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Keith and Humbie, Haddingtonshire

Historical Description

KEITH and HUMBIE, a parish, in the county of Haddington, 8 miles (S. W. by S.) from Haddington; containing 881 inhabitants. This parish was formed, subsequently to the Reformation, by the union of the two parishes of Keith-Symmars and Keith-Hundeley. It is about six miles in length from east to west, and five in breadth from north to south, comprising an irregular area which, towards the south-western extremity, is intersected by part of the parish of Fala. Keith and Humbie parish is bounded on the north by the parish of Pencaitland; on the east by the parishes of Bolton, Salton, and Yester; on the south by the Lammermoor hills; on the west and south-west by the parishes of Crichton and Fala; and on the north-west by those of Ormiston and Cranston. Its surface is greatly diversified, rising gradually from the northern part of the parish, which is 350 feet above the level of the sea, till it attains a height of 600 feet at the base of the Lammermoor hills, of which Lammerlaw, the loftiest eminence of the range, has an elevation of 1200 feet, and other eminences vary from 800 to 1000 feet. The lands are watered by three rivulets, which have their source in the higher grounds, and in their way through the parish acquire a sufficient strength to give impulse to several mills. Of these streams the Keith and the Humbie unite their waters a little below the church, and after flowing in one channel for nearly two miles, receive the waters of the Birnswater, which, from its rise to its junction, forms the eastern boundary of the parish: they all three abound with trout of good quality. The scenery is enriched with timber of mature growth, and with young and thriving plantations. Humbie wood comprises an area of 400 acres of oak, birch, beech, and firs, many of which display luxuriancy of growth, and in combination with the adjoining woods in the parish of Salton form a conspicuous and beautiful feature in the landscape, finely contrasting with the various aspects of the Lammermoor hills, some of which are covered with barren heath and others with lively verdure.

In some places the soil is a rich loam, in others a light sand, and in others again, clayey and mossy. The number of acres in the parish is estimated at 17,000, of which about 7000 are arable or capable of tillage. A considerable portion of the mossy bogs in the Lammermoor range has been reclaimed by open surface-draining, and converted into excellent pasturage; and from 200 to 300 acres more might be brought into profitable cultivation. In addition to the 400 acres forming Humbie wood, about 100 are covered with plantations in the different demesne lands; and 2500 acres are hilly pasture and moor. The system of agriculture, which has always been good, is at present in a highly improved state; the crops are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, peas, and turnips. Rape-dust manure has been successfully employed in the cultivation of wheat, and bone-dust on the turnip grounds. The farm houses and olliees are substantial and well arranged: the lands are inclosed partly with stone dykes, but chiefly with hedges of thorn, which have been planted at considerable expense, even where the soil was not originally favourable to their growth. Great attention is paid to live stock: the sheep are generally of the Cheviot breed, or a cross between the Cheviot and the Leicestershire, with a few of the black-faced, which, however, are diminishing in number; about 3000 sheep are kept, and more than 300 head of cattle. The annual value of real property in Keith and Humbie is £7603. Whitburgh, a handsome modern mansion, pleasantly situated; Keith House, an ancient mansion, formerly the residence of the Earls-Marischal of Scotland, the timber for the erection of which was a present from the King of Denmark; and the mansion of Johnstonburn, lately much improved and enlarged; are the houses of note in the parish. There is facility of communication with the towns of Haddington and Dalkeith, which are the chief markets in this part of the country for the sale of agricultural produce. The roads throughout the parish are kept in repair by statute labour: over each of the rivulets is a good stone bridge of one arch. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Haddington, synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The stipend of the incumbent is £272: the manse was erected in 1790, and enlarged in 1822, and is a comfortable residence; the glebe is valued at £10 per annum. The church, situated nearly in the centre of the parish, was built in 1800, and is a plain substantial edifice adapted to a congregation of 400 persons. A place of worship has been erected for members of the Free Church. There are two parochial schools, the masters of which have each a salary of £30, with a house and garden, and the fees.

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