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Inverness, Inverness-shire

Historical Description

INVERNESS, a royal burgh, a sea-port town, and parish, in the county of Inverness, of which it is the chief town, 156 miles (N. N. W.) from Edinburgh; containing, with the villages of Balloch, Clachnaharry, Culcaboch, Hilton, Resawrie, and Smithtown of Culloden, 15,418 inhabitants, of whom 11,568 are in the burgh. This place derives its name from its situation near the mouth of the river Ness, and is the largest and most flourishing town in the Highlands, of which it may be considered as the capital. It is supposed to have been the ancient metropolis of the kingdom of the Picts, and the residence of their kings previously to the union of the Picts and Scots in the reign of Kenneth II., who lived in the ninth century. It is also thought to have been visited, in the sixth century, by St. Columba, for the conversion of the inhabitants to the Christian religion. The castle, for many years the occasional residence of the Scottish kings, is identified by Shakespeare as the scene of the murder of Duncan by Macbeth, lord of Ross and Moray, though, by most historians, the perpetration of that crime is said to have taken place in the vicinity of Elgin. It was razed to the ground, about the middle of the eleventh century, by Duncan's son, Malcolm Canmore, who erected, near the site, a strong fortress which was held for the king by one of the most powerful of the nobility, with a view to keep the inhabitants of this Highland district in subjection. Soon after the completion of this castle, some houses were raised in its immediate neighbourhood; and a town gradually arose, which, under its protection, increased in extent and importance, and was frequently visited by the kings. Though often plundered by the inhabitants of the Isles and by the Highlanders, the town continued to prosper; and in the thirteenth century it had attained a considerable degree of commercial consequence, being inhabited by numerous Flemings and Saxons, who had settled here, and who carried on a lucrative trade in the exportation of hides, malt, and various kinds of fish.

In 1303, the castle was besieged and taken by Edward I. of England; but it was soon afterwards retaken by the adherents of Robert Bruce, who was then raising forces in the Western Islands, to assert his right to the throne; and it remained in the possession of his successors, kings of Scotland, till the reign of James I. In 1411, the town was plundered by Donald, Lord of the Isles, who, in his march from the battle of Harlaw, set fire to the castle, which was nearly destroyed; it was, however, restored by the king, who repaired the fortifications, and made the chief of the Macintosh family, descended from one of the Earls of Fife, governor. The castle continued for some time to be a place for the confinement of state prisoners, and, in 1508, was placed under the command of the Earl of Huntly, who was also created heritable sheriff of the county. On the insurrection of a succeeding earl, in 1562, Mary, Queen of Scots, in her progress to the north to quell the rebellion, came to Inverness with a few attendants, and being refused admission into the castle, at that time held in her name by the insurgent earl, lodged in a house at the base of the fortress. From this perilous situation the queen was relieved by the Frasers, Monroes, and Mackenzies, whom her proclamation had brought to her assistance; the castle was compelled to surrender, and the deputy-governor was executed on the spot. The queen, after remaining four days in the castle, left the town, and retired to Aberdeen.

