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Crieff

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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Crieff (Gael. Crubha, ` haunch '), a town and a parish of central Perthshire. The town stands on ground ascending from the Earn's left bank, 100 to 400 feet above sea-level, at the terminus of the Crieff Junction and the Crieff & Methven branches of the Caledonian, opened respectively in 1856 and 1866. By road it is 6½ miles E by S of Comrie, and by rail 18 W of Perth, 108 SW of Aberdeen, 38 WSW of Dundee, 9 NNW of Crieff Junction, 26 NNE of Stirling, 62½ NNW of Edinburgh, and 56¼ NNE of Glasgow. Boldly resting on a sunny or southward slope, and sheltered from cold winds by pine-clad eminences, this 'Montpelier of Scotland' has long been famous for its pure, dry climate no less than for its exquisite surroundings. 'From every street,' to quote the Beauties of Upper Strathearn'` a landscape of rare sweetness and beauty is disclosed. The valley, here widening to 10 or 15 miles, is studded E, S, and W, as far as the eye can reach, with mansions and villages, embowered in oak or pine woods. Here and there the Earn-no mean stream-is seen gliding along its winding course, now with the dash of a mountain torrent, and anon with the measured tread of a royal pageant, till the eastern view is lost under the receding slopes of the Ochils. On the N and NW the Grampians, with Ben Chonzie (3048 feet) for centre piece, rear their dark forms against the sky-line, in summer and autumn shining in their natural bloom.'

Charters were dated from Crieff so long ago as 1218, and for centuries it has been recognized as the capital of Strathearn, the seat of the great civil jurisdiction of the Earls Palatine till 1483, and of the Criminal courts of the Stewards or Seneschals down to the abolition of heritable jurisdiction in 1748. The 'kind gallows of Crieff,' whence sometimes of a morning a score of plaids had dangled in a row, still stood at the western end of the town, when Scott came hither in 1796; and he notes in Waverley how the Highlanders would touch their bonnets to it, with the ejaculation-'God bless her nain sell, and the Tiel tamn you !' To this day may be seen the ponderous iron stocks, and near them an octagonal stone fleur-de-lis, 10 feet in height, the cross of the burgh of regality of Drummond (1688); whilst further to the eastward is the Cross of Crieff, transferred to its present position little more than a century since from the ancient barony of Trowan, and by some archæologists pronounced to be of Norman, by others of Runic, character (Sculptured Stones of Scotland, 1867). Other antiquities the town has none; for its massy Tolbooth of 1685, with cage and clock-tower and corbie-stepped gables, was demolished in 1842; and, though it gave shelter to the great Montrose, Crieff dwindled into a mere kirktown between 1483 and 1683. Then it began to revive, George Drummond of Milnab, afterwards provost of Edinburgh, giving off pieces of his lands in feu; but on 26 Jan. 1716, it was burned to the last house by 350 of the Chevalier's Highland adherents. For some years it lay in ruins; but from 1731 James Drummond, titular third Duke of Perth, bestirred himself in the work of repair and improvement, laying out James Square and extending the town westward, whilst founding a large linen factory. This was destroyed in the 45, when the loyal town narrowly escaped a second singeing, and the Drummond estates were forfeited to the Crown. By the commissioners, however, who managed them from 1752 to 1784, * bleaching, tanning, paper-making, and other industries were fostered to a height that bade fair to make Crieff an important industrial centre; and the woollen manufacture was added in 1812, about which time three whisky distilleries, with eight malting house, were also started. The last were all closed in 1828; and, generally speaking, Crieff's manufactures received a signal blow from the termination of the great war with France, as well as from changes in fashions, machinery, and modes of transit. Prospects brightened once more with the opening of the railway; and since 1856 Crieff has made rapid progress, so that, where scarcely thirty years ago villas and cottages ornées were 'almost totally wanting,' they now may be counted by dozens, and only within the last decade £200,000 has been expended on new buildings. Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy here passed the night of 9 Sept. 1803; and on 10 Sept. 1842 the Queen drove through the town, which has given birth to the poet David Mallet (1700-65), the chemist Prof. Thos. Thomson (1773-1852), and Prof. Jas. Gibson, D.D. (1799-1871).

