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Corstorphine, Edinburghshire

Historical Description

CORSTORPHINE, a parish, in the county of EDINBURGH, including the village of Gogar, and containing 1551 inhabitants, of whom 372 are in the village of Corstorphine, 4 miles (W.) from Edinburgh, on the road to Glasgow. This place, the name of which is of uncertain origin, appears to have been from a very early period the property and residence of families of distinction. David le Mareschall held possession of it in the reign of Alexander II. The estate subsequently became the property, in 1376, of Adam Forrester, ancestor of the Lords Forrester, who in 1373 was provost of Edinburgh and in 1390 was made keeper of the great seal by Robert III., who employed him in frequent embassies to England. In 1446 the castle of Corstorphine was destroyed, and the lands laid waste, by Chancellor Crichton and his military vassals, in retaliation of a similar outrage on his castle of Brankstoun by Sir John Forrester and Sir William Douglas. In 1572 the castle was garrisoned by the Earl of Mar, regent of the kingdom, with a view to prevent the sending of supplies to the castle of Edinburgh, at that time held for Mary, Queen of Scots, by William Kirkaldy of Grange. In 1650 General Leslie drew up his forces on the meadows to the east of the village, to check the proceedings of Cromwell, whose army was posted on the Pentland hills. The latter, in order to force him to an engagement, advanced for the purpose of interposing a body of men between him and Linlithgow; but Leslie, marching westward from his former position, intrenched his forces on the field of Gogar, and his opponent, finding it impracticable to dislodge him in consequenee of the marshy nature of the ground, retreated, after a sharp skirmish, to Musselburgh. Cromwell, however, afterwards took possession of this place; and his forces, in retaliation of the opposition they had experienced from Lord Forrester, mutilated the tombs and monuments of the Forrester family in the church, the interior of which they nearly destroyed, and utterly laid waste the surrounding lands.

The PARISH, which includes part of the ancient parish of Gogar, with the lands of Ravelston and Saughton, detached from the parish of St. Cuthbert in 1633, contains about 2650 acres, exclusively of plantations, roads, and waste. Its surface, which is generally level, is diversified with a gentle elevation near the village, and, towards the north-east, by the beautiful hill of Corstorphine, which rises to a height of 474 feet above the sea, and is clothed to its very summit with rich plantations. The streams in the parish are the Leith water and Gogar burn; the former flows through the eastern portion of the lands, and the latter into the river Almond. In general the soil is fertile, producing abundant crops, and the meadows and pastures are luxuriant; the system of agriculture is in a highly improved state, and around the village are large tracts of garden-ground, from which great quantities of fruit are sent to Edinburgh. The annual value of real property in the parish is £9964. On Corstorphine Hill are several quarries of fine freestone, from which materials were taken for the ereetion of the Parliament House, Heriot's Hospital, and various other public buildings in Edinburgh: but they have for many years been abandoned, with the exception of one lately drained. There are also some quarries of blue whinstone in the parish.

Upon the acclivity of Corstorphine Hill is Ravelston House, and around its base are many noble mansions, among which are Beechwood and Belmont. Within the parish are also Saughton House, Clermiston, and Gogar. The village is beautifully situated at the base of the hill, on a slight elevation above the meadows on either side, and is a favourite resort of the citizens of Edinburgh. Near it was till lately a slightly sulphureous spring, which in 1749 was in such high repute that a stage-coach was established for the conveyance of visiters, making nine journeys daily between this place and Edinburgh. A small pump-room was erected over the well, by one of the Dick family; but it was suffered to fall into decay, and by the sinking of a ditch near the spot within the last few years the spring has entirely disappeared. The village of Stanhope-Mills, on the lands of Saughton, contains an ancient house, over the doorway of which are the armorial bearings of Patrick Elphingston, with his initials and the date 1623; and one of the rooms, the roof of which is highly ornamented, has on the wall the royal arms, with the initials C.R. II. The parish is intersected by the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway, and by various roads.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Edinburgh, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The minister has a stipend of £242, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £30 per annum; patron, Sir William Hanmer Dick Cunyngham, Bart. The church, which was formerly collegiate, was founded in 1429, under the invocation of St. John the Baptist, by Sir John Forrester, who endowed it for a provost, five prebendaries, and two choristers. It is a venerable cruciform structure in the later English style, with a handsome tower and spire, and, notwithstanding the mutilation it suffered from Cromwell's soldiers, retains much of its original character and beauty. The roof is plainly groined, and is supported by ranges of clustered columns with richly-moulded arches and ornamented capitals, there are numerous monuments of the Forrester family, whose recumbent effigies are finely sculptured, and various other ancient tombs. A small portion of the church of Gogar is still remaining, and has been converted into a sepulchral chapel by the proprietor of the lands. At the east end of Corstorphine church, a lamp was formerly kept burning to guide the traveller, for the maintenance of which an acre of land near Coltsbridge, thence called the Lamp Acre, was allotted: this now forms an endowment for the parish schoolmaster. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church. The parochial school is attended by about seventy scholars: the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the acre of land before noticed; the fees average about £20. The permanent poor's fund is about £450, arising from bequests. On taking down the remains of Corstorphine Castle, towards the close of the last century, a large number of gold and silver coins were found; and on the erection of Gogar House in 1811, several remains of Roman antiquity were discovered, consisting of a dagger with part of the scabbard, a fibula, and a gold ring of very slender substance. Numerous stone coffins have been found at various times on the lands of Gogar, and the spot is supposed to have been the original place of sepulture of the ancient parish, or not improbably the site of General Leslie's encampment, where bodies of the slain were interred.

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