During the parliamentary war, the castle was an object of constant dispute between the contending parties. It was repeatedly besieged and taken for the king by the Marquess of Montrose, and as frequently retaken by his opponents: in 1649, it was nearly demolished by the royalists under Sir Thomas Urquhart; and during the same year, the town was seized by the royal forces under Generals Middleton and Monroe. The castle was, however, recaptured by Cromwell, who erected a strong fortress for the defence of the town, capable of accommodating 1000 men, to provide materials for which he destroyed the monasteries of Kinloss and Beauly, and all the religious houses in the neighbourhood. After the Restoration, this fortress was demolished, to conciliate the Highlanders, who had been held under powerful restraint, and severely annoyed, by the garrison of Cromwell; and several of the more ancient houses in the town were built with the materials. The royal castle which had been nearly demolished by Urquhart was, at the time of the Revolution, restored by government, at an expense of £50,000, and garrisoned, in order to keep the Highlanders in subjection. It was still further improved, in 1718, by the erection of a house for the governor; and the whole of the buildings, called Fort-George, formed a royal garrison under a governor chosen by the crown, an appointment held always by one of the principal of the nobility, and which, though it subsequently became merely nominal, was possessed by the Gordon family till the death of the last duke, in 1836. In 1745, the castle was assaulted by the forces under the command of Charles Edward, the Young Pretender, by whom it was taken and destroyed. That prince, on the night last but one before the battle of Culloden, which took place near the town, slept at the house of Lady Drummuir, in Church-street; and on the night after the battle, the Duke of Cumberland, who made Inverness his head-quarters, slept in the same house, which appears to have been almost the only one of any importance in the place. The circulation of money by the troops of the duke during their stay in the town, appears to have contributed greatly to its restoration from that state of decay into which, from the time of the Revolution, it had been gradually falling. The walls of the royal castle, which remained nearly entire for some years, have been removed, and the site converted into a bowling-green. During Her Majesty's stay in Scotland in the autumn of 1847, the town of Inverness was visited by His Royal Highness Prince Albert, who on the same day dined with Mr. Baillie, M.P. for the county, at Dochfour: in the evening the prince paid a second visit to the town, for the purpose of attending the grand annual ball of the Northern Meeting, after which he returned to Dochfour, where he passed the night. Towards the end of January 1849, an inundation of the river caused great damage. The fine old bridge was swept away, and the streets on both sides of the river were flooded, in some places to the depth of five feet; a third part of the town was submerged, and upwards of 1000 people were with difficulty rescued in open boats. The damage done to the Caledonian canal was estimated at £10,000.

The TOWN is situated chiefly on the east bank of the river Ness, near its influx into the Moray Firth, and consists of several well-formed and spacious streets, crossing each other at right angles. In general the houses are substantial and well built, and many are large and of handsome appearance, the residence of opulent families; the streets are paved with granite, and the foot-paths laid with Caithness flags. Inverness is lighted with gas from works erected at an expense of £8757, by a company established under an act of parliament; and the inhabitants are supplied with water raised from the river by machinery, and distributed to the houses by pipes. In 1847 an act was passed for better supplying the town and suburbs with gas and water. There are several subscription and circulating libraries, and two public reading and news rooms, all well furnished with newspapers, and the most interesting periodical works. The Northern Institution for the promotion of science and literature, established here in 1825, has been discontinued; and its valuable library, and museum of antiquities and natural curiosities, have been presented to the directors of the Inverness Academy, for the use of the pupils. In Church-street is a plain neat building called the Northern Meeting Rooms, containing an elegant ball-room, in which card and dancing assemblies are held, a spacious dining-room, and other rooms, in which public meetings take place. Leading from the extremity of the High-street, was a handsome bridge of stone, of seven arches, erected in 1685-88, by subscription, at a cost of £1300, and connecting the principal part of the town with that portion of it which lies on the west bank of the river, and with the various suburbs in that vicinity. This bridge was destroyed by an inundation of the river, as above mentioned, in 1849. Higher up is the new bridge, of wood, built in 1808, by private subscription, at an expense of £4000. The environs abound with interesting and pleasing scenery. In the river, which is here of great breadth, are two picturesque islands, beautifully laid out in lawns, shrubberies, and walks, connected with the opposite banks of the stream by suspension-bridges, and forming delightful promenades. The neighbourhood of Inverness is remarkable for the luxuriance of its gardens, fields, and plantations, presenting a great variety and richness; and the mountain screens are fine and various: each outlet is different from the others, and each is beautiful; while a short and commodious ferry connects the town with the lovely country opposite. "It is the boast of Inverness," says Dr. Macculloch, "to unite two opposite qualities, the characters of a rich open Lowland country with those of the wildest Alpine scenery, both being close at hand, and in many places intermixed; while to all this is added a series of maritime landscape not often equalled." There are several good family hotels in the town, of which the Caledonian hotel is very extensive, and elegantly fitted up; also numerous commodious inns and lodging-houses. An act was passed in 1846 authorizing the construction of a railway to Aberdeen.

