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Edzell, Kincardineshire

Historical Description

EDZELL, a parish, partly in the county of Kincardine, but chiefly in that of Forfar, 6 miles (N.) from Brechin; containing 1064 inhabitants, of whom 290 are in the village. This place, in ancient documents designated Edziel, perhaps derives its name from a Gaelic term signifying "the cleft", or "dividing of the waters". In the old records of the presbytery the name is written Edgehill, a term which is quite applicable to the parish, as all the arable ground, with the exception of that in the southern or peninsular part, stretches along the edge or foot of the hills. It is doubtful which of these two derivations is correct. The most ancient proprietors of land are said to have been a family of the name of Stirling, from whom considerable property came by marriage to the Lindsays of Glenesk, who possessed nearly the whole of the parish, and have left a memorial of their connexion with the place in the exemption, remaining to this day, of the lands of Edzell from the payment of custom at the great June fair of Brechin. About the year 1714 the estates were purchased by the Earl of Panmure, who was wounded at Sheriffmuir, and the property, with the earl's other estates, afterwards escheated to the crown. It came subsequently into the hands of the York Buildings' Company, and eventually passed by purchase to William, Earl of Panmure in the peerage of Ireland, a near branch of the family, from whom it has descended to the present owner. Edzell Castle, now an extensive ruin, consists of two towers, formerly connected by a splendid range of apartments; the southern portion, called Stirling's tower, is much older than the other, and is supposed to have been built and inhabited by the Stirlings. The fortress was occupied by a garrison of Cromwell's in 1651; and though it ceased to be a residence in 1715, it was held in March or April 1746 by Colonel John Campbell, afterwards Duke of Argyll, who commanded the Argyll Highlanders, the Duke of Cumberland then marching through the country.

The PARISH lies on the north-east border of Forfarshire. Its southern part is a peninsula about three miles long and two wide, formed by the two branches of the North Esk, called the North and West waters; and at the northern extremity of this peninsular portion, where the West water, entering the parish from Lethnot, takes a southern direction, nearly at right angles with its former course, the parish expands in width to about four miles. The lands in the north lie for six miles on the east and about nine on the west side of the North water, or principal branch of the North Esk. About 4270 acres in the parish are arable; 200 are occupied by wood, of which about ninety acres, chiefly larch, were planted at the beginning of the present century; and 1060 acres are waste, affording only a little pasture, though one-third of the extent is considered capable of improvement. Besides these lands, there is a hilly surface of about forty-six square miles, covered with brown heath, with here and there verdant patches, produced by the moisture of neighbouring springs, or the fertility of a superior soil. The crops consist chiefly of oats, barley, potatoes, turnips, and hay; the farms in general are of moderate size, and in many instances the obstructions presented by moors, moss, and high grounds forbid enlargement. This parish is wholly the property of Lord Panmure, with the exception of the Kincardineshire portion, which is one-seventh of the whole, and was formerly a separate parish, called New Dosk, the old burying-ground still remaining. The substrata consist partly of red sandstone, exhibiting several varieties; and granite, with some other rocks, is found. The annual value of real property in the parish is £2991, of which £486 are for Kincardineshire.

The village of Edzell, formerly called Slateford, has recently been much enlarged and improved. Lord Panmure having in 1839 granted building-leases for ninety-nine years. Many good houses have accordingly been erected according to a regular plan, and much benefit has resulted from the conditions requiring every tenement to be raised with stone and lime, and covered with slate, and to have a small allotment in front for flowers, inclosed by a low wall. The proprietor has lately erected in the centre a handsome building for a post-office and reading-room; there is an excellent and convenient inn, and many visiters take lodgings here in summer, attracted by the salubrity of the locality, and the beautiful scenery on the North Esk. A mill for the carding and spinning of wool, and the manufacture of blankets, has been in operation for some years in the southern extremity of the parish, employing between thirty and forty hands, men and women; and about twenty-seven looms are engaged in the manufacture of coarse linen for an establishment at Montrose. On the North Esk is a salmon-fishery, of inconsiderable value. The dairy produce is generally carried for sale to the market at Brechin, and the grain is shipped at Montrose. There is a long-established fair, now on the decline, in August; and three fairs of more recent date, originated by Lord Panmure, for sheep and cattle, and which are on the increase, are regularly held in the months of May, July, and October, respectively. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Brechin, synod of Angus and Mearns, and in the patronage of the Crown: the minister has a stipend of £158, with a manse, and a glebe of about twenty acres, ten of which are moorland. The old church stood near the West water, and the churchyard is still used as the common place of burial: the present church, built in 1818, is situated at the north end of the village. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. Edzell parochial school, situated in the village, affords instruction in the ordinary branches; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and £24 fees. A school has also been established, and premises built, in the Kincardineshire district, by the proprietor of that portion, Sir John Gladstone, Bart., of Fasque; it has an endowment of £10 per annum, making an income for the teacher, together with the school fees, of about £24. At Colmellie are two Druidical circles; and the ancient place of execution for the district still retains the name of Callow Hill.

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