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Old County of Kinross-shire

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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1834-45: Kinross

Kinross-shire, a small inland county, bounded W and N by Perthshire, E and S by Fife. Its utmost length, from N to S, is 9¾ miles; its breadth varies between 2¼ and 12¼ miles; and its area is 49,812¼ acres, of which 3327¼ are water. Loch Leven (35/8 x 2½ miles) lies in the SE of the county at an altitude of 353 feet, and receives the North and the South Queich, with a number of lesser burns; but the drainage is partly carried eastward to the Eden, partly northward to the Farg and the Water of May. From Loch Leven the surface rises eastward to White Craigs (1492 feet), southward to Benarty (1167) and Dumglow (1241), westward to White Hill (734), and north-westward to Cloon (1134), Melloch Hill (1573), Warroch Hill (1133), Slungie Hill (1354), Docbrie Hill (1194), and Tilliery Hill (1087). Thus a cordon of hills forms the greater part of the county's boundary, and projects more or less within its borders-the Ochils on the W and NW, the Lomond Hills on the E, and Benarty and the Cleish Hills on the S. Several depressions, variously defile, glen, and valley, cut the engirdling hills into sections-a wide one on the W, leading to Dollar and Stirling; another wide one on the NE, leading to Strathmiglo and Auchtermuchty; a narrow one on the SE, traversed by the river Leven; and a considerable one on the S, leading towards Inverkeithing and Edinburgh. The central districts are occupied by Loch Leven and the Laigh or Level of Kinross; the districts between these and the hills are a diversity of slopes and braes; and the aspect of the entire county, though destitute of any of the first-class features of landscape, presents to the eye a profusion of charms both natural and artificial.

Geology.—The oldest rocks in the county are of Lower Old Red Sandstone age, and are merely a continuation of the volcanic series so well developed in Perthshire and Fife. The members of this series are arranged in the form of a low anticlinal fold, the axis of which runs in an ENE and WSW direction. The boundary between the NW part of this county and Perthshire coincides with this axis, and hence the volcanic series in Kinross is gently inclined to the SSE. The members of this series consist of lavas and volcanic breccias which form the hilly portion of the county to the W and N. The lavas have usually a purple tint, and vary in texture from close grained to highly porphyritic rocks. One bed, which is highly porphyritic, occupies a considerable area owing to the gentle inclination of the strata. It occurs in patches which have been isolated from the main out crop by means of denudation, and which have been left as outliers capping several hill-tops, of which the most conspicuous example is on Dochrie Hill. The volcanic breccias or agglomerates are extremely coarse, and constitute a large portion of this formation. The lowest members of the volcanic series in Kinross, which are well displayed in the river Devon at ` the Crook,' are composed of this material, and through these beds the famous gorge at Rumbling Bridge has been excavated. Many of the bombs in this agglomerate are of enormous size, and consist of the same material as the lavas. In the NE of the county, layers of sandstone are intercalated with the lavas and ashes in some of the tributaries of the North Queich, while still further to the NE the breccias assume a conglomeratic character as if they had been assorted by water. The facts clearly point to the gradyal attenuation of the volcanic series towards the NE, and to the increasing accumulation of ordinary sediment in that direction.

Reference has already been made to the great changes which intervened between the Lower and Upper Old Red Sandstone periods (see art. Geol. of Fife, vol. II. Ord. Gaz., p. 19), of which additional evidence may be obtained within the county. The strata of Upper Old Red age, consisting of friable red sandstones, marls, and conglomerates, rest unconformably on the Lower Old Red volcanic series, and dip away from the volcanic platform at gentle angles. The plain of Kinross coincides in the main with the area occupied by the younger formation, and along the S margin of this plain the strata pass conformably below the cementstone series. The hills to the S and E of the county are due to intrusive sheets of basalt which now cap those eminences, and which were injected among the softer strata in late Carboniferous times. The steep slopes of the Cleish Hills, Benarty, Bishop Hill, and West Lomond have been caused by the rapid denudation of the friable sandstones and marls at the base of the hills, while the cappings of basalt have shielded the lowest members of the Carboniferous Limestone series overlying them. Specimens of Holoptychius nobilissimus have been obtained from the Upper Old Red beds in this county, and scales of fishes are to be found in many of the stone dykes in the neighbourhood of the town of Kinross. On the flanks of the Bishop Hill these red beds are succeeded by friable yellow sandstones which form the W prolongation of the beds at Dura Den.

