UK Genealogy Archives logo
DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we may receive a commission.

Cyrus Saint or Ecclescraig, Kincardineshire

Historical Description

CYRUS, SAINT, or ECCLESCRAIG, a parish, in the county of KINCARDINE; including the villages of Lochside, Milton, Roadside, and Tangleha, and containing 1600 inhabitants, of whom 207 are in the village of St. Cyrus, 5½ miles (N. by E.) from Montrose. This place, which is now generally known by the former of the two names, is supposed to have derived the latter, in the Gaelic language Eaglais-Creag, from the situation of its church at the base of a rocky promontory projecting into the North Sea. The name of St. Cyrus, which, till the close of the last century, was limited to a portion only of the parish, is derived from a saint who lived in retirement on the adjacent lands of Criggie, where there is a well still called after him. At an early period, this parish was distinguished for a castle named the Fortress of Lauriston, situated near the eastern boundary. It was erected about the tenth century, and, in the reign of Edward III. of England, sustained repeated assaults from the troops of that monarch, by whom, in 1336, it was taken and garrisoned; but towards the close of that year it was recaptured by the regent Murray, and dismantled. The castle, and the lands belonging to it, were for more than four centuries in the possession of the Straton family, but in 1695 were sold to Sir John Falconer. From his descendants they were purchased about the year 1689 by Mr. Brand, who incorporated the remains of the ancient building, consisting of a square tower and a portion of the chapel, into a spacious modern mansion.

The PARISH, which is bounded on the south-east by the sea, and on the south and south-west by the North Esk river, is about five miles in length, and from two and a half to three in breadth. It contains 8477 acres, of which 6234 are arable, 300 in woods and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, and waste. The surface is diversified with hills, the principal of which are, Bridgeton and Jackston in the east, and Morphy and Pitbeadly in the west, averaging about 500 feet in height, and Brands hill and Woodston hill, having an elevation of 630 feet above the sea. These hills are intersected with deep valleys and narrow glens, watered by various rivulets, one of which, in its progress towards the sea, forms a picturesque cascade. The coast, which is indented with several small bays, is a level beach of fine sand for about a mile from the mouth of the North Esk, beyond which it is lined by precipitous cliffs of limestone, worn by the action of the waves into caverns of fanciful appearance. At the village of Milton-Mathers, where lime-works had been long established, the quarrymen had so undermined the elevated ledge which defended that part of the coast, that, in 1795, the village was swept away by an irruption of the sea, which encroached 150 yards upon the land.

The SOIL is generally a rich and fertile clay, well adapted for grain of every kind; and the crops are oats, barley, wheat, beans, peas, turnips, and potatoes, of which last great quantities are raised. The system of agriculture is improved; the dairy-farms are productive, and a kind of sweet- milk cheese is made, which is in high estimation. The annual value of real property in the parish is £14,034. The woods mainly consist of ash, plane, elm, beech, and birch, and the plantations of larch, Scotch, and silver firs; they are well managed, and are for the most part thriving. A great variety of other trees have been planted on the lands of Lauriston with entire success. The prevailing rocks in the parish are of the old red sandstone and trap formations. There are quarries of a durable white sandstone used chiefly for ornamental building, on the lands of Kirkside: and sandstone which is easily wrought, and very durable, is extensively quarried at Woodston and Lauriston, yielding a return of £1000 per annum. Tilestones were formerly obtained at Morphy, for roofing; but from their insufficiency to resist the influence of the atmosphere, the use of them has been discontinued. Limeworks were also once carried on, to a great extent; and at Sea-Greens, on the coast, in the immediate vicinity of the works, is a small harbour accessible to boats of 50 or 60 tons' burthen, by which the produce of the works was conveyed to its destination. Among the seats in the parish is Lauriston, a handsome mansion erected by the late proprietor, and including portions of the ancient castle; it is romantically situated on the verge of a precipitous height rising from a deep and richly-wooded dell. Mount Cyrus occupies an eminence to the north-west of the village, with beautiful lawns, and extensive plantations; and Kirkside House, a substantial modern mansion, stands near the southern extremity of the parish, in grounds tastefully laid out, and commanding some fine views of the bay and town of Montrose. Bridgeton is also pleasantly situated, ou rising ground near the eastern extremity of the parish. The manufacture of coarse linen is carried on, affording employment to about thirty persons. There are some valuable salmon-fisheries, together producing a rental of nearly £3000 per annum, and giving occupation to about sixty persons; the fish are for the most part packed in ice, and conveyed to the Edinburgh and London markets. Facility of communication is afforded by good roads, of which the great north road has on its line two handsome bridges, one built in 1775, at an expense of £6000, and the other in 1817, at a cost of £600.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Fordoun, synod of Angus and Mearns. The minister's stipend is £247. 17., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £11 per annum; patron, the Crown. St. Cyrus church, erected in 1783, on a site nearly a mile to the north of the ancient church, and enlarged in 1830, is a neat substantial structure with a spire, and contains about 850 sittings. From its situation on an eminence 250 feet above the level of the sea, it forms a conspicuous landmark for mariners. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church. The parochial school is well attended: the master has a salary of £33, with a good house and garden, and the fees average £30. The parochial library contains nearly 750 volumes, chiefly on religious subjects. Sir Joseph Straton, of Kirkside, bequeathed £500 for promoting education in the parish, the proceeds of which sum are applied to the payment of school fees for the children of the poor. Among the relics of antiquity is the Kaim of Mathers, a camp on those lands, situated on a rocky peninsula connected with the main land by a narrow isthmus, defended by battlements on each side: on the peninsula are the remains of a square tower, said to have been the residence of the ancestors of the Barclays of Ury. The castle of Morphy, supposed to have been the baronial seat of the Graham family, has totally disappeared, and the site has been effaced by the plough. On the lands, however, is still an upright stone, erected, according to tradition, to commemorate the defeat of the Danes in a battle that took place near the spot; it has the form of an obelisk, about thirteen feet in height, and the number of stone coffins containing human bones which have been found in an adjoining field, strengthens the probability of its supposed origin. Upon the hill of Pitbeadly are some remains of a circular camp.

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