Musselburgh - Muthill

A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland. Originally published by S Lewis, London, 1846.

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'Musselburgh - Muthill', in A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, (London, 1846) pp. 294-297. British History Online [accessed 24 April 2024]

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MUSSELBURGH, a burgh of regality, in the parish of Inveresk, county of Edinburgh, 6 miles (E.) from Edinburgh; containing, with the suburb Fisherrow, which is noticed under the head of Northesk, 6331 inhabitants. This place, which is of great antiquity, is supposed to have derived its name, in ancient documents Muskilburgh and Muschelburgh, from an extensive muscle-bank near the mouth of the river Esk. Under the appellation of Eskmuthe it became, after the departure of the Romans, the seat of the Northumbrian Saxons, and in the 12th century was bestowed by David I. upon the abbey of Dunfermline. In 1201, the barons of Scotland assembled at this place to swear allegiance to the infant son of William the Lion, afterwards Alexander II., who, in 1239, granted additional powers to the abbots of Dunfermline, under which the town had all the privileges of a burgh of regality. About a century afterwards, Randolph, Earl of Murray, Regent of Scotland, returning from the frontier of Berwickshire to defend Edinburgh from an expected invasion by the English, was surprised by sudden indisposition on the confines of this parish, in which emergency the magistrates of Musselburgh removed him on a litter to a house in the east port of the burgh, and carefully attended him till he died on the 20th of July, 1332. In grateful acknowledgment of their kind attention, the earl's nephew and successor in the regency, the Earl of Mar, proffered the inhabitants any reward in his power to confer; and on their declining any remuneration for the mere performance of their duty, he in 1340 granted them a charter of additional privileges, with the motto Honestas for the arms of the burgh. In 1530, James V. made a pilgrimage on foot from Stirling to the shrine of the Virgin Mary, in the chapel of Loretto, at this place, which in 1544 was destroyed by the English army under the Earl of Hertford, together with the town-house and the greater part of the town.

Burgh Seal.

On the arrival of the Duke of Somerset at Newcastle with 14,000 men, in 1547, to compel the Scots to sign a contract of marriage between the infant Princess Mary and Edward VI. of England, the Scots raised an army of 36,000, and took up a strong post here on the steep and densely-wooded banks of the Esk, to await his approach. The duke advanced with a fleet of thirty-five ships of war and thirty transports, and anchored in the bay of Musselburgh, whence landing his troops, he took post on Falside Brae, with his right extending over the grounds of Walliford towards the sea, and threw up a mound in the churchyard of Inveresk, which he planted with cannon, and other works, to prevent the Scots from crossing the river. After a severe skirmish, in which 1300 of the Scots were slain, and Lord Hume, their leader, severely wounded, and some ineffectual offers of treaty exchanged between the contending parties, the Scots passed the Esk, and a general engagement took place on the 10th of September, on the plains of Pinkie, to the east of the town, which terminated in the entire defeat of the Scots with the loss of 10,000 men. In the following year, Lord Grey with a powerful army entered Scotland, and, ravaging the districts of Merse and Mid Lothian, destroyed the towns of Dalkeith and Musselburgh. In 1567, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Bothwell held a meeting in the neighbourhood with Kirkaldy of Grange, who had been commissioned by the confederate lords for that purpose: the meeting took place on Carberry Hill, near the field of Pinkie. During the parley, Bothwell, who had taken leave of the Queen, fled to Dunbar, and Mary suffered herself to be introduced to the regent Morton and the lords, by whom she was conveyed to the castle of Lochleven. In 1632, Musselburgh was by charter of Charles I. erected into a royal burgh; but the magistrates of Edinburgh, by compromise with those of the town, obtained from the Privy Council, the same year, a decree reducing it to a burgh of regality. During the war in the reign of Charles, Cromwell encamped a part of his army on the Links of Musselburgh, in 1650, and took possession of the town, which he held for two months; he converted the church of Inveresk into barracks for his cavalry, and planted cannon on the mound in the churchyard. In 1745 the Highland army, headed by Prince Charles, entered the suburb of Fisherrow, and, crossing the old bridge over which the Scots marched to the field of Pinkie, passed through the town on their route to Prestonpans.

