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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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Newbattle (anc. Neubotle, 'new dwelling'), a village and a parish in the E of Edinburghshire. The village stands, 150 feet above sea-level, on the left side of the river South Esk, ¾ mile NNE of Dalhousie station, ¾ SE of Eskbank station, and 1 S by W of the post-town, Dalkeith. Of high antiquity, in spite of its name, it has dwindled to a mere hamlet, which, lying low, among orchards and gardens, is sheltered nearly all round by rising grounds.

The parish, containing also Newton Grange and Easthouses villages, with small portions of Dalkeith, Gorebridge, and Hunterfield, comprises the ancient parishes of Newbattle and Maisterton. It is bounded NW by Lasswade and Dalkeith, N by Dalkeith and Cranston, E by Cranston, SE by Borthwick, S by Borthwick and the Gorebridge section of Temple, and W by Cockpen. Its utmost length, from NNW to SSE, is 3¾ miles; its width varies between 2 and 43/8 miles; and its area is 5224¾ acres. The beautiful South Esk flows 2½ miles north-north-eastward, mainly across the north-western interior, but partly along the Cockpen and Dalkeith boundaries; and Gore Water, its affluent, flows 51/3 furlongs west-north-westward along the southern boundary. Just above Dalhousie station the vale of the Esk is crossed by the Waverley section of the North British railway, on a viaduct 400 yards long, comprising 24 arches of brick, supported by massive abutments of masonry, and rising 70 feet above the bed of the stream. The ends of this stupendous viaduct are prolonged by high embankments, which are secured by retaining walls of vast thickness. In the N, along the South Esk, the surface declines to 135 feet above sea-level; and thence it rises south-south-eastward, until it attains a maximum altitude of 876 feet. A slight summit here on the hilly ridge was anciently a post for observing the country around, and was crowned by a quadrangular enclosure, about 3 acres in area, believed to have been a Roman camp, and now covered with dense plantation. Great part of the ridge was, at no distant period, in a waste condition-some of it marshy or moorish; but all, excepting some trivial pendicles, is now in a productive state, some of it wooded, and mostly good arable land. Some 300 acres are under wood, and nearly all the rest of the parish is in tillage. The soil in the valley of the Esk is a rich deep loam, lying on sharp gravel; that on the N and W sides of the hill is first a loam, next a strong clay, and next a whitish sandy earth; whilst that on the south-eastern slope of the hill is fertile vegetable mould. Gardens and orchards at Fordel Dean are so extensive as to yield an annual produce for the market worth upwards of £400. The rocks belong to the Carboniferous Limestone series; and the valley of the Esk is part of the true coal measures of Dalkeith and Dalhousie. Limestone and sandstone are obtained in plenty from surface quarries; and coal can be mined in upwards of twenty seams, from 1½ to 8 feet thick. Employment is also afforded by a paper-mill and a brickyard. The road from Edinburgh to Kelso, by way of Lauder, bisects the NE wing of the parish; and that from Edinburgh to Galashiels runs closely parallel to the western boundary, and is connected with roads to the E and to the W.

