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Parish of Culross

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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1791-99: Culross (Appendix)
1791-99: Culross
1834-45: Culross

Culross (Gael. ` back or neck of the peninsula,), a small town and a parish in the detached district of Perthshire. A royal and parliamentary burgh, the town stands on the Firth of Forth, 2½ miles SSE of East Grange station, this being 6 miles W by N of Dunfermline, and 7¾ ESE of Alloa. It occupies the face of a brae, amid gardens and fruit-trees, and, as seen from the Firth, has a pleasing and picturesque aspect; but, once a place of importance, it has fallen into great decay. It had a Cistercian abbey which possessed much wealth, and worked large neighbouring coal mines; it conducted so great a trade in salt and coal that sometimes as many as 170 foreign vessels lay off it simultaneously in the Firth, to receive the produce of its salt-pans and its mines; it carried on a great manufacture of the round iron baking-plates called girdles, which, as noticed in Scott's Heart of Midlothian, rendered its hammermen pre-eminently famous; and it acquired, towards the close of the 18th century, extensive works for the extraction of tar, naptha, and volatile salt from coal. It lost, however, all these sources of prosperity, and with them its proper characteristics as a town; and it now is an old-world, sequestered place, whose chief attractions are its beautiful surroundings and various architectural antiquities, of which the 'Palace,' a house near the middle of the village, bearing dates 1597 and 16l1, is one of the most interesting. Its abbey, dedicated to SS. Mary, Andrew, and Serf, was founded in 1217 by Malcolm, Earl of Fife, and, with the lands belonging to it, was granted to Sir James Colville, who, in 1609, was created Lord Colville of Culross. The aisleless choir, First Pointed in style, remains of the abbey church, together with a fine, lofty, and very perfect western tower, originally central, of early Second Pointed character; and the former, as modernised about 1824, serves as the parish church, containing nearly 700 sittings. The rest of the abbey is in ruins. A recess on the N side of the church is the burial-place of the Bruce family, and shows white alabaster effigies of Sir George Bruce (ob. 1625), his lady, and their eight children, and a niche for the silver casket in which was enshrined the heart of Edward, Lord Bruce, who fell in a duel near Bergen-op-Zoom in 1613. Culross Abbey House, in the near vicinity of the church, was built in 1608 by Edward, Lord Bruce of Kinloss; and, bought from the Earl of Dundonald by Sir Robert Preston, by him was nearly demolished, and afterwards rebuilt in 1830, being now a spacious edifice, delightfully situated, commanding an extensive prospect of the basin of the Forth, and having in its policies a noble medlar tree and a Spanish chestnut, 80 feet high, and 191/6 in girth at 1 foot from the ground. It again belongs to the Bruces in the person of the Earl of Elgin, who holds in Perthshire 232 acres, valued at £1871 per annum. (See Broomhall.) The ancient parish church, ½ mile W by N of the abbey, was formally superseded by the abbey church in 1633, and is now represented by some ruins of Norman or First Pointed origin, with several interesting tombstones. At the E end of the town are vestiges of a chapel, built in 1503 by Robert Blackadder, Archbishop of Glasgow, and dedicated to St Mungo or Kentigern, who is commonly stated to have been educated by St Serf at the monastery of Culross, against which Skene maintains that Kentigern died in extreme old age in 603, and that Servanus did not found the church of Culross till between the years 697 and 706 (Celt. Scotland, ii. 31,184,257). Anyhow an Episcopal church, Transition Norman in style, with nave, apse, N organ chamber, and bell-gable, containing a chime of three bells, was dedicated to St Serf in 1876. There are also a Free church and an endowed school, called Geddes' Institution, which, rebuilt by the late Miss Davidson at a cost of £1500, gives education to twenty boys and girls, and possesses one free Edinburgh bursary. A public school, with accommodation for 140 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 103, and a grant of £92, 7s. 6d. To the E of the town are remains of a hospital founded for six aged women in 1637 by the first Earl of Elgin, the recipients of whose