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Dumfries

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.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2017.

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Dumfries, a town and a parish on the SW border of Dumfriesshire. A royal and parliamentary burgh, a Seaport - since the era of railways of little importance a seat of manufacture, the capital of Dumfriesshire, the assize town for the south-western counties, and practically the metropolis of a great extent of the S of Scotland, the town stands on the left bank of the river Nith, and on the Glasgow and South-Western railway at the junction of the lines to Lockerbie and Portpatrick, by rail being 14½ miles WSW of Lockerbie, 15¼ WNW of Annan, 19¼ NE of Castle-Douglas, 80 ½ ENE of Portpatrick, 42½ SE of Cumnock, 92 SE by S of Glasgow, 89¾ S by W of Edinburgh, 33 WNW of Carlisle, and 333¾ NNW of London. The site is mainly a gentle elevation, nowhere higher than 80 feet above sea-level, partly the low flat ground at its skirts; extends about 1 mile from N to S, parallel to the river; rises steeply from the banks at the N end, and is blocked there by a curve in the river's course; and bears the lines of Castle Street and High Street along its summit. Maxwelltown, along the Kirkcudbrightshire bank of the Nith, directly opposite and nearly of the same length as Dumfries, seems to be rather a part of the town than a suburb, and is partly included in the parliamentary (though not in the royal) burgh. Behind Maxwelltown to the W is Corbelly Hill, a broad-based, round, and finely-outlined elevation, on the summit of which stand a church and convent of the Immaculate Conception, erected in 1881-82, from designs by Messrs Pugin, for Nuns of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; whilst a little lower down is a picturesque building, serving the double purpose of an observatory and a museum of natural history and antiquities The view from the top of this hill is very extensive, and also of great natural beauty - the broad and level valley, for the most part highly cultivated, of the Nith, abounding in mansions, villas, gardens, and nursery grounds; the Moffat and Galloway Hills, with the higher peaks of Queensberry and Criffel; and, over the Solway, the far-away Cumberland mountains. Altogether, the landscape, seen from the top of Corbelly Hill, is not so unlike the plains of Lombardy. Dumfries itself, in architectural structure, relative position, social character, marketing importance, and general influence, holds a high rank among the towns of the kingdom. It is a minor capital, ruling in the S with nearly as much sway as Edinburgh in the E. It has either within itself or in its immediate outskirts an unusually large proportion of educated and wealthy inhabitants, giving evident indication of their presence in the tone and manners; and is seen at once, by even a passing stranger, to be a place of opulence, taste, and pretension. It has sometimes been called, by its admirers, `the Queen of the South; 'and it was designated by the poet Burns, `Maggie by the banks o, Nith, a dame wi' pride eneuch.' It is the cynosure of the south-western counties; and it sways them alike in the interests of mind, of trade, and of commerce. It has no rival or competitor, none at least that can materially compare with it, between Ayr and Carlisle, or between the Irish Sea and the Lowther Mountains. And even as a town, though other influential towns were not remote, it challenges notice for its terraces and pleasant walks beside the river; for its lines and groups of villas around its outskirts; for its picturesqueness of aspect as seen from many a vantage-ground in the near vicinity; for the spaciousness of its principal streets; and for a certain, curious, pleasing romance in the style and collocation of many of its edifices. It so blends regularity of alignment with irregularity as to be far more fascinating than if it were strictly regular; and it so exhibits its building material, a red-coloured Permian sandstone, now in the full flush of freshness from the quarry, now in worn aspects of erosion by time, as - to present a tout ensemble of mingled sadness and gaiety.

Three bridges connect Dumfries and Maxwelltown; but only the uppermost one is available for carriages; and this commands a good view of all the riverward features of the burgh and the suburb, stretching partly to the N but chiefly to the S. The space along the Dumfries bank, between the bridges, is a wide street-terrace; the space further down, to a much greater distance, is an expanded or very wide street-terrace, used partly as the cattle market, partly as a timber market, and called the Sands; and the space still further down, opposite the foot of the town and a long way past it, is a broad grassy promenade, fringed along the inner side by a noble umbrageous avenue, and called the Dock. The central streets present an array of fairly well-appointed shops. All the streets are paved, drained, clean, and well-lighted; and outlets on the roads to the N, to the S, and to the E are studded with villas. Yet parts of the town, particularly numerous lanes or closes off High Street, some intersecting lanes from street to street, and portions of the old narrow streets are disagreeable and unwholesome. The Nith contributes much to both salubrity and beauty; approaches, in long winding sweeps, under high banks richly clothed with wood; breaks immediately beyond the lower bridge, over a high caul, built for the water supply of grain mills on the Maxwelltown side; swells into a lake-like expanse above the caul; leaps into rapid current at low tide below it; is driven back by the flow of tide against it; and, both above and below the town, to the extent of several miles, has verdant banks tracked with public toads and footpaths.

