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Hoddam, Dumfriesshire

Historical Description

HODDAM, a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 6 miles (N.) from Annan; containing, with the village of Ecclesfechan, 1627 inhabitants. This parish comprehends the ancient parishes of Hoddam, Luce, and Ecclesfechan, which were united in 1609. Hoddam is spelt in ancient charters Hodholm and Hodolm, signifying "the head of the holm", and is supposed to have derived that appellation from its position on the bank of the river Annan, where the ground is flat and rich, and what is usually called holm land. The name of Luce is said to be derived from the luxuriance of the herbage; and that of Ecclesfechan from the Latin word Ecclesia, "a church", and an Irish abbot called Fechan, who is thought to have lived in this part about the seventh century. When the three parishes were united, a new church was built in a central situation, and the old churches gradually fell into decay. Hall-guards, in the parish, was the site of the old castle of Hoddam, which is considered to have been the seat of a branch of the family of Bruce. The fortress was demolished some centuries ago, in compliance with the terms of a border treaty, and was subsequently rebuilt by John, Lord Herries; but one of that family afterwards erected a castle in a more favourable situation, at Cummertrees, on the other side of the Annan, and the seat in this parish was then neglected.

The PARISH is about five miles long, and three and a half broad, and contains 7158 acres. It is bounded on the north by the parish of Tundergarth, on the south and south-west by the river Annan, on the east by Middlebie parish, and on the west by St. Mungo. Hoddam is included in the district of Annandale, and is remarkable for the beauty of its scenery, which is interestingly diversified with wood and water. The surface consists for the most part of an extensive plain, surrounded by gently swelling hills; the lands are in the highest state of cultivation, and are intersected by thriving hedges, and ornamented with groups of flourishing plantations. The highest ground is the hill of Burnswark, 740 feet above the level of the sea, and which commands views of several English counties, of the Isle of Man, and, in very fine weather, of the mountainous part of Yorkshire. The streams are the Annan, the Milk, and the Mein, the last of which, however, is only a rivulet. Of the former, the Annan is about 100 feet wide, and has numerous pools fifteen or sixteen feet deep: it contains salmon and trout, but the fish have become much less plentiful since the use of lime in farming, as, when washed off the lands by flood or rain, it strongly impregnates the waters. The Milk touches the parish on the southwest, and falls into the Annan; it is a good trout stream, and also abounds with small fish. The Mein, which is likewise a tributary to the Annan, frequently changes its channel, bringing considerable havoc to the lands through which it takes its course.

On the holm lands the soil is a deep loam, and exceedingly fertile; the great plain in the heart of the parish is of a light gravelly soil, and also yields fine crops. The high ground in the north, however, is clayey, resting upon a cold tilly subsoil and a copper rock, and being very inferior to the lands below. About 6430 acres are under cultivation; 730 are hill pasture, and upwards of sixty in wood. All kinds of grain are produced, but the quantity of wheat bears no proportion to the oats and barley; a few turnips and large quantities of potatoes are raised, and almost every cottager keeps one or two hogs, which are fed to some extent upon potatoes. The best system of husbandry is adopted; and all the arable land being good, and a considerable portion of it of superior quality, the crops in general are very valuable. The lands have been entirely inclosed, within the last fifty or sixty years, with good fences. In this parish the substrata consist chiefly of sandstone and limestone, with slate-clay, clay-ironstone, and amygdaloid: no workable coal has yet been discovered; but some attempts recently made have excited a hope that it will eventually be found. The annual value of real property in Hoddam is £5209. The turnpike-road from Lockerbie to Longtown runs through the parish, in addition to which there are five cross roads. A large and beautiful stone bridge has been erected over the Annan, and several bridges over the Mein: these, as well as the roads and fences throughout the parish, are kept in good order. Great facilities of intercourse are afforded by the Caledonian railway, which intersects the parish, and has a station at Ecclesfechan. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the limits of the presbytery of Annan, synod of Dumfries; alternate patrons, the Duke of Buctleuch and the Sharpe family. The stipend of the minister is £259, with a superior manse, and three glebes valued at £43. 10. a year. Hoddam church, built in 1817, and standing about a mile from the village of Ecclesfechan, is comfortably fitted up, and seats 561 persons. The United Presbyterian Church has a place of worship; and there is a parochial school, the master of which receives £35 per annum, with about £12 fees. At Burnswark, in the northern extremity of the parish, is one of the most entire Roman encampments in the kingdom: it was formed by Agricola; and a number of altar-pieces, arms, &c., have been found in its vicinity. Mr. Carlyle, author of the History of the French Revolution, was born in the parish. See ECCLESFECHAN.

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