Roslin (Brit. ross, 'a point,' and lynn, 'a waterfall,' the name often and perhaps more correctly spelled Rosslyn), a quoad sacra parish containing a village, chapel, and castle of the same name, in the civil parish of Lasswade, in the county of Edinburgh. The village, which stands on high ground near the NW bank of the river North Esk, has in its neighbourhood three railway stations on different sections of the North British railway system, and each of them distant about 10 miles from Edinburgh. The nearest, Roslin, on the Edinburgh and Glencorse branch, is close to the village. Rosslyn Castle, on the Edinburgh and Penicuik branch, is distant about 1¼ mile, and Rosslynlee, on the Edinburgh and Peebles line, about 1¾ mile. By road the village is about 6½ miles S of Edinburgh; and from Polton station, 7 miles SSE of Edinburgh, a public footpath winds through the beautifully wooded glen * of the North Esk to the village, the distance being about 2½ miles. About 1440, under the fostering protection of William St Clair, Prince of Orkney, Duke of Oldenburg, and having a string of other titles that it would weary even a Spaniard to repeat, the place is said to have stood third in Scotland for importance. In 1456 it received from James II. a charter, erecting it into a burgh of barony, with right to a market cross, a weekly market, and an annual fair, and in 1622 its rights were confirmed by James VI., and again by King Charles I. It afterwards declined and became merely a small rural village, a condition from which the attractions of the chapel, the beauty of the surrounding district, and the establishment of industries in the neighbourhood have again raised it. It has a post office under Edinburgh, two hotels, a police station, a quoad sacra parish church, a Free church, and a public school, and Episcopal services are held in the old chapel. In the neighbourhood are a gunpowder manufactory, where an explosion, causing loss of life, occurred in 1872; a bleachfield, and paper-mills. The parochial church was built in 1827 as a chapel of ease, and has 444 sittings. The Free church, to the S of the village, was built in 1880-81 at a cost of £1600, and contains over 500 sittings. One of the inns dates from 1660, and is that where Dr Johnson and Boswell 'dined and drank tea' on their way to Penicuik House. The bridge over the North Esk, to the SW of the village, with malleable iron lattice girders in two spans each 64 feet wide, was constructed in 1871. To the WSW of the chapel is an old burying-ground, and near it a well, called St Matthew's Well. There seems to have been in this churchyard a chapel dedicated to St Matthew, and of older date than the present chapel. The old water supply having been found contaminated, a water and drainage district was formed in 1883. and a new supply got from the Moorfoot pipe of the Edinburgh Water Trust near Rosslynlee station. The total cost of operations was about £1600, and the maximum supply is 20,000 gallons per day. Roslin gives name to one of the battles of the Scottish War of Independence, in which, 24 Feb. 1303, an English army under Sir Ralph de Manton encamped on the moor of Roslin, to the N, in three divisions, was surprised and defeated by a Scottish force mustered in the uplands of Peebles and Lanark. Fordun tells how John Comyn and Simon Fraser 'with their abettors came briskly through from Biggar to Roslyn in one night with some chosen men, who chose rather death before unworthy subjection to the English nation, 'and defeated the first line, but that while they were dividing the spoil, 'another line straightway appeared in battle array; so the Scots, on seeing it, slaughtered their prisoners and armed their own vassals with the spoils of the slain; then putting away their jaded horses, and taking stronger ones, they fearlessly hastened to the fray,' and overcame the new force. Hardly, however, had this been done when 'there appeared a third, mightier than the former, and more choice in their harness. The Scots were thunderstruck at the sight of them; and being both fagged out in manifold ways-by the fatigues of travelling, watching, and want of food-and also sore distressed by the endless toil of fighting, began to be weary and to quail in spirit,' but plucking up courage, and cheered by the patriotic words of their leaders, they killed their fresh prisoners, and 'by the power not of man but of God subdued their foes, and gained a happy and gladsome victory.' How far the great slaughter of prisoners is true may be doubted, but the English chroniclers admit the battle, and that a disaster befel the English arms. Pop. of village (1861) 467, (1871) 511, (1881) 611, of whom 307 were males. Houses (1881) 121. The quoad sacra parish, comprising the district round the village, and originally constituted in 1835, is in the presbytery of Dalkeith and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. Pop. (1871) 1571, (1881) 1476.
