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Duddingston, Edinburghshire

Historical Description

DUDDINGSTON, a parish, in the county of Edinburgh; including the villages of Joppa and Easter and Wester Duddingston, and the late quoad sacra parish of Portobello; and containing 4366 inhabitants, of whom 156 are in Easter and 200 in Wester Duddingston, the former 3½ miles (E. by S.) and the latter 1½ mile (E. S. E.) from Edinburgh. This place derived its name, anciently Dodinestun, from the family of Dodin, to whom it belonged in the reign of David I., and of whom Hugo, filus Dodini de Dodinestun, appears as witness to a grant of lands to the canons of Holyrood. The manor was subsequently the property of the Thompson family, of whom Sir Thomas was created a baronet by Charles I. in 1637. It afterwards formed part of the possessions of the Duke of Lauderdale, who gave it with his daughter in marriage to the first Duke of Argyll, from whose successor, the fifth duke, it was purchased in 1745 by the Earl of Abercorn, whose descendant, the Marquess of Abercorn, is the present proprietor. The site on which the town of Portobello has been built, formerly that portion of the forest of Duddingston called the Figget Whins, afforded shelter to Sir William Wallace and his troops on their march to attack the town of Berwick; and during the parliamentary war, the Scottish leaders held a conference with Cromwell within this parish, previously to the battle of Dunbar. In 1745, the forces of the Pretender lay encamped on a plain near the village of Wester Duddingston, now within the demesnes of Duddingston House, for nearly a month before and after their defeat of General Cope at Preston; and the house in which Prince Charles Edward slept on the night previous to the battle is still remaining.

The parish is bounded on the west and north-west by the parishes of St. Cuthbert, the Canongate, and South Leith; on the north-east by the Firth of Forth; and on the south by the parishes of Inveresk and Libberton. It extends from the eastern base of Arthur's Seat to the Firth, for nearly four miles in length, and increases gradually towards the east from less than one mile to about two miles in breadth, comprising 1812 acres, of which, with the exception of a few acres of woodland and pasture, the whole is arable. The surface is generally a level plain, sloping by degrees from the base of Arthur's Seat to the Firth of Forth. The streams of the Powburn and the Braid intersect the parish, flowing through the pleasure-grounds of Duddingston House to the hamlet of Duddingston-Mills, whence, pursuing their course through a narrow and romantic dell, they fall into the Firth to the west of Portobello. There is also a stream called Brunstane, which separates the parish from Libberton, and joins the Firth near Magdalene Bridge. Duddingston loch, a fine sheet of water about a mile in circumference, at the base of Arthur's Seat, adds much to the beauty of the scenery, and, by means of a small canal, supplies the rivulets that flow through the park. The greater portion of the parish was for a long time a barren moor, overgrown with furze, and partly covered with sand. From this unprofitable state, the lands of Prestonfield were first recovered and brought into cultivation by their proprietor Mr. Dick, at that time lord provost of Edinburgh, who, removing at his own expense the accumulated refuse of the streets of the city, employed it as manure for the improvement of his land. Not long afterwards, the whole of the moorlands in the parish were reclaimed, and brought into profitable cultivation.