The uppermost bridge was built in 1790-94; encountered great difficulties in the erection; cost, with the approaches to it, £4588; and occasioned, for the forming of Buccleuch Street, an additional cost of £1769; and is a structure more substantial than elegant, yet not destitute of beauty. The middle bridge was built in the 13th century by Devorgilla, mother of John Baliol; and for many long generations was held to be second only to London- Bridge. It had originally nine arches, and is commonly, but erroneously, said to have had thirteen; suffered, in course of burghal improvements, demolition of about one-third of its length at the Dumfries end; has- now only six arches; is ascended, at the Dumfries end, by a flight of steps, so as to be accessible only by foot passengers; and makes a prominent figure both in curious picturesqueness and as a great work of the early mediæval times. The lowermost bridge was opened on the last day of 1875; cost nearly £1800; is an iron suspension structure for pedestrians; measures 203 feet in length and 6½ feet in width; and has sides of trellis work rising 35 feet from the roadway to the finial. The County Buildings stand on the S side of the lower part of Buccleuch Street; were erected in 1863-66, after designs by David Rhind, of Edinburgh, with aid of £10,418 from Government; are in the Scottish Baronial style, with peaked towers and open Italianised parapets; present an imposing castellated appearance; rise to a height of four stories, including a sunk story; and contain a court-hall with accommodation for 300 persons, and offices or rooms for all departments of the county business. The prison of 1851, adjoining the E end of the County Buildings, is surrounded by a high wall, that greatly disfigures the aspect of the street. This building, not fulfilling the requirements deemed necessary in modern prisons, has been condemned; and a site for a new one was purchased by government in 1881 for £1400 on the western outskirts of Maxwelltown. The Town-Hall, on the N side of Buccleuch Street, opposite the-prison, was originally the spacious chapel or `tabernacle' erected by Robert Haldane in 1799. Having stood for some years unoccupied after the Haldane collapse, it was purchased in 1814, altered, renovated, and architecturally adorned, to be used as the county courthouse; and, after the opening of the new County Buildings in 1866, was sold for £1020 to the town council.- Within it hang portraits of William and Mary of Orange, and Charles, the third Duke of Queensberry; and here is preserved the famous Silver Gun of the Seven Trades, the mimic cannon, 10 inches long, which James VI. presented to the craftsmen in 1617, to be shot for on Kingholm Merse - a custom kept up till 1831. The stack of buildings in the centre of High Street, cleaving it for a brief space into two narrow thoroughfares, contains the old town council room, and is surmounted by a steeple called originally the Tron, but now the Mid, Steeple. This steeple was erected in 1707, at a cost of £1500, from designs (not of Inigo Jones, but) of a certain Tobias Bachup of Alloa. It figures prominently, both in the High Street's own range and in every landscape view of the town, but has now a weather-worn and neglected appearance. The Trades Hall, on the E side of High Street opposite the Mid Steeple, was rebuilt in 1804 at a cost of £11,670; and, the trades' corporation privileges having been abolished in 1846, was sold to a merchant in 1847 for £650. The Assembly Rooms stand in George Street, were erected at a comparatively recent period, and are neat and commodious. The Theatre, in Shakespeare Street, built in 1790, and rebuilt and decorated in 1876, was the scene of early efforts of Edmund Kean and Macready. A Doric column to the memory of the third Duke of Queensberry was erected in Queensberry Square in 1804; and an ornamental public fountain (1860) stands in the centre of the lower expansion of High Street.

The railway station stands at the north-eastern extremity of the town; was constructed, in lieu of a previous adjacent one, in 1863; and contains accommodation for the junctions of the lines from Lockerbie and Portpatrick with the Glasgow and South-Western. It includes a fine suite of buildings for offices, waiting-rooms, and hotel; had, till 1876, all its building on the W side of the railway, confronted, along the opposite side, by a broad brilliant parterre; but in 1875-76, preparatory to its becoming the working nexus between the Scottish systems and the English Midland system, underwent great extension and improvement by the erection of a booking-office and other buildings on the E side, the provision of three times the previous amount of accommodation for goods, the construction of new premises for engines and smiths' shops, the formation of a great series of new sidings, the laying down of three new lines of rails, and the opening of a new approach street, so that it is now a station at once handsome, picturesque, and commodious. A viaduct of the Glasgow and North-Western railway crosses the Nith about a mile N of the station; and some other railway works of considerable magnitude are in the vicinity. Most of the banking-offices in the town are neat or handsome edifices, and several of them are of recent erection. The King's Arms Hotel and the Commercial Hotel, on the confronting sides of the lower expansion of High Street, are old and spacious establishments; and the latter was the headquarters of Prince Charles Edward during three days of Dec. 1745. The Queensberry Hotel, near the junction of English Street and High Street, is a recent elegant erection. The Southern Counties Club, in Irish Street, was erected in 1874; is a handsome two-story edifice; and contains an elegant billiard room, 45 feet by 25, and other fine large apartments. Nithsdale woollen factory, at the foot of St Michael Street, overlooking the Dock promenade, was erected in 1858-59; is a vast, massive, turreted edifice, almost palatial in aspect; and has a chimney stalk rising to the height of 174 feet. Troqueer woollen factories, on the Kirkcudbrightshire side of the Nith, almost directly opposite the Nithsdale factory, are two structures of respectively 1866-67 and 1869-70, and more than compete with the Nithsdale factory in both extent of area and grandeur of appearance.

