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Leuchars

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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Leuchars, a village and a parish of NE Fife. The village stands 1 mile NNE of Leuchars Junction on the North British railway, this being 5¼ miles S of Tayport, 4½ WNW of St Andrews, 6¼ NE of Cupar, and 40 NNE of Edinburgh. It is lighted with gas, and has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and railway telegraph departments. Pop. (1831) 614, (1861) 671, (1871) 523, (1881) 588. The parish, containing also the villages of Balmullo and Guard Bridge, is bounded N by Forgan and Ferryport-on-Craig, E by the German Ocean, S by the Eden estuary and river, which separate it from St Andrews and Kemback, SW by Dairsie, and W by Logie. Its utmost length, from NE to SW, is 81/8 miles; its utmost breadth, from NW to SE, is 43/8 miles; and its area is 15,131½ acres, of which 1658¼ are foreshore and 116 water. The shore, extending 7¼ miles along the German Ocean and St Andrews Bay, is flat and sandy, at no point exceeding 16 feet above sea-level. The Eden flows 6¾ miles east-north-eastward along the Kemback and St Andrews boundary and through St Andrews Bay, till at Eden Mouth it falls into the German Ocean; and Motray Water traces 41/3 furlongs of the Logie boundary, and then flows 2¾ miles south-south-eastward through the interior, till it falls into the Eden at the head of St Andrews Bay. In the SW, beyond Balmullo village, the surface rises to 515 feet at Airdit Hill; but most of the parish is almost a dead level, no point to the E of the railway exceeding 53 feet. Tents Moor here is an extensive tract of land, covered up with sand, and all but useless for agricultural purposes. Trap rocks prevail on the higher grounds, and have been largely quarried; whilst sandstone, of the New Red formation, occurs near the Eden, but is little suited for building. The soil of the higher grounds is gravel, soft loam, or clay; and that of the low flat lands comprises every variety, from the poorest sand to the richest argillaceous loam. Nearly seven-elevenths of the entire area are regularly in tillage; plantations cover some 400 acres; and the rest is mostly pastoral or waste. The Rev. Alexander Henderson (1583-1646), of Covenanting fame, was minister for more than thirty years; and Henry Scougal (1650-78), from 1669 professor of philosophy at King s College, Aberdeen, has been claimed for a native. No vestige remains of the ancient Castle of Leuchars, 3 furlongs N of the village. It crowned a circular eminence, the Castle Knowe, the moat round which enclosed 3 acres of ground, and was crossed by a draw bridge. It was the residence of the Celtic chief, Ness, the son of William, whose daughter was married to Robert de Quinci; and it seems to have been the principal residence of their son, Seyer de Quinci, Earl of Winchester, where he held his baronial court, as many of his charters are dated thence; and in a dispute with Duncan, the son of Hamelin, about the lands of Duglyn, in the Ochils, he brought Duncan to acknowledge a release of his claims, in his court, 'in plenâ curiâ meâ apud Locres.' In 1327 it was taken and demolished by the English, under the Earl of Pembroke, but was no doubt subsequently rebuilt. In 1808 an earthen vase, containing nearly a hundred well-preserved coins of Severus, Antoninus, and other Roman emperors, was found on Craigie Hill. Three pre-Reformation chapels were in the parish-one at Easter Tron, another near Airdit House, and the third on the site of the parish school. Airdit, Earlshall (1546-1617), Pitcullo, and Pitlethie are noticed separately; and 11 proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 13 of between £100 and £500, 3 of from £50 to £100, and 15 of from £20 to £50. Leuchars is in the presbytery of St Andrews and synod of Fife; the living is worth £385. The parish church, containing 850 sittings, is less 'complete than that of Dalmeny, but has originally been a nobler edifice. Indeed, there are few finer specimens of pure Norman work than the semicircular apse, with its two arcades, the upper one having the richness of its effect increased by square piers between the pillars. The windows have been filled up, but their outline is distinctly traceable. A band of corbels, carved into grotesque heads, running along above the higher arcade, will reward attention. Among the subjects which the fantastic stone-cutter has specially indulged in are a ram's head with its horns and a muzzled bear-a phenomenon but rarely seen, one would think, in Scotland in the 12th century. It is easy to notice on the wall traces of the original height of the apse. The ecclesiastical antiquary is not inclined to thank those who have built a somewhat imposing belfry above it-an ornament not entitled by old rule to occupy such a position. The next compartment still preserves its original Norman character, and is conspicuous for an interlaced arcade, of that kind which, according to the theories of some antiquaries, suggested the idea of the pointed arch. The Norman features die away, as it were, into the western compartment of the church, which is entirely bald and modern; and it is sometimes difficult to say whether the stones with zigzag and toothed mouldings retain their original position, or have been built, as so many old stones lying about, into new walls. In the interior there appear through the plaster traces of a large semicircular arch, which had perhaps divided the nave from the choir. Within the apse a great part of the original arching has been removed, but enough remains to show its character.' There is also a Free church; and two public schools, Balmullo and Leuchars, with respective accommodation for 132 and 251 children, had (1882) an average attendance of 67 and 184, and grants of £52, 8s. and £159, 15s. Valuation (1865) £18, 247, 17s. 1d., (1883) £22, 115, 2s. 9d. Pop. (l801) 1687, (1831) 1869, (1861) 1903, (1871) 1727, (1881) 2185-Ord. Sur., sh. 49, 1865. See T. S. Muir's Descriptive Notices of Ancient Parochial and Collegiate Churches of Scotland (Lond. 1848), and vol. iii. of Billings' Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities (Edinb. 1852).

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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