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Monday, 10 December 2007

Best Scottish Tours of North Berwick

Best Scottish Tours of North Berwick. North Berwick in 1846. North Berwick, a burgh, market-town, and parish, in the county of Haddington, 10 miles (N. by E.) from Haddington, and 23 (N. E. by E.) from Edinburgh; containing 1708 inhabitants, of whom 1028 are in the burgh. This place derives its name from its situation at the mouth of the Frith of Forth; and though its origin is involved in obscurity, the manor appears to have belonged to the earls of Fife, in whose possession it remained till near the close of the fourteenth century, and of whom Duncan, who died in the year 1154, founded a convent here, for sisters of the Cistercian order. This establishment was amply endowed by the founder, and by numerous benefactors, with lands in the counties of Berwick, Roxburgh, Edinburgh, and West Lothian; and continued to flourish till the Reformation, when the site and revenues were conferred on Sir Alexander Home, of North Berwick, by James VI. After the death of Isabel, the last Countess of Fife, the manor passed into the possession of William, Earl of Douglas, who, in 1373, obtained from Robert II. a charter constituting this place a royal burgh, with the privileges of a market and port, with custom-house and other advantages. In 1455, the manor became forfeited to the crown, on the attainder of James, Earl of Douglas, but was restored by James III. to Archibald, Earl of Angus, the heir male of the Douglas family, and erected into a free barony, in his favour. After the grant of the monastery and part of its lands to Sir Alexander Home, by James VI., the barony, on the failure of that family, passed into other hands, and in 1640, by act of parliament, was confirmed to Sir William Dick, from whom it passed to Sir Hew Dalrymple, lord president of the court of session, and ancestor of the present proprietor.

The town is advantageously situated on the south side of the Frith of Forth, near its influx into the sea, and consists principally of two streets; one of these is of considerable length, extending from east to west, and is intersected, near its eastern extremity, by the other, a shorter street, which is continued to the harbour. The houses in the first are irregularly built, and many of them of antique appearance, and those in the other street are of a superior class, and mostly inhabited by the gentry and more opulent families; on both sides of the latter street, are rows of trees, giving it a pleasant and cheerful appearance, and the scenery surrounding the town combines many interesting and picturesque features. A subscription library has been established, which is well supported, and contains a good collection; and a branch of the East Lothian Itinerating Library is also stationed here. The waste or common lands on the west of the town, are much frequented by the members of a golf club, who hold meetings for the celebration of that game, which is also the favourite amusement of the inhabitants. The only manufactory is a foundry for the construction of steam-engines, machines for making tiles for draining, and other articles. The trade of the port consists mainly in the exportation of grain, lime, and agricultural produce, chiefly for the Newcastle and London markets; and the importation of coal, rape, and oil-cake, and crushed bones for manure. There are nine vessels belonging to the port, of the aggregate burthen of 568 tons, of which four are employed in the foreign, and the rest in the coasting trade; the exportation of grain and lime has materially decreased, but that of potatoes very much increased, within the last few years. The harbour is spacious and secure; it is dry at low water, but is commodious, and considerable sums have been expended on its improvement. The fishing is conducted on a limited scale. The market is chiefly for the supply of the town and neighbourhood; fairs are held in June and November, and facility of communication with the adjacent towns is maintained by good roads. The inhabitants obtained their earliest charter in the reign of Robert II., which was confirmed in 1568, by James VI.; and the government of the burgh is vested in two bailies, a treasurer, and nine councillors, elected according to the provisions of the act of the 3rd and 4th of William IV. The magistrates hold no regular courts, but act as justices of the peace within the royalty of the burgh; all criminal jurisdiction is referred to the procurator-fiscal and sheriff of the county, and petty misdemeanours are punished by temporary confinement; a town officer is appointed by the magistrates, who also choose a town-clerk, and a shoremaster. The town-hall is a commodious building, and there is a small prison. Since the Union, the burgh has united with those of Haddington, Dunbar, Lauder, and Jedburgh, in returning a member to the imperial parliament; and by the act of the 2nd and 3rd of William IV., the right of election, previously vested in the corporation and burgesses, was extended to the £10 householders, resident within the parliamentary limits of the burgh. The bailies are the returning officers.

The surface of the parish is greatly varied; a range of rocks of various hues intersects it from east to west, presenting in some parts a barren and rugged aspect, and in others being clothed with wood. About half a mile south of the town is a hill of conical form, called North Berwick Law, crowning the summit of a gently sloping eminence, and rising to an elevation of 940 feet above the sea; it was occupied as a signal station during the war, and the remains of the buildings, which were suffered to fall to decay, have the picturesque effect of an ancient ruin. The hill is wooded near its base, and the other parts of its surface, comprising an area of nearly seventy acres, afford pasturage for sheep; the views from it are extensive, and strikingly diversified. In the mouth of the Frith of Forth, and about a mile and a half from the shore, is the well known rock called the Bass, rising abruptly from the sea, in a circular form, nearly a mile in circumference, to a height of 420 feet; it is of very rugged aspect, extremely precipitous on the north side, and on the south more resembling a cone in form, and accessible only on the south-east, where are two landing-places: about half way up the steep, are the remains of an ancient chapel. The rock is perforated, from the north-west to the south-east, by a cavern, which is dry at full tide; and on the side commanding the landing-place, are the remains of an old fortress, and of the dungeons formerly used for state prisoners, for which purpose it was purchased from Sir Andrew Ramsay, in 1671. Its surface is estimated at seven acres, and it forms an object both of scenic and historical interest; it is supposed to have been the retreat of Baldred, the apostle of East Lothian, in the sixth century; and in 1406, was the temporary asylum of James I., in which he was placed by his father, Robert III., previously to his embarkation for France, to avoid the persecution of his uncle, the Duke of Albany. During the time of Charles II. it was a state prison for the confinement of the covenanting ministers, many of whom died here; but at the Revolution of 1688 it ceased to be used for such a purpose. This rock, which is let on lease to a keeper, affords pasturage for sheep, which are in high estimation; and is frequented in great numbers by Solan geese, which, when young, are taken by a hazardous process, and conveyed to the opposite shore. Opposite to the town, and about a mile from the coast, is the island of Cragleith, a barren rock, about a mile in circumference, abounding with rabbits, and resorted to by sea-fowl, of which the puffin is the most conspicuous. The coast of the parish is boldly rocky, and indented with bays, of which one, of semicircular form, reaches from the west of the harbour to Point Garry; and a still larger, about two miles to the east of the town, and directly opposite to the Bass rock, called Canty Bay, is the residence of the tenant of that rock and his assistants. The shore, to the west, is a flat sand; and towards the east, a line of precipitate rocks, terminating in a lofty eminence, on the summit of which are the picturesque ruins of Tantallan Castle, noticed hereafter.

