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Fala and Soutra, Edinburghshire

Historical Description

FALA and SOUTRA, a parish, partly in the county of Haddington, but chiefly in that of Edinburgh; containing, with part of the village of Faladam, 393 inhabitants, of whom 112 are in the village of Fala, 8½ miles (S. E.) from Dalkeith. The name of Fala is derived from Fah, in the Anglo-Saxon, "speckled", and law, the description of hill upon which the church stands; Soutra signifies "the hamlet with a prospect". In 1164 an hospital for the relief of pilgrims, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was founded at Soutra by Malcolm IV., who conferred upon it the privilege of sanctuary; and its endowments, which were very extensive, embraced the churches of Soutra, Wemyss in Fife, St. Giles of Comiston, and several others. The revenues were subsequently vested in Trinity College and Hospital, Edinburgh; and afterwards, about 1560, in the town council of that city, who thus became patrons of Soutra church. Of the church of Fala, the history of which is very obscure, the patronage belonged previously to the Reformation to the family of Edmestown. In the year 1618, on the 20th February, the two parishes were united; and the estate of Fala after some time descended to the Hamiltons of Preston, and through their heiress to Sir John Dalrymple of Cousland: the present proprietor of Fala proper is the Earl of Stair. Soutra church, having been abandoned, became a ruin; and the walls of one of its aisles, and some occasional irregularities of surface indicating prostrate dwellings, are now the only vestiges of the former village, once so considerable and populous. The district of Soutra is in the county of Haddington.

The PARISH is about five miles iu length, from east to west, and three and a half in breadth, from north to south. Its western division consists of a ridge of the Lammermoor hills, laid out, with the exception of some patches in tillage, for the pasturage of sheep; whilst the eastern division, which is chiefly of a clayey soil and of an undulated surface, is in good cultivation, producing all the crops common to the district of the Lothians. There are considerable tracts of moss and moorland, and a large extent of marsh, whence issues a sheet of water on Fala muir, called the Flow. The prevailing scenery is very beautiful, and includes many objects of interest and admiration. Among these may be mentioned, Soutra hill, which forms the western point of the Lammermoors, and is upwards of 1200 feet above the sea; the mansion and lands of Woodcot; Costerton House, very romantically situated; the rich fields and wooded inclosures around the ancient halls of Hamilton and Fala; the cascade of Linndean, and several intersecting rivulets. The wider prospect from Soutra hill presents numerous handsome residences, the highly-cultivated plains of the Lothians, the Pentland hills, and castle of Edinburgh, with the Firth of Forth and the coasts of Fife in the distance.

Of late years the system of husbandry in the parish has been much improved: the lands have been partly drained, and inclosed, chiefly with hedges of thorn; and material advantage will arise from the drainage of Fala Flow, a measure already in progress. The sheep, of which considerable numbers are reared on the moorland farms, are mostly a cross between the Gala-water and Tweedsmuir breeds, with a few of the Cheviot. A moderate number of black-cattle, and a few horses for the plough, are also reared. The annual value of real property in the Edinburghshire portion of the parish is £1583, and in the Haddingtonshire portion £1298. Fala village is situated on a commanding eminence, and in its immediate vicinity are the commodious inn and hamlet of Blackshiels, the post-place of the district: a little northward of the latter is Faladam, partly in the parish of Crichton. The great road between Edinburgh and Lauder affords a facility of communication. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Dalkeith, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the stipend of the minister is £169, of which more than one-half is received from the exchequer, and there is a manse, with a glebe valued at £25. 10. per annum. The patronage is vested in the Earl of Stair and the Town Council of Edinburgh, who exercise it alternately. The church, which is pleasantly seated on an eminence overlooking the village, is a plain and unpretending edifice, affording accommodation to 250 persons. There is a place of worship in connexion with the United Presbyterian Synod. The parochial school is attended by about eighty children; the master has the maximum salary, with a house aud garden, and the fees average about £25 per annum. A good parish library has been formed by the contributions of the inhabitants. On Soutra hill are some ruins of the hospital; and the aisle of the ancient church is used as the burial-place of a neighbouring family.

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