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Cults, Fifeshire

Historical Description

CULTS, a parish, in the district of CUPAR, county of FIFE; including the village of Pitlessie, and the hamlets of Crossgates, Cults-Mill, Hospital-Mill, and Walton; and containing 889 inhabitants, of whom 36 are in the hamlet of Cults-Mill, 4 miles (S.S.W.) from Cupar. This parish, the name of which (in ancient documents Quilts or Quilques) is of Celtic origin, and supposed to be descriptive of its situation, lies nearly in the centre of the county, and is about two miles and a quarter in length, and one mile and a half in breadth. It comprises 2250 acres, of which 1900 are under cultivation, 140 in meadow and pasture, 115 woodland and plantations, thirty-five acres garden, and about sixty in roads, fences, and waste. The surface, though for the greater part flat, is diversified with hills, of which the chief in height is that of Walton, near the south-eastern boundary of the parish; and from some of the hills are fine views over the rich valley of Strath-Eden, embracing the Lomond heights in the distance. The scenery is in some places embellished with wood, and in others enlivened by the course of the river Eden, which is joined on the west side of the parish by the Ballomill burn.

The SOIL varies considerably in quality. In some parts it is light and sandy; in others, a rich black loam about twelve inches in depth; and on the higher grounds, a strong clay which under good management produces excellent crops. The system of agriculture is vastly improved; the surface has been rendered more productive by draining, and considerable progress has been made in the inclosure of the lands: all the recent improvements in farming have been introduced. The crops are, grain of all kinds in abundance, turnips, and potatoes. Few sheep are either reared or fed; what there are, are generally of the Cheviot breed: the cattle, to the improvement of which much attention is paid, are of the Fifeshire breed. The annual value of real property in the parish is £3208. The substrata comprise yellow sandstone, limestone, and in some places coal; the hills, towards their summits, are generally trap or whinstone, partly of amygdaloid, and partly of greenstone. Limestone is procured in abundance from quarries on the Pitlessie hill; the principal vein is about fourteen feet in thickness, and of a blue colour, and above it is another stratum two feet thick. Both, when wrought, produce lime of excellent quality, of which 30,000 bolls are annually burnt, the greater part whereof is shipped at Newburgh for Dundee and Perth, and the remainder used in the parish and adjacent districts. Coal was formerly worked, of which there were pits on the southern declivity of the Pitlessie hill; the seams are superincumbent on the strata of limestone, and one of them is about twelve inches in thickness. There are several quarries of freestone of good quality, affording an abundant supply for building and other purposes; and boulder limestone is also procured for mending the roads. The only house of any importance is Crawfurd Priory, a handsome castellated mansion, erected by Lady Mary Lindsay Crawfurd in 1813, when the ancient family seat in the adjoining parish of Ceres, having become dilapidated, was abandoned. The Earl of Glasgow is now proprietor of the whole parish with the exception of one farm, having a short time ago purchased the Pitlessie estate.

The weaving of linen affords employment to about 165 persons, of whom nearly one-half are females; the number of the webs produced, which are 140 yards in length and thirty inches wide, may be reckoned to average 1800 per annum. The linen chiefly woven is dowlas, for the manufacturers of Kettle, Leslie, and Newburgh, who furnish the materials. The spinning of tow is also carried on at Hospital-Mill, where an old corn and flax mill has been converted to this purpose; the machinery is propelled by a water-wheel of fourteen-horse power, and the quantity of yarn spun annually is from 175 to 190 tons, sent principally to Dundee. This work affords employment to about fifty persons, the greater number of whom are women and children. There are also mills for flour, barley, malt, and oatmeal. The high road from Edinburgh to Dundee passes through the parish. An annual fair is held for the sale of agricultural stock and implements of husbandry, on the second Tuesday in May (O. S.), and is numerously attended. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Cupar, synod of Fife, and in the patronage of the United College of St. Andrew's; the minister's stipend is £162, with a manse, an arable glebe valued at £13 per annum, an allowance of £8 for a grass glebe, and £7 for communion elements. Cults church, which is situated about a mile from the village, and nearly in the centre of the parish, is a neat plain edifice, erected in 1793. It contains a handsome monument in marble, by Chantrey, erected by Sir David Wilkie to the memory of his parents; and a monument erected by Miss Helen Wilkie (now married to Dr. William Hunter, of the Coldstream guards) to the memory of her distinguished brother: this latter consists of a medallion likeness of Sir David, of considerable size, executed by Mr. Joseph, sculptor, from the same block of marble as the statue in the British Museum. There is likewise a timepiece in the front gallery, made by Thomson of London, a present from Miss Wilkie. Here is a place of worship for the United Presbyterian Synod. The parochial school affords education to about 100 children; the master has a salary of £34, with about £30 fees, and a good house and garden. On the sides of Walton Hill are several ramparts, supposed to have been a Roman encampment; and urns and other relics have been discovered on and near the spot. Sir David Wilkie, the eminent painter, was born in the manse on the 18th November, 1785, while his father, the Rev. David Wilkie, was incumbent. The latter was the author of a treatise on the Theory of Interest and Annuities; the former, who had been appointed limner for Scotland to George IV., was knighted by his Majesty William IV. in 1836, and died in 1841, leaving an imperishable name. Dr. Thomas Gillespie, professor of humanity in the university of St. Andrew's, and author of sermons on The Seasons contemplated in the Spirit of the Gospel, was for fifteen years incumbent of the parish of Cults.

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