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Dryfesdale, Dumfriesshire

Historical Description

DRYFESDALE, a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 14 miles (N. N. W.) from Annan; containing, with the town of Lockerbie, on the Glasgow and Carlisle road, 2093 inhabitants. This parish, which derives its name from the Dryfe, a small rivulet running through the north-west part of it, contains several memorials of its ancient inhabitants, and of their domestic feuds or military operations. There are vestiges of eight camps, some square or Roman, others circular or British, the most remarkable of which are two, the one British and the other Roman, facing each other, and separated by a narrow morass. They are on two hills east of the village of Bengall, a term perhaps implying "the hill of the Gauls", but which is often pronounced by the people of the district as Berngaw. Old pieces of armour and warlike weapons have frequently been found in them; and not many years ago the skeleton of a man was discovered in a cairn in the morass, with sandals which were sent as a great curiosity to the museum at Oxford. There are also the remains of what is supposed to have been a Roman station, or outwork, situate upon an eminence in the centre of the extensive holm of Dryfe and Annan, and called Gallaberry. or "the station of the Gauls". The most perfect relic of this kind, however, is the British fort at Dryfesdale-gate, occupying two acres of ground, and the counterpart of which is a large Roman work, about half a mile due east: the two works are separated only by a moor, on which a bloody battle was fought between the army of Julius Agricola and the forces of Corbredus Galdus, the Scottish king. There are plain traces of the great Roman road that extended from the borders of England to the vast encampments on the neighbouring hill of Buruswark, and thence crossed the parish at Lockerbie to Dryfesdale-gate, and to Gallaberry, where it divided, one branch leading through Annandale, by Moffat, to Tweeddale and Clydesdale, and the other crossing the Annan, and passing through Nithsdale to the west country. On the holm of Dryfe, half a mile below the former churchyard, is an old thorn-tree pointing out the place where Lord Maxwell was killed in the celebrated fight on Dryfe-sands, between the Maxwells of Nithsdale and the Johnstones of Annandale: this engagement occurred on the 7th December, 1593, and the Maxwells were defeated with great slaughter. The highland part of the parish, which is divided from the lowland by a range of green hills, was once a parish of itself, called Little Hutton, and the church and burying-ground were at Hall-dykes: the time of annexation to Dryfesdale is uncertain. Besides this church there were two other places of worship within the limits of the present parish, viz., the chapel of Beckton, supposed to have belonged to the Knights Templars, and the chapel at Quaas, about a quarter of a mile west from Lockerbie.

The PARISH is seven miles in its greatest length, from north to south, and varies in breadth from one mile to three miles and a half, comprising about 11,000 acres. It is situated in the middle of the beautiful valley called the How of Annandale, and is bounded on the south and west by the river Annan, which separates it from the parish of Lochmaben. In the southern and western parts, the surface is tolerably level, but towards the north there are lofty hills, most of which, once clothed with pasture, are now productive of grain, potatoes, and other crops. The highest and most beautiful hill, and one from which the prospects are unusually interesting and extensive, is that called sometimes Quhyte-Woolen, but usually White-Ween, from its having formerly been a place for the pasturage of very white sheep. It rises about 700 feet above the level of the sea, and is covered with waving corn. Beacon-fires are supposed to have been lighted on it, to warn the inhabitants of the approach of English borderers. The only stream in the parish is the Dryfe, but the Annan, the Corrie, and the Milk all touch it on their passage to the Solway, and are well stocked with various kinds of fish. In dry weather the Dryfe is a small rivulet, but in a rainy season it pursues its course with great impetuosity, overflowing its banks. The Caledonian line of railway passes through part of the town of Lockerbie, and crosses the Dryfe about four or five hundred yards above the bridge on the road from Glasgow to Carlisle. The viaduct by which the line crosses the vale of the stream, forms a picturesque bridge of white freestone, consisting of five arches, of thirty feet span each. The whole of the parish is cultivated, with the exception of 600 acres, 250 of which are wood, and the rest moss and moor; and all kinds of grain and green crops are grown, the annual value of which is very considerable. The chief rock is whinstone or greywacke, which is very abundant; some soft freestone is also found, and limestone of a conglomerate character is wrought in a regular quarry, for sale, at Daltonhook. The annual value of real property in the parish is returned at £7670. Ecclesiastically, Dryfesdale is within the bounds of the presbytery of Lochmaben and synod of Dumfries; patron, the Crown. The minister's stipend is about £190, and there is a good manse, delightfully situated, with a glebe valued at £25 per annum. The church, built in 1796, altered in 1811, and enlarged in 1837, stands on a small eminence on the west side of the main street of Lockerbie, a little north from the centre of the town; it is handsomely fitted up, and seats upwards of 900 people. There is also an Antiburgher meeting-house at Lockerbie. The parochial school affords instruction in Latin, Greek, French, and practical geometry, with the usual branches; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and £33 fees. There is a subscription library.

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