St Michael's Established church stands off the E side of St Michael Street, near the site of its pre-Reformation predecessor. Built in 1744-45, and repewed and renovated in 1869 and 1881, it contains 1250 sittings, and is surmounted by a plain but imposing steeple, 130 feet high. The churchyard around it - a burial-place for upwards of seven centuries - is crowded with obelisks, columns, urns, and other monuments of the dead, computed to number fully 3000, and to have been raised at an aggregate cost of from £30,000 to £100,000. Among them are the mausoleum of the poet Burns, a granite pyramid (1834) to the memory of three martyrs of the Covenant, and over 300 `first-class monuments.' Greyfriars Established church stands on the site of Dumfries Castle, fronting the N end of High Street, and succeeded a previous church on the same site, built in 1727 partly of materials from the ancient castle. Itself erected in 1866-67, after designs by Mr Starforth, of Edinburgh, at a cost of nearly £7000, it is a richly ornamented Gothic edifice, the finest in the burgh, with a beautiful spire 164 feet high. St Mary's Established church, at the N end of English Street, on the site of a 14th century chantry, reared by the widow of Sir Christopher Seton, was built in 1837-39, after designs by John Henderson, of Edinburgh, at a cost of £2400. It also is Gothic, with an open spire formed by flying buttresses, and was renovated and reseated in 1878. The Free church in George Street, built in 1843-44 at a cost of £1400, is a plain mansion-like edifice, containing 984 sittings. The Territorial Free church, at the junction of Shakespeare Street with the foot of High Street, was built in 1864-65 at a cost of £1800, and contains 500 sittings. The U.P. church in Loreburn Street, rebuilt in 1829 at a cost of more than £900, contains 500 sittings. The U.P. church in Buccleuch Street, rebuilt in 1862-63, after designs by Alexander Crombie, at a cost of £2000, is a handsome Gothic edifice, and contains 700 sittings. The U.P. church, in Townhead Street, was built in 1867-68; succeeded a previous church in Queensberry Street, built in 1788; is a handsome edifice; and contains 460 sittings. The Reformed Presbyterian church, on the E side of Irving Street, was built in 1831-32, and interiorly reconstructed in 1866; is a neat building; and contains 650 sittings. The Independent chapel, on the W side of Irving Street, was built in 1835, enlarged in 1862, repewed and renovated in 1880; is a neat structure in the Italian style; and contains 650 sittings. The Wesleyan chapel in Buccleuch Street, at the corner of Castle Street, is a modest edifice, and contains 400 sittings. The Episcopal church of St John's, in Dunbar Terrace, was built in 1867-68, after designs by Slater and Carpenter, of London; is a striking structure in pure First Pointed style, with a tower and spire 120 feet high; and contains 460 sittings. The Catholic Apostolic chapel, in Queen Street, was built in 1865 at a cost of £1000, and is a small building with a towerlet and pinnacle 58 feet high. The Baptist chapel in Newall Terrace, successor to one in Irish Street, is a solid, plain edifice, seated for 420, erected in 1880 at a cost of £l900. The Roman Catholic church of St Andrew, pro-cathedral of the diocese of Whithorn or Galloway, in Shakespeare Street, near English Street, was built in 1811-13 at a cost of £2600. Romanesque in style with Byzantine features, it received the addition of a fine tower and octagonal spire (1843-58), 147 feet high, of N and S transepts and a domed apse (1871-72); and in 1879 the interior was beautifully decorated with arabesque designs. For all these improvements St Andrew's is indebted to the Maxwells of Terregles, and mainly to the late Hon. Marmaduke Constable Maxwell, a monument to whom was placed in it in 1876. The Roman Catholic schools adjoining the church are excellent buildings with separate departments for boys, girls, and infants. Pupils on roll, 430; average attendance, 360; Government grant, May 1881, £296, 0s. 6d. The Marist Brothers, a R.C. teaching order, a lay association of men, under vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity, have, since 1874, had their head house for the three kingdoms at St Michael's Mount, formerly Laural Bank, a mansion within 5 or 6 acres of ground in a south-eastern suburb. St Michael's Mount is also used as a sanatorium for the invalided brothers of the Order; a Provincial resides; and there is a Novitiate attached. St Joseph's Commercial College, formerly the old infirmary building, altered and enlarged, is a R.C. middle-class boarding school for boys, conducted by these Marist Brothers. About 40 pupils from various parts of the kingdom, and a few foreigners, are instructed in modern languages, mathematics, English, etc.

The Academy or High School, erected in 1802 on the brow of the Nith's steep bank near Greyfriars' church, is surrounded by a playground, 1½ acre in extent, and presents a plain yet imposing appearance. With accommodation for 500 scholars, it gives instruction to boys and girls in classics, modern languages, mathematics, arithmetic, writing, drawing, and all departments of English. Under the school-board, the Academy is conducted by a rector, 3 other masters, 3 assistants, and 1 lady teacher, with endowments amounting to £262, and £48 per annum to keep up fabric from the town. In 1882 there were 281 pupils on the roll. There are several bursaries-1 of £18, 1 of £15, 3 or 4 each of £12, and a number of special prizes, besides 22 bursaries provided for by additional bequests, entitling successful competitors to a free education at the Academy, with use of books. There are 1 private school for boys and 2 ladies' schools, all well attended. There are 3 elementary board schools - Loreburn Street, St Michael Street, and Greensands, of which the two first were erected in 1876 at a cost of £3770 and £2800. With respective accommodation for 500, 400, and 236, the three had a total average attendance of 1064 during 1881.

School fees— Elementary schools, . £639 10 3
,, Academy, . . . 1510 12 9
School rate, . . . . . 1182 16 1
Teachers' salaries— Elementary schools, 1467 6 6
,, Academy, . . 1660 4 10

The Episcopal school—a small plain building in St David Street—has 130 scholars on the roll, an average attendance of 100, and a government grant of £80. The Industrial school, Burns Street, founded in 1856, with accommodation for 80 boys in 1882, is supported partly by voluntary contribution and partly by government grant. There are also an Industrial Home for destitute and orphan girls, supported by voluntary contribution; and several charitable associations of a minor character. In 1880, a Young Men's Christian Association and a Young Women's do. were established, both having since been fairly well supported. The Mechanics' Institute (1825), near the foot of Irish Street, was built in 1859-61, and is a First Pointed edifice, including a lecture-hall (76 x 58 feet; 46 high), with accommodation for 1000 persons, in which cheap public lectures are delivered during the winter months. Connected with the main building, but facing St Michael Street, stands the antique town-house of the Stewarts of Shambelly, which serves for reading-room and library, and is also the librarian's residence. The Crichton Institution, on a rising-ground off the public road, 1¼ mile SSE of the town, originated in a bequest of over £100,000 by Dr James Crichton of Friars Carse. He had thought of a university; but, owing to the failure of attempts to obtain a charter, his trustees decided to construct a lunatic asylum for affluent patients. As partially built (1835-39), at a cost of fully £50,000, it was to have taken the form of a Greek cross, with central low octagonal tower, but, as completed (1870) at a further outlay of £40,000, it has somewhat departed from the original plan, the whole being now a dignified Italian edifice, one of whose finest features is the magnificent recreation hall. The neighbouring Southern Counties Asylum, for pauper lunatics, was erected in 1848 at a cost of £20,000; it and the Crichton Royal Institution had respectively 359 and 145 inmates in 1881.

The Dumfries parish schools (landward) are Catherinefield, Noblehill and Throhoughton, Kelton and Brownhall combined - three in all. For 1881 the aggregate fees were £187, 5s. 5d.; annual education grant £372, 10s. 6d.; balance from rates £215, 16s. 7d.; teachers' salaries £652, 14s. 11d.; retiring allowances £70.

