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Colinton, Edinburghshire

Historical Description

COLINTON, a parish, in the county of EDINBURGH, including the villages of Hailes-Quarry, Juniper-Green, Longstone, Slateford, and Swanston; and containing 2195 inhabitants, of whom 120 are in the village of Colinton, 4 miles (S. W.) from Edinburgh. The name of this place, sometimes written Colington, was formerly Hailes, a word signifying "mounds" or "hillocks", and accurately descriptive of the appearance of the surface of the parish. About the close of the 17th century the designation Colinton chiefly prevailed, having for some time previously been used in honour of a family of that name, who had come into possession of the greater part of the parish. The district appears to have been in remote times the scene of important military operations; there were remains of a large encampment lately existing on the lands of Comiston, and in the same vicinity were until lately some extensive cairns, whence fragments of old implements of war had been taken. The Kel Stone, "the stone of the battle", which is a large upright stone, from time immemorial also called Camus Stone, renders it probable that this spot was originally the encampment of some Danish forces. In the barony of Redhall formerly stood a strong castle, which, in 1572, was garrisoned by the regent Mar, and the king's party. In 1650, it was defended vigorously against Cromwell and his army, by the laird and his veteran band, and upon the castle being taken, the laird was commended by Cromwell for his bravery, and set at liberty. The ecclesiastical memorials of the parish reach back to the 11th or 12th century; the lands were then granted to the monks of Dunfermline by Ethelred, son of Malcolm Canmore, and confirmed to them by his brother David I., and in 1234 by Pope Gregory. The vicarage, however, was taken from the monks, and given first to the canons of Holyrood, and afterwards to the canons of St. Anthony at Leith, by Kennedy, Bishop of St. Andrew's, in the 15th century. The superiority of the lands of Wester Hailes remained with the canons till the Reformation, and that of Easter Hailes continued with the monks of Dunfermline till the same period.

The PARISH is of an irregular form, about three and a half miles in length from north to south, and about three miles in breadth from east to west, and containing 5070 acres. The surface and scenery are richly diversified, presenting on the south-eastern boundary the northern range of the Pentland hills, rising 1600 feet above the sea, and from the skirts of which the ground slopes gradually to the level of the Water of Leith, which flows through the lower part of the parish. Colinton dell, on the banks of the Leith, is remarkable for its beauties. In the direction of the north-east, the elevations of the Fir hill and Craig-Lockhart hill form an interruption to the general declivity, and supply romantic features in the landscape, which is enriched by elegant mansions surrounded by gardens and plantations. The distant views from the higher lands embrace the capital with its numerous spires and romantic castle, the Firth of Forth and the coast of Fife, the Ochils, and the celebrated Grampians, which last bound the prospect in the north-west. The Water of Leith, which is the principal stream, though subject to repeated sinkings and swellings, is used to a great extent for the purposes of commerce and domestic convenience, turning no less than sixteen mills, and having a considerable bleachfield on its banks. There is also a variety of copious and excellent springs, from which, for a very long period, water was conducted in a regular and uniform manner for the supply of Edinburgh.

About 3436 acres are either in tillage or fit for tillage; 1356 are hilly grounds under pasture, and 278 are in plantations. The arable lands lie from 200 to 600 feet above the level of the sea, and produce good crops of all kinds of grain, potatoes, turnips, beans, peas, &c. Few sheep are kept, except on the Pentland hills and on Craig-Lockhart, consisting chiefly of Cheviots, with a few Leicesters; the number of cattle reared is likewise small. Very considerable improvements in husbandry have been made of late years, chiefly by deep draining, and a proper system of cropping. As, however, a large proportion or the ground rests upon a subsoil of stiff clay, the furrow drain and deep plough are still requisite, to facilitate the productive powers of the land. The annual value of real property in the parish is £12,314. The great abundance and variety of the subterraneous contents of the parish give it altogether an interesting geological character. The Pentland hills consist of clay, stone, porphyry, and felspar-porphyry, the crags of Caerketan are clayey felspar, strongly mixed with black oxide of iron. Among the Pentlands are also found boulders of granite, gneiss, &c., with jaspers and maluctite. Craig-Lockhart hill is basaltic rock, and the bed of the Leith Water abounds with highly interesting mineral productions, among which are fossil remains of fishes and vegetables. There are two freestone-quarries, large quantities of the contents or which have at different times been conveyed to Edinburgh for building materials; the value of one of the quarries to the lessor, some years ago, was £9000 a year, but at present it is not more than £1500.

Several beautiful mansions adorn the parish. Colinton House was built in the beginning of the present century, and is agreeably situated, commanding extensive prospects to the north and east. Dreghorn Castle, built about the same time, stands encompassed by plantations, and is also adorned with some ancient beech-trees, conferring a venerable and majestic appearance. Comiston House and Craig-Lockhart House were both built but a few years ago, and are pleasantly situated, especially the latter, having for its site a wooded bank gently declining to the margin of the Leith Water. In a hollow which commands the pass through the Pentland hills stands a Peel tower, in the midst of beautifully romantic scenery: it was built by Lord Cockburn as an addition to the small house at Bonally, and forms a very interesting feature. The villages of Colinton and Slateford have each a post-office. Facility of communication is afforded by the road from Edinburgh to Lanark; by the Caledonian railway, which has a station at Slateford; and by the Union canal. Of the mills ten are meal-mills, one is for sawing wood, another for beating hemp and lint, one for grinding magnesia, and the others are employed in the paper manufacture, which has existed in Colinton for upwards of a century. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Edinburgh and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, patrons, the whole communicants in the parish who belong to the Established Church. The minister's stipend is about £221, with a manse, and a glebe let at £27 per annum. The church, which is very ancient, is beautifully situated in the vicinity of Colinton House; it was rebuilt in 1771, in 1817 was new-roofed, and in the year 1837 was enlarged and re-seated. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church near Juniper-Green, and at Slateford is a meeting-house for the United Presbyterian Synod. A parochial school is supported, in which the ordinary branches of education are taught, and classical and mathematical instruction, with French, may be obtained; the master's salary is £34, exclusively of fees, &c., and a house and garden. There are two libraries; and a gardeners' society awards small premiums for the superior cultivation of vegetables, fruits, and flowers.

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