CULTER, a village and parish, in the Upper ward of the county of LANARK, 2½ miles (S.W.) from Biggar; containing, exclusively of Kilbucho, 536 inhabitants, of whom 197 are in the village. This village takes its name from its situation in the rear of the district of which it forms a part. The parish was originally of less extent than it is at present, having in 1794 been much enlarged by the addition of part of the parish of Kilbucho, in the adjoining county of Peebles. It is now seven miles in length, and rather less than three in average breadth; it is bounded on the west by the river Clyde, and comprises 11,547 acres, of which 4000 are arable, 7000 meadow and pasture, and 500 woodland and plantations. The surface is pleasingly undulated, and towards the south rises into hills of considerable eminence, increasing into mountains, the highest of which, called the Fell, has an elevation of more than 2300 feet above the sea. The lower part of the parish is diversified with spreading vales and narrow glens. The former are enlivened by the course of the river Clyde, whose banks are ornamented with handsome seats and pleasure-grounds; and of the latter, the glen of Culter Water, which derives its name from its rivulet, is beautifully picturesque and romantic. The wider portion of this glen is richly cultivated and wooded, and the narrower part gradually diminishes till it scarcely affords room for the passage of the stream, which, after flowing through the whole length of the parish, falls into the Clyde a little below the village. At a point called Wolf-Clyde, the river Clyde makes a remarkable curve towards the north-west, approaching very nearly to the bank of the Biggar Water, which runs into the Tweed; and in high floods, uniting with that stream, a considerable portion of the Clyde waters is carried into the Tweed.
The soil varies considerably, but is generally dry and fertile. The lower lands consist of a sandy loam, which under good management is very productive; on the hills the soil is of much lighter quality, and on the summits mostly a sterile moss; towards the eastern part of the parish, on the lands of Kilbucho, it inclines to clay. The hills are of the greywacke formation; and little variety is found in the substrata, except the occasional occurrence of conglomerate or pudding-stone. In this parish the system of agriculture has been much improved under the auspices of the chief landed proprietor, who has greatly promoted the plantation of timber, the draining and inclosure of the lands, and the raising of wheat crops, to which previously little attention was paid. The rotation plan of husbandry is now generally prevalent, and green crops are found to answer well; the chief produce is oats. Barley and wheat are sparingly produced. The sheep are the short black-faced breed, which are found to be the best adapted to the hilly pastures; the cows are the Ayrshire. The annual value of real property in the parish, exclusively of the Kilbucho portion, is £5231. The plantations are principally of Scotch fir; but though it thrives well for a few years, it soon falls into decay, and consequently little timber of any growth is produced. At Culterallers, however, are some acres of natural trees, among which are the alder, birch, hazel, mountain-ash, and willow; and in other parts of the parish are remarkably fine specimens of ancient timber. The mansion-houses, most of which are beautifully situated on the banks of the Clyde, add greatly to the scenery. The village is pleasantly situated on the banks of the Culter Water, along which, at irregular distances, a range of neatly-built houses with intervening trees of fine growth, extends for a considerable way. It is intersected by the turnpike-road from Dumfries to Edinburgh, which is carried over the stream by a neat bridge of modern erection.
The parish, which is of some antiquity, belonged in the reign of David II. to Walter Byset, who held the half barony of Culter of the king in capite, and in 1367 granted the lands, with the advowson of the church, excepting only the lands of Nisbet, to William Newbiggin of Dunsyre. They subsequently came into the possession of William, Earl of Douglas, by whose descendant, James, they were in 1455 forfeited to the crown. Sir David Menzies, who afterwards obtained possession of the half barony, gave the lands of Wolf-Clyde to the abbey of Melrose, and they now pay annually a small sum to the Duke of Buccleuch as lord of that manor. For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is in the presbytery of Biggar, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and in the patronage of the families of Baillie of Lammingtoune, and Dickson of Kilbucho, alternately. The minister's stipend is £217, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £30. 12. per annum. Culter church, erected in 1810, a plain edifice beautifully situated, commodious, and accessible to the parishioners, is adapted to a congregation of nearly 400 persons. A place of worship has been erected in connexion with the Free Church. The parochial school affords education to all the children of the parish except those of the part formerly in the parish of Kilbucho, the original school of which is still retained; the salary of the master of Culter school is £34, with £20 fees, and a dwelling-house and garden.
Remains exist of four circular encampments, which seem to have been formed for the protection of the inhabitants, and the security of their cattle, during the periods of the border warfare. There are also two circular moats, one at Wolf-Clyde and one at Bamflat, which appear to have been raised as signal stations; and along the vale between the Clyde and the Tweed is a continuous chain of similar mounds, most probably employed for the same purpose. About half a mile from the lands of Nisbet, is an oval mound in the midst of a deep morass; the longer diameter is about forty yards, the shorter about thirty, and the mound rises above the surface to the height of nearly three feet. It is called the Green Knowe, and consists of heaps of loose stones, compacted together by stakes of hard oak, sharpened at the points and driven into the ground. Around the base is a causeway of larger stones; and the whole is surrounded by a soft elastic moss, impervious to the approach of an enemy. The mound has for many years been used as a quarry.