The Carboniferous strata represented in the county belong to the two lowest divisions of that formation, viz.: (1.) the Calciferous Sandstone; (2.) the Carboniferous Limestone. There are two types of the calciferous sandstones or cementstones, one of which is composed of friable yellow sandstones bearing a close resemblance to the beds at Dura Den. The other variety comprising blue and rusty yellow clays with thin bands and nodules of cementstone is met with in the extreme SW of the county on the slopes overlooking the Pow Burn. Near the top of the group, thin beds of tuff are intercalated with the cementstones which are overlaid by the lowest or ' Hurlet ' limestone of the Carboniferous Limestone series. It is evident that in this neighbourhood we have the eastward prolongation of the beds forming the Campsie Fells, which are abruptly truncated by the fault at Causewayhead near Stirling. There is only a small development of the carboniferous limestone within the county which is met with in the E and S districts. The limestone which is worked on the Lomond and Bishop Hills is on the horizon of the Hurlet limestone of Stirlingshire.

The volcanic series of the Ochils is intersected by dykes of basalt running in an E and W direction, which are well seen in the neighbourhood of Damhead in the NE part of Kinross-shire.

The direction of the ice-flow on the hills overlooking the plain of Kinross is SE, but over the low ground the trend veers round to the E. The evidence supplied by the striated surfaces and the boulder clay points to the conclusion that the Ochils must have been overtopped by the ice which radiated from the Perthshire Highlands. The greater part of the low lying and fertile districts is covered with an extensive development of morainic gravel, which was probably accumulated during the retirement of the ice sheet. This deposit streams from the various passes in the Ochils, and spreads out in a fanshaped form over the plain of Kinross. Loch Leven fills a depression in these gravels and the underlying boulder clay, and the various islets are merely kames or ridges of gravel peering above the water. The Devon, North and South Queich, and Gairney Waters carry a large quantity of detritus from the hills down to the plain which forms wide alluvial flats. By this means several small lochs have been entirely silted up, and Loch Leven itself is being slowly reduced in size from the same cause.

The soil, occasionally clay, more often a fine blackish loam, and oftener still of a moorish character, on the whole, however, is light or sandy, with small intermixture of clayey loam. The climate, owing to the general elevation of the land, and to the peculiar influence of the encircling hills, is cold and wet; but it has been materially improved by recent draining operations; and is not considered unhealthy. During 1842-82, the maximum yearly rainfall was 50.7 inches in 1876, the minimum 22.8 in 1870, and the average 36.3.

Modern agricultural improvement was of later commencement and slower progress in Kinross-shire than in most other districts of Scotland; and it had here to operate on an unusually large proportion of waste lands, and to encounter the resistance of antique usages retained from feudal times; but it eventually made such rapid progress as soon to bring the county nearly or quite into a condition of equality with the best parts of Fife, or even of great part of the Lothians. In the whole of Scotland the percentage of cultivated area is only 24.2; in Kinross-shire it rises as high as 62.8-a figure exceeded only by Fife, Linlithgow, Berwick, and Haddington shires. Out of 293 holdings, there are 136 of 50 acres and under, 32 of from 50 to 100 acres, 102 of from 100 to 300, 21 of from 300 to 500, and 2 of from 500 to 1000. Farms are generally let on leases of from 14 to 21 years. The following table gives the acreage of the crops and the number of live stock in Kinrossshire in different years:—

  1867. 1876. 1882.
Corn Crops, . . 8889 7630 7133
Green Crops, . . 4711 4021 3609
Sown Grasses,. . 10,327 11,208 10,152
Permanent Pasture, 6899 8518 10,657
Cattle, . . . 5003 6133 5633
Sheep, . . . 35,743 23,155 26,694
Horses, . . . .. 1011 1042
Swine, . . . 759 597 722

The manufactures, except in the ordinary departments of handicrafts, are all situated in Kinross and Milnathort, and will be found noticed in our articles on these towns. The only railways are the three which converge at Kinross; but these afford a fair proportion of railway communication within the county, and gave ready access to every part of the kingdom. All the roads are good; and that northward through Kinross is one of the best in Scotland. The only towns are Kinross and Milnathort, and villages are Maryburgh, Kinneswood, Scotlandwell, Middleton, Crook of Devon, Duncrevie, and parts of Damhead and Kelty. Mansions are Blairadam House, Tulliebole Castle, Hattonburn, Kinross House, Cleish Castle, Arnot Tower, Moreland, Thomanean, Warroch, Kinneston, Shanwell, Easter and Wester Balado, Kilduff, etc.; and, according to Miscellaneous Statistics of the United Kingdom (1879), 44,888 acres, valued at £64, 472 per annum, were divided among 727 proprietors, two together holding 5205 acres (£6215), six 8757 (£8978), fourteen 9030 (£8858), seventy-seven 19,348 (£23, 919), fourteen 1042 (£4799), etc.