The chief manufacture carried on is that of cloth for bags, sacking, and tarpaulins, for the London market, and for exportation to the East and West Indies: about 300 persons are employed in this manufacture, of whom more than half are women. The weaving of Highland plaids and tartans is also pursued to a small extent, affording occupation to twenty-five persons. There are three tanneries, a distillery, and two public breweries; and about 100 families are supported by the sawing of timber. The trade of the port consists chiefly in the exportation of wool, grain, and hempen cloths; and the importation of hemp and timber from the Baltic, and tar from Archangel, of which last, upon an average, from 400 to 600 tons are annually landed. There are six vessels belonging to the port, of 130 tons' average burthen, employed in the trade with London; three in that of Leith; and two in that of Aberdeen. Since the completion of the Caledonian canal, the commerce of the town has been greatly extended, a direct line of intercourse having been thus opened with Glasgow and Liverpool, and with the manufacturing districts in their vicinity. The jurisdiction of the port, which embraces a large district, extends from the mouth of the river Spey to Dornoch Firth on the east, and from Assynt Point to Ardnamurchan on the west. The aggregate tonnage of the registered shipping of the whole district, in 1848, was 10,882 tons, chiefly belonging to this place: the custom duties in the year 1848 amounted to £6852. Inverness harbour, at the mouth of the river, is accessible to vessels of 250 tons; and ships of 500 tons can anchor with safety in the Kessock roads, or deliver their cargoes at the wharfs of the Caledonian canal, within a mile of the town. An act was passed in 1847 for improving the harbour and the navigation of the river, and regulating the anchorage and shore dues. During the summer months, steam-vessels sail regularly from Inverness to Leith, Aberdeen, and London. Ship-building has within the last few years been introduced, and is carried on upon a moderate scale. The market-days are Tuesday and Friday, when butchers' meat, eggs, and poultry, and garden and agricultural produce of every kind, are exposed for sale in great abundance. Fairs are held in February, July, August, and November, for cattle, horses, butter, cheese, home-made stuffs, and various other kinds of merchandise. The July fair is attended by the principal Highland sheep-farmers, and by the South-of-Scotland and English wool-staplers, when not less than 100,000 head of sheep, and an equal number of stones of wool, are generally sold. The exchange, situated near the town-hall, is a neat building, well adapted for its use; and the old cross, in front of it, is still in good preservation.

The CALEDONIAN CANAL, which extends from Inverness on the north-east to Corpach, near Fort-William, on the south-west, intersects Scotland from sea to sea. It passes for eight miles within the parish; and its entire length is sixty miles and a half, of which twenty-three miles have been formed by excavation, and the remainder consists of a succession of three natural lakes, Loch Ness, Loch Oich, and Loch Lochy. The canal is 120 feet wide at the top, fifty at the bottom, and the full depth of water corresponding to these dimensions was proposed to be as much as twenty feet; but the works were not completed to afford a greater practicable depth than about thirteen or fourteen feet. There are twenty-eight locks on the line, fourteen ascending to, and fourteen descending from, the summit level in Loch Oich, which is about ninety-five feet above ordinary high-water at Inverness. The locks are 170 feet long, by forty in breadth, the rise in most cases being eight feet; and the bridges are of cast-iron, and swing horizontally. Acts for the construction of the canal were passed in 1803 and 1804; the works were commenced under the superintendence of Mr. Telford, in 1805; and after an expenditure of nearly £1,000,000, the navigation was opened in 1822, in the unfinished state already mentioned. The rate of tonnage-duty, levied on sailing-vessels or steam-boats laden or unladen, passing along the canal in either direction, is one farthing per ton per mile; there being no dues chargeable upon goods of any description. The produce of the rate amounted, for the year ending 30th April, 1842, to £2723; and the number of passages made by vessels during that period was 1350. Since then, the navigation has only been partially open, at irregular intervals, owing to the works not being in a perfect state. The defective and unsatisfactory condition of the canal has, however, of late engaged the serious attention of government; and nautical and engineering surveys and reports have been made by Sir Edward Parry and Mr. Walker, who concurred in recommending the efficient repair and completion of the works, with the establishment of steam tug-boats and other facilities for the accommodation of the larger classes of commercial shipping. The estimated expense of these operations was about £200,000, towards which the sum of £105,000 was voted by parliament up to 1844; and a contract was entered into for the engineering details, amounting to £136,000, to occupy a period of three years from their commencement in October 1843. The passage from sea to sea was obliged to be interrupted during their progress; but parts of the canal were directed to be kept open, and made available for the local trafific.