The prime object of historical interest in the parish of Newbattle is Newbattle Abbey. This was anciently, as its name imports, a monastery, and is now the seat of the Marquess of Lothian. David I. founded the monastery in 1140 for a colony of Cistercian monks from Melrose. He bestowed on them the district of Morthwaite, now called Moorfoot; the lands of Balnebucht on the Esk; some lands, a salt-work, and rights of pasturage and wood-cutting in the carse of Callendar in Stirlingshire; a salt-work at Blakeland in Lothian; the right of pannage, and the privilege of cutting wood in his forests; and the patronage of several churches, with a right to some of their revenues. David's example was followed by Malcolm IV.; by the Countess Ada, the widow of Earl Henry; by William the Lyon, who gave the monks the lands of Mount Lothian, and, with some special services, confirmed the grants of David and Malcolm; and even by Alwyn, the first abbot of Holyrood, who relinquished to the inmates of the new abbey the lands of Pettendreich on the Esk. Various other persons also gave them lands in the country, tofts in the town, and churches in the several shires. Alexander II.-who delighted to reside at Newbattle- obtained a grave there for his consort, Mary; and, deeply moved by so affecting a circumstance, gave the owners of the place various donations and rights for the salvation of her, of himself, and of his predecessors. The monks likewise acquired much property and many privileges by purchase; in particular, they obtained the lands of Monkland in Lanarkshire, and secured the right of cutting a road to them for their own proper use. In 1203 Pope Innocent, by a bull, confirmed all their possessions and privileges; and, by another bull, he prohibited all persons from levying tithes from lands which they either held or cultivated. David II. gave the monks a charter, enabling them to hold their lands within the valley of Lothian in free forestry, with the various privileges which belonged to a forestry. But the monks, though figuring chiefly as accumulators of worldly property, incidentally conferred great advantages on the occupations of husbandry, of mining, and of commerce; for they incited and directed agricultural operations, they discovered, and perhaps were the first to discover, Scottish coal, and brought it from the mine, and they constructed a sea-port, and gave Scotland a specimen of the arts of traffic. See Haddingtonshire and Morison's Haven. The first abbot of Newbattle was Ralph, who, in 1140, accompanied the colony from Melrose. John, the eighteenth abbot, had to act a part in the difficult transactions respecting the succession to the Crown after the demise of Alexander III. In March 1290, he sat in the great parliament at Brigham; in July 1291, he swore fealty to Edward I. in the chapel of Edinburgh Castle; and in 1296 he again, with his monks, swore fealty to Edward, and, in return, obtained writs to several sheriffs for the restoration of his property. In Jan. 1297, Edward directed his treasurer, Cressingham, to settle with the abbot for the 'form' due by the abbey of Newbattle for his lands of Bothkennar. Whether Abbot John witnessed the accession of Robert Bruce is uncertain. In 1385 the abbey was burned during the inroad of Richard II.; and the forty succeeding years saw the monks employed in the work of its restoration. Patrick Madour, who was abbot in April 1462, collected the documents which at present form the Chartulary of Newbattle; and in Oct. 1466 he instituted a suit in parliament against James, Lord Hamilton, 'for the spoliation of a stone of lead-ore,' taken from the abbot's lands of Fremure in Clydesdale, and triumphantly compelled the coronet to make compensation, and do obeisance, to the cowl. Andrew, who was abbot in May 1499, granted his lands of Kinnaird in Stirlingshire to Edward Bruce, 'his well-deserving armiger,' for the yearly payment of 16 merks; and in Dec. 1500, he gave to Robert Bruce of Binning and his wife, the monastery's lands of West Binning in Linlithgowshire, for the yearly compensation of four shillings. During James Hasmall's abbacy, in 1544, the abbey was burned by the Earl of Hertford. The last abbot, Mark Ker, second son of Sir Andrew Ker of Cessford, turning Protestant in 1560, obtained the vicarage of Linton; and, in 1564, was made the first commendator of Newbattle. In 1581 he obtained a ratification by parliament of his commendatorship; and he appears to have annually drawn from the abbey property £1413, 1s. 2d. Scots, besides 99 bolls of wheat, 53 bolls 2 pecks of bere, and 250 bolls 2 firlots of oats-subject, however, to several disbursements, and particularly to the remarkable one of £240 Scots for six aged, decrepit, and recanted monks. He died in 1584, an extraordinary lord of the court of session. Mark, his son, who had a reversion of the commendatorship, on succeeding, had it formally confirmed; and, in 1587, he obtained from the facile James VI. a grant of the whole estates of the monastery as a temporal barony, and afterwards, in the same year, got the grant ratified by parliament. In Oct. 1591 he was dignified with the title of Lord Newbattle, and had his barony converted into a temporal lordship; and in the parliament of next year he saw his title and its basis finally recognised. In 1606 he was created Earl of Lothian; and Anne, his grand daughter, conveyed that title to her husband, Sir William Kerr, Knight, whose father, Sir Robert Kerr of the Fernieherst line, was created Earl of Ancrum in 1633. Robert, their son, the fourth Earl of Lothian and third of Ancrum, in 1701 was raised to the higher dignity of Marquess of Lothian; and his seventh descendant, Schomberg-Henry Kerr, is present and ninth Marquess (b. 1833; suc. 1870). He holds 4547 acres in Edinburghshire and 19, 740 in Roxburghshire, valued at £18, 194 and £26, 684 per annum. See Monteviot.

