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Fortrose, Ross and Cromarty

Historical Description

FORTROSE, or Chanonry, a royal burgh, and a quoad sacra district, in the parish of Rosemarkie, county of Ross and Cromarty, 10½ miles (N. N. E.) from Inverness, and 8 (S. S. W.) from Cromarty; containing, with the burgh of Rosemarkie, 1082 inhabitants, of whom nearly one-half are in that burgh. This place, anciently the Chanonry of Ross and the seat of that diocese, was united by charter of James II., in 1455, with the town of Rosemarkie, which had been erected into a royal burgh by Alexander II., and which is distant from it about half a mile to the east. The united burghs, under the common name of Fortrose, received a confirmation of all ancient privileges from James VI., in 1592; and by charter of the same monarch, in 1612, these privileges were extended, and the burgesses invested with all the liberties and immunities enjoyed by the burgesses of Inverness. There was anciently a castle at Fortrose, belonging to the Earls of Seaforth, who were also Viscounts of Fortrose; but no remains of it exist. Of the cathedral, a splendid structure which, though probably not 120 feet long, formed an architectural gem of the first description, only a roofless aisle is now left. One portion of this aisle, containing the tombs of several of the bishops, is preserved as a burial-place for the Mackenzies and other landed proprietors. Eastward of the site of the cathedral, which occupied a spacious square containing the houses of the canons, is a detached building with an arched roof, converted into the town-hall, and having, below, a vaulted apartment. The episcopal palace, and a great part of the cathedral, were destroyed by Oliver Cromwell, who sent the materials by sea to Inverness, for the erection of his fortress at that place.

The TOWN, which is situated on the north-western bank of the Moray Firth, was formerly of considerable importance as a seat of learning. The principal trade now carried on consists of the shipping of cattle, salmon, &c., on board of the Aberdeen and other steamers at Chanonry Point for the London market; the making of shoes; the manufacture of coarse linen, and the employment arising out of annual fish-curing excursions. Fortrose has of late cleared itself of debt by a sale of some of its lands, and appears likely to become fashionable as a bathing station, for which its delightful and healthy situation renders it well adapted. It has already been much benefited by an influx of genteel inhabitants; and Roderick Mackenzie, Esq., the principal proprietor in the neighbourhood, has lately made considerable improvements, tending to enhance the beauty of the town. A neat and ornamental water-cistern has been erected at the cross of Fortrose, from the funds of the burgh. At Chanonry Point, a headland projecting deeply into the Firth, is a lighthouse, near the ferry to Fort-George on the opposite shore; and a small commodious harbour, erected by the parliamentary commissioners, is frequented by the Leith, Aberdeen, and Dundee traders. Rosemarkie, though in point of antiquity it has the precedence, is a town inferior to Fortrose in importance; it is chiefly inhabited by persons occupied in salmon- fishing and agriculture. The post-office has a daily delivery; and fairs are held in April, June, and November. Facility of communication is afforded by good roads to Inverness and Dingwall, and by the ferry to Fort-George; steam-vessels plying in the Firth, and fitted up for the conveyance of passengers and goods, land various kinds of merchandise, and convey produce to Aberdeen, Leith, and London.

The government of the burgh is vested in a provost, three bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and nine councillors, chosen under the regulations of the late Municipal Reform act. There are no incorporated trades: the fees of admission as burgesses are, for strangers, £3.3. for ordinary trades and £5. 5. for those of a higher class; and for sons of burgesses half those sums. The magistrates exercise jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases to the usual extent, and a circuit sheriff's court is held here at stated periods. Fortrose is associated with Forres, Inverness, and Nairn, in returning a member to the imperial parliament; the number of qualified voters is fifty-two. The quoad sacra parish of Fortrose includes the town of Fortrose, and a portion of the adjacent lands. Its church, a handsome and substantial structure, lately erected in the town by subscription, affords ample accommodation; and the minister, who is appointed by the male communicants, derives his stipend from the produce of a fund bequeathed for that purpose by Mr. Thomas Forbes, and from the seat-rents. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and Baptists, and an episcopal chapel in the later English style of architecture. An academy, under the superintendence of a rector and an assistant, is supported by subscription, and is well attended. See Rosemarkie.

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