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West Calder, Edinburghshire

Historical Description

CALDER, WEST, a parish, in the county of EDINBURGH, 16½ miles (W. S. W.) from Edinburgh; containing 1666 inhabitants, of whom 434 are in the village. This parish is of triangular form, situated in the south-western extremity of the county, and bounded on the north by Linlithgowshire, from which it is separated by the Breich water, a stream tributary to the river Almond, and for a short way by the Almond itself: on the east it is bounded by the parish of Mid-Calder; on the south-west and south, by Lanarkshire; and at one point on the south, by Peeblesshire. It is about ten miles in length, comprising about 20,000 acres. The surface bordering on Lanark is elevated and hilly, attaining a height of 700 feet above the sea, and, though greatly improved by recent plantations, having still a bleak and cold appearance. At the southern extremity of the parish, the three counties of Edinburgh, Lanark, and Peebles meet in a point; and near the western extremity is a point where the counties of Edinburgh, Lanark, and Linlithgow meet. The soil is chiefly a black mossy earth, naturally moist, lying on a till bottom; and there are some extensive tracts of moor, interspersed with arable land of moderate fertility. The system of agriculture has of late been much improved, and the soil, which in many parts is very wet, has been rendered much more productive by draining. The crops raised here are oats, wheat, barley, flax, peas, turnips, and potatoes. The hills afford good pasture for sheep and cattle, of which large numbers are reared; great attention has been paid of late years to the management of dairy-farms, and excellent butter and cheese are sent to the Edinburgh market. In general the farms are of moderate extent; and most of those which are chiefly arable, contain a considerable portion of moorland. The plantations, principally of fir, and which were formerly confined to the lands around the houses of the proprietors, have been much extended; indeed, a general improvement in the appearance of the district has recently taken place. The annual value of real property in the parish is £7090.

The chief substrata are limestone and coal, the former more adapted for building purposes than for manure; a seam for burning into lime is wrought on the estate of Handexwood, where there is a regular lime-work, producing good lime: limestone for burning into lime is also wrought at Baads-mill, on the estate of Baads, but the lime is not so good. A small coal is wrought along with the limestone at Baads-mill, and good coal is worked on another part of the same estate, and on the Woodmuir and Loganlee estates. Ironstone has for many years been wrought at Handexwood, by the Wilsontown Iron Company, and for the last few years on the estate of Muldren, by the Shotts Company, though not to any very great extent. The principal houses are, Hermand, erected by the late Lord Hermand, in 1797; Limefield and Harburn, in 1804; and Hartwood, in 1807. The Caledonian railway, and the high road from Edinburgh to Ayr, pass through the parish. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale and the presbytery of Linlithgow; patron, John Drysdale, Esq. The minister's stipend, by augmentation from government, is £158. 6. 8., of which above two-thirds are received from the exchequer; the manse, rebuilt in 1837, is a handsome residence, and the glebe comprises twenty-four acres, valued at £24 per annum. West Calder church was built in 1643. In 1844 a place of worship in connexion with the Free Church was erected, and there is a meeting-house for the United Presbyterian Synod. The parochial school is attended by about eighty-five children; the master has a salary of £34, with an excellent house and a good garden, and the fees average about £16. On the lands of Harburn, at the south-eastern extremity of the parish, are vestiges of an ancient castle, said to have been fortified by Oliver Cromwell to check the depredations committed by the moss-troopers: these lands are partly in the parish of Mid-Calder. Upon the summit of a hill called Castle Craig are the remains of a Roman camp of small extent, near which several Roman coins have been found.

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