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Mid Calder, Edinburghshire

Historical Description

CALDER, MID, a parish, in the county of EDINBURGH; containing, with the villages of Mid-Calder and Bells-Quarry, 1456 inhabitants, of whom 550 are in the village of Mid-Calder, 12 miles (W.) from Edinburgh. This place, which was in the extensive district of Calder, obtained the appellation of Calder-Comitis, from its having been the property of the Earls of Fife, in the twelfth century. In the sixteenth century the barony was part of the possessions of Sir James Sandilands, whose descendant, Lord Torphichen, is the present proprietor. The large parish of Calder-Comitis was divided by the presbytery of Linlithgow, in 1645, into the two parishes designated Mid and West Calder. Mid-Calder is about seven miles in length, and from two to three miles in breadth, comprising 12,339 acres, of which about 200 acres are woodland and plantations, and of the remainder about one-third arable and two-thirds meadow and pasture. Its surface is generally an extensive plain, bounded on the south by a ridge called the Cairn Hills, forming a continuation of the Pentland range, and of which the highest has an elevation of about 1800 feet above the sea, commanding an unbounded view of the Firth of Forth, with the adjacent country towards Stirling, the coast of Fife, and the Ochils. The principal streams are, the river Almond, and the Murieston and Linhouse waters, which latter unite their streams, and flow into the Almond a little to the north of the village. The scenery is pleasingly varied, and enriched with wood; the ancient forest of Calder has been greatly diminished in the progress of cultivation, but there are still considerable remains of stately timber, and also extensive modern plantations, consisting of common and spruce firs, larch, oak, ash, beech, and elm.

The SOIL, along the banks of the river and its tributary streams, is a rich, dry, and fertile loam, and in some parts clay, which has been greatly improved by draining and the use of lime. The arable lands produce favourable crops of grain; but the principal reliance of the farmers is on the dairies, which are well managed; and on many of the farms a considerable number of sheep are pastured. The annual value of real property in the parish is £7667. The substrata are chiefly freestone, limestone, and whinstone, all of which have been extensively wrought. A quarry of limestone has long been in operation, on the lands of Easter Murieston. In Calder Wood is a quarry of freestone excellent for every kind of building, and there are quarries of freestone underneath the Cairn hills. Ironstone is found in the beds of the rivers, but not in sufficient quantity to remunerate the labour of working it. Lead-ore has been discovered on several parts of the Harburn estate, but it has not been wrought; and seams of coal have been met with in the upper districts of the parish, one of which is nearly four feet in thickness. Calder House, the seat of Lord Torphichen, is a spacious and elegant mansion. beautifully situated on the bank of the Murieston water near its confluence with the river Almond, in an ample demesne richly embellished with stately timber. In the more ancient part of the structure the walls are seven feet in thickness; and in the old hall, now the drawing-room, John Knox, for the first time after the Reformation, publicly administered the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, according to the protestant form: in this room are portraits of the Reformer, and Mary, Queen of Scots. In the centre of the kitchen is a deep draw-well, from which is a subterraneous passage to the village. Murieston Castle, another seat, has been repaired and partly rebuilt by the proprietor; and the ancient mansion of Linhouse, now Burnbrae, is an embattled structure, with towers in good preservation. There are other mansions in the parish. The village is pleasantly situated on the road from Edinburgh to Glasgow, on an eminence between the Almond and the Linhouse water, and under the shelter of Calder Wood. There are two paper-mills; and fairs are held on the second Tuesdav in March, and the Friday after the second Tuesdav in October, for the sale of cattle and horses, and for hiring farm servants. Great facility of intercourse is afforded by the Caledonian railway.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale and presbytery of Linlithgow. The minister's stipend, including £8. 6. 8. for communion elements, is £158. 6. 8., of which £88. 17. 10. are paid by the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe of forty-three acres, valued at £64 per annum: patron, Lord Torphichen. Mid-Calder church, an ancient structure in the pointed style, contains 438 sittings. There is a place of worship for the United Presbyterian Synod. The parochial school is well attended: the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees, &c., average £65; he also receives the proceeds of a bequest for teaching music, amounting to £11. The ancient castle of Cairns, of which there are some remains, consisting of a tower, is supposed to have been founded by Sir William Crichton, lord high-admiral of Scotland, in 1440. In the south-west part of the parish, on the summit of an eminence called Castle Grey, are tolerably perfect remains of a Roman camp, in which various Roman coins have been found. There are also numerous tumuli on the banks of the river Almond, and artificial mounds, four of which, on its south bank, point out the field of a battle between the Picts and Scots. John Spottiswood, Archbishop of St. Andrew's, was a native of the parish.

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