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Dalkeith, Edinburghshire

Historical Description

DALKEITH, a market-town, burgh of barony, and parish, in the county of EDINBURGH; containing, with the villages of Lugton and Whitehill, 5830 inhabitants, of whom 4831 are in the town, 6 miles (S. E. by S.) from Edinburgh. This place, at a very remote period, was the property of the ancient family of Graham, whose baronial castle, together with the lands, passed in the reign of David II., by marriage with the daughter and heiress of the last lord, to Sir William Douglas, ancestor of the Earls of Morton. In the reign of James II., the castle was besieged by the Earl of Douglas, in consequence of the firm attachment of its proprietor to the cause of that monarch, against whom the Douglas family had rebelled. It was, however, vigorously and successfully defended; and after the disastrous battle of Pinkie, in 1547, became the asylum of many of the Scots who fled to it for refuge, till, from want of provisions, the garrison was compelled to surrender to the English. The castle was afterwards the chief residence of the Regent Morton, on whose attainder for the murder of Lord Darnley, it was forfeited with the barony to the crown. Upon his execution, the lands were in part restored to his family; but the castle was still held by the crown, and, under the designation of the Palace of Dalkeith, was reserved for the residence of Prince Henry, son of James VI. During the visit of Charles I. to Scotland, in 1633, the palace was the chief residence of that monarch; and in 1638 it was occupied by the Marquess of Hamilton, who had been appointed by the king as commissioner to treat with the Covenanters, and who, for greater security, removed into it the ancient regalia of Scotland, which were subsequently deposited in the castle of Edinburgh. In 1642 the castle and barony were purchased by the family of Scott, who are the present proprietors; and in the time of the parliamentary war, the castle became the residence of General Monk, Cromwell's governor of Scotland, by whom the grounds are said to have been considerably improved.

The TOWN is beautifully situated between the rivers North Esk and South Esk, and is handsome and well built, consisting of several regular streets, of which the High-street is spacious, and increases in breadth, from its entrance on the west, till it terminates on the east at the principal lodge of the palace. The streets are paved, and lighted with gas; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. A public subscription library was established in 1698, and has now a collection of nearly 2500 volumes; there is also a circulating library, containing 3000 volumes. A scientific association was instituted in 1835, for the delivery of lectures on scientific subjects. In the High-street are numerous substantial houses, and handsome shops stored with every kind of merchandise; and in various parts of the town are several iron-foundries, tanneries, a brewery, soap and candle manufactories, extensive brick and tile works, and other establishments; with some hotels and inns of a very superior description. There are also several branch banks, and offices for the agents of different insurance companies. The market for grain, which is amply supplied, is on Thursday, and is numerously attended by dealers from distant places. From Martinmas to Whitsuntide, a very large market for oatmeal is held weekly, on Monday, which is one of the most frequented in the kingdom; and a customary market, abundantly supplied with butchers' meat, poultry, and vegetables and provisions of all kinds, is held every Saturday. Fairs, chiefly for horses and black-cattle, are held on the first Thursday in May and the third Tuesday in October. Facility of communication is maintained by good roads in various directions, and by the Edinburgh and Hawick railway, which has a short branch to the town. Dalkeith is partly governed by a baron-bailie, appointed by the Duke of Buccleuch; but he exercises civil jurisdiction only in actions not exceeding £2, and jurisdiction in criminal cases only for petty offences punishable by a small fine or a night's imprisonment, referring all more important causes to the sheriff of the county. There are six incorporated trades, the hammermen, bakers, weavers, shoemakers, dyers, and butchers; but they possess no exclusive privileges, and are scarcely to be regarded as any thing more than so many friendly societies. The paving, lighting, and watching of the town, with the regulation of the markets and police, are under the direction of a board of trustees, who are invested with power to levy taxes for these purposes. The court-house, containing also a small prison, is an ancient building, without any pretension to style, situated in the High-street.

From the beauty of the surrounding scenery, and the numerous attractions of its palace and other objects of interest, the town is a favourite place of residence, and the resort of visiters from Edinburgh. The PALACE, which was the residence of George IV. during his visit to Scotland in 1822, and had also the honour of a visit from her present Majesty, attended by Prince Albert, in 1842, is situated at the eastern extremity of the town. Though not remarkable for the style of its architecture, it is a spacious and magnificent structure. It was erected on the site of the ancient castle, on the precipitous and richly-wooded banks of the North Esk, about the close ot the seventeenth century, by Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, who, after the execution of her husband the Duke of Monmouth, resided here in all the pomp and splendour, and with all the appendages, of royalty. The interior comprises numerous state apartments: the grand staircase, the throne-room, the conservatory, the picture-gallery containing an extensive collection of paintings by the most eminent masters of the various schools, and the whole of the internal arrangements, are costly and superb. The demesne attached to the palace comprises more than 1000 acres, and abounds with variety and beauty of scenery. The rivers North and South Esk, whose banks are precipitous and richly wooded, flow in graceful windings through the demesne, and unite their streams, over which are many picturesque bridges, within its limits. The pleasure-grounds are tastefully laid out in lawns, shrubberies, and plantations; and the park, which is well stocked with deer, is finely ornamented with venerable timber.

The PARISH is about three miles in length, and nearly two in breadth, comprising an area of which about one-half is arable, and the other half woodland and pasture. Its soil is rich, and the lands are divided into farms of moderate extent, in the highest state of cultivation; the chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, beans, potatoes, and turnips, and much of the surface is garden-ground, producing abundance of fruit for the Edinburgh market. The substratum is generally coal, which is found at a very considerable depth, and of which extensive mines are in operation at Cowden, about a mile south-eastward of the town. The annual value of real property in the parish is £16,713. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Dalkeith, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; patron, the Duke of Buccleuch. The minister's stipend is £316, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £40 per annum. Dalkeith parish church, on the north side of the High-street, is an ancient structure in the early English style, with a square embattled tower; it is partly dilapidated, and the interior is but indifferently arranged, containing 1130 sittings: the churchyard is extensive. A new church was erected by the Duke of Buccleuch in 1840; it is a handsome cruciform structure in the later English style, and is beautifully situated in the north-west of the town, overlooking the vale of the North Esk. There are places of worship for the United Presbyterian Synod, Independents, members of the Free Church, and Episcopalians. The parochial or grammar school, which has long maintained a high degree of reputation, is conducted by a rector and two assistants; the rector's salary is £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average about £75. The course of studies includes the classics, the French and Italian languages, the mathematics, and the usual branches of a liberal education; and many eminent literary characters have received the rudiments of their education in the establishment. Dalkeith confers the title of Earl upon the Duke of Buccleuch.

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