The town, which is situated on the east bank of the Esk, near its influx into the Frith of Forth, consists of several spacious and well-formed streets; and is connected with the suburb of Fisherrow, on the opposite bank of the river, which is here of considerable width, by three bridges, whereof two are of stone, and one of timber, supported on pillars of cast-iron, and repaired in 1838. The older bridge of stone, supposed to have been of Roman origin, is narrow and of steep ascent, consisting of three arches, and is solely used by foot passengers; the third bridge is an elegant modern structure of five arches, erected after a design by the late Sir John Rennie. The houses are substantially built, and of neat appearance; the streets are well paved, and lighted with gas from works erected in 1832 near the mouth of the river, and from which the town of Portobello is also supplied; and the inhabitants are amply furnished with excellent water. A public library, founded in 1812, is supported by subscription, and has now a collection of more than 1300 volumes; there is also a circulating library of 1200 volumes, as well as a reading and news room supplied with the daily journals and periodical publications. The Links of Musselburgh have from time immemorial been noted for the celebration of sports, for which they are peculiarly adapted; the game of golf is still kept up, and since 1774 a club has been established, which holds annual meetings to contest for the prize of a silver cup. The Royal Company of Archers also hold annual meetings on these downs, when a silver arrow is awarded as a prize, the winner of which receives from the town thirteen bottles of claret, on condition of returning the arrow, with a gold or silver medal attached to it, previously to the next meeting. Races have long been established here; and in 1817 the town of Edinburgh removed their races from Leith to this place, where they are held every autumn: the races of the Caledonian Hunt also take place here every third year; and at the west end of the course, a handsome and commodious stand has been erected. The environs of the town abound with pleasing, and in many parts with picturesque and romantic, scenery, and with numerous objects of interest. At the eastern extremity of the High-street is the site of the ancient house in which the Regent Murray died; and at the western end is the house where Dr. Smollett was entertained by Commissioner Cardonnel; opposite to which, in Fisherrow, is the villa of Dovecote, occupying the site of the residence of Professor Stewart and his son, Gilbert: the study of the professor, a small building in which he composed many of his writings, yet remains, overspread with ivy. Here, also, is an elegant mansion erected in 1840 by Mr. Legat, a leather-merchant of the town.

