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Forres, Elginshire

Historical Description

FORRES, a royal burgh and a parish, in the county of Elgin, 12 miles (W. by S.) from Elgin; containing 3711 inhabitants, of whom 2844 are in the burgh. This place, the name of which, in the Gaelic language, is descriptive of its situation on the river and bay of Findhorn, has by some historians been identified with the Varis of Ptolemy, and is celebrated for its ancient castle, in which Duffus, King of Scotland, was treacherously murdered by the governor, in 966. A battle is said to have occurred here about the commencement of the eleventh century, between a party of Danish invaders and Malcolm II.: it terminated in a treaty, in commemoration of which an obelisk was raised, called Sweno's Stone, elaborately sculptured with devices, and which is still remaining in a very perfect state. Not long afterwards, the forces of Duncan, King of Scotland, were encamped on a moor in the vicinity of the town; and on his way to join that monarch, Macbeth, accompanied by Banquo, was met on an adjoining waste by the weird sisters, as described by Shakespeare in his tragedy of Macbeth.

The TOWN is situated on a moderately elevated ridge, and comprises one long street called the High-street, from which several smaller streets diverge on both sides: it is intersected throughout its whole length by the road from Elgin to Nairn, forming the High-street. The streets are well paved, and lighted with gas; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. A public library is supported by subscription, and has a good collection of volumes: there is also a newsroom, well furnished with journals and periodical publications; and a newspaper called "The Forres Gazette" is published on the first Wednesday in every month. A masonic lodge has been some time established, for which an elegant building has been erected from a design by Mr. Simpson of Aberdeen, containing a handsome ball-room, a supper-room, and apartments for the meetings of the brethren. A horticultural society under the patronage of the Earl of Moray holds annual meetings in June and September, when exhibitions of flowers, fruits, and vegetables attract numbers of visiters from all parts. The environs abound with pleasingly-diversified scenery; and on the highest of the richly-wooded Cloven hills, near the eastern extremity of the town, a lofty octagonal tower of three stages, crowned with an embattled parapet, was erected in 1806, by public subscription, to the memory of Lord Nelson. No manufactures are carried on here, nor any trade except such as is necessary for the supply of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood: there are numerous handsome shops, amply supplied with merchandise of every kind. In the immediate vicinity are a brewery and a distillery; and in a powerful saw-mill for timber, great quantities of hexagonal blocks for wood-pavement have been prepared for the Loudon market, and shipped from the port of Findhorn, about five miles distant from the town. The market, which is amply supplied with grain, is on Tuesday; and markets for butchers' meat and fish are held daily. Fairs for cattle and horses occur on the first Wednesdays in January and July, on the third Wednesdays in February, April, May, and November, on the fourth Wednesdays in August and September; and for hiring servants, on the Saturday before the 22nd of November. Facility of communication is afforded by the high road from Elgin to Nairn; by a turnpike-road to the sea-port village of Findhorn, at the mouth of Findhorn bay, where the London and Leith steamers regularly call; by good district roads in various directions; and by an elegant chain-bridge over the river Findhorn, constructed at an expense of £7000, in 1831, to replace the former bridge of stone, which had been destroyed by flood in 1829.

The more ancient records of the corporation are lost; but there is evidence of the inhabitants having obtained the privileges of a royal burgh by charter of William the Lion or Alexander IL, which was renewed by James IV. The government is vested in a council of seventeen, including a provost, three bailies, a dean of guild, and a treasurer; who are all chosen under the provisions of the Municipal Reform act. There are no incorporated trades; and the necessity for becoming a member of the guildry, in order to qualify as a burgess, and for which the entrance fee rose successively from £2. 10. to £13. 10., is no longer enforced. The magistrates exercise jurisdiction in civil causes to any amount, and in criminal matters for petty offences and breaches of the peace. The town hall, erected in 1839, on the site of the ancient tolbooth, in the centre of the High-street, is a handsome structure in the later English style, with a square tower, above which rises an octagonal turret surmounted with a dome. It contains a spacious hall for holding the courts, with apartments for the sheriff and justices, a council-chamber, a record-room, offices for the town-clerk, and accommodations for the post-office. The old gaol, attached to the tolbooth, was removed on the erection of the present town hall; and a small prison, containing two or three cells for the temporary confinement of criminals, has been built. Forres is associated with the burghs of Fortrose, Inverness, and Nairn, in returning a member to the imperial parliament: the number of qualified voters in Forres is 160.