The SOIL is generally clay, alternated with sand, and by judicious management has been rendered extremely fertile; the arable lands produce abundant crops of all kinds of grain, turnips, and potatoes, and the grass in the parks is luxuriantly rich. The system of agriculture is in the highest state of advancement, and all the more recent improvements in husbandry, and in the construction of implements, have been fully adopted. One or two cows of the Ayrshire or the Teeswater breed are kept on each farm for the use of the family; but scarcely any live stock is reared in the parish. The annual value of real property in Duddingston is £21,896. The principal substrata are coal, sandstone, and freestone. The coal, which is very abundant, was formerly wrought, but from the difficulty of clearing the mines from water, the working was discontinued; the mines, however, have been lately leased to an English gentleman, who has erected a powerful steam-engine, and there is every prospect of their being wrought with success. There are some extensive quarries of good freestone, from which materials have been raised for the erection of the houses of Portobello and Joppa; and in the bed of one of the burns is a stratum of black-coloured stone, of smooth and unctuous appearance, which, from its susceptibility of a high polish, is well adapted for mantel-pieces and other ornamental purposes. Strata of limestone and ironstone have been also found on some of the lands. Duddingston House, the seat of the Marquess of Abercorn, is a spacious and elegant mansion in the Grecian style, erected in 1768, after a design by Sir William Chambers, at an expense of £30,000. It is beautifully situated in an extensive park abounding with stately timber, and is surrounded with pleasure-grounds tastefully laid out in lawns, shrubberies, and walks; there are some temples and other ornamental buildings, and the demesne is enlivened by the windings of the rivulets, in which are artificial islands of picturesque appearance. Prestonfield House, the seat of Sir William Hanmer Dick Cunyngham, Bart., is a handsome mansion situated near the loch, in an ample demesne well laid out, and enriched with plantations: it commands a fine view of the city of Edinburgh, to the southern confines of which the park nearly extends.

The village of Wester Duddingston, where the parish church is situated, was formerly a large and populous place, the inhabitants of which were chiefly employed in weaving. It is at present a small but agreeable village, and consists mostly of detached villas, surrounded with gardens and pleasure-grounds, occupied as summer residences by families of Edinburgh, and some neat cottages inhabited by persons engaged in the works that are carried on in the vicinity. Many of the females are employed in washing linen, for which the situation of the village near the loch and its convenience for bleaching render it peculiarly adapted. The vicinity abounds with beautiful scenery, and commands extensive and interesting prospects, embracing Craig-Millar Castle, the Moorfoot, Lammermoor, and Pentland hills, the city of Edinburgh, and the Firth of Forth in the distance. Easter Duddingston is situated on an eminence near the sea; it consists only of small cottages inhabited chiefly by labourers, and is apparently falling into decay. The hamlet of Duddingston-Mills, near the junction of the Duddingston and Portobello roads, has a pleasingly rural aspect. Extensive mills for flour and barley were erected here a few years since, at an expense of £6000; they are driven by water and by steam, according to circumstances, and contain machinery of the most improved construction. In this hamlet are also situated the parochial school, and the handsome buildings of Cauvin's Hospital. Facility of communication is afforded by excellent roads, by the main line of the North-British railway, and by its Leith and Hawick branches.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale and presbytery of Edinburgh. The minister's stipend, including £10 for communion elements, is £300, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £15 per annum; patron, the Marquess of Abercorn. Duddingston church is a very ancient structure in the Norman style, of which it contains some interesting details, particularly a fine arch separating the chancel from the nave. In 1631 an aisle was added by the presbytery for the Hamilton family and their tenants; the church was enlarged and repaired in 1840, and now contains 400 sittings. In the churchyard are some handsome monuments, and an obelisk of marble to the memory of Patrick Haldane, Esq., of Gleneagles. There are places of worship for the United Presbyterian Synod and Independents, an episcopal, and a Roman Catholic chapel. The parochial school is attended by about ninety children; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average £40. There is a subscription library in Wester Duddingston, containing about 400 volumes. Cauvin's Hospital was founded by Mr. Louis Cauvin, a French teacher in Edinburgh, and afterwards a farmer in this parish, who in 1825 bequeathed the greater portion of his estates to the lord provost, the principal of the university, the rector of the high school, and the ministers of Duddingston, Libberton, and Newton, in trust for the erection and endowment of an hospital for the maintenance and education of boys of not less than six, nor more than eight, years of age. The scholars enjoying the benefit of this institution are to be "the sons of respectable but poor teachers", and "of poor but honest farmers"; these failing, "the sons of respectable master-printers or booksellers", and "of respectable servants in the agricultural line." The buildings were erected in the villa style, in 1833, and contain the requisite accommodations for twenty-five boys, who are maintained in the hospital for six years, and instructed in the French, Latin, and Greek languages, the mathematics, and the ordinary branches of a commercial education, by masters appointed by the trustees, who were incorporated by charter in 183~. The poor have a bequest of £100 left by Mr. Kay, of Edinburgh, architect.

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