charity now live in a modern building erected by Sir Robert Preston. Charities of considerable value were instituted also by Dr Bill, Sir Robert Preston, and Miss Halkerston of Carskerdo. The town has a post office under Alloa, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, 2 inns, a plain town-house, and a fair on the third Tuesday of July. Erected into a burgh of barony in 1484, and into a royal burgh in 1588, it is governed by a provost, 2 bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and 4 councillors; and unites with Stirling, Dunfermline, Inverkeithing, and Queensferry in returning a member to parliament. The parliamentary constituency numbered 59 in 1882, when the annual value of real property amounted to £1647, while the corporation revenue for 1881 was £51. Pop. (1851) 605, (1861) 517, (1871) 467, (1881) 373. Houses (1881) 96 inhabited, 22 vacant. The parish, containing also the villages of Blairburn, Comrie, and Low Valleyfield, is bounded NW by Clackmannan, NE and E by Saline, Carnock, and Torryburn in Fife, S by the Firth of Forth, SW and W by Tulliallan. Its utmost length, from N to S, is 4 miles; its breadth, from E to W, varies between 13/8 and 3¾ miles; and its area is 8949 acres, of which 13111/3 are foreshore and 54 water. The surface rises abruptly from the shore to 250 feet above sea-level behind Low Valleyfield, and undulates thence, in gentle inequalities, throughout most of the parish, attaining 317 feet near Mounteclaret in the N, but nowhere forming anything that deserves to be called a hill. Bluther and Grange Burns are the chief streams. The rocks are mainly carboniferous; but, with the exception of Blairhall, the once extensive collieries are now too much exhausted to afford a profitable return. One pit near Culross Abbey House was carried almost a mile beneath the Firth, communicating there by a sea-shaft with an insulated wharf for the shipping of its coal; and was reckoned one of the greatest wonders in Scotland, but was drowned by the great storm of March 1625. Tradition relates that James VI., revisiting his native country in 1617, and dining at the Abbey House, expressed a desire to see this mine; that he was brought by his host, Sir George Bruce, to the said wharf; and that, on seeing himself surrounded by the waves, he raised his customary cry of 'Treason.' Whereon Sir George, pointing to an elegant pinnace moored at the wharf, offered him the choice of going ashore in it, or of returning by the way he came; and the King, preferring the shortest way, was taken directly ashore, expressing much satisfaction at what he had beheld (Forsyth's Beauties of Scotland, 1805). Ironstone occurs in thin seams between beds of clay slate, in different places, though not plentifully enough to defray the expense of working; and a bed of limestone 18 feet thick is found in one place at an awkward inclination. Fire-clay also occurs, and has been used for pottery. The soil, for the most part argillaceous, is mixed in many places with sand, and rests commonly on masses of sandstone or shale. Natives were Robert Pont (1529-1606), churchman and senator of the College of Justice; Henry Hunter, D. D. (1741-1802), a distinguished divine; and Thomas Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald (1775-1860), author of Autobiography of a Seaman. The principal mansions are Culross Abbey, Culross Park, Valleyfield, Comrie Castle, Blair Castle, Brankston Grange, Balgownie Lodge (old but modernised), and Dunimarle Castle, whose ancient predecessor was the traditional scene of the murder of Lady Macduff and her children. Seven proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 5 of between £100 and £500, and 16 of from £20 to £50. In the presbytery of Dunfermline and synod of Fife, Culross has been a collegiate charge since about 1640, when the town was at the height of its prosperity; the stipend of each minister is on an average £200. Valuation (1871) £9328,4s. 6d., (1882) £6855,11 s. 7d. Pop. (1801) 1502, (1831) 1488, (1861) 1423, (1871) 1354, (1881) 1130.—Ord. Sur., sh. 39,1869. See The -Legends and Commemorative Celebrations of St Kentigern (Edinb. 1872); the Rev. A. W. Hallen's ` Notes on the Secular and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Culross,' in vol. xii. of Procs. Soc. Ants. Scotl. (1878); and D. Beveridge's Culross and Tulliallan (Edinb. 1882).

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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