The town was made a ROYAL BURGH by charter of David I.; and additional privileges were granted by succeeding monarchs to the time of James VI., under whose charter in 1591 the government is vested in a provost, four bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and fourteen councillors. The councillors were formerly elected by a majority of their own body, five of whom retired every year, and were replaced: the provost, bailies, dean of guild, and treasurer remained members of the council for one year after the expiration of their office, and of course were not of the number that retired. There are six incorporated trades, viz., the hammermen, wrights and coopers, shoemakers, tailors, weavers, and skinners, into one of which a person must enter before he is eligible to the council or magistracy; the fees of admission vary from £1. 1. to £3 for sons of freemen, for apprentices from £5 to £6, and for strangers from £20 to £30. An act of parliament was passed in 1847, for establishing a general system of police in the burgh, for regulating the petty customs, and for other purposes. The magistrates hold courts, with jurisdiction equivalent to that of the sheriff, for the determination of civil pleas, and the trial of criminal offences, in which the town-clerk acts as assessor: the average number of civil causes tried annually is forty, of from £2 to £20 in amount; and of criminal causes two. There is also a court held by the dean of guild, as well as a sheriff's court for the recovery of small debts. In conjunction with the burghs of Forres, Fortrose, and Nairn, the burgh of Inverness returns a member to the imperial parliament. The town-hall, at the extremity of Church-street, was erected in 1708, and contains the necessary accommodations for transacting the public business: the gaol, erected in 1791, has a handsome spire 150 feet in height, but is ill adapted for the classification of the prisoners. The county-hall, situated on the Castle Hill, is a good building in the castellated style, erected at an expense of £7000, after a design by Mr. Burn, of Edinburgh, and has the requisite court-rooms and offices: immediately adjoining is a site reserved for the erection of a new gaol for the county and the town. From the upper windows of the county-hall is obtained a view of one of the most magnificent landscapes in Scotland.

The PARISH extends along the coast of the Moray and Beauly Firths, and is about fourteen miles in length and two and a half in average breadth, comprising an area of 12,000 acres, whereof 9000 are arable, and the remainder, of which 1000 might be brought into cultivation, woodland, plantations, and waste. The surface, a considerable portion of which, forming part of the Caledonian valley, or great Glen of Albin, is tolerably level, is diversified on each side by the mountainous chains that bound the vale, and which, towards the coast, decrease in height. These mountains subside on the east into a smooth ridge having an elevation of about 400 feet, and on the west divide into groups of picturesque hills, terminating in Craig-Phadric, a remarkable elevation with a tabular summit, the ascent to which is by precipitous and rugged acclivities. Along the line of coast, which is marked with bays of gentle curvature, is a level tract of rich land in the best state of cultivation; and most of the higher grounds are beautifully ornamented with luxuriant woods, and plantations of Scotch fir, larch, ash, elm, beech, and oak. The river Ness has its source in Loch Ness, and after a course of eight miles, flows through the parish into the bay opposite Kessoch point, between the Moray and Beauly Firths: there are also numerous rivulets, several of which in their progress form picturesque cascades. The Ness formerly abounded with salmon, and the fisheries on it produced a rental of £1100 per annum, which, within the last thirty or forty years, has been reduced to £370; and there is a prospect of a still further reduction. A few herrings or coal-fish are occasionally taken on the sea-shore. The prevailing scenery is marked with features, in some parts of grandeur, and in others of romantic beauty; and the views from the higher grounds are extensive and richly varied. Numerous handsome seats of the gentry are situated in the glens, and on the elevated ridges that intersect the parish; and the pleasing hamlets of their tenantry are scattered through the various districts. There are also many tastefully ornamented villas in the immediate neighbourhood of the town. In the upper lands the SOIL is light and sandy, resting on a substratum of gravel; and in the lower lands, a deep rich loam, intermixed with clay: the crops are wheat, barley, oats, hay, and the usual green crops. The system of agriculture is advanced; the lands are well inclosed with fences of stone or hedges, and the farm houses and offices are generally substantial and commodious. Tracts of waste land have been reclaimed and brought into profitable cultivation, and all the more recent improvements in implements of husbandry have been adopted. The cattle are usually of a mixed breed, partaking of the Old Highland, Moray, and Ayrshire kinds; and considerable attention is paid in rearing them for the dairy, and also for the market. There are some quarries of red and of grey sandstone, which are wrought to a moderate extent, chiefly for domestic purposes. The annual value of real property in the parish is £30,258, including £10,500 for the burgh. Among the gentlemen's seats are Culloden House, Raigmore House, Newcastle, the Inches, Culduthel, Dochfour, Dunain, and Muirtown, all beautifully situated in richly-planted demesnes.

