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Cummertrees, Dumfriesshire

Historical Description

CUMMERTREES, a parish, in the county of DUMFRIES; including the village of Powfoot, and containing 1277 inhabitants, of whom 124 are in the village of Cummertrees, 4 miles (W.) from Annan. The parish is supposed to have derived its name, anciently written Cumbertres, from its having been formerly covered with timber, considerable tracts of which still remain, besides subterraneous forests of oak, fir, and birch, with which the mosses are every where filled. It is remarkable as containing the farm of Bruce, in which there is a field called Broom Acres, where it is said that Robert Bruce, through the treachery of a blacksmith, sustained a severe repulse from the English. The inhabitants of Priestside, a district partly in Cummertrees and partly in Ruthwell, along the Solway Firth, hold a charter from Robert Bruce to make salt duty-free, said to have been granted on account of their hospitality to Bruce after the above repulse; and they continued to reap the benefit of the charter, until the removal of the salt-duty in the reign of George IV. It may also be mentioned that there is a descendant of the butler of Robert Bruce, Matthew Wilson, still farming at Cockpool, in the parish of Ruthwell, under the Earl of Mansfield. The most conspicuous family with which the ancient history of Cummertrees stands connected, is that of Herries. Their residence of Hoddam Castle, which is situated on the south bank of the river Annan, is said to have been built with the stones of a more ancient castle of the same name, between the years 1437 and 1484, by John, Lord Herries, of Herries. The older castle had been inhabited, in the beginning of the fourteenth century, by a branch of the family of Robert Bruce, and destroyed some time afterwards by a border law. The family of Herries was very powerful, and acquired a large extent of country; but about the year 1627, the barony of Hoddam was obtained by Sir Richard Murray of Cockpool.

The PARISH comprehends the ancient chapelry of Trailtrow, which was annexed to it at the Reformation; and is about seven miles in extreme length, and four in extreme breadth, containing about 10,000 acres. It is bounded by the Solway Firth on the south, on the east by Annan, on the north by Hoddam, and on the west by Ruthwell and Dalton. A part of the surface is level, forming an inclined plane which rises gently from the south towards the north, the highest point being not more than 200 feet above the sea; but after this there is a descent, from the Tower of Repentance to the river Annan, which is somewhat rapid. The coast is flat, sandy, and uninteresting. Salmon, sea-trout, flounders, codlings, and occasionally turbot and soles, are taken in the Solway, and considerable quantities of cockles and muscles along its shores: in the Annan river salmon, common trout, and herling are plentiful. The soil in some places is sandy, and in others gravelly; in a few instances deep rich loam is met with: but in general the soil is a thin wet clay, resting upon a hard tilly subsoil, and requiring much skill to render it productive. About 6000 acres are occasionally under tillage, and 800 are moss, of which 300 are capable of cultivation; about 1000 acres are occupied by wood, consisting chiefly of plantations. The crops are nearly the same as in other parishes where the modern improvements in husbandry have been introduced. Cattle are reared in large numbers; the few sheep kept are generally a cross between the Cheviots and South-Downs. Many hundreds of acres that were waste thirty or forty years ago, are now in flourishing plantations, or under cultivation, and inclosed with good hedges; indeed, the successful application of the best system of husbandry has entirely altered the face of the parish within the present century. The rocks consist of limestone and sandstone, the former of which, quarried at Kelbead, is celebrated as among the finest in the country, and brings an annual revenue of about £1000; there are also two sandstone-quarries. The annual value of real property in the parish is £6022.

The most interesting residence is the ancient castle of Hoddam, remarkable for its strength and the thickness of its walls, and which has received several additions from its respective proprietors, of whom the late proprietor, General Sharpe, built a large wing, in keeping with the other parts of the edifice. The parish also contains the modern mansion of Kinmount House, built by the Marquess of Queensberry, at a cost of £40,000. The turnpike-road from Portpatrick to Carlisle, and the old Dumfries and Annan road, intersect the parish; as also does the Glasgow, Dumfries, and Carlisle railway, which has a station here. Cummertrees is included within the bounds of the presbytery of Annan, synod of Dumfries: patron, the Crown. The minister's stipend, including a government grant of £37, is £158, and there is a manse, with a glebe of the annual value of £18. The church, which was founded by Robert Bruce, has frequently been rebuilt and enlarged, the last time about sixty years since, and contains 550 sittings. There is a parochial school, in which, besides the ordinary branches, the classics, geography, and navigation are taught; the master has a salary of £30, with £25 fees, besides house and garden, three-quarters of an acre of land, and £10 other emoluments. In the north-east district of the parish is another school, the teacher of which has a salary of about eight guineas, and £16 other emoluments. Among the relics of antiquity is the Tower of Repentance, said to have been built in the fifteenth century by Lord Herries, who, having used the stones of an old chapel in building Hoddam Castle, of which he afterwards repented, erected this tower to pacify his conscience, and to make his peace with the Bishop of Glasgow, diocesan of the chapel. It is twenty-five feet high, and stands on an eminence, which is seen at a distance of thirty miles on all sides.

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