The old Drummond Arms, where Prince Charles Edward, after reviewing his forces, held a stormy council of war (3 Feb. 1746), was recently feued to the Commercial Bank of Scotland, and premises for the bank and a large hotel have been built. The Royal, too, one of three other hotels, besides two temperance ones, has been greatly enlarged; but the chief hospice for tourists and invalids is Strathearn House, the large hydropathic establishment, erected in 1867 at a cost of £30,000,1 mile NNE of the station. It stands 440 feet above sea-level, on the southern slope of the sheltering Knock, in grounds 70 acres in extent; and is a dignified Elizabethan structure, four stories high, and 345 feet long, with a turreted square tower and 200 apartments, of which the dining and drawing rooms are 84 feet long, 30 wide, and 15 and 30 high. It has Turkish and other baths in great variety; and its water-supply, 20,000 gallons per diem, is brought from springs, gathered in a reservoir an acre in extent, and 4 miles distant, and by Prof. Brazier of Aberdeen was reported to be one of the finest and purest waters he had ever examined. At or near the town are a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, branches of the Bank of Scotland and the British Linen Co., Clydesdale, Commercial, North of Scotland, and Union Banks, a local savings, bank, an ugly town-house (1850), containing a mechanics library, a masonic lodge, a recreation ground (1880), gas-works, a commodious station (improved 1873), a cemetery, a bridge across the Earn (rebuilt 1867-68) three manufactories of woollen shirtings, blankets, tweeds, and plaidings, two chemical manure works, two tanneries, and one distillery. There are two Saturday papers published -the Liberal Strathearn Herald (1856) and the Liberal-Conservative Crieff Journal (1857). Tuesday is marketday, and fairs are held on the first Tuesday of every month; but the famous Michaelmas Tryst, where 30,000 black cattle would be sold by the Highlanders to English drovers for 30,000 guineas and upwards, was removed to Falkirk about 1770. MacKy, in his Journey Through Scotland (1723), has sketched its humours with a vigorous hand; and Robert Donn's Gaelic poem describes the home-sickness that came over him while counting of droves in its enclosures.

Nowhere is the great building activity of modern Crieff displayed more markedly than in its schools and churches. The ancient parish church of St Thomas was demolished in 1787, when forty gold coins of Robert I. were found in its Gothic walls. On its site arose the plain East church, with an ill-designed bell-tower; but this, in turn, in 1881 gave place to a goodly Gothic edifice in Strathearn Terrace, built at a cost of £450, and seating 1000 worshippers. The West church, built as a chapel of ease in 1838, and raised to quoad sacra status in 1864, also contains 1000 sittings. In 1881 the Free church was rebuilt in Comrie Street, at a cost of £4500, exclusive of site; and, Scoto-Gothic in style, has 860 sittings and a massive tower, whose slated spire rises to 120 feet. The U.P. church (533 sittings) was rebuilt in 1837; St Fillan's Roman Catholic church (200 sittings) in 1871; and St Columba's Episcopal church (600 sittings) in 1877, the last at a cost of £6000, in the Early Decorated style, with a spire 130 feet high. There are, moreover, Baptist and Independent chapels. Thomas Morison, native of Muthill, and builder in Edinburgh, dying in 1826, left the residue of his fortune to accummulate to the value of £20,000, with which, in 1859, was founded Morison's Academy, a Scottish Baronial structure, standing in grounds 10 acres in extent, just to the N of the town, whilst St Margaret's College, at the E end of Crieff, was afterwards purchased by the seven trustees for the rector's residence and boarders. As remodelled in 1878, the Academy has a rector, English, mathematical, and modern languages masters, and a lady superintendent, and gives a liberal education to 120 boys and girls of the upper and middle classes. Taylor's Institution, under 6 managers, was founded by William Taylor of Cornton, tallow chandler in Crieff (d. 1841), for the children of the poor of the parish, and in 1859 was enlarged by addition of a female industrial school. It and the public school, with respective accommodation for 252 and 450 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 211 and 309, and grants of £170,9s. and £247,4s.

