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Huntly, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

HUNTLY, a burgh of barony and a parish, in the district of Strathbogie, county of Aberdeen, 39 miles (N. W.) from Aberdeen, and 145 (N. by E.) from Edinburgh; containing 3642 inhabitants, of whom 2731 are in the burgh. This parish, consisting of the united parishes of Dumbennan and Kinoir, anciently formed part of the ample possessions of the powerful family of Cumyn, of whose baronial seat, Strathbogie Castle, there are still considerable remains. During the contested succession to the throne of Scotland after the death of Alexander III., the Cumyns, who were adherents of Edward I. of England, were nearly extirpated by the Gordons, upon whom Robert Bruce conferred the castle and lands of Strathbogie, in reward of their important services. The castle was almost destroyed after the battle of Glenlivet, in 1594, but was restored, with considerable additions, by the first Marquess of Huntly, in 1602, and, under the name of Huntly Castle, was the seat of the head of the Gordon family till their removal to Fochabers, when this place became the residence of the Marquess of Huntly, eldest son of the Duke of Gordon. On the death of George, the fifth duke, in the year 1836, without issue, the dukedom of Gordon became extinct; while the marquessate of Huntly, his second title, descended to his kinsman, the Earl of Aboyne. The duke's heir of entail, the Duke of Richmond, is, with the exception only of the estate of Avochy, the present proprietor of all the lands.

The TOWN derives its name from its founders, the family of Gordon. It is beautifully situated on a peninsula, near the confluence of the rivers Doveron and Bogie, over the former of which is an ancient bridge of one spacious arch, and over the latter a substantial bridge of three arches. The streets are regularly formed, intersecting each other at right angles; and in the centre is a noble square, surrounded with handsome houses, some of which are of very elegant appearance. Huntly is well paved, and lighted with gas; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. There are several libraries, the chief of which are, the Farmers' Agricultural Library, an evangelical subscription library, and a circulating library: there is also a reading-room, supplied with public journals and periodical publications. The environs abound with picturesque scenery, enlivened by numerous villas, and deriving much interest from the venerable ruins of the ancient castle, and the beautiful grounds of Huntly Lodge, on the opposite bank of the Doveron. The linen manufacture was formerly carried on here to a great extent, but since the termination of the war it has very much declined; and at present not more than about forty weavers are employed, for the wholesale houses of Aberdeen, and a few in the weaving of damask. There are a bleach-field upon a moderate scale, and a tannery and distillery in full operation; the usual handicraft trades for the supply of the neighbouring district afford employment to many of the inhabitants, and there are numerous shops supplied with merchandise of various kinds. From its situation on the principal road from Aberdeen to Inverness, the town has a considerable degree of traffic. The post-office has a daily delivery; and there are branches of the North of Scotland, the Town and County, and the Aberdeen Banks, for the first of which a handsome building has been erected in the square. A market is held on Thursday, which is amply supplied with grain, and numerously attended by dealers from different parts of the country; and fairs, chiefly for cattle and horses, are held monthly, of which those at Whitsuntide and Martinmas are also for hiring servants. Facility of communication is afforded by good turnpike-roads; that from Aberdeen to Inverness passes through the town, that to Banff through the north-east, and one to Portsoy through the northern, district of the parish. The town was erected into a free burgh of barony by charter of James III., granted to George, second Earl of Huntly; and is governed by a baron bailie, appointed by the superior, but whose jurisdiction extends only to the removal of obstructions in the streets and thoroughfares.

The parishes of Dumbennan and Kinoir were united in 1727, and, in honour of the eldest son of the Duke of Gordon, called Huntly. The united parish is about ten miles in length, and four miles in breadth. Its surface is diversified with hills of moderate height, which surround the town on all sides, and of which the hill of Kinoir, in the immediate vicinity, consisting of several thousand acres, has been planted by the Duke of Richmond at an expense of nearly £3000. The rivers are the Doveron and the Bogie. Of these, the Doveron has its source in the hills of Cabrach, and flowing through the parish in a north-eastern direction, receives the waters of the Bogie. The Bogie rises in the parish of Auchindoir, and forms the boundary between this parish and that of Drumblade for two or three miles. Both the rivers abound with trout, and salmon are also found in the Doveron. The quantity of land which is arable cannot be precisely determined, but there is little waste capable of improvement: the soil, though various, and consisting principally of clay, moss, and gravel, is tolerably fertile; and the chief crops are oats, barley, and bear. There is good pasture on the hills for cattle, of which considerable numbers are reared, and sent to the English markets; but few sheep are bred in the parish. The system of husbandry has been improved under the auspices of an agricultural society of which the Duke of Richmond is patron, and which holds annual meetings in the town for the distribution of prizes, when a cattle-show takes place. The annual value of real property in the parish is £7245. The plantations consist chiefly of birch, elm, oak, and larch, Scotch, and spruce firs, all of which are carefully managed, and in a thriving state. In general the rocks are of granite and whinstone: limestone has been quarried, though it is of inferior quality, and very difficult to work with any prospect of advantage; and ironstone and plumbago have been also found. Huntly Lodge, the seat of the Dowager Duchess of Gordon, was originally a shooting-box belonging to the dukes: about twenty years since, it was enlarged and greatly improved as a residence. It is an elegant mansion, beautifully situated in a demesne embellished with plantations, and tastefully laid out in walks, and enlivened by the rivers Doveron and Bogie, which unite within the grounds. Avochy House, the seat of John Gordon, Esq., is a pleasant residence, in the grounds of which are some slight remains of the ancient castle of Avochy.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the limits of the presbytery of Strathbogie, synod of Moray. The minister's stipend is £185. 13. 9., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £25 per annum; patron, the Duke of Richmond. Huntly church, situated in the centre of the town, is a spacious plain structure, erected in 1805, at a cost of £2600, and containing 1800 sittings. The new church, erected in 1841, at an expense of £1400, is also in the town, and contains 1100 sittings; the duty is performed by a missionary, appointed by the General Assembly, and who has a stipend of £100, derived chiefly from the seat-rents. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Church, and Independents; also an Episcopalian chapel, and a Roman Catholic chapel, the latter a handsome structure in the later English style. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average £60. He also receives £30 per annum from the Dick bequest. The school is held in a building erected by the Duchess Dowager of Gordon, in which are also held a school connected with the new church, and supported by subscription, and an infant and a sewing school, the mistresses of which receive salaries from the duchess. A dispensary is maintained; and there are several friendly societies, and a savings' bank in which are deposits amounting to £3644. The remains of the castle consist partly of those of the ancient castle of Strathbogie, of which the chief portion is a large circular tower, now in ruins; and partly of the restorations of Huntly Castle, which also are greatly dilapidated. The whole forms a venerable ruin, situated on the Doveron, near the bridge.

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