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iberton (`leper town'), a village and a parish of Edinburghshire. The village stands, 356 feet above sea-level, on the summit of a low broad-based ridge, 2 3/8 miles SSE of the centre of Edinburgh; and is sometimes distinguished as Liberton Kirk, from the fact that it contains the parish church. It is somewhat straggling in its arrangement, and, besides the poorer class of cottages, includes some neat houses and elegant villas. There are no buildings of any importance except the parish church and the Free church. The former is a handsome semi-Gothic edifice, whose square tower, capped by four corner pinnacles, forms a very prominent object in the landscape. Designed by Gillespie Graham, and containing 1000 sittings, it was built in 1815, and renovated at a cost of over £1200 in 1882, when gas was introduced, a panelled ceiling inserted, the gallery reconstructed, the whole reseated, etc. The precise site of the present building was formerly occupied by a very ancient church, mentioned in the foundation charter of Holyrood (1128). When the church which immediately preceded the present one was taken down, a curious Russian medal of the 13th century is said to have been found embedded in the materials. The Free church of Liberton, standing nearly ½ mile to the NE, was built in 1870 at a cost of £2200. Liberton post office has money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments.
Two hamlets, named Liberton Dams and Nether Liberton, lie respectively 4 ½ furlongs NNW and 6½ furlongs N by W of the village. They are mere groups of cottages of little pretensions; but within late years several neat though small houses have been built at Liberton Dams. In old documents there occurs a mention of a mill at Nether Liberton, where there is still a saw-mill; and in 1369 the lands of Nether Liberton were granted to William Ramsay and spouse.
Liberton parish is bounded N by St Cuthbert's and Duddingston, E by Inveresk and Newton, SE by Dalkeith, S by Lasswade, and W by Colinton. It extends from the Pow Burn at Edinburgh to within a mile of Dalkeith, and from the close vicinity of the Firth of Forth at Magdalene Bridge to near the E end of the Pentland range. Its greatest length, from ENE to WSW, is 5 ¾ miles; its greatest breadth is 4 ¼ miles; and its area is 6617 acres. The scenery of this parish is very beautifully diversified, though it never loses its lowland smiling character. Just within the W boundary the Braid Hills attain their maximum altitude of 698 feet above sea-level; and extending from these are low broad ridges a d gentle elevations, with alternating belts and spaces of plain. The state of cultivation is high, and there are numerous private mansions with fine policies. The Braid Burn and Burdiehouse Burn flow north-eastward through the interior; and there is a curious bituminous spring at St Catherine's, known as the Balm Well. The rocks of the Braid Hills are basaltic, but elsewhere are carboniferous, belonging either to the Calciferous Sandstone or to the Carboniferous Limestone series. Sandstone, limestone, and coal are extensively worked. The soil in some parts is wet clay or dry gravel, but in most parts is a fertile loam. Nearly six-sevenths of the land are under cultivation, and hardly an acre of waste ground is to be seen. The industries are referred to in the articles dealing with the various villages. The chief seats are Morton Hall, Drum, Inch House, Brunstane, Niddry, Southfield, Moredun, St Catherine's, Mount Vernon, Craigend, and Kingston Grange. The parish includes, besides the village and hamlets of Liberton, the villages of Burdiehouse, Gilmerton, Greenend, Niddry, Oakbank, and Straiton, parts of the villages of Echobank and New Craighall, and some fifteen hamlets, with a small part of the burgh and suburbs of Edinburgh. It is traversed by several good roads leading S from the capital, by the Loanhead and Roslin branch of the North British railway, which has a station near Gilmerton, and by small parts of the St Leonard's branch and of the new Edinburgh Suburban branch of the same railway.
Giving off Gilmerton quoad sacra parish, Liberton is in the presbytery of Edinburgh and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £550. Besides the three schools at Gilmerton and an infant private school at Sharpdale, Liberton public, Niddry public, and New Craighall schools, with respective accommodation for 154, 129, and 403 children, had (1882) an average attendance of 174, 67, and 258, and grants of £153, 1s., £54, 10s. 6d., and £203, 15s. Valuation (1871) £33,571, 14s., (1884) £48, 944, including £9879 for railways and waterworks. Pop. (1801) 3565, (1831) 4063, (1861) 3507, (1871) 3791, (1881) 6026, of whom 4696 were in the ecclesiastical parish, and 295 in the burgh of Edinburgh.
A hospital anciently stood at Upper Liberton, and is supposed to have given rise to the name of the village, the original form being Leper town. Near it rose a tall peel-house or tower, now utterly vanished, the stronghold it is said of MacBeth, a baron under David I., holding a considerable part of the lands of Liberton. By him a chapelry was erected at Liberton, and placed under the church of St Cuthbert, with which it passed, by grant of David I., to the canons of Holyrood. In 1240 the chapelry was disjoined from St Cuthbert's, and remained till the Reformation as a rectory under the Abbey of Holyrood. For a time Liberton was a prebend of the short-lived bishopric of Edinburgh, and on the abolition of Episcopacy in Scotland it reverted to the Crown. Three chapels - one founded at Bridgend by James V., St Catherine's near the mansion of that name, and St Mary's, founded at Niddry in 1389 by Wauchope of Niddry were subordinate to the parish church-. Only a few faint vestiges of the walls of the latter, and its buryingground, remain of them. A chapel was built by James V. at Bridgend; and there was a Presbyterian chapel erected under the Indulgence of James VII. The parochial registers date from 1639.
The chief antiquity in the parish is Craigmillar Castle. Others are the sites and remains of the buildings above mentioned; Peffer Mill, erected in 1636 by one Edgar, whose arms, impaled with those of his wife, are over the principal door; and a square tower still standing near Liberton Kirk, reputed to be the hold of a fierce robber laird, and not to be confounded with MacBeth's tower mentioned above. In Scott's Heart of Midlothian `Reuben Butler' is schoolmaster at Liberton; and Peffer Mill is commonly identified with `Dumbiedikes.' Various tumuli have been discovered near Mortonhall; and a plane tree near Craigmillar Castle is said to have been planted by Mary Queen of Scots, and reputed one of the largest of its kind in the country. In 1863 the remains of a Celtic cross, covered with knot-work, were found in a wall near Liberton Tower. Part of the Boroughmuir is in the parish. A rising-ground to the E of St Catherine's, formerly called the Priest's Hill, has now the name of Grace Mount. Among distinguished natives of the parish of Liberton have been Mr Clement Little of Upper Liberton, who founded the College Library of Edinburgh; Sir Symon de Preston of Craigmillar, in whose Edinburgh house, as provost, Queen Mary was lodged on the night after the affair of Carberry Hill; Sir John Gilmour of Craigmillar, who was Lord President of the Court of Session about the period of the Restoration; Gilbert Wauchope and Sir John Wauchope of Niddry, the former a member of the celebrated Reformation Parliament of 1560, and the latter a distinguished Covenanter and a member of the General Assembly of 1648; and Sir James Stewart of Goodtrees, who from 1692 till 1713 filled the office of Lord Advocate of Scotland. Among the ministers have been John Davidson (1584), of prophetic powers; John Adamson (1616) and Andrew Cant (1659-73), both principals of Edinburgh University; and the late James Begg, D.D. (1835-43), of Free Church fame. The Wauchopes of Niddry have had a seat in the parish for 500 years, and are probably the oldest family in Midlothian.Ord. Sur., sh. 32, 1857. See an article in vol. i. of Trans. Soc. Ants. Scotl. (l793).
An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is
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