* The scenery in the den is very pretty. 'I never,' says Dorothy Wordsworth, 'passed through a more delicious dell than the Glen of Roslin, though the water of the stream is dingy and muddy.'
The place gives the title of Earl of Rosslyn (1801) in the peerage of the United Kingdom to the family of St ClairErskine, and the present and fourth Earl succeeded in 1866. He has his seat at Dysart House, in Fife; and he holds in Midlothian only 99 acres, of £737 annual value. William de St Clair, son of Waldernus, Count de St Clair, came to England with William the Conqueror, and either he or one of his descendants is said to have settled here as early as 1100, but though this is doubtful, certainly a William de St Clair possessed the barony of Rosslyn in the time of David I., and his descendants added Cousland, Pentland, Cardaine, and other lands to their original domains, and in the 13th century stood at the head of the baronage of Midlothian. By the marriage of the eighth baron from King David's time, with Isabel, one of the daughters and co-heiresses of Malise, Earl of Stratherne, Caithness, and Orkney, his son Henry became Earl of Orkney, and in 1379 obtained a recognition of his title from Hakon VI., King of Norway. The connection of the family with the Orkney Islands has been noticed in the article dealing with them. The third Earl of Orkney, as has been there noticed, was created Earl of Caithness in 1455, and resigned the title of Orkney in 1470. He had three sons, of whom William, the eldest, by his first wife -Lady Margaret Douglas, eldest daughter of Archibald, fourth Earl of Douglas-inherited the title of Baron Sinclair, and was, through an heiress who in 1659 married John Sinclair of Herdmanston, in Haddingtonshire, the ancestor of the St Clairs, Lords Sinclair of Herdmanston. In favour of the second son-the eldest by a second marriage, in 1476, with Marjory, daughter of Alexander Sutherland of Dunbeath-his father resigned the title of Earl of Caithness; and the third, Oliver, continued the line of the St Clairs of Roslin. Sir Oliver's right was disputed by the eldest son, Sir William, who, however, resigned all claim to Roslin in 1482, on receiving Cousland, Ravenscraig Castle, Dubbo, Carberry, and Wilston. The last heir male of the Roslin branch died in 1778, but he had previously, in 1736, sold the estate to the Hon. James St Clair-better known as General St Clair-second son of Lord St Clair of Herdmanston. The General was succeeded by his nephew, Colonel James Paterson, on whose death without issue, in 1789, the property devolved on Sir James Erskine, Bart., second Earl of Rosslyn, grandson of the Hon. Catherine St Clair, General St Clair's second eldest sister, who married Sir John Erskine Bart. of Alva. The present title was granted in 1801 to Alexander Wedderburn, Baron Loughborough of Loughborough (1795), Lord Chancellor from 1793 to 1801; and on his death in 1805, without issue, the titles passed to his nephew, Sir James St Clair-Erskine, who represented a collateral branch of the old family, and founded the present line. The third Earl of Orkney had conferred on him by King James II., in 1455, the office of Grand Master Mason of Scotland, which remained hereditary in the family till the appointment was surrendered to the craft by the last heir male of line in 1736. Of the Sir William who lived in Bruce's time, a legend is told that he added Pentland to his lands by the fleetness of two hounds. A white deer had often on the Pentland Hills baulked the royal hounds, and on the king's asking one day whether any of his nobles had swifter dogs than his own, Sir William St Clair offered to wager his head that his two dogs, Help and Hold, would kill the deer before it could cross a certain burn. Bruce promised at once to give the forest of Pentland to the knight if he kept his promise. The deer was killed exactly at the burn, and so Sir William acquired the lands of Logan House, Kirkton, and Carncraig, and as, at a critical moment in the chase, he had invoked the aid of St Katherine, he erected the chapel of St Katherine in the Hopes on the Pentland Hills, now buried beneath the waters of the Compensation Pond. In connection with the event the rhyme addressed by Douglas to his dogs has been preserved:-
'Help! Hold! gin ye may.
Or Rosslyn tynes his head this day.
