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Inveresk, Edinburghshire

Historical Description

INVERESK, a parish, in the county of Edinburgh, 5 miles (E. by S.) from Edinburgh; containing, with the town of Musselburgh, and the villages of Monktonhall, Cowpits, Craighall, Stoneyhill, and part of New Craighall, 8263 inhabitants, of whom 211 are in the village of Inveresk. This place derives its name from its situation near the influx of the river Esk into a bay on the south shore of the Firth of Forth. The parish is about three miles in length and two and a half in breadth, comprising 4000 acres, of which, with the exception of a small portion of woodland and plantations, the whole is arable, and in a high state of cultivation. Its surface, though generally level, and sloping towards the coast, is pleasingly varied with gentle undulations, which, in the direction of the southern boundary of the parish, terminate in a ridge, but of inconsiderable height, having an elevation of little more than 500 feet above the level of the sea. Along the shore of the Firth are some beautiful downs of great extent, well adapted for the celebration of public games, and on which a fine race-course has been formed, and a handsome and commodious stand erected. The river Esk,. combining the waters of the North Esk, which has its source in the Pentland hills, and of the South Esk, which rises in the Moorfoot range, flows from Dalkeith Park (where the two streams unite), in a pleasing winding course through the parish, and falls into the bay of Musselburgh. Salmon are found in the river, though not in any considerable numbers; and off the coast are taken haddock, cod, flounders, whiting, and occasionally soles and mackerel.

Near the village the SOIL is a light sandy loam, of great fertility; and on the higher grounds, a deep clayey loam; the whole producing exuberant crops of wheat, barley, oats, peas, beans, potatoes, and turnips. The system of husbandry has been brought to much perfection, and the lands generally are in the highest state of cultivation; the farm-houses are substantially built and well arranged, and on most of the farms are threshing-mills, several of which are worked by steam. The lands have been well drained, and inclosed either with stone walls or hedges of thorn; and all the more recent improvements in the construction of agricultural implements have been adopted. The cattle reared are not confined to any particular breed, the horses are usually the Clydesdale, and the sheep of the Cheviot and Leicestershire breeds. A considerable portion of land is cultivated as gardens; and large quantities of fruit, flowers, and vegetables are raised for the supply of the Edinburgh and Glasgow markets. The annual value of real property in the parish is £26,677. The plantations are ash, oak, elm, plane, beech, and larch, Scotch, and spruce firs, with a few pines, all of which seem well adapted to the soil, and are in a thriving state. In this parish the principal substrata are coal, freestone, and limestone. The coal-field extends under the whole of the parish, on both sides of the river Esk, and contains forty seams, varying from two and a half to nine feet in thickness: of these seams three are wrought, which are respectively three, four and a half, and four feet thick, and at depths of nine, twelve, and ninety fathoms. The chief collieries now in operation are at New Craighall, Monktonhall, and Edmonstone: at New Craighall a steam-engine of 140-horse power was many years ago erected, at an expense of £6000, by Messrs. Claud Girdwood and Company, for drawing off the water. Another, of still greater power, has recently been erected. There were formerly collieries at Pinkie-burn, Midfield, and Cowpits; but the workings have been long abandoned. Several quarries of limestone are wrought to a considerable extent, both at Chalkieside, in this parish, and at Cousland, in the adjoining parish of Cranston.

Among the principal mansions in the parish is Pinkie House, the seat of Sir John Hope, Bart., anciently the country residence of the abbots of Dunfermline, and, according to an inscription in front of the building, enlarged or improved by Lord Seton in 1613. Its most ancient portion is a massive square tower, crowned with turrets, and the walls of which are of immense thickness, and the ground-floor strongly vaulted. The mansion in its present state, though only part of a more magnificent structure, is spacious, and contains many splendid apartments, in one of which, called the King's Room, the abbot entertained his sovereign. The painted gallery, which is 120 feet in length, and has an enriched ceiling painted in device, was used as an hospital for the wounded, after the battle of Pinkie; and Prince Charles Edward slept in the apartment on the night after the battle of Prestonpans. Carberry House is beautifully situated on the acclivity of Carberry hill, upon the summit of which the place is still pointed out where Mary, Queen of Scots, sat, while holding a conference with Kirkaldy of Grange. This mansion, which is of great antiquity, has within the last thirty or forty years been repaired, and partly modernised; it commands a fine prospect embracing the Firth of Forth. The grounds are tastefully embellished, and enriched with groves and avenues of oak, chesnut, and beech, of stately and venerable growth. There are numerous other mansions, the principal of which are, Stoneyhill House, anciently the seat of the son of Archbishop Sharpe; Monkton House, now in ruins, said to have been built by General Monk; and New Hailes, formerly the seat of Lord Hailes, author of the Annals of Scotland. The grounds of the last are pleasingly laid out; and near the house is a column, erected to the memory of the Earl of Stair. The village of Inveresk is beautifully situated on rising ground overlooking the picturesque and fertile valley of the Esk; and from the mildness of the climate, and the interesting variety of the scenery around, it has long been distinguished as the "Montpelier" of Scotland, and selected as a favourite place of residence. Great facility of intercourse is afforded by the North-British railway.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Dalkeith, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The minister's stipend is £324. 11., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £22 per annum; patron, the Duke of Buccleuch. There is also an assistant minister, who receives the interest of a bequest of £340, £5 from seat-rents, and from £35 to £40 from his office as session-clerk. The church of St. Michael, a spacious building, supposed to have been originally erected soon after the introduction of Christianity into Britain, was taken down in 1804, and a new structure erected on its site in 1806. The present church, containing 2400 sittings, is a plain edifice in the Grecian style of architecture; with a lofty tower and spire, forming a conspicuous landmark, and towards the building of which a contribution was made by the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses. A "quoad sacra" church has been built in Fisherrow, in the parish; and there are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Church, Independents, and Wesleyans; and an episcopal chapel. A grammar school, at Musselburgh, is under the patronage of the magistrates and town council, who give the master a salary of £27. 4. 5., in addition to the house and schoolroom. There are also English schools in Musselburgh and Fisherrow, the masters of which receive salaries of £12 and £17, respectively, from the corporation funds. The relics of antiquity that have been discovered in various parts of the parish, afford striking evidence that this place was not merely a military station, but a Roman colony or municipum. The ancient church of St. Michael was built on the site, and partly with the materials, of the prætorium of a Roman camp on Inveresk hill. Foundations of baths, and numerous other vestiges of Roman occupation, have been discovered at different times. Among these were, a votive altar inscribed Apollini Granno; a golden coin of Trajan, much obliterated; and a copper medal with the inscription Diva Faustina. Walker, an eminent engraver of portraits, and Burnet, a distinguished historical engraver, were natives of the parish; as is, also, Alexander Ritchie, who has excelled as a sculptor. Logan, the poet, was educated in the grammar school. See MUSSELBURGH, NORTHESK, &c.

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