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Lasswade

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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Lasswade, a small town and parish of Edinburghshire. The town stands on the left bank of the North Esk, but includes the suburb of Westmill in Cockpen parish, with which it is connected by a substantial stone bridge. There is a station at Lasswade on the Polton branch of the North British railway, 9½ miles SSE of Edinburgh by rail, and 6½ by road. The site of the town, in the hollow and on the steep sides of the Esk valley, gives it an exceedingly romantic and picturesque aspect, although the marked irregularity of the ground prevents the usual convenience of street arrangement. It is said to have furnished Sir Walter Scott with some of the particulars in his description of 'Gandercleugh' in The Tales of My Landlord. There are no buildings of any pretensions in Lasswade. The parish church, built in 1793 from plans by Lord Eldin, contains upwards of 1000 sittings; it occupies a lovely site on the brow of the hill overlooking the town. In front of it is a runic cross to Dr Smith of Lasswade and his son, Col. R. B. Smith, the commanding engineer at the siege of Delhi. A small portion of the former church is still standing near, and-contains in one of its aisles the family burying place of the family of Melville, in which lies the body of Henry Dundas, first Viscount Melville, `the colleague and friend of Pitt, and from 1775 to 1805 the virtual king of Scotland.' In another small arched aisle the poet Drummond of Hawthornden lies, but without any special stone to mark the exact spot. An ancient square belfry, four stories high, was a conspicuous relic of the old church until blown down in Nov. 1866. Till 1855 the effigy of a fully-armed knight lay among the ruins of the church. South of the bridge stands a house with ancient stones built into it, one of which has the inscription, `1557 a.a., nosce teipsum., On the Cockpen side of the Esk a U.P. church was built in 1830, with accommodation for 655 persons. The schools are noted below. Lasswade has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch of the Bank of Scotland, 5 insurance agencies, and various associations and clubs. Besides a service by rail, there is daily communication with Edinburgh by coach. The village is lighted with gas, and has a fair water supply. The industries are entirely manufacturing, except as regards the supply of the ordinary wants of its inhabitants. There are 2 flour-mills, a carpet-factory, and paper-mills. The first paper-mill at Lasswade was erected about 1750, and in 1794 its hands received a total of about £3000 a-year. Lasswade was for several years the residence of John Clerk, Lord Eldin (17571832). Lasswade Cottage, a plain, thatched, ivy-mantled house, was the home of Sir Walter Scott from 1798 to 1804. Here he wrote his Grey Brother, translation of Goetz von Berlichingen, etc., and here was visited by Wordsworth. Thomas de Quincey, from 1840 till his death in 1859, had his headquarters and family abode at Man's Bush Cottage (now De Quincey Villa), 1½ mile beyond Lasswade, in the hollow of the Esk, beside Polton station. William Tennant, the author of Anster Fair, was parish schoolmaster from 1816 to 1819; and Thomas Murray (1792-1872), the Gallovidian author, died here. Pop. (1861) 713, (1871) 1258, (1881) 1232.

Lasswade parish is bounded N by Colinton, Liberton, and Newton, W by Glencorse, S by Penicuik and Carrington, and E by Cockpen, Newbattle, and Dalkeith. Its greatest length, from NNE to SSW, is 71/3 miles; its greatest breadth is 6 miles, but its average breadth is little over 3 miles; and its area is 10,678 acres. A projecting wing at the NW extremity is occupied by the E end of the Pentland Hills, presenting partly heath and partly good pasture; and in the S, a district of bleak and unsheltered moorland, including some of the northern declivities of the Moorfoot Hills, stretches for about 2 miles into the interior. The surface on the whole declines rapidly from the border towards the SE, and consists of rich and well cultivated plain, finely wooded, and of picturesquely diversified scenery. The North Esk strikes the boundary of the parish about a mile from the SW extremity, runs along the W boundary for about ½ mile, and then turning NNE cuts the rest of the parish into nearly equal parts. The bed and gorge of this river form a beautifully romantic and picturesque glen, with lofty precipitous sides, thickly wooded banks, and are thus referred to in Scott's ballad fragment of The Grey Brother:-

'Sweet are the paths. O passing sweet
By Esk's fair streams that run
O'er airy steep, through copsewood deep,
Impervious to the sun.

