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Grange, Banffshire

Historical Description

GRANGE, a parish, in the county of Banff, 3 miles (E. by N.) from Keith; containing 1661 inhabitants. This place originally formed a part of the parish of Keith, from which it was separated in the year 1618. It took its name from the circumstance of its being a country residence belonging to the abbots of Kinloss, to whom it was given by William the Lion in the twelfth century. Attracted by the beauty of the place, at that time mostly under wood, the abbots had a castle here, situated upon an eminence partly natural and partly artificial, and overlooking rich and extensive haughs, enlivened and refreshed for several miles by the meanderings of the picturesque Isla. In the neighbourhood is the Gallow-hill, the spot upon which criminals were executed within the local jurisdiction. At the time of the Reformation, the abbot, anticipating the change about to take place, feued out the district into many small properties, of which that of Edingight still belongs to the descendant of the original feuar, and about four-fifths of the others to Lord Fife, who inherits from his ancestor, Alexander Duff of Braco, another of the first feuars. The remaining portion is in the possession of the Earl of Seafield.

The PARISH is six miles in length and five in breadth, and comprises about 20,000 acres, of which a large portion is under cultivation: there are extensive plantations of young wood. The surface is much diversified, and consists of both high and low ground, the latter comprehending most of the cultivated parts. On the east is the Knock, an eminence rising 1600 feet above the level of the sea, and which, though cultivated to a considerable height, is chiefly covered with deep peat and heather, the moss extending at the summit to a depth of eight or ten feet. A very fine and extensive view may be obtained from it. In the dry summer of 1826, its sides were surrounded by a conflagration, destroying the combustible portion of the surface; but it has not been ascertained in what way the fire originated. There are also several lofty hills in the northern part of the parish: in the southern division are two called the Mickle and Little Balloch, ornamented around their base with wood; and in the centre is the Sillyearn, where there is a large and thriving plantation. The scenery is much indebted for its variety to its sylvan beauties, and to the course of the interesting stream of the Isla, on the south of which a wide belt of larch and Scotch fir, of recent growth, especially improves the prospect. The Isla is rendered still more striking in pictorial effect by an ancient bridge, erected by a Mr. Christie, to render the church accessible to the residents of Cantly. This benevolent act was notified, and the memory of it transmitted to posterity, by an inscription on a stone once forming part of the bridge, but now supposed to be submerged in the flood below, consisting of these words: "Built by Alexander Christie, tenant in Cantly, for the glory of God, and the good of the people of Grange". A provision was made for the repairs of the bridge by the deposit of 100 merks in the hands of the laird of Edingight; and though this sum is supposed to have been long since exhausted, an addition was made to the structure in the year 1783, by erecting, and cementing to it, another bridge of the same size, to render it passable by carts, the first being only for foot-passengers. The cost of this was defrayed by the transfer, on the part of the patron, of the vacant stipend of that year.

The SOIL in some parts is very good, particularly on the banks of the Isla, where the ground, having a fine southern exposure, is tolerably dry, and produces early crops. In other parts, especially in the northern quarter, the soil is clayey, cold, and wet, with an impervious subsoil, and frequently of very poor quality. Oats forms the staple crop of grain, and the green crops consist of ryegrass and white and red clover. Husbandry is on a very respectable footing, and the six-shift course is that chiefly followed: bone-manure is much used for turnip-soils, and most of the larger farms have threshing-mills, and are inclosed with limestone-dykes and good hedges. The portion under tillage is gradually increasing in extent; and many of the lower parts of the heathy and mossy hill of Aulmore, which is interspersed with numerous cottages of the poor, have been brought into cultivation. Substantial embankments, also, have been raised on some of the farms, against the floodings of the Isla; and on the better cultivated lands, all the implements of agriculture are of the best description, and the horses and cattle of a superior stock. Limestone of very fine quality is abundant, and is constantly worked to a great extent; large lime-works are in operation, and many of the small farms have lime-kilns. At a place called Seggiecrook is a bed of plumbago. The deep and wide-spreading mosses supply abundance of peat for fuel; and the residue of the woods that once beautified the locality is found deeply embedded, comprising thick logs of oak and fir. The annual value of real property in Grange is £5299. The mansion of Edingight, in the parish, is an ancient structure irregularly built, standing on an estate ornamented with fifty or sixty acres of young plantations. Braco was formerly the residence of the ancient family of Duff. There is a hamlet named Nethermills; and the parish is traversed by the road from Keith to Banff; the produce, consisting of grain, pork, and fat-cattle, is shipped chiefly at Banff, for the London market.

Grange is ecclesiastically in the presbytery of Strathbogie, synod of Moray, and in the patronage of the Earl of Fife: the minister's stipend is £165, with a manse, and a glebe of five acres, valued at £7 per annum. The church was built in 1795, and contains 616 sittings; it is situated within a mile of the parish boundary, on the site of the old castle occupied by the abbots of Kinloss. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church, and another for the United Presbyterian Church. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches; the master has a salary of £34, with a house, and about £6 fees. He also receives a bequest of £1. 2. a year; the interest of £100 left by the late Rev. Mr. Bruce, minister of Dunbar; and a portion of the Dick bequest. There is likewise a General Assembly's school, the master of which has £25 per annum, with a small piece of land: the premises were built by subscription, in 1827, through the exertions of the minister, the Rev. W. Duff; and the tenants on the estate subscribe for the rent of the master's allotment. The Earl of Fife derives his title of Baron Braco from the farm of that name.

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