The seat here was the Castle of Roslin, which occupies an almost isolated rock to the SSE of the village, and in a most romantic position, overhanging a beautiful reach of the glen. The site is completely cut off from the bank behind by a deep transverse gully, across which a narrow single arch bridge affords the only access to the castle. The situation, though pleasant, seems but ill chosen for a place of strengh, for it is commanded by heights which press closely upon it, and look almost right down the was built is not known. An early castle seems upon tops of its chimneys. At what time the original castle to have been on a different site, near the present chapel; but probably the oldest part of the present building, a peel tower to the SE of the entrance, was erected by the Sir William St Clair who was one of the band of knights who set out with Bruce's heart to Palestine, and who fell fighting against the Moors in 1330. The great SW or donjon tower was added about 60 years later by Henry, the second Earl of Orkney, and large additions, showing French features, were made by his successor, the third Earl, who kept his semi-regal court here, and was, according to Father Hay, 'royally served at his own table, in vessels of gold and silver; Lord Dirleton being his master-household, Lord Borthwick his cupbearer, and Lord Fleming his carver. He had his halls and other apartments richly adorned with embroidered hangings. His princess, Elizabeth Douglas, was served by 75 gentlewomen, whereof 53 were daughters of noblemen, all clothed in velvet and silks, with their chains of gold and other ornaments, and was attended by 200 riding gentlemen in all journies, and if it happened to be dark when she went to Edinburgh, where her lodgings were at the foot of Black Fryar's Wynd, 80 lighted torches were carried before her.' For such magnificence, a magnificent dwelling must have been needed, but as the Father did not write till nearly 250 years after these events, he may have drawn somewhat on his imagination. Indeed, with all her grandeur, the princess does not seem to have been at all particular on some points, for we find that she kept dogs, of which she was very fond, in her bedroom, and even allowed them to whelp there, a circumstance that indirectly led to the destruction by fire of the greater part of the castle about 1452. It must have been repaired again very rapidly, for in 1455 we find it selected as the prison of Sir William Hamilton, who had been concerned in the Douglas rebellion. In 1544 it was almost totally destroyed by the English, during Hertford's invasion, and after being partially restored after 1580, was again injured in 1650 by General Monk, who plundered it after battering down the NW side. It was restored about 1682, but was again damaged by a mob in 1688; and Cardonell's picture a century later, and Grose's in 1790, show it utterly dilapidated-a mere rueful apology for the once grand fabric, whose name of Roslin Castle is so intimately associated with ballad and song. The more modern portion to the SE is still inhabited. Over the fire-place of the great hall are the arms of Sir William Sinclair, who carried out the restorations at the end of the 16th century, and those of his wife, while his son's initials and the date 1622 are on the lintel of the door leading to the great staircase. The ceiling of the dining-room is also richly ornamented, and has the Rosslyn arms in the centre and the date 1622. The oldest portion of the old building is the triple tier of vaulted chambers on the NW, partly cut out of the rock. Some of them have been dungeons, others sleeping rooms for retainers, and one has evidently been the kitchen. Below is a garden, now noted for the excellence of its strawberries. In the 16th, and the beginning of the 17th, century, Roslin was a favourite haunt of the Gypsies, whose introduction into the neighbourhood is attributed to Sir William St Clair, Lord Justice General, who in 1559, 'returning from Edinburgh to Roslin, delivered once an Egyptian from the gibbet on the burghmuir; upon which account the whole body of Gypsies were of old accustomed to gather in the stanks * of Roslin every year, where they acted several plays during the months of May and June. There are two towers which were allowed them for their residence, the one called Robin Hood, the other Little John.' A body of them seem subsequently to have settled down in the neighbourhood, for in 1628 the privy council ordered the Gypsies to be expelled from Roslin, 'where they have a peaceable abode, as if they were lawful subjects.,
* Stank generally means a pool or a ditch. but in this and other places the meaning must be flat, perhaps even marshy, ground near a stream.