This parish, with which that of Bona was united at a time not distinctly known, is the head of the presbytery of Inverness, in the synod of Moray. There are three parochial ministers, who officiate in the two ancient churches. The first and second have each a stipend of £276. 10., with a small allowance in lieu of the manses, which, being ruinous, were sold for inconsiderable sums, of which they receive the interest respectively; and the proceeds of the glebe, amounting to £100 per annum, are equally divided between them. The third minister has a stipend of £200, part of which is paid from the exchequer; but he has neither manse nor glebe. Of the two old churches, the one called the High church, in which divine service is performed only in the English language, was built in 1772; it is a plain edifice containing 1260 sittings, and has an ancient square tower, said to have been erected by Oliver Cromwell. The other, called the Gaelic church, because the service is performed in that language, was built in 1794, and is also a plain structure, contaning 1220 sittings. The patronage is in the Crown and Lord Lovat; but the latter has transferred his portion of it, during his life, to Professor Scott, of King's College, Aberdeen. The former quoad sacra parish of North Church was separated from the parish of Inverness under act of the General Assembly: the church, erected in 1837, at a cost of £1400, raised by subscription, aided by a grant from the Assembly, is a neat structure containing 1033 sittings. The former quoad sacra parish of East Inverness was nearly five miles in length and about two miles in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 5000 acres, and including an extensive rural district: the church, built in 1798, at a cost of £1400, by subscription, and altered and repaired in 1822, has 1177 sittings. There is a preaching station in the ancient parish of Bona, where divine service is performed by the assistant of one of the ministers of the parish. The episcopal chapel, erected in 1801, at a cost of £1000, is a neat building; and there are places of worship for the United Presbyterian Church, Independents, and Wesleyans; and a Roman Catholic chapel, erected in 1836, at an expense of £2000. There are also places of worship for members of the Free Church.

The old burgh grammar school has long merged into the Royal Academy, founded in 1792, for the education of children in the higher classes of the Highland population; incorporated by royal charter; and endowed by liberal subscriptions, and the transfer of the funds appropriated by the burgh to the support of the old grammar school. To these sources of income has been added a munificent bequest of property, now amounting to £26,794, by Captain William Macintosh, of Farr, in 1803, for the education of boys of that name, of the families of Farr, Holm, Dalmigavie, and Kellachy, or the nearest of kin; of whom there are nearly forty in the establishment. The academy is under the direction of the provost and magistrates of the burgh, the sheriff of the county, the moderator of the presbytery, and a committee of five persons chosen annually from the subscribers; and the instruction is given by a rector, who has a salary of £250 per annum, without any fees, and four classical and other masters, who, in addition to their fees, have salaries varying from £30 to £40 each. The course of studies consists of the classics, mathematics, the elements of chemistry, natural history, and philosophy, with all the branches of a commercial education. There are at present about 300 pupils. Mr. John Raining, of Norwich, in 1747, bequeathed £1000 to the General Assembly, for the foundation of a school, which has been established here, and placed under the direction of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge: it has two masters, who receive salaries of £48 and £40 per annum, respectively, with a house and garden each; and the number of pupils is 250. Two other schools in the parish, the masters of which have salaries of £17 and £15 each, are supported by the same society. A large school, likewise, has lately been erected by the magistrates, to whom the Rev. Dr. Bell bequeathed £10,000, in trust, for the foundation and support of schools on the Madras system.

