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Dalmeny, Linlithgowshire

Historical Description

DALMENY, a parish, in the county of LINLITHGOW, including the village of Craigie, and containing 1393 inhabitants, of whom 118 are in the village of Dalmeny, 1¼; mile (S. E.) from Queensferry. This place, in ancient records styled Dumanie, is supposed to have derived that name, of Celtic origin, signifying "black heath", from the appearance of the greater portion of its surface at the period. The barony, including the lands and castle of Barnbougle, once belonged to the family of Mowbray, who came over from Normandy with William the Conqueror, and of whom Philip de Mowbray was lord of Dalmeny in the reign of Alexander II. It remained in the possession of his descendants till the year 1615, when it was sold by Sir Robert Mowbray to Sir Thomas Hamilton, subsequently Earl of Haddington, whose grandson in 1662 disposed of it to Sir Archibald Primrose, Bart., of Carrington, afterwards justice-general of Scotland, and who was ancestor of the Earl of Rosebery, the present proprietor.

The PARISH is bounded on the north by the Firth of Forth, along which it extends for about four miles, from a rivulet separating it from the parish of Cramond, on the east, to Abercorn on the west. It is about two miles and a half in breadth, and includes the ancient parish of Auldcathie, which was annexed to it in 1618, and is the property of the Earl of Hopetoun; the whole comprising an area of 5850 acres, of which 650 are in Auldcathie. The number of acres under tillage is about 4000; about 1000 are meadow and pasture, and 850 woodland and plantations. The surface is finely undulated, rising in some parts into hills of considerable height, of which the principal are Dundas hill, the Mons, and Craigie hill, having an average elevation of 380 feet above the sea. The view from the summit of Mons hill is almost unrivalled for beauty and extent, commanding a range over sixteen counties, and comprising a rich variety of picturesque and romantic features. The shore of the parish is indented with numerous small bays and inlets; and though in some parts the beach is rendered unsafe, from the quantities of moss carried down by the river, yet it is pleasingly alternated with tracts of white sand, in which a great variety of shells is embedded. The Linmill burn flows into the Firth near the western extremity of the parish, and in its course, falling from a precipitous rock of whinstone, nearly seventy-five feet high, near Springfield, forms a pleasing cascade. The soil of the higher grounds is chiefly clay, improving gradually towards the lower lands into a rich loam, producing abundant crops, in some places almost without manure. The system of agriculture is in a very advanced state, and the lands have been well drained; the crops are oats, barley, and wheat, with turnips and potatoes; the pastures are rich, and a considerable number of sheep and cattle are fed on turnips. In this parish the plantations consist of oak, ash, elm, beech, plane, and fir, of which there are many trees of long growth. The substrata are limestone, freestone, and whinstone; and on the acclivity of Dundas hill is a range of columnar basalt, about seventy feet in height, at the base of which was formerly a loch, now drained and consisting of a deep bed of moss lying on shell marl, in which oak-trees have been found embedded, in a very perfect state. The freestone is of the finest quality, and has been extensively wrought near Queensferry. Ironstone is also found, and there are some indications of coal, but no attempts have been made to work it.

Dalmeny House, the seat of the Earl of Rosebery, is a noble mansion built by the present earl, and surrounded by au extensive and richly-wooded park, in which are the remains of the ancient castle of Barnbougle, overhanging the Firth. The grounds gradually rise from the shore in beautiful undulations, commanding diversified prospects over the Firth and the adjacent country, and lombining much variety of scenery. Her Majesty visited this seat during her stay at Edinburgh in Sept. 1842. Craigie Hall stands near the south-eastern extremity of the parish, in the vale of the Almond, and sheltered by rising grounds clothed with stately timber. The river Almond winds through the demesne, and, flowing by the mansion, forms a picturesque cascade, falling perpendicularly from its rocky bed, shortly after which the stream runs beneath a rustic bridge of one arch, forty-eight feet in span, erected in the year 1757, and covered with ivy. Near the cascade is a grotto, in which are a bath, supplied and emptied by sluices from the river; and a saloon. Dundas, an elegant modern mansion built in connexion with an ancient baronial castle, is situated on the steep acclivity of a craggy hill, in a picturesque demesne of 1600 acres. The castle is supposed to have been originally erected in the eleventh century, and several additions were made to it in the early part of the fifteenth century, when its proprietor obtained a license from Robert, Duke of Albany, to convert it into a fortress, which license was confirmed by James I., in 1424. Its walls, which are of great thickness, were raised to the height of seventy-five feet; the various rooms are all vaulted, and a circular staircase leads to the roof, which is flat, and defended by a battlement. In the grounds, in front of the castle, is a fountain of singular design, formerly occupying the centre of a quadrangular area inclosed with massive stone walls twelve feet in height. Within these walls were flights of steps, leading to a banquet-room at each of the angles; and the whole is said to have been constructed in 1623, by Sir Walter Dundas, who appropriated to that purpose the funds he had set aside for the purchase of the barony of Barnbougie, in which he was anticipated by the Earl of Haddington. The village of Dalmeny is pleasantly situated on the road to Dundas, and consists of a few cottages built round a green, with the church and manse.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Linlithgow, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The minister's stipend is £264, with a manse, and a glebe of five acres and a half; patrons, the Earl of Rosebery and the Earl of Hopetoun, alternately. Dalmeny church is ancient, and forms a very elegant specimen of early architecture. The interior is eighty-four feet long, and twenty-five feet wide, with a semicircular chancel, divided from the nave by a deeply-recessed and richly-moulded arch with zigzag ornaments; and the capitals of the columns that support the vaulted roof, are also embellished with sculpture. It was repaired in 1816, and contains 350 sittings. At the entrance is a large stone coffin, formed of one entire stone, and inscribed on the sides and on the lid with hieroglyphic characters. The church of Auldcathie is in ruins. There is a place of worship for the United Presbyterian Synod. The parochial schoolmaster has a salary of £34, and the interest of £300 bequeathed by Lady Semple in 1723, and vested in the Earl of Rosebery and the minister. The poor receive the rent of lands held by the Earl of Rosebery, producing about £30 a year. James Davidson, Esq., bequeathed £200 to the poor not on the parish list; and such of them as live in that small part of the town of Queensferry which is within this parish, participate in the proceeds of Mr. Meek's bequest of £5000 to the town of Queensferry. About a mile to the west of Barnbougle Castle, on the summit of an eminence, is an ancient cairn called Earl Cairney: it appears to have been originally 500 feet in circumference at the base, and is now twenty-four feet in height. At Springfield were lately discovered a skeleton of large size, and a trench filled with human bones; and near Queensferry, on the lands of Dundas, a brass vessel in which was a pagan idol was found in 1738, but was destroyed by the workmen. Several silver medals of Marcus Antoninus, having on the reverse a figure of Victory; the carved handle of a copper vessel; and part of an earthen urn, have been found near Dundas Castle. The parish gives the title of Baron to the Earl of Rosebery.-See Queensferry.

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