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Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

FRASERBURGH, a burgh of regality and a parish, in the district of Buchan, county of Aberdeen, 42 miles (N. by E.) from Aberdeen, and 149 (N. N. E.) from Edinburgh; containing 3615 inhabitants, of whom 326 are resident in the village of Broadsea. This place, anciently called Faithly, was at one time the property of Sir Alexander Fraser, on whose lands a town was built, for which he obtained a charter from James VI., erecting it into a burgh of regality, named, in compliment to its superior, Fraserburgh, by which appellation, also, the parish has since been designated. Sir Alexander, by marriage with the daughter of George, the seventh Baron Saltoun, succeeded to the title as tenth baron; and his descendant, the present Lord Saltoun, who is also hereditary provost of the burgh, is principal proprietor of the parish. The town, which is situated on the south side of Kinnaird Head, a bold promontory projecting into the German Ocean, near the entrance of the Moray Firth, consists of several spacious and well-formed streets, intersecting each other at right angles. The houses are substantially built, and generally of handsome appearance, and many of the more modern class are spacious; the streets are well paved, and the inhabitants amply supplied with water. In the centre of the town is the Cross, erected by Sir Alexander Fraser, an elegant hexagonal structure of nine receding stages, diminishing from an area of 500 feet at the base to twenty-three feet on the platform, from which rises a pillar twelve feet high, ornamented with the bearings of the Erasers, surmounted by the British arms.

The TRADE carried on principally arises from the exportation of grain, other agricultural produce, and fish; and the importation of timber, coal, lime, bricks, tiles, salt, and various kinds of goods for the supply of the shops in the town. The quantity of grain exported averages 20,000 quarters, and of potatoes 15,000 bolls, annually; of fish, about 50,000 barrels of herrings, and dried and pickled cod to the value of £6000; whilst the harbour dues, originally not exceeding £70, have since the improvement of the harbour increased to an average of £1900 per annum. It appears that the number of vessels registered as belonging to the port, which is a creek to that of Banff, is twenty-two, varying from forty-five to 260 tons' burthen; and about 280 boats are engaged in the herring-fishery, which, during its continuance, makes an increase of 2000 persons in the population of the parish. The harbour, situated at the north-eastern extremity of the bay of Fraserburgh, is easy of access, and has a depth of six feet at low water, and of twenty feet at spring tides; it is about eight acres in extent, and affords security to vessels at all times. Great benefit has resulted from the construction of additional piers, and the erection of a lighthouse on Kinnaird Head, the whole at an expense of £50,000, part of which was paid by government, and the remainder by Lord Saltoun, and by subscription of the inhabitants. A new pier on an extensive scale is also about to be built, which when completed will afford shelter to the largest merchantmen frequenting our coasts, and will make Fraserburgh the best wind-bound harbour on the east coast of Scotland. The bay, which is about three miles in length, forms an excellent roadstead, where numerous ships of any burthen may lie at anchor, and is consequently much resorted to by vessels of every description, in adverse weather. The spinning of linen-yarn, the manufacture of rope and sails, and some other works connected with the shipping, are carried on, to a moderate extent. This place was erected into a burgh of regality in 1613, and the government is vested in an hereditary provost, by whom two bailies, a dean of guild, treasurer, and thirteen councillors are appointed. The lessees of lands within the burgh are burgesses, and are bound to maintain the public works of the town, for which purpose they possess the market customs and tolls, and, in lieu of certain privileges over commons, have lands producing a rent of £160 per annum. The bailies hold courts within the burgh for actions of debt, and the trial of petty offences; and the sheriff of the county holds courts four times a year, for the recovery of small debts. The town-hall was built by Sir Alexander Eraser, as also was a small gaol, now in a ruinous state, and unfit for the detention of prisoners. Branches of the Bank of Scotland, the Aberdeen Bank, and the North of Scotland Bank, as well as a savings' bank, have been established; the post-office has a good delivery, and facility of communication with Aberdeen, Peterhead, Banff, Strichen, and other places is maintained by good roads. An act was passed in 1846 for the construction of a railway to Fraserburgh.

The PARISH, which is bounded on the north by the Moray Firth, and on the east by the bay of Fraserburgh, is about eight miles in length, and three and a half in average breadth, but is divided into two nearly equal parts by an intervening portion of the parish of Rathen, more than a mile in breadth. It contains 11,000 acres, of which, with the exception of about eighty acres, the whole is arable. The surface near the eastern coast is low and sandy, and towards the north flat and rocky, with the exception of the lofty promontory of Kinnaird Head: from the shore the land rises gradually to the interior, and to the south are several hills, of which that of Mormond, covered with moss and heath, has an elevation of 810 feet above the level of the sea. The river Philorth, which has its source in the higher districts, and in its way receives some tributary streams, forms a boundary between this parish and Rathen, and falls into the bay of Fraserburgh. In some parts the soil is sandy and light, and in others clay, and loam alternated with gravel, and interspersed with moorland and moss: the crops are, grain of all kinds, with beans, peas, potatoes, and turnips. The system of husbandry has greatly improved: the farms vary from fifty to 300 acres in extent; the lands are partly inclosed and under good cultivation, and shell-sand, sea-weed, and bone-dust are the chief manures. The cattle are of the native breed, intermixed with various others, and of late years some of the Teeswater have been introduced: large numbers are shipped from the port to the London market, where they obtain a high price. The annual value of real property in the parish is £10,145.

There are some remains of aged natural wood in the grounds of Philorth House; and from numerous trunks of trees buried in the moss, it would appear that the district was anciently well-wooded: plantations have been lately formed around the house of Philorth, and on several lands previously unproductive. The principal substrata are, limestone, which is quarried for building purposes and for farming, and granite, which is found in great quantity in the upper districts of the parish; ironstone, also, occurs among the rocks, and apparently of good quality, but from the scarcity of fuel it is not wrought. Philorth House, the seat of Lord Saltoun, the only mansion of any importance, is pleasantly situated at a short distance from the bay, and on the west bank of the river Philorth, in grounds tastefully laid out. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Deer and synod of Aberdeen. The minister's stipend is £219, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum; patron. Lord Saltoun. Fraserburgh church, in the centre of the town, is a substantial structure built in 1802, and containing 1000 seats; a tower and spire were afterwards added, at an expense of £300, raised by subscription. There are two places of worship for Independents, and one each for the Free Church and Episcopalians. The parochial school is attended by 100 children, of whom thirty are girls: the master has a salary of £29. 18. 10., with a house and garden, and the fees average about £50 per annum; he receives also a share of Dick's bequest. There are, besides, two public seminaries for the education of boys, and one for the education of girls. Some vestiges exist of ancient religious houses, one of which, called the College, is said to have been connected with the abbey of Deer; and at the west end of the town are the remains of a spacious quadrangular building erected in 1592, by Sir Alexander Eraser, who obtained a charter for the foundation of a college, but which was not carried into effect. On Kinnaird Head are the ruins of a tower called the Wine Tower, under which is a cavern, penetrating more than 100 feet into the rock. There are also some ruins of Danish camps and Picts' houses in the parish.

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