The chief manufactures carried on are those of sailcloth, haircloth, fishing-nets, hats, and leather; there are also extensive works for bricks, tiles, and the coarser kinds of pottery, a salt-work, and a small establishment for dyeing. The sailcloth manufactory was established in 1811, and the building has since been considerably enlarged, and a steam-engine of fifty-five-horse power erected; the produce, which is of superior quality, is exclusively for the home market, and principally for the use of the British navy. The manufacture of haircloth was introduced in 1820, and has been progressively increasing under the superintendence of its proprietor, Mr. Turnbull. The articles are, satin and fancy-figured cloths, curled hair, kiln-cloths, hair-lines, and lines of all kinds for fishing, girth webbing, ropes, twines, and horse-hair carpeting, in making which 200 persons are engaged; the produce is mainly sent to the London market, and the chief towns of England and Ireland. There is a similar establishment belonging to a different proprietor, but only a small number of persons are employed. The manufacture of fishing-nets was established in 1820 by Mr. Paterson, who, after much laborious experiment, constructed a loom for the purpose; eighteen looms and a spinning-machine are in operation, affording occupation to fifty-two persons, and consuming thirty tons of hemp annually. A similar manufactory was till lately carried on by Mr. Robinson from England, who, without any communication with Mr. Paterson, invented a loom for the purpose differing only in the form of the knot; six looms and twenty-three persons were employed, and about fourteen tons of hemp annually manufactured. There are three extensive tanneries and establishments for the currying of leather; the raw hides are procured from the Edinburgh market, and imported from Hamburgh and Russia. In the former about eighty, and in the latter thirty, persons are employed; and the quantity of bark consumed every year averages 1000 tons, procured from England, Belgium, Germany, and Holland, and some of a peculiar quality from Smyrna. The produce is mostly forwarded to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London. The ale brewery belonging to Mr. Whitelaw consumes annually 1750 quarters of malt, made upon the premises; and the ale is sent to the principal towns in Scotland, to London, Hull, and Newcastle, in England, and to the East and West Indies. There was once an extensive distillery. The trade of the port consists in the exportation of bricks, tiles, oats, coal, and staves; and the importation of grain, oil-cake, timber, bark, hides, and bones for manure, from foreign ports; and, in the coasting trade, chiefly the export of coal, and the import of grain, bark, mineralsalts, fullers'-earth, potters'-clay, wood, pavement, slates, and stone. The harbour, originally constructed for the fishing-boats of Fisherrow, has little more than four feet depth at neap tides, and is therefore accessible only to vessels of inconsiderable burthen. Previously to 1806, it was formed only by bulwarks of dry stones: but since that time a substantial quay has been constructed, and the trade materially increased; and further improvements are in contemplation by extending the pier. No vessels are registered as belonging to the port. A salmon-fishery at the mouth of the Esk is conducted on a small scale, by means of stake-nets; it is the property of the burgh, to which it pays a rental of £20 per annum.

The burgh, of which the superiority was in 1709 purchased from the Earl of Lauderdale by Anne, Duchess of Monmouth and Buccleuch, is, under previous charters confirmed by charter of Charles II. in 1671, and slightly altered by the Municipal act, governed by a provost, two bailies, a treasurer, and a council now reduced to nine members, of whom nearly one-half are resident in Fisherrow, which is included within the limits of the burgh. There are seven incorporated companies, viz. the hammermen, shoemakers, gardeners, weavers, butchers, tailors, and bakers, of one of which an individual must become a member to qualify him for being a burgess; the fees of admission vary from ten shillings to £1 for sons of burgesses, and from £1. 6. 8. to £3. 6. 8. for strangers. The magistrates hold bailie-courts for the determination of civil pleas to any amount, and also a court for the recovery of debts not exceeding £5: such criminal cases as are of a trivial nature are summarily disposed of by the magistrates, but offences of a more aggravated character are, after examination, remitted to the sheriff of the county. The burgh is associated with those of Leith and Portobello in returning a member to the imperial parliament; the number of qualified voters is 238. The town-hall is a neat building in the Highstreet, containing the courts, council-rooms, an assemblyroom, and others for transacting the public business. Attached to it is the town gaol, built with the materials of the ruined chapel of Loretto, the site and grounds of which are occupied by a private seminary under the superintendence of the Rev. Thomas Langhorne, of the Episcopal chapel; and fronting the street leading to Newbiggin, is the ancient cross. A fair for two days, commencing on the second Tuesday in August, and which was formerly well attended by cattle-dealers, and supplied with various kinds of merchandise, is now merely a pleasure-fair. The post-office has a good delivery. Facility of communication is afforded by the London road, which passes through the whole length of the parish, connecting the town with Haddington and Dunbar; and the Edinburgh and Dalkeith railway, opened in 1832, runs near the western boundary of the parish, and is joined by a branch from Fisherrow, about a mile from the harbour. Branches of the Western Bank and the Commercial Bank of Edinburgh, and a custom-house subordinate to that of Leith, have been established. The Establishment churches of this district are those of Inveresk and Northesk; and there are a Free church, and places of worship for the Associate Synod, the Relief, Independent secession, Congregationalists, and Episcopalians. The grammar school of the burgh is under the patronage of the magistrates and town-council, who pay the master a salary of £27. 4. 5., and provide him with a good house. There are also, under the same patronage, an English school at Musselburgh, of which the master has a salary of £21, with good premises free; and another at Fisherrow, of which the master has a salary of £10, with a schoolroom and dwelling-house rent free. At Fisherrow is a sailors' society, established in 1669.