In 1879, the estate of Hannahfield and Kingholm having fallen to the Queen as ultima hæres, that portion of the estate to the south of the town on the river bank, known as Kingholm Merse, has been made over to the corporation - subject to servitude in favour of the War Department - for golf, cricket, and purposes of general sport and recreation. The crown has also granted a gift of £9500 from the estate, in trust, for the improvement of education in the counties of Dumfries and Wigtown and in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright; the trustees to create bursaries and scholarships, open to competition for pupils educated in primary schools, under the condition that successful competitors shall continue their education at secondary schools or at universities. The trustees have now in operation a `tentative scheme for the Hannahfield bursaries' in the three counties, which is likely to be of great advantage to many deserving students. But the scheme in its present form is thought to be open to objection, and will certainly be referred to the Education Department unless a compromise is arrived at with objecting school-boards.

The Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary stands in a situation similar to that of the Crichton Institution, a little nearer the town; was erected in 1869-71, after designs by Mr Starforth, at a cost of £13,000; has arrangements and appliances on the most approved plans; and is maintained chiefly by legacies, subscriptions, parochial allowances, and annual grants from the counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, and Wigtown. The workhouse occupies an airy healthy site to the S of the town; was erected in 1853-54 at a cost of more than £5500; contains accommodation for 127 pauper inmates; serves entirely for the parish of Dumfries; and has commonly from 70 to 80 pauper inmates, maintained at an annual cost of about £600. Morehead's Hospital stands in St Michael Street, opposite St Michael's Church; was founded and endowed, in 1733, by two persons of the name of Morehead; gives lodging and support to poor orphans and aged paupers of both sexes, and pensions to upwards of 40 widows at their own homes; and is maintained, partly by its own funds, partly by subscriptions and donations.

Dumfries is broadly stamped with the name of the poet Burns (1759-96). His term of residence here flashed on the popular mind so vividly as to have been at once and till the present day esteemed an epoch `the time of Burns.' The places in it associated with his presence outnumber, at least outweigh, those in Ayr, Irvine, Kilmarnock, Tarbolton, Mauchline, or Edinburgh. He appeared first in the town on 4 June 1787, and came to it then on invitation to be made an honorary burgess. He became a resident in it, on removal from Ellisland, in December 1791. For eighteen months he lived in a house of three small apartments, on the second floor of a tenement on the N side of Bank Street, then called the Wee Vennel. He then removed to a small, self-contained, two-story house on the S side of a short mean street striking eastward from St Michael Street, in the northern vicinity of St Michael's Church. The street was then called Millbrae or Millbrae-Hole; but, after Burns's death, was designated Burns Street. The house, in the smaller of whose two bedrooms he died on 21 July 1796, was occupied afterwards by his widow down to her death in 1834, and purchased in 1850 by his son, Lieut. - Col. William Nicol Burns. It is now occupied by the master of the adjoining Industrial School, continues to be as much as possible in the same condition as when Burns inhabited it, and, through courtesy of its present occupant, is shown to any respectable stranger. Nearly a hundred of Burns's most popular songs, including `Auld Langsyne,' `Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled,' `A man's a man for a' that,' `O whistle and I'll come to ye, my lad,' 'My love is like a red, red rose,' `Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon,' `Cauld kail in Aberdeen,' `Willie Wastle,' `Auld Rob Morris,' and `Duncan Gray,' were written by him either in this house or in the house in Bank Street. Many objects, too, in and near the town, and many persons who resided in or near it, are enshrined in his verse. The High School which preceded the present academy was made accessible to his children by a special deed of the Town Council (1793), that put him on the footing of a real freeman. The Antiburgher Church in Loreburn Street, on the site of the present U.P. church there, was frequently attended by him in appreciation of the high excellence of the minister who then served it. The pew which he more regularly occupied in St Michael's Church bore the initials, ` R. B, ' cut with a knife by his own hand; and was sold, at the repairing of the church in 1869, for £5. A window pane of the King's Arms Hotel, on which he scratched an epigram, drew for a long time the attention of both townsmen and strangers. A volume of the Old Statistical Account of Scotland, belonging in his time to the public library of which he was a member, was transferred to the mechanics' institute, and bears an original verse of his in his own bold handwriting. Another volume there, a copy of De Lolme on the British Constitution, presented by him to the library, contains an autograph of his which was interpreted at the time to indicate seditious sentiments. The Globe Tavern which he used to frequent, and on a window of which he inscribed the quadrain in praise of `Lovely Polly Stewart' and a new version of `Coming through the Rye,' retains an old-fashioned chair on which he was wont to sit; and the mere building, situated in a narrow gloomy close off High Street, is hardly less replete with memories of him than is the house in which he lived and died. To the Trades' Hall, already noticed, his coffined corpse was removed on the eve of his public funeral. The matrix of the cast of his skull, taken at the interment of his widow in 1834, continued in the possession of the townsman who took it, and probably is still in safe keeping in the town. His remains were originally buried in the N corner of St Michael's churchyard, with no other monument than a simple slab of freestone * erected by his widow; but, in 1815, were transferred to a vault in a more appropriate part on the SE border, and honoured with a mausoleum, erected by subscription of fifty guineas from the Prince Regent and of various sums from a multitude of admirers. The mausoleum, in the form of a Grecian temple, after a design by Thomas F. Hunt, of London, cost originally £1450, and contains a mural sculpture by Turnerelli, representing the Poetic Genius of Scotland throwing her mantle over Burns, in his rustic dress, at the plough. It is now glazed in the intervals between its pillars, to protect the sculpture from erosion by the weather; and, besides Burns's own remains, covers those of his widow and their five sons. The late William Ewart, M.P., placed a bust of the poet in a niche of the front wall of the Industrial School; and on 6 April 1882 Lord Rosebery unveiled Mrs D. O. Hill's fine marble statue, on the open space in front of Greyfriars Church. Nearly 10 feet high, it is raised 5 feet from the ground on a pedestal of grey Dalbeattie granite; and represents Burns, resting on an old tree root, in the act of producing one of his deathless lyrics. A collie snuggles to his right foot, and near by lie bonnet, song-book, and shepherd's pipe. See William M`Dowall's Burns in Dumfriesshire (Edinb. 1870).

* So says Mr M'Dowall, but, according to Dorothy Wordsworth, there was ` no stone to mark the spot ' when. on 18 aug. 1803, with Coleridge and her brother William, she stood beside the 'untimely grave of Burns.' Can it be that here too they were misinformed, as in the case of Rob Roy's grave, noticed under Balquhidder?