The county is governed by a lord lieutenant, a vice-lieutenant, 6 deputy-lieutenants, a sheriff, a sheriff-substitute, and 71 commissioners of supply and justices of peace. The sheriff-court sits at Kinross on every Tuesday during session; the sheriff small-debt court is held there on every Tuesday during session, and once a fortnight or oftener during vacation; and quarter sessions are held there on the first Tuesday of March, May, and August, and on the last Tuesday of October. The police force, in 1882, comprised 5 men; and the salary of the chief constable was £112. The persons tried at the instance of the police, in 1881, were 45; those convicted, 43; those committed for further trial, 7. The yearly average of committals for crime, in 1846-50, was 9; in 1851-55, 11; in 1856-60, 8; in 1861-65, 5; in 1865-69, 5; in 187276, 7; in 1877-81, 6. Kinross-shire unites with Clackmannanshire in sending a member to parliament; and its constituency numbered 649 in 1883. The annual value of real property was £25, 805 in 1v815, £46,725 in 1855, £67, l01 in 1876, £70,118 in 1880, and £68,250 in 1883. Pop. (1801) 6725, (1821) 7762, (1831) 9072, (1841) 8763, (1851) 8924, (1861) 7977, (1871) 7198, (1881) 6697, of whom 3585 were females, and 3360 were rural. Houses (1881) 1705 inhabited, 198 vacant, 8 building.

The registration county takes in part of Fossoway parish from Perthshire; gives off part of Forgandenny to Perthshire, and part of Arngask to Fife; and comprises the five entire parishes of Cleish, Fossoway, Kinross, Orell, and Portmoak, which in l881 had a population of 7330. The number of registered poor, in the year ending 14 May 1881, was 113; of dependants on these, 60; of casual poor, 1097; of dependants on these, 72. The receipts for the poor in that year were £1732, 3s. 8d.; and the expenditure was £1635, 0s. 2½d. The number of pauper lunatics was 27, their cost of maintenance being £533, 3s. 10d. The percentage of illegitimate births was 7.4 in 1871, 13.7 in 1872, 7.7 in 1877, 11.2 in 1878, 7.6 in 1879, and 10.5 in 1881.

The civil county is divided, for both civil and ecclesiastical purposes, into the four entire parishes of Cleish, Kinross, Orwell, and Portmoak, and parts of Arngask, Forgandenny, and Fossoway. Excepting the part of Forgandenny, which is in the presbytery of Perth and synod of Perth and Stirling, it lies wholly within the presbytery of Kinross and synod of Fife. Places of worship within it are 6 of the Church of Scotland, 5 of the Free Church, 4 of the United Presbyterians, and 1 of Episcopalians. In the year ending Sept. 1882 there were 8 schools (7 of them public), which, with accommodation for 1324 children, had 1000 on the rolls, and an average attendance of 785. Their staff consisted of 13 certificated, 2 assistant, and 5 pupil teachers.

The county is of very ancient date. In Nisbet's Heraldry the name of John Kinross is mentioned as sheriff thereof in 1252. In the Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum there are many charters of David II. and Robert II. (from 1366 to 1407) in which grants of lands are described as lying ` infra vicecomitatum de Kynros,-among others being ` Castrum nostrum lacus de Levyn cum pertinentibvus ' (Rob. II. 1371). That Kinross-shire became a separate county in 1426 is a pure historic fallacy, traceable probably to the fact that in that year Kinross and Clackmannan were ordered or appointed to send each a representative to the Scottish parliament. It comprised originally the three parishes of Kinross, Orwell, and Portmoak; but in 1685, in order, as the Act says, to enlarge the boundaries of the small sheriffdom then presided over by Sir William Bruce, an act of parliament was obtained by which the parishes of Cleish and Tullibole, along with portions of Arngask and Orwell, which had formerly been within the county of Perth, were added to the original sheriffdom, and have ever since formed the county proper, although the boundaries of the county for parliamentary voting purposes are considerably larger, comprehending the parishes of Fossoway, Muckart, and part of Forgandenny. Its history, excepting so much of the incidents in the life of Queen Mary as will be noticed in our article Loch Leven, possesses no point of special interest. Its chief antiquities are noticed under Cleish, Burleigh, Portmoak, and Loch Leven.—Ord. Sur., sh. 40, 1867.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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