MUTHILL, a parish, in the county of Perth; containing, with the village of South Bridgend, and part of the late quoad sacra parish of Ardoch, 3067 inhabitants, of whom 1089 are in the village of Muthill, 3 miles (S.) from Crieff. This place appears to be of considerable antiquity; and its name, derived from two Gaelic words signifying "a station for the dispensation of justice," would confer upon it a degree of importance in the ancient feudal times. A society of Culdees was established here in the earliest period of Christianity in Britain. During the middle ages, Muthill seems to have been the head of a deanery; and after the Reformation, it was the seat of the presbytery prior to its removal to Auchterarder. The parish is of very great extent, comprising more than 26,000 acres, of which about 11,560 are arable, 2400 woodland and plantations, and the remainder uncultivated and waste land. The surface rises gradually from the northern and southern boundaries towards the centre, where it attains a considerable elevation, forming two nearly parallel ridges from east to west, and dividing the parish into what are called the Muthill and Ardoch districts. The highest point of these ridges is the hill of Torlum, which is about 1400 feet above the level of the sea, and beautifully planted with evergreens; it is a conspicuous and interesting feature in the scenery, and commands an extensive and richly-varied prospect over the different portions of this large parish, which in some parts is in the best state of cultivation, and in others comparatively wild and barren. The scenery is enlivened by several rivers that flow through the lands. The principal is the Earn, which issues from the lake of that name, and in its winding course forms a boundary between part of this parish and the lands of Innerpeffray, the estate of David, Lord Madderty, of whose castle there are considerable remains; its course, though generally uniform and moderate, is occasionally disturbed by torrents descending from the hills. The river Machony has its source in the hills of Blair-in-roan, pursues its way between the two ridges that divide the parish, and, after receiving numerous tributary streams in its progress, falls into the Earn near Kinkell. On the Ardoch side of the parish is the Knaik, which rises in Glenlich-horn, and, passing the camp at Ardoch, joins the river Allan, which has its source in Blackford parish, and flows into the Forth near Stirling. These rivers all abound with excellent trout, and in the Earn are found also pike, whiting, and salmon. There are several lakes, of which one called Balloch, is situated at the base of Torlum Hill. Loch Drummond, a beautiful sheet of artificial formation, is about a mile in length and half a mile broad; it is bounded on one side by abrupt masses of rock rising to the height of nearly seventy feet, and on the others by steep banks richly wooded. It is the resort of various aquatic fowl, and forms a picturesque feature in the landscape. There are also numerous wells, affording an ample supply of water, and which in ancient times were held in great veneration for their supposed efficacy in curing diseases.