Dumfries has a head post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, offices of the Bank of Scotland, the British Linen Co., and the Clydesdale, Commercial, National, Royal, and Union Banks, and offices or agencies of 30 insurance companies. Three newspapers are published - the Liberal and Independent Dumfries Courier (1809) on Tuesday, the Conservative Dumfriesshire and Galloway Herald (1835) on Wednesday and Saturday, and the Liberal Dumfries and Galloway Standard (1843) also on Wednesday and Saturday. A weekly market of much importance is held every Wednesday for the sale of sheep, cattle, pigs, etc.; and on the same day, in a covered building in Loreburn Street, a sale of butter and eggs is held. Another market of secondary importance is also held on Saturday. Horse fairs are held on a Wednesday of February, either the second day of that month o. s. or the Wednesday after it, on the Wednesday before 26 May, on the Wednesday after 17 June o. s., on either 25 Sept. or the Wednesday after, and on the Wednesday before 22 Nov.; pork fairs are held on every Wednesday of January, February, March, November, and December; and eight hiring fairs are held in the course of the year. A sale of cattle on the Sands, at the Wednesday weekly market, dates from 1659; was preceded, from a time long before the Union, by a weekly sale on Monday; drew always large supplies from Dumfriesshire and Galloway for transmission into England; rose progressively to such importance that, during a considerable course of years, so many as about 20, 000 head of cattle were annually sold on the Sands to English purchasers; suffered a severe check, partly by the opening of the railways, partly by weekly auction of live stock, partly by other causes; and became so reduced toward 1865, that the number of cattle shown in that year was only 9605. The number sent from the station, in 1859, was 13, 975, but in 1866 was only 3470. The sale of sheep, at the weekly markets, seems not to have commenced till about the end of last century; but it increased rapidly in result of the turnip husbandry; and it amounted, during the five years ending in 1866, to the annual average of about 28, 000 sheep; yet, like the Sands or market sale of cattle, it was much curtailed by auction sales and private transfer. The number of sheep sent from the station, chiefly to England, in 1859, was 43,932; in 1865, 47,105; in 1881, 60, 000. The total sale of cattle and sheep on the Sands, and in the auction marts, in 1866, was 9828 cattle and 47,239 sheep. The sale of pork, in the weekly market on the Sands, for many years prior to 1832, amounted usually to upwards of 700 carcases in one day, in the busiest part of the year, often to many more, but it also received a severe check by the opening of the railways and by other causes. The number of carcases shown on the Sands in all 1859, was only 13,550; in 1867, 10,235. The stock sold in the market or at auction in 1881 were, cattle 26,415, sheep 82,327, calves 1352, pigs 1086. The number of horses sold is also very large.

The port of Dumfries is strictly the river Nith, in its run of 14¼ miles to the channel of the Solway, but comprises besides all the Scottish side of the Firth, from Sarkfoot to Kirkandrews Bay; and includes, as creeks or sub-ports, Annan, Barlochan, and Kirkcudbright. Its harbourage nearly everywhere is tidal, with great disadvantage from the peculiar ` bore ' of the Solway - a sudden rapid breast of water of short duration, followed by hours of total recess, leaving nothing but shallow fresh-water streams across great breadths of foreshore. At Dumfries itself there is no better accommodation than a series of quays, one at Dumfries dock, and three at intervals down to a distance of 5 miles. The navigation of the Nith was always difficult; but, in years prior to 1834, at a cost of £18, 930, it underwent material improvement. A rock which obstructed the channel at Glencaple, 5 miles below the town, was cut away; other obstacles in the river's bed were removed; the landing-places at the river's mouth, and the lighthouse on Southerness flanking the mouth, were put in better condition; a quay at Glencaple, and two quays at Kelton, and near Castledyke, between Glencaple and the town, were constructed. The quay at the town itself was renovated and extended, and embankments and other works, to counteract the devastating effect of the tide's impetuous rush up the river, were formed. The town's harbour, in consequence, became safer for small vessels, accessible to larger vessels than before, and accessible also to coasting steamers; yet, in result of successively the opening of the Glasgow and South-Western railway in 1850, the opening of the Castle-Douglas and Dumfries railway in 1859, the opening of the Lockerbie and Dumfries railway in 1863, the opening of the Silloth railway and wet-dock in 1864, and the opening of the Solway Junction railway in 1869, it has lost an amount of traffic more than equal to all that it previously gained. The revenue from the harbour, in 1831, was a little short of £1100; in 1844, £1212; in 1864, £555; in 1867, £474; in 1881, £332, 7s. 9d. The tonnage belonging to the port and sub-ports, which averaged 8292 during 1840-44, had risen to 15, 286 in 1860, but sank to 11, 682 in 1866, to 7764 in 1873, and to 3971 on 31 Dec. 1881. In 1881, the tonnage of ships inwards was 32,469; outwards, 32, 869. The principal imports are timber, slate, iron, coal, wine, hemp, and tallow; and the principal exports are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, wool, and sandstone. The customs, which averaged £8576 a year during 1840-44, and £11, 540 during 1845-49, amounted to £6524 in 1864, to £4986 in 1869, to £4583 in 1874, and (inclusive of duty on British spirits) to £7500 in 1881.

The productive industry of Dumfries, till a recent period, went little beyond ordinary local artisanship, but it is now vigorous and flourishing in various important departments of trade and manufacture. The large number of warehouses and shops bears evidence to a healthy amount of competition among business people, both for the ordinary retail trade, and also for the wholesale supply of numerous county towns and villages. There are two important foundries, one very extensive, for the construction and repair of engines, agricultural machines, implements, etc. The manufacture of hosiery is increasing yearly in importance, and gives employment to a large number of hands in several factories of considerable size. Tanning and currying, and coachbuilding are also important, and there are many employers of skilled labour, of high standing, in various departments of trade. The manufacture of tweeds was introduced in 1847, and has gone on since then steadily increasing. There are several factories of moderate size, and three of the largest size, the latter now (1882) owned by one firm (Messrs Walter Scott & Sons), and employing a large number of hands.