Having adopted the General Police and Improvement Act in 1864, Crieff is governed by a senior and a junior magistrate and 10 police commissioners. Its municipal constituency numbered 560 in 1882, when the burgh valuation amounted to £20,439, the revenue being £1098, including assessments. Pop. (1776) 1532, (1792) 2071, (1835) 3835, (1851) 3824, (1861) 3903, (1871) 4027, (1881) 4469, of whom 110 were in Muthill parish, and 3 in that of Monzievaird and Strowan.

The parish comprises two divisions, united by a strip 5 furlongs wide at the narrowest, and belonging--the southern to Strathearn, the northern to Glenalmond. The southern, containing the town, is bounded NE by] Monzie and Fowlis-Wester, SE by Madderty and the Innerpeffray section of Monzie, S and SW by Muthill, and W by Monzievaird-Strowan; whilst the northern, containing Corriemuchloch hamlet, is almost enclosed by the main and outlying portions of Monzie and Fowlis-Wester. The utmost length of the whole is 10¾ miles from SSE to NNW, viz., from the Earn at Strageath Ferry to the summit of Beinn na Gainimh; the utmost width of the southern division is 3½ miles from E to W, of the northern 77/8 . miles from SE to NW; and the area of the entire parish is 20,546¾ acres, of which 162 are water, and 90¾ lie detached within Fowlis-Wester. The Earn winds 47/8 miles south-eastward, roughly tracing all the Muthill boundary; and its tributary, Turret Water, flows 2 miles southward along the Monzievaird and Strowan border, which higher up is traced by Barvick Burn. The Shaggie Burn, another of the Turret's affluents, has here a west-southwesterly run of 1¼ mile, and itself receives Keltie Burn, flowing 4½ miles south-south-eastward along the boundary with Monzie. Lastly, the Almond takes a winding east-south-easterly course of 10 miles in the northern division, during which it descends from 870 to 500 feet above sea-level. The surface, sinking at the SE corner to less than 100 feet, thence rises to 911 feet on the Knock of Crieff, 1196 on the Hill of Callander, and 2498 on Stonefield Hill; in the Glenalmond portion the chief elevations are Beinn na Gainimh (2367 feet), Meall Reamhar (2186), and Dun Mor (1520). The rocks are chiefly Old Red sandstone in the south, and clayslate in the N; the soil near the town is a pretty rich loam, but elsewhere ranges from sandy or gravelly to stiff, reddish, tilly clay. With the exception of some 560 acres under wood, the whole almost of the Strathearn division is under cultivation; the Glenalmond portion, on the other hand, is everywhere Highland in character. Antiquities are the Roman camp of Fendoch, Clach-na-Ossian, a fort on Dun Mor, and a cairn on the opposite hill. Fern Tower is the principal mansion; and 8 proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 11 of between £100 and £500,32 of from £50 to £100, and 60 of from £20 to £50. Crieff is in the presbytery of Auchterarder and synod of Perth and Stirling; the living is worth £293. Valuation (1868) £17,926,13s. 2d., (1882) £30,680, 15s. 8d. Pop. (1801) 2876, (1831) 4786, (1861) 4490, (1871) 4598, (1881) 4852.—Ord. Sur., sh. 47,1869. See S. Korner's -Rambles round Crieff and -Excursions into the Highlands(Edinb. 1858); Beauties of Upper Strathearn (Crieff, 1854; 3d. ed. 1870); and Crieff, its Traditions and Characters, with Anecdotes of Strathearn (Edinb. 1881).

* In 1784 the Drummond estates were conferred by George III. on Captain James Drummond, who claimed to be heir-male of Lord John Drummond. brother of the third Duke of Perth, and who. in 1797, was created Baron Perth. They now are held by his grand-daughter. Clementina Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughgby. Baroness Willoughby de Eresby, and Joint Hereditary Chamberlain of England, having been unsuccessfully claimed (1868-7) by George Drummond. Earl of Perth and Melfort, as nearest heir-male of the third Duke. See Drummond Castle, Perth, and Strathearn.

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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