Old County of Midlothian


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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1834-45: Edinburgh

Edinburghshire or Midlothian, a maritime county in the eastern part of the southern division of Scotland, is bounded N by the Firth of Forth; E by Haddington, Berwick, and Roxburgh shires; S by Selkirk, Peebles, and Lanark shires; and W and NW by Linlithgowshire. Its greatest length, from E to W, is 36 miles, its greatest breadth, from NW to SE, is 24 miles; and its area is estimated at 234,926 acres, or 367 square miles. Its outline is somewhat irregular, but forms approximately the figure of a half moon, with the convex side resting on the Forth and the horns stretching respectively to the SE and SW. Its coast line is neither rugged nor bold, but stretches for about 12 miles along the southern shore of the Firth, for the most part in sandy or shingly beach. There are several havens for fishing boats, and large and important harbours at Leith and Granton.

The surface of this county is exceedingly diversified with hill and dale, but on the whole gradually ascends from the sea towards the interior till it reaches its culminating point (2136 feet) in Blackhope Scar among the Moorfoot Hills in the SE. The effect of this far from regular upward incline is to produce scenery of a very tolerably varied kind; and though there is no part of Edinburghshire that can be described as grand, yet most parts are picturesque, and all are pleasant. There are several of those wooded dens or 'clenchs' that are almost peculiar to southern Scotland and northern England. On the south-eastern boundary of Edinburghshire stretch the western slopes of the Lammermuirs; further W, and occupying the S of the county and extending into Peeblesshire, lie the Moorfoot Hills, in a large triangular mass. In this group, almost wholly pastoral, the summits are generally rounded, often isolated, and nowhere linked into a continuous chain. About 3 miles from their western limit rise the Pentland Hills, the chief range in the county. These, springing steeply and suddenly about 4 miles SSW of Edinburgh, stretch 12 miles SSW into Peeblesshire, with a breadth averaging 3 miles, but gradually increasing towards the S. The chief summits, in order from the N, are Castlelaw Hill (1595 feet), Bell's Hill (1330), Black Hill (1628), Carnethy (1890), Scald Law (1898), West Kip (1806), East Cairn Hill (1839), and West Cairn Hill (1844). The various volcanic eminences in the immediate neighbourhood of Edinburgh, which add so much to the charm of the city, are specifically noticed in our article on Edinburgh. Corstorphine Hill, 3 miles W of the Castle rock, rises to 520 feet above sea-level, and stretches curvingly for about 2 miles. The Craiglockhart, Blackford, and Braid (698 feet) Hills form points in a rough semicircular line round the S of the city, none of them much more than 2 miles from it. The Carberry Hill ridge, on the NE border, extends for nearly 6 miles from N to S, and attains its highest point at 680 feet above sea-level. The streams of Edinburghshire are all too small to deserve the name of river; but the deficiency in individual size is made up for by the number of small streams, which drain the county very thoroughly, and for the most part fall into the Forth. The most easterly is the Esk, formed by the junction of the North and South Esks about 6 miles from Musselburgh, where it debouches. The Water of Leith drains the NW side of the Pentlands, and enters the Forth at Leith. The Almond enters Edinburghshire from Linlithgowshire, and, after forming the boundary between these two counties for some miles, falls into the Firth at Cramond. The Tyne, rising near the middle of the E border, passes off into Haddingtonshire after a course of 5 miles northwards; while the Gala, with its source in the eastern Moorfoots, flows SSE into Roxburghshire. Some of these streams, notably the North Esk and the Water of Leith, afford water-power for driving the numerous paper-mills, whose produce is the chief manufacture of the county. The natural lakes of Edinburghshire, with the exception of Duddingston Loch at the base of Arthur's Seat at Edinburgh, need not be separately named; there are large artificial reservoirs at Threipmuir, Loganlee, Harelaw, Torduff, Clubbiedean, Gladsmuir, Rosebery, and Cobbinshaw. There are mineral springs at St Bernard's in Edinburgh, and at Bonnington, Cramond, Corstorphine, Midcalder, Penicuik, and St Catherine's.

