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Falkland, Fifeshire

Historical Description

FALKLAND, a royal burgh, and a parish, in the district of Cupar, county of Fife, 10 miles (W.) from; Cupar, and 24 (N. N. E.) from Edinburgh; containing, with the villages of Balmblae, Freuchie, and Newton, 2886 inhabitants, of whom 1313 are in the burgh. This place, anciently called Kilgour, signifying in the Gaelic language the "Hill of Goats", is situated in a secluded spot at the northern base of the East Lomond hill, and was one of the principal strongholds of the Macduffs, thanes of Fife. In the castle here David, Duke of Rothesay, eldest son of Robert III., was starved to death by order of his uncle, the Duke of Albany, on whose attainder in the year 1424 it was forfeited to the crown together with the lands attached to it, and, from the forest in the vicinity, became a favourite hunting-seat of the Scottish kings. The present palace was erected on the site of the ancient castle by James V., who made it his occasional residence, and died here in 1542. The queen regent was staying at the palace when she was informed of the destruction of the cathedral of St. Andrew's; and with Mary, Queen of Scots, it was also a place of favourite resort. James VI. passed much of his time here while pursuing the diversion of the chase; and it was from Falkland that the Earl of Bothwell, in 1593, decoyed him to Perth, with the daring attempt to obtain possession of his person. Charles II., while in the power of the Covenanters, resided at the palace for some days: subsequently to his restoration to the throne, the building was considerably damaged by an accidental fire. After the battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715, the palace was seized by Rob Roy Mc Gregor, who, with his party, kept possession of it for a time, and laid the country around under contribution. The buildings at present consist of one side, and portions of some of the angles and other sides, of a quadrangle which in its appearance is similar to those of Holyrood House and Stirling; the original ceiling of the hall, or grand audience-chamber, is still entire, and displays some splendid specimens of elaborate carving and exquisite paintings. Notwithstanding the injuries to which it has been exposed, the palace has been partially restored by the family of Bruce, who purchased the estate, and it is now inhabited by their agent.

The TOWN consists principally of one spacious street, in which are the market-place and town-hall, and from which diverge several narrow and irregularly-formed streets in various directions. In general the houses are of antique appearance, with thatched roofs, intermixed with several houses of modern erection, of white freestone, which have greatly improved the aspect of the place; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. The only important trade carried on is handloom weaving, in which most of the people are employed, at their own houses. To the south-east of the town, near the junction of the parishes of Falkland, Kettle, and Markinch, is the Falkland Road station of the Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee railway. The market is well supplied with provisions of every kind; and fairs, chiefly for cattle and horses, are held on the second Thursday in January, the last in February and April, the third in June, the first after the 12th of August, the fourth in September, and on the Friday before the Edinburgh Hallow fair in November. Falkland was erected into a royal burgh by charter of James II., granted in 1458, and confirmed by James VI. in 1595: the government is vested in three bailies, fifteen councillors, and a clerk, chosen agreeably with the regulations of the Municipal Reform act. The magistrates exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction over the whole extent of the royalty; but very few cases are brought under their decision, except debts to a trifling amount, and petty offences against the police. At one period the burgh enjoyed the privilege of sending a member to the Scottish parliament; but it ceased to exercise the right, before the Union in 1707. The town-hall, in the market-place, contains the requisite courts and an assembly-room.

The PARISH is about four miles in length, and nearly of equal breadth, comprising an area of 10,000 acres, of which about 300 are woodland and plantations, and the remainder arable, meadow, and pasture. Its surface is partly flat, including an extensive tract formerly the Park of Falkland, and partly diversified with hills, the highest of which is the East Lomond, full 1200 feet in height, and fertile to the very summit. The principal river is the Eden, which flows through the parish; and numerous springs of excellent water issue from the hills: a lake eastward of the palace, in which were several islets, has been drained, and the land brought into cultivation. The soil is various, partly a light brown loam, partly sand and gravel covered with heath and furze, and partly a deep black moss: the whole length from east to west between the plain and the Lomond hill is a rich loam, producing abundant crops. The system of husbandry has been greatly improved under the auspices of Mr. Bruce and the other landed proprietors; a large tract of common has been converted into fine arable fields, and most of the other waste has been reclaimed and made profitable. Draining and inclosing are extensively practised, and the various farms under beneficial leases have been carried to the highest state of productiveness. The Lomond hill abounds with limestone, and lead-ore has been discovered in it, but not wrought; coal, marl, and fullers' earth are also found in various parts. The annual value of real property in the parish is £8606. Falkland House (recently erected at Nuthill), the seat of the family of Bruce, is a very elegant mansion beautifully situated, and embellished with thriving plantations. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Cupar, synod of Fife: the minister's stipend is £252. 8., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £18 per annum; patrons, the Bruce family. Falkland church, erected in 1620, and repaired in 1770, is a plain structure containing 687 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Synod, and Baptists of Free Communion. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £34, with an annual allowance of £10 for a house and garden, and the fees average about £50. On the Lomond hill are vestiges of an ancient camp supposed to be of Roman origin. The town gives the title of Viscount to the Gary family, a dignity created in the person of Sir Henry Cary, K. B., who was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1622, and on his death in 1633 was succeeded in the title by his son, Lucius, one of the most learned and accomplished men of his age, slain at the battle of Newbury in 1643.

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