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Fetteresso, Kincardineshire

Historical Description

FETTERESSO, a parish, in the county of Kincardine; containing, with about two-thirds of the town of Stonehaven, 5212 inhabitants. This place, the name of which, in the Celtic language, is perhaps descriptive of the marshy nature of its lands, is of very remote anti- quity, and is distinguished as the site of a station occupied either by the Caledonians or the Romans. The latter people, having under Agricola subdued the southern portion of the country, advanced with an army of 26,000 men towards the north, and near the Grampian mountains, and probably in this neighbourhood, encountered the Caledonians under Galgacus their king, who, with 30,000 men, defending his country against the invaders, routed their ninth legion, but was finally subdued. The remains of this station, which inclosed an area of seventy-one acres, and was defended by a vallum and fosse, are still nearly entire; and till within the few last years, there were existing some remains of another camp near Stonehaven, about three or four miles distant from the former. The ancient forest of Craigie, and subsequently the whole of the lordship of Cowie, in this parish, together with numerous other lands in the counties of Aberdeen and Kincardine, were granted by Robert Bruce to his steady adherent Sir Alexander Eraser, who signalised himself at Bannockburn, and was killed in the battle of Dupplin in 1332. Upon his death the principal lands descended to his son, whose only daughter and heiress conveyed them by marriage to Sir Willl-am de Keith, great marischal of Scotland, and ancestor of the family of the earls-marischal. The chief residence of this noble family in this part of the country was for many ages the castle of Fetteresso, in which the Pretender, after his landing at Peterhead in 1715, was for some time hospitably entertained. On the attainder of the last earl, the estates were forfeited to the Crown; and in the year 1782, the castle and property of Fetteresso were bought by the late Admiral Duff, in whose family they still remain. A portion of the lands, now the barony of Ury, was inherited by Sir William, a second son of Sir Alexander Eraser, who sold it in 1413 to William de Hay, lord of Errol, and constable of Scotland; and it was subsequently purchased by the Marischal family, who in 1647 sold it to Colonel David Barclay, whose descendant is the present proprietor.

The parish, which is bounded on the east by the German Ocean, is about ten miles in length and between five and six in breadth, comprising an area of 24,914 acres, whereof about 10,000 are arable, 2000 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, and waste. Its surface is abruptly varied, though not rising into mountainous elevation; and the scenery embraces much diversity of character, in some parts enriched with thriving plantations and being pleasingly picturesque, in others dreary and barren. The river Carron, which separates the parish from that of Dunnottar, forms its southern boundary for about five miles, and falls into the sea at Stonehaven; whilst the Cowie, which flows through the parish in a direction nearly parallel, falls into the sea at the small bay of Cowie, to the north. There are also two rivulets, the Muchalls and the Elsick, which, though generally inconsiderable, are sometimes swollen by the accession of numerous streamlets, and inundate the adjacent lands.

The SOIL is extremely various; in the east and south, rich and fertile; in other places, of very inferior quality; and in some parts wholly unprofitable. The system of agriculture was much improved by the late Mr. Barclay, who by great perseverance brought it to its present state of perfection: in some places the lands have been carefully drained. The crops comprise oats and barley, with some wheat, which is not however in extensive cultivation, and turnips, of which very considerable quantities are grown. Several portions of land are let in small lots annually, for raising potatoes. The pastures are extensive, and there are herds of cattle kept, chiefly of the Angus breed, with some of the Teeswater or short-horned: several hundred head of cattle are fattened annually, and sent to the different markets in the district, and to London and other distant parts by steamers from Aberdeen. In this parish the horses are chiefly reared for agricultural uses, and but little attention has been paid to the improvement of the breed. The sheep are of various kinds, part of them of the Leicestershire breed; they are mostly fed upon turnips on the several farms, but some are pastured on the hills, though not to so great an extent as formerly. Dairy-farming is well managed, and large quantities of butter, cheese, poultry, and eggs are forwarded to Aberdeen and Stonehaven. The farm-buildings have been much improved, and on most of the farms are threshing-mills, many of which are driven by water, and one by steam-power. The woods and plantations are extensive; the former, though in parts unproductive from the nature of the subsoil, still contain a good deal of valuable timber, and the latter, with the exception of the larches on some particular lands, are generally thriving. The annual value of real property in the parish is £19,209. Fetteresso Castle, formerly the seat of the Marischal family, beautifully situated on the north bank of the Carron, was partly rebuilt by the late Mr. Duff; it is a spacious mansion, surrounded by an extensive and well-wooded park, in which is some stately timber, and the gardens and pleasure- grounds are tastefully laid out. Unj, originally built by the Hay family, is situated on a steep acclivity of the river Cowie; it is of moderate extent, but of great strength, with vaulted roofs of stone. The park is extensive, and contains many trees of venerable growth, and some thriving modern plantations; the grounds are well disposed, and the gardens, formed on terraces, add greatly to the beauty of this seat. Netherley and Muchalls are handsome mansions: the latter, a fine old edifice, for ages the residence of the Burnet family, stands on an eminence near the sea. Elsick is also an ancient mansion, formerly belonging to the Bannermans. Cowie is a small but handsome house.

