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Dunblane

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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Dunblane (Gael. ` hill of Blane '), a town and a parish of Strathallan, S Perthshire. The town stands, 250 feet above sea-level, on the left bank of Allan Water, which here is spanned by a one-arch bridge, built early in the 15th century by Bishop Finlay Dermoch; its station on the Scottish Central section of the Caledonian, at the junction of the Callander line, is 11 miles ESE of Callander, 28 SW of Perth, 5 N by W of Stirling, 41¼ WNW of Edinburgh, and 34½ NE of Glasgoww. An ancient place, it was burned under Kenneth mac Alpin (844-60) by Britons of Strathclyde, and in 912 was ravaged by Danish pirates, headed by Regnwald. But its church dates back to even remoter times, to the 7th century, and seems to have been an offshoot of Kingarth in Bute, for its founder was St Blane, of the race of the Irish Picts, and bishop of that church of Kingarth which Cathan his uncle had founded. The bishopric of Dunblane was one of the latest established by David I., in 1150 or somewhat earlier; among its bishops was Maurice, who, as Bruee's chaplain and abbot of Inchaffray, had blessed the Scotch host at Bannockburn. Long after, in post-Reformation days, the saintly Robert Leighton (1613-84) chose it as the poorest and smallest of Scotland's sees, and held it for nine years till his translation in 1670 to the archbishopric of Glasgow. In him Dunblane's chief interest is centred; and his memory lives in the Leightonian Library, the Bishop's Well, and the Bishop's Walk, a pleasant path leading southward not far from the river, and overshadowed by venerable beech trees. Then, too, there is Tannahill's song, Jess, the Flower o' -Dumblane, recalled when the sun goes down behind Ben Lomond; or one may remember that Prince Charles Edward held a levee in Balhaldie House, now an old ruinous mansion, on 11 Sept. 1745, and that the Queen drove through Dunblane on 13 Sept. 1844. The title of Viscount Dunblane in the peerage of Scotland, conferred in 1675 on Peregrine Osborne, who in 1712 succeeded his father as Duke of Leeds, is now borne by his sixth descendant, George Godolphin Osborne, ninth Duke of Leeds and eighth Viscount Dunblane (b. 1828; suc. 1872).

The town itself, though ranking as a city, is townlike in neither aspect nor extent. Richard Franck, indeed, who travelled in Scotland about the year 1658, calls it ` dirty Dunblane, ' and adds, ` Let us pass by it, and not cumber our discourse with so inconsiderable a corporation.' But to-day the worst charges to be brought against Dunblane are that its streets are narrow, its houses old-fashioned-light enough charges, too, when counterweighed by charming surroundings, a brand-new hydropathic establishment, a good many handsome villas, and various public edifices of more or less redeeming character. Foremost, of course, comes the prison, which, erected in 1842 on the site of Strathallan Castle, had its front part converted in 1882 into commodious police barracks, whilst a new wing to the rear contains 10 cells for prisoners whose term does not exceed a fortnight. T-he neighbouring courthouse was built in 1869, with aid of £3973 from Government. The Leightonian Library is also modern, a small house, the marble tablet on whose front bears the Bishop's arms and the inscription ' Bibliotheca Leightoniana; ' it contains his bequest of 1400 volumes for the use of the clergy of the diocese, a number since considerably added to, and serves now as a public reading-room. On a rising knoll beyond the cathedral is a mineral spring, which, according to analysis made in 1873, contains 19.200 grains of common salt to 14.400 of muriate of lime, 2.800 of sulphate of lime, 4 -00 of carbonate of lime, and 1.36 of oxide of iron. This spring having been acquired by a limited company, a fine hydropathic establishment, capable of accommodating 200 visitors, was built (1875-76), at a cost of £22,000, on grounds 18 acres in extent. It commands a magnificent prospect of the Grampians, and, designed by Messrs Peddie & Kinnear, is English in style, with central clock-tower, projecting wings, a recreation room 40 yards long, billiard room, etc. The town has, besides, 2 hotels, a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, branches of the Bank of Scotland and the Union Bank, a local savings' bank, 13 insurance agencies, gas-works, a public reading and amusement room, 2 curling clubs, a volunteer corps, a building company, and an agricultural society. Thursday is market-day; and fairs are held on the first Wednesday in March o. s., the Tuesday after 26 May, 10 August o. s., and the first Tuesday in November o. s. Handloom weaving is almost wholly extinct, but employment is given to a number of the townsfolk by the wool and worsted mills of Keir and Springbank.