The crypt of the abbey, coeval doubtless with its foundation, forms part of the ground-floor of the present mansion, and was restored in 1878, when, too, was discovered the well-preserved basement of a cruciform chapel (239 x 113 feet), with numerous pillars and elaborately sculptured stones. Otherwise, in the words of Sir John Scot of Scotstarvet, the Commendator and his eldest son ` did so metamorphose the building that it cannot be known that ever it did belong to the Church, by reason of the fair new fabrick and stately edifices built thereon.' Further extensive alterations were made in 1650 and subsequent years; and Newbattle Abbey to-day is simply a large and commodious building, with a casteklated front. In the library are several illuminated MSS. in folio, which formerly belonged to the monks, and are written on vellum, in black letter, on every page being adorned with pictorial illustrations of the subjects of which they treat. Many valuable paintings and portraits enrich the gallery, particularly a Titian, a Murillo, several Vandykes, and some family portraits. Around the mansion is a level lawn of upwards of 30 acres. On one side it is watered by the South Esk, which, after brawling among the rocks of Cockpen, here flows in a quiet stream, and is overhung with plantations; on the other side it is skirted by a waving line of woods, which, complying with the ascents and undulations of the banks, stretches upward in a many-curved surface, and exhibits a beautiful variety of shades. The belts of wood which flank the two sides of the lawn approach each other at the ends, and, embowering the mansion and its park, exclude them from outer view. At the lower end of the lawn, which now stretches to the eastward of Newbattle Abbey, the river is spanned by an antique bridge of one circular arch, with plain square ribs, usually called the Maiden Bridge. From the SW a fine old entrance, 'King David's Gate,' opens on to the stately avenue 520 yards long; and the Newbattle Beech, behind the house, is the finest and largest tree in Scotland, being 95 feet high, and 37¼ in girth at 1 foot, and 211/6 at 5 feet, from the ground. The spread of its branches is 350 feet in circumference; and it is still growing, and making more wood year by year. The Queen saw this tree on 4 Sept. 1842; and George IV. also was at Newbattle in Aug. 1822.

Woodburn is another mansion, lately purchased by the Marquess of Lothian; and a third, considerably larger, called Newtongrange House, was built not long ago by John Romans, Esq. The Marquess of Lothian owns three-fourths of the parish; and 2 lesser proprietors, the Earl of Stair and Robert Dundas, Esq. of Arniston, hold each an annual value of more than £500. Giving off a portion to Stobhill quoad sacra parish, Newbattle is in the presbytery of Dalkeith and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £250, while, in addition the minerals under the glebe are feued in perpetuity to the minister for a sum which gives £120 a year. The saintly Robert Leighton (1613-84) was minister from 164 to 1653; and his request to be allowed to preach, not 'to the times,' but 'for eternity,' is entered in the records of the presbytery of Dalkeith and of the Newbattle kirk-session, which have been published in vol. iv. of Procs. Soc. Ants. Scotl. The parish church is a quaint edifice of 1727, with 550 sittings and a spire 70 feet high. Three schools-Newbattle public, Collieries, and Easthouses- with respective accommodation for 130, 314, and 61 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 124, 304, and 58, and grants of £98, 11s., £271, 8s. 6d., and £46, 10s. The children living in the S and E ends of the parish attend schools in Cranston and Dalkeith parishes; and at Newtongrange, in addition to the existing accommodation for 314 children, new schools for 120 infants and 60 girls were opened in 1884. Valuation (1860) £12, 789, (1884) £18,627, plus £811 for railway and waterworks. Pop. (1801) 1328, (1831) 1882, (1861) 2837, (1871) 2902, (1881) 3346, of whom 2771 were in the ecclesiastical parish.—Ord. Sur., sh. 32, 1857. See Cosmo Innes' Registrum S. Marie de Neubotle (Bannatyne Club, Edinb. 1849), and John Small's Castles and Mansions of the Lothians (Edinb. 1883).

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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