'Who knows not Melville's beechy grove,
and Roslin's rocky glen;
Dalkeith, which all the virtues love,
and classic Hawthornden.'

The hills in the NW are eruptive, in the S Silurian, while the great bulk of the lowland rocks are carboniferous. Limestone, sandstone, and clay are worked, but the chief mineral of the parish is coal, which is mined chiefly near Loanhead and Rosewell. In the barony of Loanhead alone there are some 25 coal seams, from 2 to 10 feet thick, and in some workings the depth of 270 feet has been attained. lt. is calculated that Lasswade sends annually about 30,000 tons of coal to Edinburgh, besides supplying local wants. The dip of the coal on the E side of the Esk is so small that they are called 'flat broad coal,' in contrast to the edge-coals on the W side. A coal-mine was accidentally set on fire in 1770 near the Liberton boundary of the parish, and, in spite of all efforts to put out the fire, it burned for more than twenty years.

The other industries of the parish are noted under the various towns and villages. It was long noted for its oat-meal, and a miller in Lasswade used to supply that article to the royal nursery, during the childhood of George III.'s family, Lord Melville having recommended the meal to the king. The chief proprietors in the parish are Lieut.-Col. Gibsone of Pentland, Viscount Melville, Drummond of Hawthornden, Sir Geo. Clerk of Penicuik, and Mrs Durham of Polton. The chief seats along both banks of the Esk are Mavisbank (now a private asylum for lunatics), Dryden Bank, Dryden, and Rosebank on the left; and Eldin, Polton, Springfield, Glenesk, Hawthornden, Gorton, and Auchendinny (residence of Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling), on the right. Eldin was the residence of John Clerk, F. R.S. (1736-1812), inventor of the naval tactic of breaking the enemy's line. Numerous villas have been built near Roslin and Lasswade. But the grandest county seat is Melville Castle, about a mile below Lasswade. The parish includes the villages of Lasswade, Roslin, Loanhead, and Rosewell, a small suburb of Penicuik, and part of Bonnyrigg. It is traversed by the Peebles branch of the North British railway.

Lasswade parish is in the presbytery of Dalkeith and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The parish of Melville was incorporated with it in 1633, and a considerable part of the ancient parish of Pentland is also included. The stipend, including glebe and manse, is £371. The civil parish embraces the quoad sacra parishes of Roslin and Rosewell. There are a Free church and an Episcopal chapel at Roslin village, a U.P. church at Bridgend, and a Free and a Reformed Presbyterian church at Loanhead. The schools in the parish with their respective accommodation, average attendance, and government grant in 1881 were Lasswade (238, 348, £337, 9s.), Loanhead (260, 307, £243, 10s.), Rosewell (260, 203, £153, 18s.), and Roslin (160, 201, £166, 1s.). Valuation (1871) £37,493, (1883) £56,251, plus £9811 for railways and waterworks. Pop. (1801) 3348, (1841) 5025, (1861) 5688, (1871) 7098, (1881) 8872, of whom 5267 were in the ecclesiastical parish.

Lasswade parish church, with its pertinents, became, in the 12th century, a mensal church of the Bishop of St Andrews; it was later a prebend of St Salvator's College, St Andrews; and in the reign of James III. it was transferred, by the Pope's authority, to the dean of the collegiate church of Restalrig. The vicinity of Roslin was the scene of a battle, or rather three battles in one day (24 Feb. 1303), in which the Scottish army is said to have successively overcome three divisions of the English army, each more numerous than the victors' whole force. Among the antiquities, the chief are the castle and chapel at Roslin, and the mansion and caves at Hawthornden. Of the Maiden Castle that stood at Lasswade, nothing is now visible but some massive foundations. Wallace's cave, on the Esk, is calculated to hold 70 men; Wallace's camp, a curious crescent-shaped formation, is at Bilston Burn; near Mavisbank House is a supposed Roman station, the chief feature of which is a circular earthen mound, girt with ramparts, now cut into terraces, where various relics have been found. From a tumulus, in a neighbouring farm, urns filled with calcined bones have been dug. One mile E of Melville Castle-itself an interesting historic building- is Sheriffhall, where some green mounds are held to mark the site of an ancient camp, and where stood an old house in which George Buchanan is said to have written his History of Scotland.-Ord. Sur., sh. 32, 1857.

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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