Of Dunblane Cathedral Archbishop Laud remarked in 1633 that ` this was a goodly church before the Deformation. ' It consists of a ruinous aisled, eight-bayed nave (130 by 58 feet, and 50 high), a square tower, and an aisleless choir (80 by 30 feet), with a chapter-house, sacristy, or lady-chapel to the N. The four lower stages of the tower, which stands awkwardly into the S aisle of the nave, are all that remains of King David's Norman cathedral, and exhibit a shafted N doorway, a SW staircase, and a rib-vaulted basement story; to them two more have been added, of Second Pointed date, ending in a parapet and a low wooden spire, the height to whose top is 128 feet. The nave is almost entirely pure First Pointed, the work apparently of Bishop Clement (123358), who at Rome in person represented to the Pope that, the Columban monastery having fallen into lay hands, * the church had remained for nearly ten years without a chief pastor; that he, when appointed, found the church so desolate that he had no cathedral wherein to lay his head; and that in this unroofed church the divine offices were celebrated by a single rural chaplain. In the clerestory the windows are of two lights, with a foiled circle set over them, very plainly treated outside, but highly elaborated by a range of shafted arches running continuously in front of the windows within, so much apart from them as to leave a narrow passage round the building in the thickness of the wall. The E window is rather an unusual variety of triplicate form for a large building, the central light being much taller and wider than that on each side of it. In the W front the arrangement is peculiarly fine. Over the doorway and its blind arch on either side are three very long and very narrow two-light windows of equal height, with a cinquefoil in the head of the central window, and a quatrefoil in the head of the side windows; whilst above is a vesica, set within a bevilled fringe of bay-leaves arranged zigzagwise with their points in contact. It was of this W front that Mr Ruskin thus spoke to an Edinburgh audience:-'Do you recollect the W window of your own Dunblane Abbey ? It is acknowledged to be beautiful by the most careless observer. And why beautiful ? Simply because in its great contours it has the form of a forest leaf, and because in its decoration it has used nothing but forest leaves. He was no common man who designed that cathedral of Dunblane. I know nothing so perfect in its simplicity, and so beautiful, so far as it reaches, in all the Gothic with which I am acquainted. And just in proportion to his power of mind, that man was content to work under Nature's teaching; and, instead of putting a merely formal dogtooth, as everybody else did at the time, he went down to the woody bank of the sweet river beneath the rocks on which he was building, and he took up a few of the fallen leaves that lay by it, and he set them in his arch, side by side for ever.' The choir, which since the Reformation has served as the parish church, retained very few of its pristine features, when in 1872-73 it was restored and reseated, at a cost of £2000, by the late Sir G. G. Scott. The eighteen oaken stalls, of 16th century workmanship, with misereres and ogee-headed canopies, were ranged N and S of the site of the high altar; a fine organ was erected; and two stained-glass windows were inserted by the late Sir William Stirling-Maxwell of Keir, whose skilful eye watched over the whole work of restoration. In the course of it a sculptured stone was discovered, which, measuring 6 by 2 feet, bears figures of a finely carved cross, a man on horseback, a dog or pig, etc.; among other interesting monuments are effigies of Bishop Finlay Dermoch, Bishop Michael Ochiltree, Malise Earl of Strathearn, and his Countess; but during the unfortunate repairs of 1817 the plain blue marble slabs were removed that marked the graves of James IV.'s spouse (not queen), fair Margaret Drummond and her two sisters, who all were poisoned at Drummond Castle in 1502. The bishop's palace, overlooking the Allan, to the SW of the cathedral, has left some vestiges; but nothing remains of the deanery or of the manses of abbot, treasurer, prebends, and archdeacon. The Free church was built in 1854, the U.P. church in 1835, and St Mary's Episcopal church in 1844, which last, Early English in style, consists of a nave with S porch and structural sacristy.

A burgh of barony, with the Earl of Kinnoull for superior, and also a police burgh, the town is now governed by a senior magistrate, 3 junior magistrates, and 6 police commissioners. The municipal constituency numbered 232 in 1882, when the burgh valuation amounted to £7608. Pop. (1841) 1911, (1851) 1816, (1861) 1709, (1871) 1921, (1881) 2186.

