipend of the minister is £198. 12. 3., with a manse, and a glebe of fourteen acres. The church was built in 1780, on the destruction of the ancient edifice by fire, contains about 450 sittings. There is a parochial school, in which the usual branches of education are taught; the master has the maximum salary, with £40 from fees, and the legal accommodation of house and garden. Another school is endowed with a bequest of £3. 17. per annum, the teacher deriving the rest of his income from the scholars. The ancient castle of Borthwick, the chief relic of antiquity in the parish, consists of a single tower, having an embattled wall of hewn stone, thirteen feet in thickness near the base, but contracting gradually to about six feet towards the top. The proportions of the building, without the walls, are seventy-four feet by sixty-eight, and about 110 feet from the area to the highest part of the roof. It has a sunk apartment, above which are two large halls, one over the other, the lower of which is ample, elegant, and finely formed, and has a roof ornamented with numerous antique devices. There are also two flights of bed-rooms, and various other internal and external appendages, constituting the castle one of the most striking buildings of the class in Scotland. It is beautifully situated, and is famous in history for the visits and residence of the unfortunate Queen Mary, while Bothwell was lord of the neighbouring castle of Crichton. The eminent historian, Dr. Robertson, was born in the manse, where he received the earliest part of his education.

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