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Closeburn, Dumfriesshire

Historical Description

CLOSEBURN, a parish, in the county of DUMFRIES; containing 1530 inhabitants, of whom 123 are in the village, 2½ miles (S. S. E.) from Thornhill. This place was anciently called Kill-Osburn, from Cella Osburni. It was formerly remarkable for its very ancient castle, which for many centuries, together with the greater part of the parish, belonged to the family of Kirkpatrick. The parish of Closeburn was annexed to the abbey of Holyrood, and the parish of Dalgarno, now included within the limits of Closeburn, to the abbey of Kelso; but the family of Kirkpatrick possessed the patronage of both churches, as well as the larger part of the lands. In the year 1606, these churches were united by the General Assembly held at Linlithgow, in which union they continued till 1648; they were then disjoined, and so remained until 1697, when Dalgarno was again annexed to Closeburn. The PARISH is ten miles in extreme length, and seven and a half in extreme breadth, containing 30,189 acres. One of its principal features is the valley of Closeburn, situated in the mountain range, composed chiefly of transition rock, which runs across the island from the German to the Atlantic Oeean. The surface of the parish gradually rises from the western extremity, till it attains its highest elevation at the north-eastern boundary, at which part is Queensberry hill, one of the loftiest heights in the south of Scotland, and sometimes called the Queen of Hills, rising 2140 feet above the level of the sea. The land in the western and midland districts is chiefly in tillage; there are considerable plantations towards the east and north, and in this direction the high grounds consist of extensive moors, unfit for the plough, but affording good pasture for sheep. The river Nith runs along the south-western and western, and the Cample along the north-western and western, boundaries of the parish. Among the numerous smaller streams the most distinguished is the Crickup, which, falling over a precipice ninety feet high, forms the celebrated cascade known by the name of "Grey mare's tail". The course of this stream is beautified by much bold and romantic scenery; and at Crickup Linn, a second fall, the stream runs through old worn massive rocks, and is shrouded from the eye in its passage by rich and varied foliage, presenting a singularly interesting scene, which the author of Waverley has compared to the retreat of Balfour of Burleigh, in Lanarkshire.

Along the river Nith the soil is a fine rich loam: higher up, it is a sandy gravel to the depth of twenty feet, well adapted for barley and turnips; and as the ground further rises, it is of the same nature, but strong and deep, with a mixture of clay, which feature it retains till the high land is reached. About 5683 acres are under tillage, and 23,006 in pasture; the natural woods and the plantations cover about 1500 acres. All kinds of grain are produced, with the usual green crops: the cattle are of the Galloway and Ayrshire breeds, and great attention is paid to them; the sheep are of the short black-faced breed. A limestone rock of great extent was discovered many years ago, of which advantage was taken by the proprietor of the parish, who burnt and applied the contents of it so plentifully that large tracts of sterile ground, much of which was moor, were brought into cultivation. From this period the inhabitants date the rise of their present flourishing system of husbandry. A plantation of ninety acres, consisting of Scotch fir sixty years old, was lately cut down, and disposed of for £10,000; the soil upon which it grew was poor and sandy, and not worth sixpence per acre when the trees were planted. The annual value of real property in the parish is £11,873. The rocks consist of greywacke, limestone, and old red sandstone. The limestone-quarry above referred to consists of two distinct beds of different qualities, separated from each other by about eighteen feet of impure limestone, the upper bed is of too caustic a nature for the soil, but the under heel is wrought, and supplies an immense quantity of lime. Closeburn Hall, the seat of Sir Charles Stuart Menteath, Bart., is a spacious structure in the Grecian style, situated in one of the most beautiful valleys in the south of Scotland. There are two turnpike-roads, one of which connects Annandale with Nithsdale, the other forms a part of the great road from Glasgow to Dumfries and Carlisle, and, at a distance of four miles northward, has a branch to Edinburgh. Great facility of intercourse is also afforded by the Glasgow, Dumfries, and Carlisle railway.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes, the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Penpont and synod of Dumfries; patron, Sir Charles Menteath. The minister's stipend averages £240, and there is a substantial and commodious manse, with a glebe of eleven acres, valued at £19 per annum. Closeburn church was built in 1741, and has within these few years been thoroughly repaired; it is a handsome building, conveniently situated, and will accommodate 650 persons with sittings. The principal school, which is of some eminence, is a free school, conducted by a rector and two assistants. It was endowed in 1723, by John Wallace, Esq., a native of the parish, and a wealthy Glasgow merchant, who left £1600, part of which was to be appropriated to the erection of premises, and the remainder to be invested in land for the master's salary, which at the present time amounts to £500 a year. In this institution the children of the parish are taught gratuitously all the branches that constitute a polite education. The chief relic of antiquity is the castle, a vaulted quadrilateral tower about fifty feet high, thirty-three long, and forty-five broad; the walls of the ground-floor are twelve feet thick, and from the general style of the building it is conjectured that it must be eight centuries old. There are several large cairns in the parish.

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