The parish, containing also the village and station of Kinbuck, 2¾ miles NNE of Dunblane, is bounded NE by Ardoch, E by Blackford and Alva, SE by Logie, SW by Lecropt and Kilmadock, W by Kilmadock, and N by Monzievaird (detached) and Muthill. Its utmost length, from NNW to SSE, is 77/8 miles; its width, from E to W, varies between 7 furlongs and 6¾ miles; and its area is 18, 6361/3 acres, of which 93¾are water. Allan Waterwinds 81/8 miles south-south-westward, partly along the Ardoch boundary, but mainly through the interior; and Wharry Burn, its affluent, runs 5¾ miles west-south-westward, chiefly along the south-eastern border; whilst Ardoch Burn meanders 5½ miles south-south-eastward and southward through the western interior on its way to the Teith. The surface declines along the Allan, in the furthest S of the parish, to close on 100 feet above sea-level, thence rising north-eastward to 878 feet beyond Linns, 1500 at Glentye Hill, 2072 at *Blairdenon Hill, 1955 at *Mickle Corum, and 1683 at *Little Corum- north-north-westward to 370 near Hillside, 509 near Blarlean, 617 at Upper Glastry, 902 near Cromlix Cottage, and 1653 at *Slymaback, where asterisks mark those summits that culminate on the confines of the parish. So that Dunblane comprises the principal part of Strathallan, with a skirting of the Ochils on the E, of the Braes of Doune on the W, and exhibits, especially along the banks of its clear-flowing river, a series of charming landscapes. The district to the N of the town is mostly bleak and dreary, that towards the NW consists in large measure of moors and swamps, and that towards the E includes part of Sheriffmuir, and elsewhere is occupied by heathy heights; but to the S of the town is all an assemblage of cornfields, parks, and meadows, of wooded dells, and gentle rising-grounds. The climate of the strath, in consequence partly of immediate shelter from the winds, partly of the strath's position in the centre of Scotland, at nearly equal distance from the German and Atlantic Oceans and from the Moray and Solway Firths, is singularly mild and healthy, free alike from biting E winds and from the rain-dropping mists of the W. Eruptive rocks prevail throughout the hills, and Red sandstone underlies all the arable land, whose soil varies from gravel to reddish clay. James Finlayson, D.D. (1758-1808), the eminent divine, was born at Nether Cambushinnie farm-now in Ardoch parish, but then in that of Dunblane,-and went to school at the town. The Keir estate extends into this parish, mansions in which are Kippenross, KipPendavie, Whitecross, Duthiestone, Kilbryde Castle, and Cromlix Cottage. Eight proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 6 of between £100 and £500, 6 of from £50 to £100, and 27 of from £20 to £50. Dunblane is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Perth and Stirling; the living is worth £413. Dunblane public, Kinbuck public, and Dunblane Episcopal schools, with respective accommodation for 364, 92, and 62 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 223, 76, and 87, and grants of £191, 18s., £63, 18s., and £67, 17s. Valuation (1866) £19,075, 12s. 7d., (1882) £27,687, 4s. 11d. Pop. (1801) 2619, (1831) 3228, (1861) 2528, (1871) 2765, (1881) 3122.—Ord. Sur., sh. 39, 1869.

The presbytery of Dunblane comprises the ancient parishes of Aberfoyle, Balquhidder, Callander, Dunblane, Kilmadock, Kincardine, Kippen, Lecropt, Logie, Port of Monteith, Tillicoultry, and Tulliallan, and the quoad sacra parishes of Bridge of Allan, Bucklyvie, Gartmore, and Trossachs, with the chapelry of Norriston. Pop. (1871) 25, 804, (1881) 26, 501, of whom 5054 were communicants of the Church of Scotland in 1878. -The Free Church also has a presbytery of Dunblane, with churches at Balquhidder, Bridge of Allan, Bucklyvie, Callander, Dunblane, Gartmore, Kilmadock, Kippen, Norriston, and Tillicoultry, which together had 2263 communicants in 1881.

See vol. ii. of Billings' Baronial and Ecelesiastical Antiquities (1852); T. S. Muir's Characteristics of Old Church Architecture (1861); and a History of Dunblane, by Mr John Miller, of Glasgow, announced as preparing in Aug. 1881.

* Skene overthrows the commonly-received belief that Dunblane was ever a seat of Culdees (Celt. Scot., ii. 403).

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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