The soil, though various, is generally fertile, and the system of agriculture in a highly improved state; the whole number of acres is estimated at 3456, of which 3280 are arable, about 170 in pasture and in woods and plantations, and the remainder common. The chief crops are, wheat, barley, oats, peas, beans, potatoes, and turnips; the principal manures are lime and rapecake; furrow-draining has been extensively adopted, and the farm buildings and offices are generally substantial and commodious. About 1000 sheep are annually fed, and from 300 to 400 head of cattle, mostly of the short-horned breed. The rateable annual value of the parish is £12,967. The woods are chiefly ash, elm, oak, beech, and plane. The substrata are mainly trap, sandstone, and limestone; the sandstone, which is usually of a reddish hue, is frequently intersected with strata of limestone. The rocks are principally of the secondary formation; the lower part of North Berwick Law is trap tuffa, above which is a sonorous clinkstone, and near the summit the height assumes the character of amygdaloid; the Bass rock is generally a fine granular greenstone, abounding with felspar, and strongly exhibiting the tabular structure. At North Berwick Law, are extensive quarries of excellent building-stone; and at Rhodes, and on the Balgone estate, limestone is quarried to a considerable extent. North Berwick House is a fine mansion, erected in 1777, in grounds embellished with thriving plantations; Balgone and Rockville are also handsome mansions, finely situated.

The parish appears to have existed from a very remote period of antiquity, and its church was most probably founded by St. Baldred; on the foundation of the nunnery here, the church, with all its possessions, was given by the founder to that establishment. The ecclesiastical affairs of the parish are now under the superintendence of the presbytery of Haddington and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The stipend of the incumbent is £306. 2. 5., and the patronage is exercised by Sir Hew Dalrymple, Bart.; the manse is a substantial and comfortable residence, built in 1825, and pleasantly situated on an eminence, and the glebe is valued at £35 per annum. The church, erected in 1770, on the site of the former edifice, was, in 1819, thoroughly repaired, and the interior renewed; it is adapted for a congregation of 550 persons, and has a spacious cemetery, planted with stately avenues of ancient elms. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Associate Synod: the former was erected with a view to honour the memory of the covenanters imprisoned on the Bass rock, and the expense was defrayed by a special subscription. The parochial school is but indifferently attended; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4½., with a house and garden; the school fees are very inconsiderable. A burgh school until lately existed, endowed by the corporation, by whom the master was appointed, and from whose funds his salary was derived; and on the lands of Tantallan is a subparochial school. There are also, a considerable bequest by Alexander Home, Esq., and a donation of £450, called the Edwin fund, for the benefit of the poor. About a quarter of a mile to the west of the town, are the remains of the Cistercian abbey, beautifully situated on an eminence planted with trees, but so greatly dilapidated as scarcely to convey a faint idea of that once venerable and stately edifice; the vaults, which formed the principal relic, were many years since destroyed. Near the harbour, are the remains of what is supposed to have been the ancient church, consisting chiefly of the entrance doorway, which is still entire; the sea is constantly encroaching upon the cemetery, and laying bare the remains of bodies interred there. Three miles to the east of the town, are the remains of the old Castle of Tantallan, seated on a precipitous eminence projecting into the sea; the outer walls, of hexagonal form, are of massive thickness, and above the entrance is a sculptured stone shield, bearing the device of its ancient proprietors, the Douglases. The interior consists of numerous apartments, inaccessible from the dilapidated state of the various staircases which formerly afforded an approach; and the vaults contain many dark dungeons. The original foundation of this castle is not distinctly ascertained; it was the stronghold of the Douglas family, on their obtaining the barony of East Lothian, at the accession of Robert II., and for centuries the seat of their power. It was always regarded as impregnable, and was frequently assaulted without effect; it was finally besieged, and, after an obstinate defence, taken by the forces under Oliver Cromwell; and, together with the lands, was sold by the Marquess of Douglas to Lord President Dalrymple, by whom it was dismantled, and suffered to fall into decay. About half a mile to the west of the castle, is St. Baldred's well, a spring of excellent water. Fenton Tower, an ancient edifice, of which only the bare walls remain, is situated on a commanding eminence; and nearly adjoining, are the remains of the palace of Sydserf, so called from St. Serf, the instructor of Kentigern, whose retreat was in this place.

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