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New Deer, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

DEER, NEW, a parish, in the district of Deer, county of Aberdeen, 6 miles (E. S. E.) from Cuminestown; containing, with the village of Kirktown of New Deer, 3756 inhabitants. This parish originally formed a part of Old Deer, and was separated from it about the beginning of the seventeenth century; it was at first termed Auchreddy, from the land on which the church is built, and this name is engraved on the communion-plate, with the date 1694. The remains of castles and various tumuli prove that it was once the scene of military operations. Edward, brother to Robert Bruce, is said to have encamped after the battle of Inverury on a large moor about a mile westward of the village, and thence to have gone in pursuit of the Cumyns to Aikey-Brae, near Old Deer, on which spot a fair has long been kept in commemoration of a battle fought between them. The old castle of Fedderate, at present in ruins, is believed to have been the retreat of some followers of James II., who, being driven from Fyvie Castle, which they had taken after the battle of Killiecrankie, sought a refuge in this fortress, whence they were expelled by King William's troops.

The parish, which is one of the largest in the county, is upwards of fourteen miles long, and upwards of eight miles and a half broad, containing 29,020 acres. With the exception of Mormond hill, it is the highest ground in Buchan, its elevation being from 200 to 300 feet above the sea. On a fine day, the spire of Peterhead church, about eighteen miles to the east, may be seen from the hill of Culsh; and in a western direction, Bennachie, which is nearly twenty-eight miles distant, the Foudland hills, the Binhill near Cullen, with the Knock Hill, Benrinnes, and others, are distinctly visible. The surface is in general flat, and the elevation of the land renders the climate cold, the operations of husbandry being frequently delayed by the snow remaining on the ground. Three branch streams rise in the northern quarter of the parish, one of which flows eastward, passing Old Deer, and falling into the river Ugie; another, running in a western direction, forms a confluence with a stream that falls into the Doveron, while the third, flowing towards the south-west, joins the Ythan near Gight. The soil is light, and rests partly on a subsoil of coarse clay, in other places on granite, but chiefly on a bed from six inches to two feet thick, altogether rocky and impervious, and holding the water that falls upon the land till evaporated by the heat of the sun. Almost the whole of the parish is arable, and the chief grain cultivated is oats; potatoes and hay are grown in large quantities, as are also turnips. The number of acres under tillage is 18,183; 1957 are in pasture, 3587 heath, 4164 moss and moor, and 825 acres occupied by wood. The system of cultivation differs in the several parts of the parish, a five years' rotation of crops being adopted in some places, and in others a seven years' course. The Buchan breed of cattle is much esteemed, especially when crossed by the Teeswater. Considerable improvements have been made by several of the large farmers, chiefly by reclaiming extensive tracts of wet ground; great improvements have been made by Mr. Gordon of Nethermuir, and the farm-houses, though still in some parts indifferent, are much better than formerly. The rocks consist of coarse granite and inferior limestone, which latter the farmers excavate for themselves, and burn into lime for the purposes of building or of agriculture. The annual value of real property in the parish is £10,905. The village, which is situated on the summit of a hill, contains upwards of 100 houses. Seven fairs are held in it, viz., one in January, one in April, a feeing-market in May, markets in June, August, and October, and a feeing-market in November, at all of which cattle, sheep, horses, and country produce are sold. The grain is chiefly sent to Peterhead, Fraserburgh, and Banff. There is a good road to Ellon, thirteen miles distant, and the turnpike-road from Peterhead to Banff crosses the parish.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Deer and synod of Aberdeen; patron, the Crown. The stipend of the minister is £219, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum. The old church, now entirely removed, was built in 1622, and an aisle was added to it in 1773. In 1838 another church was erected, at a cost of about £3000; it is a neat edifice in the later English style, and affords accommodation for 1600 persons. At Savock is a chapel of ease, built in 1834 at a cost of £819, and which contains 700 sittings. The parish contains three meeting-houses belonging to the United Presbyterian Synod, but the number of communicants in each is very small: there is also a place of worship in connexion with the Free Church. There are three parochial schools, situated respectively at Kirktown, Savock, and Whitehill, in which the classics, mathematics, and all the usual branches of education are taught; the salary of each master is £24, and the amount of their fees collectively about £60: between £20 and £30 are also received by each from the Dick bequest. A bursary at Marischal College, of the value of £9, for a scholar of the name of Cruickshank or Topp, is in the gift of the incumbent. The relics of antiquity in the parish consist of the remains of castles, Druidical temples, and tumuli; and urns of baked clay, containing human bones and ashes, have been found. About a mile from the village, in the northern quarter, formerly stood a circular heap called the Standing Stones of Culsh, and the place still retains the name, though the stones were taken away seventy or eighty years ago, to supply materials for building. A little farther in the same direction are the ruins of the castle of Fedderate, the best stones of which have also been removed for the purpose of building. The floors of this structure were arched with stone; and water was conveyed to it by means of pipes, pieces of which have been found at different times in turning up the ground. It stood in the midst of a morass, now drained and cultivated, and the only access to it was by a drawbridge across a moat. It is supposed to have been a place of great strength, and was in various hands at the time of the Revolution in 1688. Dr. Mavor, the compiler of travels, &c., was born in the parish.

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