Constituted a royal burgh by David I. (1124-53), and divided into four wards, Dumfries is governed by a provost, 3 bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and 22 other councillors. The Genera Police and. Improvement Act of Scotland was adopted prior to 1871; and the., magistrates and town councillors act as commissioners of police. The income of the police commissioners arises. chiefly from rates, and in 1880-81 amounted to £4619, 19s. 7d. The assize or justiciary court is held twice a year. The sheriff court for the county is held every Tuesday and Friday during session; the sheriff small debt court, and the debts recovery act court, every Tuesday in time of session, and on the same days that ordinary courts are held in vacation. A court of county justices is held in Dumfries every Monday. The water and gas works of the burgh are public property, and are well managed, the rates to consumers steadily diminishing. With Annan, Kirkcudbright, Lochmaben, and Sanquhar, Dumfries returns one member to parliament (always a Liberal since 1837); in 1882 its parliamentary constituency numbered 1858, its municipal 1282. Corporation revenue (1867) £1599, (1875) £2360, (1881) £2204. Valuation (1861) £30,028, (1870) £42,860, (1882) £57,713, of which £4344 was in railways. Pop. of royal burgh (1841) 10,069, (1851) 11,107, (1861) 12,313, (1871) 13,710, (1881) 15,759; of parliamentary burgh (1851) 13,166, (1861) 14,023, (1871) 15,435, (1881) 17,090, of whom 9283 were females. Houses in parliamentary burgh (1881) 3642 inhabited, 174 vacant, 17 building.

The name Dumfries was anciently written Dunfres, and is supposed to have been derived from the Gaelic words dun and phreas, signifying `a mound covered with copsewood,' or `a hill-fort among shrubs.' A slight rising-ground on the area now occupied by Greyfriars Church was the site of an ancient fort, afterwards reconstructed into a strong castle; is presumed to have been clothed with copse or natural shrubs; and appears to have given origin to the name. The burgh's armorial bearing was anciently a chevron and three fleur-de-lis, but came to be a winged figure of St Michael, trampling on a dragon and holding a pastoral staff. The motto is, ` A'loreburn' - a word that, during centuries of struggle against invaders, was used as a war-cry to muster the townsmen. The side toward the English border being that whence invasion usually came, a place of rendezvous was appointed there on the banks of a rill called the Lower Burn, nearly in the line of the present Loreburn Street; and when the townsmen were summoned to the gathering, the cry was raised, ` All at the Lower Burn,' - a phrase that passed by elision into the word ` A'loreburn.' A village, which ere the close of the 10th century had sprung up under the shelter of the fort on the copse-covered mound, grew gradually into a town, and was the seat of the judges of Galloway in the reign of William the Lyon, who died in 1214, about which period or a little later it seems to have become a centre of considerable traffic. Streets on the line of the present Friars' Vennel and of the northern part of High Street, with smaller thoroughfares toward Townhead and Loreburn Street, appear to have been its oldest portions; and are supposed to have had, about the middle of the 13th century, nearly 2000 inhabitants. The erection of the old bridge before the middle of the 13th century, together with the high character which that structure originally possessed, indicates distinctly both the importance then attained by the town and the line in which its chief riverward thoroughfare ran; and another structure, erected by the same bountiful lady who erected the bridge, also indicates the position of the nucleus around which the town lay. This was a Minorite or Greyfriars' monastery, situated near the head of Friars' Vennel, where now the Burns Statue stands; and, small though it was, as compared with many abbeys, it seems to have been a goodly First Pointed edifice, comprising an aisled church, a range of cloisters, a refectory, and a dormitory. In 1286 Robert Bruce the Competitor and the Earl of Carrick, his son, with banner displayed assaulted and captured the castle of Dumfries, a royal fortress of the child-queen Margaret, the Maid of Norway; and in the summer of 1300 King Edward I., on his way to the siege of Caerlaverock, seized and garrisoned this castle, and added the high square keep, part of which remained standing till 1719. In the beginning of 1306 the famous Robert Bruce was in London, called thither as King Edward's counsellor, when a warning of peril was sent him by the Duke of Gloucester, his friend a sum of money and a pair of spurs. The hint was enough; that day he started for Scotland, his horse shod backwards, that the hoof-prints might throw pursuers off the track. On February the 4th he halted at Dumfries, where the English justiciars were sitting in assize - John Comyn of Badenoch, surnamed the Red, among the throng of barons in attendance. Him Bruce encountered in the church of the Minorites, and, falling into discourse, made the proposal to him: `Take you my lands, and help me to the throne; or else let me take yours, and I will uphold your claim.' Comyn refused, with talk of allegiance to Edward, and their words waxed hotter and hotter, till, drawing his dagger, Bruce struck a deadly blow, then hurried to his friends, who asked if aught were amiss. `I must be off,' was the answer, `for I doubt I have slain the Red Comyn.' `Doubt!' cried Kirkpatrick of Closeburn, `I mak sikar;' and, with Sir John de Lindsay, rushing into the church, despatched the wounded renegade outright. A frenzy seized them; they carried the castle by assault; and thus was rekindled the War of Independence. One episode therein was that, in this same year of 1306, Sir Christopher Seton, Bruce's brother-in-law, was hanged by the English at Dumfries, on the Crystal Mount, where his widow afterwards founded a chapel in honour of the Holy Rood.

The town was burned by the English prior to 1448; suffered devastation by them at other periods; and, in 1469, obtained from the Crown all the houses, gardens, revenues, and other property which had belonged to the Grey Friars. It was burned again by the English in 1536, and was then revenged by Lord Maxwell. That nobleman, with a small body of retainers, made an incursion into England, and reduced Penrith to ashes; and either he or some member of his family, mainly with materials from the Greyfriars' monastery, strongly reconstructed Dumfries Castle. Queen Mary, in October 1565, when the town was held by Murray and other disaffected nobles, favourers of the Reformation, marched against it with an army of 18, 000 men, at whose approach the leaders of the opposition retreated over the Border. The castle was again taken and the town sacked, in 1570, by the English under Lord Scrope and the Earl of Essex. The townsmen, in 1583, erected a bartizaned, two-storied stronghold, called the New Wark, to serve both as a fortress to resist invasion and as a retreat under discomfiture; and, either about the same time or at an earlier period, they constructed likewise, between the town and Lochar Moss, a rude fortification or extended rampart, called the Warder's Dike. But all vestiges of these works, of the castle, and of the monastery are now extinct.

