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Caerlaverock, Dumfriesshire

Historical Description

CAERLAVEROCK, a parish, in the county of DUMFRIES, 5 miles (S. S. E.) from Dumfries, containing, with the villages of Bankhead, Blackshaw, Glencaple-Quay, Glenhowan, Sherrington, and part of Kelton, 1297 inhabitants. Different opinions exist in regard to the derivation of the name of this parish, some interpreting the words of which it is composed, "the castle with the buttress jutting out", and others, "the castle close upon the sea"; referring to the most prominent historical memorial in the place, the singularly formed and strong fortress called Caerlaverock Castle. It stands near the shores of the Solway Firth, and is of triangular figure, having a double moat, with portcullis after portcullis, to defend the entrance: there is also a provision for the discharge of a torrent of molten lead on the heads of the besiegers. The existing castle is the second building, the first, which has long been totally destroyed, having nothing left but the foundations: these are visible about 300 yards from the more modern structure, and indicate the old castle to have been somewhat smaller than the present, but of the same form. The original castle is said to have been founded in the sixth century by Llywarch Og, and in the days of King Malcolm Canmore to have been the chief seat of the ancient and illustrious family of Maxwell. It was attacked and taken by King Edward I., who afterwards passed several days here. The time when the second castle was built has not been precisely ascertained, but it is known to have been before the year 1425. In 1570 it was ruined by the Earl of Sussex, who had been sent with an English army to support James VI., after the murder of the regent. It was, however, reinstated in its former strength by Robert, first Earl of Nithsdale, in 1638; and during the troubles of Charles I., its owner, who supported the royal cause with all his energies, was ordered by that monarch to yield it up, on the best terms he could obtain. After the siege by Cromwell, it was found to contain eighty-six beds, forty carpets, and a library worth £200. Caerlaverock Castle was the place Sir Walter Scott had in his mind as the chief scene in the novel of Guy Mannering, it was here that Dirk Hatteraick was imprisoned by Gilbert Glossin.

The PARISH is six miles long and about two broad, containing 5800 acres. It is bounded on the south by the Solway Firth; on the east, by the Lochar, and on the west, by the river Nith, which separates it from the county of Kirkcudbright. In this part the Solway is about twelve miles wide. The Nith is affected by the tide as far as Dumfries, but at low water is easily fordable; it forms about six miles of the boundary line of the parish. The Lochar, on the other side, flows through an extensive moss, which prevents all communication in that quarter, except in the driest months of summer, and then it is passable only by pedestrians. The soil, to some extent, is mossy, but its general character is that of light loam; and in this district the worst soil is usually in the valleys: 4323 acres are cultivated, and produce all kinds of white and green crops; 126 acres are in wood, 75 acres are moss and river, and 252 marsh. Lochar Moss is chiefly in the parishes of Dumfries, Torthorwald, and Mouswald, about a hundred acres only being in this parish. The cattle are of the Galloway breed, with a few Ayrshire cows, and the sheep are the Leicesters. The best system of agriculture is followed, and the improvements lately made in every department have been considerable, especially in the liberal application of bone-dust manure, which has greatly advanced turnip husbandry. The annual value of real property in the parish is £4495. The rocks almost throughout consist of red sandstone, which is easily wrought, and durable, and is used for many purposes. At Glencaple-Ouay, the chief village, large vessels bound for Dumfries unload when unable from their burthen to reach their place of destination. There is a salmon-fishery connected with the parish, valued at £100 per annum, and a white-fishing is valued at £40.

Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Dumfries and synod of Dumfries; patron, the Marquess of Queensberry. The stipend of the minister is £177, with a manse, rebuilt in 1838 by the heritors, and a glebe of nearly twenty acres, valued at £32 per annum. The church, built in 1781, contains 470 sittings. There is a parochial school, in which mathematics, the classics, and all the usual branches of education are taught; the master has the maximum salary, with fees, and a sum from the Hutton bequest. Two other schools are supported out of bequests, and there is a parochial library, instituted in 1833. Dr. John Hutton, first physician to Queen Anne, was born here, and after realizing a handsome fortune by his profession, became a munificent benefactor to his native parish. He built a manse for the minister, and left £1000, the interest to be bestowed in educational and charitable purposes by the minister and elders: this money was invested in land, and now produces a rental of £500 a year. He also left a valuable library to the presbytery of Dumfries, comprising the prayer-book used by the unfortunate King Charles when on the scaffold. This prayer-book, however, was some time ago abstracted, and sold at an auction in London for a large sum: it is supposed to have been originally lent from the presbytery library, and then passed from friend to friend, the interesting relic being at length sold by auction.

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