Roslin Chapel stands to the SE of the village, on the brow of the high ground overlooking the glen of the North Esk. The eminence which it occupies is called College Hill. The name chapel which is popularly given to it is incorrect, for the building is simply all that was ever constructed-the chancel and Lady chapel-of what was intended to be the collegiate church of Rosslyn, erected on a cruciform plan after the usual manner of such buildings. Although the foundations of the whole seem to have been laid-those of the nave being dug up about the beginning of the present century-yet the portion actually built never got beyond the chancel and the eastern walls of the transepts. This part is 69 feet 8 inches long, 35 feet broad, and 41 feet 9 inches high to the top of the arched roof. The central aisle with clerestory is 15 feet wide, and on either side of it are aisles of five bays. At the E end is the Lady chapel, much lower in height than the rest of the building- the arched roof being only 15 feet from the pavement- and separated from it by a double row of three pillars. The floor is one step higher than in the other parts of the building, and the four altars seem to have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary, St Matthew, St Andrew, and St Peter. Reached by a flight of stairs in the SE corner, and stretching away to the E, is what is known as the crypt, and which 'has been a subject of sad puzzling to antiquarian brains. Was it a chapel, as generally asserted ? Under the eastern window there was the stone altar; there is the piscina and the aumbry for the sacramental plate-but what else ? A fire-place (which has its chimney), a goodly array of closets, a doorway, once communicating with the outside, and a second door, leading to an inner room or rooms. Its domestic appurtenances clearly show it to have been the house of the priestly custodier of the chapel, and the ecclesiastical types first named were for his private meditations; and thus the puzzle ceases, 'so at least says Dr Hill Burton, though there are certain difficulties in the way still, as the crypt is contemporaneous with the design for a complete church. Though used as a sacristy afterwards, it seems more probable that it was originally a chapel with a small vestry on the NE and an entrance apartment on the SE. It is 15 feet high, 14 wide, and 36 long, and has a barrel roof. It is partly subterranean,
but owing to the slope of the ground on which the chapel stands, the E end is above the surface, and has a window. The whole building is remarkable for the peculiarities of its style, and - except the crypt, which is plain - for the richness of its ornament. It is often, from the unique nature of the design, considered to have been built by foreign masons, but it has been pointed out by Dr Daniel Wilson that ` many of the most remarkable features of Roslin Chapel are derived from the prevailing models of the period [when it was erected], though carried to an exuberant excess. The circular doorway and segmental porch, the dark vaulted roof, and much of the window tracery are all common to the style. Even the singular arrangement of its retro-choir, with a clustered pillar terminating the vista of the central aisle, is nearly a repetition of that of the Cathedral of St Mungo at Glasgow. Various portions of other edifices will also be found to furnish examples of arrangement and details corresponding with those of Roslin, as in the doorway of the south porch and other features of St Michael's, Linlithgow, and also in some parts of the beautiful ruined church of St Bridget, Douglas. It is altogether a mistake to regard the singularly interesting church at Roslin, which even the critic enjoys while he condemns, as an exotic produced by foreign skill. Its counterparts will be more easily found in Scotland than in any other part of Europe.' Both in tracery and arches, forms abandoned more than 100 years before re-appear, and where contemporary forms are found, the architect seems to have preferred the baronial to the ordinary ecclesiastical style. `Its squat stumpy outline,'says Dr Hill Burton,` is a great contrast to the slender gracefulness of its rival at Melrose. All the beauties of Rosslyn are superinduced on the design in the shape of mouldings and incrustations, and there is little to gratify the eye in its purely structural feature, unless it be the effect of aerial loftiness imparted to the central vaulting - a character to which its rich clusters of starry incrustations so well adapt themselves.' Another contrast to Melrose is the character of the workmanship, which has here no reference to the unseen, all fine works being in conspicuous positions, and the ornament stopping whenever it turns into an out-of-the-way corner. Dorothy Wordsworth had, for a wonder, no fault to find with Roslin, and even