In 1617 James VI. spent two days at Dumfries in royal state, and was sumptuously entertained at a public banquet. The town shared largely in the disasters that overspread Scotland under Charles l., and still more largely in those of the dark reign of Charles II., when, in November 1666, a fortnight before the battle of Rullion Green, fifty mounted Covenanters and a larger party of peasants on foot here seized Sir James Turner, and, with him, a considerable sum of money. The Cameronians, or those of the Covenanters who resisted the settlement at the Revolution, were comparatively numerous in the surrounding district; and, on 20 Nov. 1706, about 200 of them rode into the town, issued a manifesto against the impending union of Scotland and England, and burned the articles of union at the cross, but did not succeed in precipitating the town into any serious disaster. In October 1715 word was brought to the magistrates that the Jacobite gentry of the neighbourhood had formed a design to surprise the town; and, it being the sacramental fast-day, and the provincial synod being then in session, the clergy mustered their fencible parishioners, so that `a crowd of stout Whigs flocked in from the surrounding districts and villages, with their broad bonnets and grey hose, some of them mounted on their plough-horses, others on foot.' That very evening they were joined by a strange ally, no other than Simon Fraser, the infamous Lord Lovat, who, with five followers, all armed to the teeth, rode up to the head inn, en route from London to the North. Hill Burton describes the suspicions aroused by the presence of this large, square-built, peculiar-looking man; how, having shown his credentials, he presently helped to bring in the Marquis of Annandale, beset by the Jacobites under Viscount Kenmure; and how their courteous and partly convivial meeting was interrupted by a rumour of attack, a body of horse having ridden up close to the town.* A party of the townspeople, during the insurrection of 1745, cut off at Lockerbie a detachment of the Highlanders' baggage; and, in consequence, drew upon Dumfries a severer treatment from Prince Charles Edward than was inflicted on any other town of its size. Prince Charles, on his return from England, let loose his mountaineers to live at free quarters in Dumfries; and he levied the excise of the town, and demanded from its authorities a contribution of £2000 and of 1000 pairs of shoes; but, an alarm having reached him that the Duke of Cumberland had mastered the garrison left at Carlisle and was marching rapidly on Dumfries, he hastily broke away northward, accepting for the present £1100 for his required exaction, and taking hostages for the payment of the remainder. The town suffered loss to the amount of about £4000 by his visit, besides the damage caused by the plundering of his troops; but, in acknowledgment of its loyalty to the Crown, and as part compensation for its loss, it afterwards got £2800 from the forfeited estate of Lord Elcho. Later events have mainly been either commercial, political, or social; and, with the exception of a dire visitation of cholera (15 Sept. to 27 Nov. 1832), by which nearly 500 perished, they have left no considerable mark on its annals. It may, however, be noticed that the Highland and Agricultural Society has held its meeting here in 1830, 1837, 1845, 1860, 1870, and 1878. The town, on the whole since 1746, has plenteously participated in the benign effects of peace and enlightenment; and, though moving more slowly than some other towns in the course of aggrandisement, it has been excelled by none in the gracefulness of its progress, and in the steadiness and substantiality of its improvement.

* It is noteworthy that the first book printed at Dumfries was Peter Rae's History of the Rebellion in Scotland, in Dumfries, Galloway, etc. (1718).

The title Earl of Dumfries, in the peerage of Scotland, conferred in 1633 on the seventh Baron Crichton of Sanquhar, passed in 1694 to an heiress who married the second son of the first Earl of Stair. Her eldest son, William, who succeeded her in 1742 as fourth Earl of Dumfries and his brother James in 1760 as fourth Earl of Stair, died without issue in 1768, when the former title devolved on his nephew, Patrick Macdowall of Feugh (1726-1803), whose daughter married the eldest son of the first Marquis of Bute; and the title now is borne by her great-grandson, John (b. 1881), son and heir of the present Marquis of Bute. On the town's roll of fame are the following eminent natives or residents, the former distinguished by an asterisk: The Rev. William Veitch, who was minister of Dumfries during the conflict between Presbyterianism and Episcopacy, and whose biography was written by the Rev. Dr M`Crie; the Rev. Dr Henry Duncan of Ruthwell (1774-1846), author of the Philosophy of the Seasons, who started the Courier, and founded here the earliest of all savings' banks, and a statue of whom is in front of the Savings' Bank building; * Dr Benjamin Bell (1749-1806), the eminent surgeon; Sir Andrew Halliday (1783-1839), a famous physician, who spent his latter years and died in Dumfries; * Sir John Richardson (1787-1865), the surgeon and naturalist of Sir John Franklin's overland Polar expedition; * Sir James Anderson (b. 1824), the telegraph manager; * Gen. William M`Murdo, C.B. (b. 1819), the son-in-law and favourite officer of Sir Charles Napier, the hero of Scinde; John M `Diarmid (1790-1852), editor of the Scrap Book, author of Sketches from nature and a Life of Cowper, and for 35 years the talented conductor of the Dumfries Courier; Thomas Aird (1802-76), the well-known poet, and editor of the Dumfriesshire Herald from 1835 to 1863; William M'Dowall (b. 1815), author of the Man of the Woods and of the History of Dumfries, and editor of the Dumfries Standard from 1846; * James Hannay (1827-73), author of Eustace Conyers, Singleton Fontenoy, and other works of fiction; * Dr Robert Carruthers (1799-1878), of Inverness, but long connected with Dumfries, the author of a Life of Pope, the Highland Note-Book, the Encyclopædia of English Literature, etc., and of ten Dumfries Portraits, which appeared in the Dumfriesshire Monthly Magazine, begun in 1821; William Bennet, editor of the three volumes of the Dumfries Monthly Magazine, begun in 1825; Allan Cunningham, John Mayne, Robert Anderson, Joseph Train, Robert Malcolmson, Dr Browne, and Dr John Gibson, who contributed largely to these two periodicals; the Rev. William Dunbar, editor of the Nithsdale Minstrel, a volume of original poetry published in 1815; William Paterson (1658-1719), the founder of the Bank of England, and the projector of the Darien Expedition; Patrick Miller of Dalswinton (1731-1815), the distinguished inventor and agriculturist; * Robert Thorburn, A.R.A. (b. 1818), the famous miniature painter; Kennedy, the landscape painter; Dunbar and Currie, the sculptors; * James Pagan (1811-70), journalist; * Joseph Irving (b. 1830), historian and annalist; Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), a `writer of books;' * John Mayne (1759-1846), minor poet and journalist; and not a few besides.