The PARISH, which is bounded on the north by the bay of Findhorn, and on the west by the river of that name, is about four miles in length, and from one to three miles in breadth, comprising an area of 5200 acres, whereof 3300 are arable, 1200 woodland and plantations, and the remainder moorland pasture and waste. Towards the north-west the surface is a perfect plain, only a trifling height above the level of the sea: in the central portion it is diversified with gentle acclivities, terminating in conical hills of moderate height; while on the south-east the land becomes more elevated. The river Findhorn has its source in the mountains of Inverness, and after a course of considerable length, enters this parish, and flowing northward, falls into the bay of Findhorn. Another stream is the burn of Forres; it rises in the adjoining parish of Rafford, and running by the town, near which it receives a small tributary, also joins the bay. On the Findhorn is a lucrative salmon-fishery belonging to the Messrs. Forbes of Aberdeen, valued at £500 per annum; it was greatly injured by the flood in 1829, but has lately very much improved. Along the margin of the bay and the banks of the river the soil is a rich deep loam, with a slight admixture of clay; in the central parts of the parish, a light sand which, under good management, is richly fertile; and in the higher grounds, a retentive clay, alternated with sand and moss. The crops are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and turnips; and considerable portions of the land are cultivated as gardens, in which flowers and fruits of every kind are raised with great success. The system of husbandry is in a highly improved state, and some of the waste ground has been made to yield luxuriant crops of grain; the farm-houses are substantially built of stone, roofed with slate, and generally well arranged, and on most of the farms are threshing-mills, one of which is driven by steam. The cattle are not confined to any particular breed, nor are the sheep, and many of the farmers change their live stock annually. Particular attention is paid to the management of the dairy-farms, for the produce of which there is a large demand. The annual value of real property in the parish is £8481. The plantations consist of oak, ash, elm, plane, and beech, interspersed with larch and Scotch fir, and there are some fine specimens of trees on the lands of various proprietors, particularly a stately avenue of ash-trees on the road to Forres from the west. In this parish the chief substrata are sandstone and limestone, the latter of which is quarried on the farm of Mundole, where kilns have been erected for burning it into lime for the farmers' use. Sanquhar House is a handsome mansion situated on an eminence, about a mile southward of the town, in a richly-wooded demesne enlivened by the windings of the burn of Forres. Invererne, a mile north of the town, is also a handsome modern residence, surrounded by thriving plantations. Forres House, a spacious mansion, is at present in the occupation of a tenant. Drumduan is an elegant villa to the east of Forres, commanding an extensive view of the surrounding country.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the limits of the presbytery of Forres, of which this place is the seat, and of the synod of Moray. The minister's stipend is about £274, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £25 per annum; patron, the Earl of Moray. Forres church, a plain structure, was built in 1775, and repaired in 1839; it is lighted with gas, and contains 1000 sittings. There are places of worship for the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Synod, and Independents, and an episcopal chapel. The parochial and burgh schools, which are consolidated under the patronage of the corporation, and held in the buildings of Anderson's academy, are conducted by three masters, to whom collectively are paid salaries amounting to £120 per annum. The academy, for which there is a handsome building in the Grecian style of architecture in the High-street, was founded in 1824, and endowed with property producing £130 per annum, by the late Jonathan Anderson, Esq., of Glasgow, for the education of children of the parishes of Forres, Rafford, and Kinloss. Four schools are held in the building, namely, the three parochial schools above referred to, and the charity school founded by Mr. Anderson. Of the ancient castle of Forres, which was demolished after the murder of Duffus, and subsequently rebuilt, only some slight vestiges are remaining on a hill to the west of the town. When it ceased to be a royal residence, it became the possession of the Earls of Moray, from whom the castle and the property attached passed to the Dunbars, hereditary sheriffs of Moray, who resided in a building intended to form part of a new structure, which, with the lands belonging to it, was afterwards owned by the Earl of Seafield, and is now the property of General Sir Lewis Grant. James Dick, Esq., who bequeathed £140,000, the proceeds of which are divided among the parochial schoolmasters of the counties of Elgin, Banff, and Aberdeen, was a native of the town of Forres.

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