The soil varies greatly; the lands near the Earn and the Allan are chiefly a rich and light loam, with occasional intermixtures of marl; while in other parts is a strong sandy soil, with a mixture of gravel, and in others again an unproductive moorland. The hills afford good pasture, and there is also a due proportion of excellent grass land. On most of the lands are thriving plantations, of which the largest is that round Torlum Hill, comprising more than 600 acres of Scotch fir: larch, birch, chesnut, and limes, with some oak, are the prevailing kinds. The system of agriculture has been much improved under the auspices of the heritors, most of whom reside upon their estates; draining has been practised extensively, and large portions of marshy land have been reclaimed, and brought into a state of profitable cultivation. The chief crops are barley and oats, with some wheat, and the rotation plan of husbandry is general; turnips have been lately much cultivated, and, by the use of bone-dust and guano, are abundant. Considerable attention is also paid to the breeding of cattle. The substrata are chiefly sandstone of several varieties, and whinstone of a blackish colour; the former is quarried for building, and the latter for the roads; and in the peat-mosses, and also embedded in the marl, various fossil remains have been found. The rateable annual value of the parish is £15,000. Drummond Castle, the occasional residence of the family of Drummond, is situated near the site of a former castle, which is said to have been besieged by Cromwell, and, with the exception of what still remains, to have been demolished at the Revolution: the present seat is a substantial and handsome modern mansion. The grounds, which are well laid out, contain some fine specimens of well-grown timber, and the gardens almost every variety of the choicest flowers and plants. The castle was visited by Her Majesty, during her tour in Scotland, in September 1842; she arrived here on the evening of Saturday, the 10th, and remained until Tuesday, the 13th, when she departed for Stirling. The village of Muthill is on the great southern road, which passes through the parish; it is neatly built, and the surrounding hills add much to the beauty of its scenery. It had formerly a market, which, from the proximity of the market-town of Crieff, has been for some time discontinued. The inhabitants are chiefly occupied in agricultural pursuits, and in weaving cotton for the manufacturers of Glasgow; and until recently three distilleries employed a considerable number of persons, and in the aggregate produced about 100,000 gallons of whisky annually. Two cattle-markets are held annually at the village of Braco, in the district of Ardoch. A subscription library, comprising a good collection, is maintained in the parish; and there is also a readingroom, in which are several valuable publications on agriculture.

Muthill is within the presbytery of Auchterarder and synod of Perth and Stirling, and patronage of the Crown: the minister's stipend is £240. 17. 5., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £30 per annum. The church, erected in 1828, at an expense of nearly £7000, is a handsome and spacious edifice in the later English style, adapted for a congregation of 1600 persons. In the district of Ardoch is a chapel of ease, built in 1780; and within the last few years a village has risen up near it, which is rapidly increasing in population and extent. There is also a place of worship for members of the United Secession within a mile and a half of the village; and in Muthill are a Free church and an Episcopalian chapel. The parochial school affords a liberal education; the master has a salary of £34. 4., with £16. 10. fees, and a good house and garden: a schoolroom on a more enlarged scale has been recently built. There are also three schools in the parish partly endowed by Lady Willoughby de Eresby. At Innerpeffray is a library for the use of ministers and students, founded by Lord Madderty, who also endowed it with a small salary for the librarian, who is further supported by the fees of a school which he keeps in part of the building. More than sixty of the poor are regularly supplied with meal, clothing, and fuel by Lady Willoughby, who also pays their rent. In the lands of Innerpeffray are the remains of an old church, now the burial-place of the families of Perth and Strathallan; and near the river are the ruins of the ancient castle of Madderty. The ruins of the castle of Drummond are romantically situated at the base of Torlum Hill, and on an elevated and rocky site; the south wing, the principal portion, is now converted into an armoury. The camps at Ardoch, the most entire in the country, and evidently of Roman origin, are supposed to have been the chief post of that people in this part of Britain. The intrenchments of the main station inclose an area 420 feet in length and 375 in breadth; and three of its principal entrances are still to be distinctly traced. Adjoining this station are three camps of more extensive dimensions, the largest of which, 2800 feet long and 1950 wide, is supposed to have been that where Agricola concentrated his army previously to his decisive battle with Galgacus, which is said to have taken place at Blair-in-roan. Another of these camps, styled the procestrium, and of later construction than the great camp, was of oblong shape, 1060 feet by 900, and capable of containing 4000 men. The remaining camp, to the west of the great one, is likewise of oblong form, measuring 1910 by 1340 feet, and would afford accommodation to 12,000 men; it is very entire, higher in position than the other camps, and, from its prominently marked features, is well worth the examination of the antiquary. The Rev. John Barclay, founder of the sect of the Bereans, was born at Muthill.


MYRESIDE, a hamlet, in the parish of Kettle, district of Cupar, county of Fife, ½ a mile (N. W. by W.) from the village of Kettle; containing 105 inhabitants. It is situated in the north-west part of the parish, and on the west side of a small stream, a tributary to the Eden, which also flows at a short distance from the hamlet.