The parish, containing also the villages of Georgetown, Gasstown, and Locharbriggs, with part of the village of Kelton, is bounded NW by Holywood and Kirkmahoe, NE by Tinwald, E by Torthorwald, S by Caerlaverock, and W by Troqueer and Terregles in Kirkcudbrightshire. Its greatest length, from N to S, is 6¾ miles; its greatest breadth is 3¼ miles; and its area is 10, 200 acres, of which 69½ are foreshore and 98¼ water. The Nith winds 7 miles south-by-eastward along all the boundary with Holywood and Kirkcudbrightshire, and sluggish Lochar Water 7¾ south-south-eastward along that with Tinwald and Torthorwald. Near Lochthorn, 2½ miles NNE of the town, is a little lake (1¼ x 2/3 furl.), which, in time of hard frost, is much frequented by skaters and curlers. A mineral spring, called Crichton's Well, occurs in Lochar Moss; another, a strong chalybeate, on Fountainbleau farm. The picturesque low height of Clumpton rises 2 miles NE of the town; and an undulating low eminence, as formerly noticed, forms chief part of the site of the town, southward of which another low ridge of hills runs nearly parallel to the Nith, at about half a mile's distance, into Caerlaverock; and rises at Trohoughton to 312 feet. The rest of the surface is nearly a dead level, sinking to 40, and rarely exceeding 100, feet. The western face of the ridge, overlooking the Nith, is gently sloping, and highly embellished; but the eastern breaks down in abrupt declivities, presents a bold front and a commanding outline, and forms, about 1 ¼ mile from the town, two precipitous ledges, called the Maiden Bower Craigs, one of them containing a remarkable cavity, said to have been used by those mythic beings, the Druids, as a sort of `St Wilfrid's needle,' or ordeal of chastity. A broad belt of Lochar Moss, along the eastern border, continued all sheer morass down into the present century, but now is extensively reclaimed, and partly clothed with verdure or with wood. Permian sandstone is the prevailing rock, and has been largely quarried. The soil, in the SW, is a pretty strong clay; in the flat lands by the Nith, is mostly clay incumbent on gravel; in the N and NE, is a light reddish sandy earth resting on sandstone; and in the E, is either native moss, reclaimed moss, or humus. Nearly four-fifths of the entire area are regularly or occasionally in tillage, some 350 acres are under wood, and nearly all the rest of the land is capable of remunerative reclamation or culture. An ancient castle of the Comyns stood ¾ mile SSE of the town, on a spot overlooking a beautiful bend of the Nith, and still called Castledykes. A meadow near it bears the name of Kingholm, and may have got that name either by corruption of Comyn's holm or in honour of Robert Bruce. Another meadow, by the riverside northward of the town, is called the Nunholm, from its lying opposite the ancient Benedictine nunnery of Lincluden. This parish is the seat of both a presbytery and a synod, and it is divided ecclesiastically into the three parishes of St Michael, Greyfriars, and St Mary, the value of the two first livings being £436 and £336. Valuation, exclusive of burgh, (1882) £20, 877, 18s. 1d. Pop. of entire parish (1801) 7288, (1831) 11,606, (1861) 13,523, (1871) 14,841, (1881) 16,839.—Ord. Sur., shs. 10, 9, 1864-63.

The presbytery of Dumfries comprises the old parishes of Caerlaverock, Colvend, Dumfries-St Michael, Dumfries-Greyfriars, Dunscore, Holywood, Kirkbean, Kirkgunzeon, Kirkmahoe, Kirkpatrick-Durham, Kirkpatrick-Irongray, Lochrutton, Newabbey, Terregles, Tinwald, Torthorwald, Troqueer, and Urr, and the quoad sacra parishes of Dumfries-St Mary, Dalbeattie, and Maxwelltown. Pop. (1871) 38, 967, (1881) 41,099, of whom 7072 were communicants of the Church of Scotland in 1878. - The Free Church also has a presbytery of Dumfries, with 3 churches in Dumfries, 2 at Dunscore, and 12 at Corsock, Dalbeattie, Dalton, Glencaple, Hightae, Irongray, Kirkbean, Kirkmahoe, Kirkpatrick-Durham, Maxwelltown, Newabbey, and Ruthwell, which 17 had together 3216 members in 1881. The U.P. Synod likewise has a presbytery of Dumfries, with 3 churches in Dumfries, 2 in Sanquhar, and 10 at Burnhead, Castle-Douglas, Dalbeattie, Dalry, Dunscore, Lochmaben, Mainsriddle, Moniaive, Thornhill, and Urr, which together had 2814 members in 1880.

The synod of Dumfries comprises the presbyteries of Dumfries, Lochmaben, Langholm, Annan, and Penpont. Pop. (1871) 94,023, (1881) 96,018, of whom 17,897 were communicants of the Church of Scotland in 1878. - The Free Church also has a synod of Dumfries, comprising presbyteries of Dumfries, Lockerbie, and Penpont, and superintending thirty-four congregations, which together had 7256 members in 1881.

See John M `Diarmid's Picture of Dumfries and its Environs (Edinb. 1832); William M`Dowall's History of the Burgh of Dumfries; with Notices of Nithsdale, Annandale, and the Western Border (Edinb. 1867; 2d ed. 1873); and his Memorials of St Michael's, the Old Parish Churchyard of Dumfries (Edinb. 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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