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,
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bercorn, a village and a coast parish of Linlithgowshire. Lying ¼ mile inland, near the confluence of the Cornie and Midhope Burns, the village,-a pretty little place, nestling among trees and gardens on the verge of a high bank,-is 3¾ miles W of its post-town South Queensferry, and 3 NNW of Winchburgh station. Here stood most probably the monastery of Aebbercurnig or Eoriercorn, founded about 675 under St Wilfrid as a central point for the administration of the northern part of his diocese, which included the province of the Picts, held in subjection by the Angles of Northumbria. Trumuini made this monastery the seat of his bishopric, the earliest in Scotland, from 681 to 685, when the Picts' victory at Dunnichen forced him to flee to Whitby (Skene, Celt. Scot., i. 262-268, and ii. 224). And here still stands the ancient parish church, refitted in 1579, and thoroughly repaired in 1838, with a Norman doorway turned into a window, a broken cross, and a stone coffin lid, but minus a carved pew-back that found its way to the Edinburgh Antiquarian Museum in 1876.
The parish contains also the hamlets of Philipston, 2½ miles SW of Abercorn village, and Society, on the coast, 1¼ mile E by N. It is bounded N for 3¾ miles by the Firth of Forth (here 2½ miles wide), E by Dalmeny, SE by Kirkliston, S by the Auldcathie portion of Dalmeny and by Ecclesmachan, SW by Linlithgow, and W by Carriden, from which it is parted by the Black Burn. It has a length from E to W of from 3¼ to 4½ miles, an extreme breadth from N to S of 25/8 miles, and an area of 5265 acres, of which 29½ are water. Low swelling hills diversify the surface, but nowhere rise much above 300 feet: the streams are small, even for rivulets. Yet ' the scenery, 'says Mr Thomas Farrall,' is strikingly picturesque, the seaboard being richly wooded, the fields highly cultivated and of great fertility. The castellated mansion of Hopetoun enjoys a commanding prospect, having on one side the blue sea, and on the other green fields, with the Pentland Hills in the background. The soil in this quarter is variable but fertile: the substratum is still more changeable, consisting of patches of till, gravel, sand, limestone, and sandstone. So early as the 17th century wheat was grown, rents being paid in considerable part by this commodity. What draining was required was mainly accomplished before 1800, and a large extent of land was planted and ornamented with clumps and belts of trees ' (Trans. Highl. and Ag. Soc., 1877). To this need only be added that sandstone, whinstone, and limestone are extensively worked, but that a small colliery is now disused. The Anglo-Norman knight, Sir William de Graham, ancestor of the Dukes of Montrose, received from David I. (1124-53) the lands of Abercorn, which came by marriage to Sir Reginald Mure, chamberlain of Scotland in 1329. In 1454 the Castle was taken by James II. from the ninth and last Earl of Donglas, and its only vestige is a low green mound, fronting the church and manse: whereas Midhope Tower, bearing a coronet and the initials J. L[ivingstone], stands almost perfect, ¾ mile SW. At present there are titularly connected with this parish Sir Bruce Maxwell Seton of Abercorn, eighth baronet since 1663, and the Duke of Abercorn, eldest surviving male heir of the Hamilton line, who takes from it his title of Baron (1603) and Earl (1606) in the peerage of Scotland, of Marques (1790) in that of Great Britain, and of Duke (1868) in that of Ireland. The mansions are Hopetoun House, ½ mile E of the village, and Binns House, 2 miles WSW: the property is divided between the Earl of Hopetoun and Sir Robert-Alexander-Osborne Dalyell. Abercorn is traversed in the south for 2½ miles by the North British railway, and for 1½ mile by the Union Canal. It is in the presbytery of Linlithgowshire and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale: the minister's income is £392. There is also a Free church: and a public and a girls' school (Gen. As.), with respective accommodation for 197 and 63 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 80 and 41, and grants of £71, 14s. and £36, 2s. 6d. Valuation (188l) £8164, 15s. Pop. (1801) 814, (1821) 1044, (1871) 933, (1881) 865.Ord. Sur., sh. 32, 1857.
An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is
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