UK Genealogy Archives logo

Forgan or St Phyllan's, Fifeshire

Historical Description

FORGAN, or St. Phyllan's, a parish, in the district of St. Andrew's, county of Fife, 9 miles (N. E. by E.) from Cupar; containing, with the villages of East and West Newport, and Woodhaven, 1219 inhabitants. This place is said to have derived its name, anciently written Forgound or Forgrund, and supposed to mean "foreground", from the elevated and conspicuous situation which it occupies on the bank of the river Tay. For many generations it was the property of the Nairnes, who held distinguished offices in the state, and one of whom was elevated to the peerage of Scotland in the time of Charles I. The estate of St. Fort, with other lands in the parish belonging to that ancient family, was sold at the beginning of the last century. The title, which became forfeited during the rebellion of 1745, was restored in the reign of George IV. The St. Fort estate is now in the hands of Henry Stewart, Esq.; and the only portion of the original possessions which is still the property of the Nairne family, is the small estate of Morton. Forgan parish is about six miles in length and two and a half in breadth. It is bounded on the north by the river Tay, and comprises about 5000 acres, of which 4000 are arable and in profitable cultivation, 600 pasture and meadow, and 400 woodland and plantations. The surface is in some parts pleasingly undulated, and in others agreeably diversified with level plains. Of the rising grounds the loftiest are the eminences of St. Fort and Newton, which are about 300 feet above the level of the sea. The scenery is richly varied, and from the higher lauds are fine views over the river, which skirts the parish for nearly four miles. The shore is bold and rocky, and indented with several bays, the chief of which are Woodhaven and Newport, where convenient harbours have been constructed, and Wormit bay, which bounds the western extremity of the parish.

The soil is generally fertile, consisting of black loam interspersed with clayey mould, and in some parts of a light gravelly kind, in which are found occasionally large boulders of trapstone. In this parish, as in the county generally, the system of agriculture is in a very advanced condition; the rotation plan of husbandry is practised, and every improvement in the management of the lands is speedily adopted. The crops are barley, oats, wheat, potatoes, and turnips, which are usually favourable and abundant; and the surplus produce of grain finds a ready sale in the markets of St. Andrew's, Cupar, and Dundee. The cattle are principally of the Fifeshire breed, with a slight mixture of the Angus, the Ayrshire, and the Teeswater, which last, however, are by no means suited to the soil; the sheep are of the Cheviot and Leicestershire breeds. Of late years the plantations have been much extended, especially on the lands of St. Fort and Tayfield; they consist chiefly of fir, though the soil is well adapted for oak, ash, chesnut, and beech: there are few trees of remarkable growth, except some yew-trees at Kirkton, which are unrivalled specimens of the kind. The farm-houses and offices are mostly superior; and several of them, of more recent erection, are handsome and exceedingly convenient. Considerable progress has been made in inclosing the lands, but much yet remains to be done in this respect; the fences are principally of stone, with a few of hedges, and are generally well kept. The substrata are sandstone, whinstone, and greenstone, the last of which is extensively quarried for building and for other purposes. There is neither freestone nor limestone in the parish, but lime for agricultural uses is brought by sea from various places, and freestone from the quarries in Angus. The greenstone is fine grained, compact, and of deep colour; and on the banks of the river are rocks of amygdaloidal greenstone, in which are found metals, and quartz resembling agate. The annual value of real property is £7914.

St. Fort, the residence of Mr. Stewart, is a spacious and handsome mansion in the Elizabethan style of architecture, recently erected, and pleasantly situated in a demesne enriched with flourishing plantations. Tayfield, the seat of Mr. Berry, is also a handsome mansion, lately enlarged and embellished, and beautifully seated on the bank of the Tay, of which it commands an extensive view, with the varied and romantic scenery of the adjacent lands, thickly interspersed with pleasing cottages. A salmon-fishery is still carried on; but since the prohibition of stake-nets, it is neither so abundant nor so profitable as formerly, and at present scarcely returns to the proprietor a rental of £150 per annum: the fish, which are of very superior flavour, and in great demand, are sent to Dundee, where they are packed in ice and forwarded by steam-boats to London. A very large shoal of herrings was formerly found in the Tay, near Newport; but none have appeared within the last fifty years. The weaving of linen is carried on upon a limited scale, affording employment to about twenty or thirty persons, who work at their own homes for the manufacturers of Dundee. Facility of intercourse with the neighbouring market-towns is afforded by the Newport line of the "Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee railway", and by excellent roads, of which the road to Edinburgh extends for nearly three miles through the parish, commencing, like the railway, at the ferry at Newport, from which place communication with Dundee is maintained by steam-boats. A ferry from Woodhaven to Dundee was also once kept up; but being attended with great inconvenience, an act of parliament was obtained some years since for its discontinuance, and for the establishment of that of Newport as the only ferry.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of St. Andrew's, synod of Fife, and in the patronage of the Crown: the minister's stipend is about £230, with a manse, and a glebe of about nine acres. The old church, situated in a pleasing and sequestered spot, at the southern extremity of the parish, at one time belonged to the priory of St. Andrew's, and is said to have been built on that site for the accommodation of a family residing in the neighbouring mansion-house of Kirkton, and who contributed largely towards the expense of its erection. This edifice is now a ruin, a new church having been erected in 1841 in a more central part of the parish. There is a place of worship near Newport for a congregation of Independents. Forgan parochial school affords instruction to about 120 children; the master has a salary of £34, with the fees, and a good dwelling-house and large garden: an excellent school-house was recently erected in a convenient situation, upon the completion of which the number of scholars considerably increased. There are numerous cairns and tumuli, though none of them have been fully explored; and in forming the road to Newport, several urns of rude workmanship were discovered.

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