thought the architecture `exquisitely beautiful,' while her brother has recorded his feelings in the sonnet, Composed in Roslin Chapel. On each side there are five aisle and clerestory windows, with seven buttresses, surmounted by crocketed pinnacles, and having niches for statues, but whether these were ever filled is doubtful - probably not, in spite of the many images shown in the views of Slezer and Father Hay. From the buttresses graceful and richly carved flying arches pass up to the clerestory wall, and there is a door on each side near the W end. In the interior the centre aisle is cut off from the side aisles by fourteen clustered pillars disposed in two rows, and though only 8 feet high, exquisitely rich in workmanship, and with capitals adorned with foliage and curiously wrought figures, among which may be mentioned thirteen figures of angels playing various musical instruments, including the bagpipes (!), Samson slaying the lion, the prodigal son feeding swine, and the crucifixion. The carvings on many of the brackets are also highly interesting. Notwithstanding the number of figure sculptures, they are far surpassed by the many representations of plants, including the harts-tongue fern, the curly-kail, oak leaves, etc., and almost the only ornament which is repeated more than once is the rose, probably with some idea of connection with the name of the place. The vaulted roof of the centre aisle is divided into five compartments, each with different flowers sculptured on them in check fashion. From the pillars flat arches to use a very absurd expression - pass to the side walls, and these the guide, and even more weighty authorities, delight to point out as marvels of strength from their ability to support the weight of the roof above. The truth is, however, that there is a low-crowned arch over each, and that all the level part has to support is its own weight. All these are richly carved, one of the designs being a fox carrying off a goose, which a pursuing farmer endeavours to rescue; another, Samson pulling down the house of the Philistines; another, the Dance of Death, with figures of a king, a courtier, a cardinal, a bishop, a lady looking into a mirror, an abbess, an abbot, a farmer, a husband and wife, a child, a sportsman, a gardener, a carpenter, and a ploughman; another, a bishop in full pontificals; another, the seven deadly sins, represented by the proud pharisee, the drunkard, the careless shepherd, the rich fool, the miser, and the sinful lovers, while the devil in the dragon's mouth stretches out his claws for his prey; another, the cardinal virtues - clothing the naked, leading the blind, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the fatherless, visiting the prisoner, and burying the dead; another, the inscription in Lombardic letters, `Forte est vinum, fortior est rex, fortiores sunt mulieres; super omnia vincet veritas,' a quotation from Esdras. Letters on the N clerestory wall give the initial letters of ` William Lord Sinclair, fundit yis College ye zeir of God mccccl.' The decoration of the Lady chapel is very rich; the roof is groined, and from the keystones of the arches prominent and beautifully carved bosses project. In the SE corner is the finely sculptured Prentice Pillar. The ornaments upon the capital are Abraham offering up Isaac and a figure playing a bagpipe. From the top four spirals of flowers and foliage wind down the clustered shaft, while on the base are a number of dragons twisted together and cut in very high relief. The story whence the pillar takes its name is the well-known myth of the apprentice who proved a better workman than his master. The latter being unable to execute the design of this pillar from the plans furnished to him, had to go to Rome to examine a similar one there, and on his return found that his apprentice had, in his absence, overcome all difficulties and finished the work. Instead of being delighted at having trained such a workman, he was so overcome by jealousy, that he immediately killed the apprentice with a blow of his hammer, and thereafter paid the penalty of his own misdeed. Three heads, supposed to represent those of the apprentice, his weeping mother, and his wicked master, were long pointed out in the SW part of the chapel; and, to emphasise matters, the wound in the head of the first was marked with red paint. In connection with the story, and perhaps even its recent origin, it is noteworthy that Slezer, writing about 1693, calls it the Prince's pillar, as if named in honour of the founder of the chapel; and Defoe, writing in 1723, terms it the Princess's pillar. The western wall of the chapel is disfigured by a recently erected baptistry and organ gallery, such a method of dealing with an old building being in very bad taste. Some of the windows are filled with stained glass.