The geology of Edinburghshire is most interesting, but our space only admits of its salient features being sketched. The county naturally divides itself into three districts. The first, embracing the Moorfoot and Lammermuir Hills in the SE, is a portion of the ' great Lower Silurian tableland of the South of Scotland, ' and its rocks consist of greywacke, grit, and shale folded into a constant succession of NE and SW waves. The second is that of the Pentland and Braid Hills, where the basement rocks are of Upper Silurian age, consisting of greywackes, shales, and limestones, some of them being highly fossiliferous. These are conformably overlaid by the lowest members of the Lower Old Red Sandstone, while there rests on the upturned and denuded edges of both an unconformable series of porphyrites, tuffs, sandstones, and conglomerates, also of Lower Old Red age, pointing to upheaval, long continued denudatin, and subsequent volcanic activity during that period. The third district takes in the remainder of the county, and, with the exception of a few later intrusions of trap, is floored with carboniferous rocks. The Pentland and Braid Hills wedge this into two basins. In the western one the Calciferous sandstones alone occur. These yield the rich oil shales of Midcalder, the limestone of Raw Camps, and the building stones of Granton, Craigleith, Hailes, and Redhall, and it is on members of this series that the capital stands. In the eastern basin, however, all the several members of this important system as developed in Scotland are represented, viz.,-in ascending order the Calciferous Sandstone Series, inclnding the Burdiehouse Limestone, noted for its excellence, and the Straiton oil shales; the Carboniferous Limestone Series, locally known as the ' Edge coals, ' containing numerous coal and ironstone seams, as well as several workable limestone, oil shales, and building stones, forming together the most important portion of the Midlothian coalfield; the barren Millstone Grit and the true Coal Measures of Dalkeith, Millerhill, and Dalhousie. This last series contains several workable seams of coal and ironstone, and the field gets the local name of the ' Flat Coals,' from the low angles at which the beds lie, in contradistinction to those of the Carboniferous Limestone Series. The volcanic rocks of Carboniferous age, the phenomena of glaciation, and the ancient raised beaches are treated of in the geological section of the article on Edinburgh city. Coal seems to have been worked in Lasswade parish so early as the beginning of the 17th century; and since then the increased facilities of working and of transport have fostered the industry to a high degree. Parrot coal of good quality occurs in the rising ground S of Newbattle, and has been much used for the manufacture of coal gas. In 1878 there were 19 collieries at work, employing over 2000 hands; and in that year 725,122 tons were raised in the county. There are, besides, ironstone mines at Roslin, Gilmerton, and Lasswade. In 1878 also 313,157 tons of oil shale and 44, 659 tons of fire clay were raised. Building stone is abundant, and paving stones are also found. Lead ore has been discovered at the head of the North Esk, and a copper mine at Currie was projected in 1683. Edinburghshire includes some of the finest agricultural land in the country, and the methods of farming, the implements used, and the science of the farmers are inferior to none. The fertile districts in the N and W sections of the shire are generally arable, and in a high state of cultivation; the S and SE sections, more particularly the latter, are, to a large extent, pastoral. Only about one-eighth of the entire area is unprofitable. In June 1881, 134, 999 acres were under crops, bare fallow, or grass. The soils of the low arable lands are much diversified. Clay, sand, loam, and gravel are, in some cases, all to be seen on the same farm-van in the same field. It is difficult to determine which predominates. Careful farming has done much to improve the poor and mossy soil on the high lying tracts; but the range of fertility between the best and the worst arable lands is very great. Agricultural improvements on fairly intelligent principles, or with fairly visible results, began so late as about 1725; but since then, combined efforts by societies, and single efforts by proprietors, have united to advance the agricultural interests of the county. The use of sewage as manure was adopted near Edinburgh tolerably early; and the Craigentinny meadows, separately noticed, are a signal instance of its fertilising power. Areas at Lochend, at Dalry, and at the Grange, all in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, are hardly less productive; and the total aggregate value of the land thus treated with the Edinburgh sewage is fully £6000 per annum. The country round Edinburgh is largely occupied by market gardens, whose produce is chiefly potatoes, cabbages, turnips, and strawberries; in 1877 there were 865 acres under this form of cultivation-an area greater than in any other Scottish county. To orchards there were 94 acres, and to coppices and plantations 10,320 acres, given up in Edinburghshire. Perthshire and Lanarkshire alone excel the metropolitan county in extent of orchardground. The principal crops of the county, with their average, are as follow:

Crops. 1856 1866 1875 1876 1877 1880
Wheat, . . 11628 6241 5240 4456 4966 4866
Barley, . . 10123 4205 12212 11982 11811 11095
Oats,. . . 23181 22,866 20809 21,311 22221 22323
Sown Grass,   26,907 33139 31,869 31116 29390
Potatoes, . 6668 6358 6476 6,930 7063 7590
Turnips,. . 14517 13,629 13022 13,343 12987 11889
Totals, . 66117 80206 90898 89891 90164 87053

In June 1881, 134, 999 acres were divided as follow: corn crops, 38, 273 acres; green crops, 21,534 acres; sown grasses, 31,470 acres; permanent pasture, 43, 532 acres.