There are several fishing-villages on the coast; namely, Cowie, where eight boats are engaged, each with a crew of five men; Sketteraw, employing seven, and Stranathro, having four boats. At these stations are small harbours, well adapted for the purpose. The chief fish taken off the coast are haddock, cod, and ling, of which great quantities, especially of haddock, are dried and smoked, and sent for the supply of the neighbouring towns, and by steamers from Aberdeen to London. The inhabitants of these villages are during the season employed in the herring-fishery, in which about fifteen boats are usually engaged. There are likewise some salmon-fisheries in the parish, let to tenants whose aggregate rents, however, do not exceed £100 per annum; the greater number of the salmon are forwarded to Loudon. Woollen-cloth for domestic use is woven by several families in the parish, and there is a small mill for spinning the yarn; many of the females, also, are employed in knitting woollen-hose for the manufacturers of Aberdeen. Facility of communication is afforded by good roads, of which the turnpike-road from Aberdeen to the south passes through the parish, and by the Aberdeen and Edinburgh steam-boats, which touch here on their way. Of late, also, there has been the advantage of railway communication, the newly-opened Aberdeen line intersecting the parish. Fairs, chiefly for cattle, are held at Stonehaven and Muchalls frequently.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Fordoun, synod of Angus and Mearns. The minister's stipend is about £200, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £16 per annum; patron, the Crown. The present church, erected in 1813, on a site near Stonehaven, is a handsome structure containing 1400 sittings: some remains exist of the ancient church, to which is attached an extensive cemetery, still used. There is a chapel of ease at Cookney, on the lands of Muchalls, a neat building with 700 sittings, the minister of which derives an income from the seat-rents; and on the same property is an episcopal chapel. Two parochial schools are maintained, one in the northern, and one in the southern district of the parish; the master of the former has a salary of £34, with fees amounting to £20 per annum, and a house, and the master of the latter a salary of £17, and £10 fees. A school was established at Cairn Hill by the Rev. Dr. Morison, who endowed it with a house and garden for the master, and the interest of £100. The poor have the proceeds of some charitable bequests, among which is a legacy of property supposed to be worth £500, by two females of the name of Duns. There are Druidical remains in several parts of the parish. Various pieces of ancient armour, chariot wheels, and other relics have been found at Kempstone Hill, the supposed field of battle between the Caledonians under Galgacus, and the Romans; and in the vicinity of the camp near Stonehaven, sepulchral urns were not long since discovered. A tumulus on the lands of R. W. Duff, Esq., is said to have been erected over the remains of Malcolm I.; and at no great distance there were discovered, in 1837, a skeleton, au urn about twenty-eight inches in circumference and six inches in depth, and more than 100 jet beads, all in a tomb about three feet in length and two feet wide. On the summit of a rock near the sea, at Cowie, are some remains of an ancient building thought to have been a castle; there are also some picturesque remains of an old chapel at Cowie, and the place would appear to have been at one time of some importance.

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