The burial-place of the St Clair family is in a vault underneath the chapel, the entrance being under a large flagstone between the N wall and the third and fourth pillars. Here ten barons of the line were buried in full armour, that being always the mode of interment prior to 1650, when the Sir William St Clair of the time was, on his death, buried in a coffin `against the sentiments of the Duke of York,' afterwards James VII., `who was then in Scotland, and several other persons well versed in antiquity, to whom,' however, his wife, `Jean Spottiswoode, grandniece of Archbishop Spottiswoode, would not hearken, thinking it beggarly to be buried in that manner. ' The vastness of the sum of money which she threw away upon the obsequies of her husband was the cause of the sumptuary act for ` restraining the exorbitant expenses of marriages, baptisms, and burials ' which was passed by the following parliament in 1681. The burial of the barons in full armour, and the belief that on the night before the death of any of them the chapel has the appearance of being in flames, have been finely used by Sir Walter Scott in his ballad of Rosabelle; and, in Billings' Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland, Dr Hill Burton gives a graphic account of such a phenomenon as once seen here by himself. A monument of early date is said to be that of the founder, or, according to others, that of the Sir William who was contemporary with Bruce, and whose hunting exploit has been already noticed. If the latter be the case, it must have been brought here from some older burying-ground, but it is more probable that it is the memorial of the Earl of Caithness who was killed at Flodden. Another monument is in memory of George, Earl of Caithness, who died in 1582. The church was founded in 1450 * by Sir William St Clair, the seventh of his name, baron of Roslin and Earl or Prince of Orkney. It was dedicated to St Matthew, and founded for a provost, six prebendaries, and two choristers. `His adge creeping on him,' says Father Hay, ` to the end that he might not seem altogether unthankfull to God for the benefices he receaved from him, it came in his mind to build a house for God's service, of most curious worke; the which that it might be done with greater glory and splendor, he caused artificers to be brought from other regions and forraigne kingdomes, and caused dayly to be abundance of all kinde of workemen present: as masons, carpenters, smiths, barrowmen, and quarriers, with others. The foundation of this rare worke he caused to be laid in the year of our Lord 1446; and to the end the worke might be the more rare: first he caused the draughts to be drawn upon Eastland boords, and made the carpenters to carve them according to the draughts thereon, and then gave them for patterns to the masons that they might thereby cut the like in stone.' There is a tradition that he procured the designs from Rome, but this, as has been already indicated, does not seem to be the case, and he was probably himself the source of the whole design, while the pains he took to procure good workmen - giving to each mason ten pounds a year, to each master-mason twenty pounds, to both an extent of land proportionate to the ability they displayed, and to other artificers a commensurate extent of compensation and encouragement - attracted to the place all the best workmen in Scotland as well as from parts of the Continent. If he was mainly his own architect, the preference for baronial types is explained by the experience acquired in connection with the castle, and his architectural taste is said to have been the cause of his advancement by James II. to the dignity of Grand Master Mason. He held also other high offices, having been in 1436 Admiral of the Fleet in which capacity he conveyed the Princess Margaret to France - and from 1454 to 1458 chancellor of the king. dom. The crypt was founded by the earl's first wife, the daughter of the Earl of Douglas. Earl William endowed the new church with a considerable amount of land and various revenues, and spent large sums on the building, but in spite of his great efforts and vast expenditure, even the small portion now remaining seems to have been left unfinished, and to have been carried on and completed by the founder's third son, Sir Oliver St Clair. Many of the succeeding barons made additions to the endowment, and in a grant by Sir William St Clair, in 1523, of some lands in the vicinity for dwelling-houses, gardens, and other accommodation for the provost and prebendaries, mention is made of the four altars already noticed. At the Reformation the lands and revenues belonging to the church were virtually taken away, and, in 1572, they were relinquished by a formal deed of resignation. The chapel does not, however, seem to have suffered much violence till 1688, when a mob did a good deal of mischief. It remained uncared for, and gradually becoming ruinous, till, in the middle of last century, General St Clair glazed the windows, relaid the floor, renewed the roof, and built the wall round about. Further repairs were executed by the first Earl of Rosslyn, and again by the third Earl, who expended £3000 principally in renewing and retouching the carvings of the Lady chapel, a work said to have been suggested by the Queen who visited the chapel 14 Sept. 1842. Since 1862, services in connection with the Scottish Episcopal Church have been held in it every Sunday. See also the notes to Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel; Father Hay's Genealogie of the Saint Claires of Rosslyn, including the Chartellary of Rosslyn (Edinb. 1835, edited by James Maidment); T. S. Muir's Descriptive Notices of the Ancient Churches of Scotland (Edinb. 1848); Billings' Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland (Edinb. 1852); To Roslin from the Far West (Edinb. 1872); and Papers by Mr A. Kerr in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland for 1876-78.
* The date community given is 1446. but if Mr Kerr's reading of the above-given inscription on the clerestory wall is right, the correct year must be 1450.
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