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Corstorphine

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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Corstorphine, a village and a parish of NW Edinburghshire. The village stands at the south-western base of Corstorphine Hill, on the Glasgow road, 3 miles W by S of Edinburgh, with which it communicates twelve times a day by omnibuses running in connection with the Coltbridge tramcars, whilst ¾ mile SSE is Corstorphine station on the Edinburgh and Glasgow section of the North British. Sheltered from cold winds, and lying open to the sun, it commands a fair prospect across the wide level plain to Craiglockhart and the Pentlands, and is itself a pleasant little place, with a few old houses, and many more good cottages and firstclass villas, a growth-still growing-of the last few years. At it are a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and railway telegraph departments, 4 inns, a subscription library, a public school, the antique parish church, and a Free church (1844) with spire and S wheel window. A sulphureous spring here was held in high medicinal repute about the middle of last century, when Corstorphine was a fashionable resort of Edinburgh citizens, and had its balls and suchlike amusements of a watering-place. To the E, on the lower slope of the hill, is the Convalescent Home (50 beds) of the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, a plain but dignified building, which, standing in spacious grounds, was planned by Messrs Peddie & Kinnear, and opened in 1867; its ordinary expenditure for the year ending 1st Oct. 1881 was £1404,9s. 2d. To the S, between the village and the station, is the Edinburgh University cricket, football, and running ground, with a good pavilion; and nearer the village are the curious old burg-like dovecot of Corstorphine Castle and the bronze-leaved ` Corstorphine Plane, ' which, said to have been brought as a sapling from the East by a monk about 1429, is 73 feet high, and girths 13 feet at 5 feet from the ground. Beneath it in 1679, James, second Lord Forrester, was stabbed by his paramour, one Mistress Nimmo, who was beheaded at the Cross of Edinburgh. These Forresters held Corstorphine barony from 1376, and in 1633 received their title, which in 1808 devolved upon Viscount Grimston, the after first Earl of Verulam. Their castle was burned to the ground about 1790. In the '45 Corstorphine figured as the scene of the ignominious dispersal of a body of Gardiner's dragoons, and as the place where Prince Charles Edward received two deputations from the Edinburgh magistrates. It has been lighted with gas since 1860, and a water supply was introduced from Clubbiedean and the Pentlands in July 1881. Pop. (1841) 372, (1861) 688, (1871) 680, (1881) 952.

The parish, containing also the village of Gogar, is bounded N by Cramond, E by St Cuthberts, S by Colinton, SW by Currie and Ratho, and W by Ratho. From E by N to W by S it has an utmost length of 4¾ miles; its width varies between 7 furlongs and 2½ miles; and its area is 3653¾ acres. The Water of Leith above Saughton just touches the south-eastern corner; in the north-western rises Gogar Burn; any other streams are little more than ditches. The surface is almost an unbroken plain, sinking little below and little exceeding 200 feet above sea-level, save in the NE, where Corstorphine Hill slopes gradually upwards, its highest point (520 feet) being crowned by square, five-storied, turreted Clermiston Tower, 70 feet high, built in 1872 on occasion of the Scott Centenary. Clothed with Scotch firs and hardwood trees, this hill figures widely in the Lothian landscape, and itself commands a magnificent view, especially from its steeper eastern side, where, at a point called ` Rest-and-be-Thankful,' two benches were placed in 1880 by the Cockburn Association. Thence one beholds the spires and towers of Edinburgh, its schools and hospitals, the Castle and Calton hills, with Salisbury Craigs and Arthur's Seat for background, and, to the left, the sparkling waters of the Firth of Forth. The rocks belong mainly to the Calciferous Limestone series, but diorite intrudes on Corstorphine Hill, and here it was that Sir James Hall first called attention to striated rock-surfaces due to glacial action. Sandstone was once extensively quarried on the hill itself and on the lands of Ravelston for building in Edinburgh; and trap rock, blue in hue and compact in structure, is worked at West Craigs and Clermiston for dykes and road-metal. The soil of this parish-the ` Garden of Edinburgh '-is mostly a rich black loam, with patches of clay and sand. The fields are carefully managed, and bear fine crops in rotation; and much of the ground is laid out in well-tilled gardens, which furnish fruit and vegetables for the Edinburgh market. The country is nicely wooded, and contains a number of fine residences- Corstorphine House, Beechwood, Belmont, Hillwood, Hill House, Millburn Tower, Ravelston, Clermiston, Gogar House, Gogarburn, etc. Five proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 16 of between £100 and £500,9 of from £50 to £100, and 16 of from £20 to £50. David Scot, M.D., an eminent Hebraist and man of letters, was minister from 1814 down to his death in 1834. Corstorphine, including portions of the ancient parishes of Gogar and St Cuthberts, is in the presbytery of Edinburgh and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £361. A chapel, subordinate to St Cuthbert's church in Edinburgh, is noticed as early as 1128, and afterwards was parish church till its demolition in 1644, when its place was filled by a collegiate neighbour. Of this, in November 188l, an intelligent native assured the writer that it was ` wonderfully ancient, built by the Hottentots, who stood in a row and handed the stones on one to another from Ravelston quarry.' Ancient it most unquestionably is, but it was founded in 1429 by Sir John Forrester for a provost, 4 other prebendaries, and 2 singing boys, and dedicated to St John the Baptist. In style Second Pointed, cruciform in plan, it comprises a chancel and N sacristy, a- nave, transepts, a little western galilee, and a low unbuttressed tower, pinnacled and capped by a short octagonal spire, where pigeons have built their nests. The older portions, or those that escaped the hand of the ` restorer ' in 1828, are curiously roofed with flags of stone, and lavishly sculptured with the Forrester bearings-three bugles, stringed. The interior has been piteously maltreated, the nave and transepts having been patched into a kind of meeting-house (536 sittings), whose bareness is hardly redeemed by a stained-glass window to the memory of John Girdwood (ob. 1861), whilst the chancel serves merely for a vestibule, and is blocked up with a modern gallery staircase. Where stood the altar is now a doorway; but the pre-Reformation piscina and sedilia remain, along with a perfect hour-glass; and here lie two of the three Forrester effigies, life-size and mail-clad, in arched recesses. These, with their dames by their side, are the two Sir Johns, the founder and his son, who died in 1440 and 1454; the third, in the S transept, is a grandson, Sir Alexander, though it has often been falsely asserted to be Bernard Stuart, the celebrated Viceroy of Naples, who died, it is true, at Corstorphine in 1508, but who seems to have been buried in the Blackfriars church of Edinburgh. Without, in the churchyard, are many quaint old headstones, among them one, a natural smoothed boulder, to ` John Foord, sheepherd ' (1795), another to ` Francis Joseph Trelss, native of Hungary, and lete tenent at Saughten Hall ' (1796). The public school, with accommodation for 230 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 187, and a grant of £160,7s. Valuation (1860) £13,118, (1882) £22,585, including £530 for railway. Pop. (1801) 840, (1831) 1461, (1861) 1579, (1871) 1788, (1881) 2156.—Ord. Sur., sh. 32,1857. See vol. i. of Billings' Baronial Antiquities (1845); David Laing's Registrum Domus de Soltre, etc. (Bannatyne Club, 1861); and his paper on ` The Forrester Monuments ' in Procs. Soc. Ants. Scot. (1876).

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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