The Infirmary, to which a lunatic asylum is attached, was founded in 1804, chiefly through the exertions of the provost, William Inglis, Esq., and is supported by subscriptions and donations. It is under the general direction of the magistrates of the burgh, the sheriff of the county, the moderator of the presbytery, the ministers of the parish, and a committee of subscribers annually chosen; the medical department being superintended by the faculty, who visit the institution gratuitously, by a resident house-surgeon and apothecary, a matron, nurses, and the requisite attendants. The buildings, which are pleasantly situated on the west bank of the river, beyond the town, form a handsome and spacious structure, including a distinct arrangement for the asylum, which is detached from the infirmary. The latter contains numerous airy and well-ventilated wards for the various classes of patients, with hot and cold baths. The Dispensary, situated on Muirtown Green, was established in 1832, for administering advice and medicines to the poor, and has atforded extensive relief; it is wholly supported by subscription. There are also several benefit societies in the town, which have tended to diminish the number of applications for parochial relief. Mr. Jonatliait Anderson, of Glasgow, bequeathed to the magistrates property now amounting to £3845; and Mr. Klien, also, bequeathed £1000, the interest of which is distributed annually among decayed householders. The United Charitable Institntions, for which a neat building has been erected on an eminence to the south of the Castle Hill, include an infant school, a female school, a female work society, and an association for the distribution of blankets and clothing to the poor: it is proposed to add a tower to the building, fitted up for an observatory.

Above the village of Clachnaharry, westward of the town, are some rocky eminences called the Watchman's Stones, where anciently a guard was stationed to give notice of the approach of any hostile force, and on one of which a lofty column was erected by the late H. R. Duff, Esq., of Muirtown, to commemorate a sanguinary conflict that took place in 1333, between the clan Chattan and the Monroes of Fowlis. Near these eminences is the hill of Craig Pliadric, on the summit of which, at an elevation of 435 feet above the level of the sea, is a vitrified fortress with a double vallum, exhibiting heaps of boulder stones strongly cemented by fire. It was connected with a chain of similar fortresses extending in various directions into the centre of the county, and upon which beacon-fires were anciently lighted, to convey signals to neighbouring parts. To the west of Craig Phadric is a high gravelly ridge called Tor-a-Bhean, supposed to contain the tomb of Donald Bane, a chieftain of the Hebrides, who in 1187, at the head of a body of islanders, encountered Duncan Macintosh, son of the governor of Inverness Castle, when a severe conflict ensued, in which both were killed. Near the base of this ridge, on the shore of the Caledonian canal, a massive silver chain of thirty-three double circular links was found in 1808, weighing 104 ounces, and thought to have been worn by that island-chief as an ensign of office: it is now in the museum of the Society of Antiquaries, Edinburgh. On the margin of Loch Dochfour are the remains of the church of Buna; and between Loch Dochfour and Loch Ness is a quadrilateral inclosure, rounded at the angles, supposed to have been a Roman camp, and on the highest point of which are the ruins of a fort commanding the fords across the river Ness. In the same vicinity are numerous sepulchral tumuli. The eastern portion of the parish contains part of the memorable field on which the battle of Culloden was fought; and bordering on the parish of Croy are many cairns, and various circles that are supposed to be Druidical. Near the mouth of the river Ness is Cairn Arc, a large pile of stones, in the Moray Firth; and in Beauly Firth are several similar cairns, which are corroborative of the opinion, not unsustained by facts, that the sea has made considerable encroachments on this part of the coast. The late Duke of Sussex bore the inferior title of Earl of Inverness; and the place at present gives the title of Duchess to the widow of his royal highness.

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