The tendency in Midlothian, in view of the low price of grain and the high price of cattle, is to turn attention more and more from raising crops to raising cattle But as yet there is but little cattle breeding in Edinburghshire. In 1881 the county contained 18, 250 cattle; 154,966 sheep; 4160 horses used for agricultural purposes; and 5390 pigs. In the vicinity of Edinburgh very large dairies, with from 30 to 70 cows, are maintained. The Midlothian farms vary much in size. In 1876 there were 477 farms of 50 acres and under; 116 of between 50 and 100 acres; 294 of between 100 and 300; 75 of between 300 and 500; and 50 of over 500 acres making 1012 in all. The rent per acre varies fully as much, but increases in direct ratio to the proximity of the farm to Edinburgh. The average rent of arable land in Midlothian may be set down at from £2 to £3 per acre; of hill pasture at from 10s. to 15s. per acre. The farms are generally held on 19 years' lease. Edinburghshire enjoys a climate that is on the whole equable, and not severe. In the N, it is mild and dry; among the hills, colder and moister. Generally speaking, the fruits of the ground ripen early, especially garden stuff and strawberries. The mean annual temperature has been set down at 47.1o, which is the exact figure for the capital. Observations at 13 stations give 32.66 inches as the average annual rainfall in the county. The range is between 23.75 inches at Corstorphine (the driest station in Scotland) and 45.52 at Colzium. Notwithstanding many and great natural advantages, the metropolitan county has no very important manufactures. When those carried on in Edinburgh and Leith and the immediate environments are subtracted, there are but few left to represent the industrial activity of the county proper. The pre-eminent manufacture is that of paper, supported in great measure by the important publishing and printing businesses of the capital. The turnout of paper in 1878 was 24,000 tons of all kinds. Gunpowder is manufactured at Roslin; bricks and tiles at Portobello, Millerhill, Newbattle, Rosewell, and Bonnyrigg; candles at Dalkeith and Loanhead; leather at Dalkeith; and there are iron-works at Dalkeith, Westfield, Loanhead, Penicuik, and Millerhill. Shale-mining with paraffin-oilworking (chiefly near Midcalder), and coal mining, employ many hands; fishing is the main occupation of the inhabitants of Newhaven, Fisherrow, Musselburgh, and other coast villages; while Leith and Granton have a very large shipping industry. The assessed rental for 1880-81 of paper mills in the county was £12,700 (increase since 1870-71, £3295); of other mills, £3917 (decrease, £335); of ' manufactories,' £18, 696 (increase, £6148). These figures exclude the two city parishes. The roads in Edinburghshire are numerous and good. no fewer than nine chief roads diverge from the city through the county. and these are connected with each other by a network of cross roads. The roads are maintained by assessment levied on the city and county. The Union Canal extends from Edinburgh through the western part of the county, and joins the Forth and Clyde Canal at Falkirk. Though no longer nsed for passenger traffic, it still affords means of transit for coal and other minerals. The North British and Caledonian Railway Companies' lines not only connect Edinburgh with all parts of the kingdom, but also provide very good local communication within the county. A ferry from Granton to Burntisland conveys much of the traffic to the N of Scotland; but this route will probably be largely superseded when the bridge over the Forth at Queensferry has been completed. The assessment on railways within the county for 1880-81 was £71,996 (increase since 1870-71, £6282); on private railways, £600 (increase, £600). Edinburgh is the only royal burgh in the county; Leith, Portobello, and Musselburgh are municipal and parliamentary burghs; Bonnyrigg, Dalkeith, and Penicuik are police burghs; Canongate and Portsburgh were formerly burghs of regality, but have been incorporated with Edinburgh. Among the chief villages in Edinburgh are (besides the above)-Balerno, Colinton, Corstorphine, Cramond, Dnddingston, Eskbank, Fala, Gilmerton, Gorebridge, Granton, Kirknewton, Lasswade, Loanhead, Midcalder, Newbattle, Newhaven, Ratho, Roslin, Slateford, and Stow. According to the Miscellaneous Statistics of the United Kingdom (1879), there were 16, 945 landowners in the county, with a total holding of 231,742 acres, and a total gross estimated rental of £2,129,038. Of these 3 held between 10, 000 and 20, 000 acres, 47 between 1000 and 10,000 acres, and 15, 909 less than 1 acre. The assessed rental in 1880-81 of lands in the county (including the two city parishes) was £288,549 (increase since 1870-71, £15,039); of houses, shops, etc., £193, 911 (increase, £79,908). There are many fine mansion-houses and gentlemen's seats in the county, of which the chief are Dalkeith Palace, Duddingston House, Newbattle Abbey, Dalhousie Castle, Pinkie House, Dreghorn Castle, Hatton House, Bonally Tower, and Craigcrook. The county is governed by a lord lientenant, a vicelientenant, 10 deputy lieutenants, a sheriff, and 2 sheriff substitutes. Besides these ex-officio justices of the peace, there are 210 gentlemen in the commission of the peace, of whom 137 have qualified. The police force, exclusive of that fot the burghs of Edinburgh and Leith, amounted, in 1880, to 62 men under a chiefconstable. Besides the head office in Edinburgh, there are 38 police stations in the county. The number of persons tried at the instance of the police in 1880 was 2429; convicted, 2326; committed for trial, 46; not dealt with, 421. The prison of Edinburgh serves as the county jail. In 1881-82 the assessments were as follow: general county assessments, 1½d.; police, 17/12d.; registration of voters, 1/24d.; pauper lunatics, 13/8d. per £1. The valued rent in the county for 1674 was £15,921; the new valuation for 1881-82 gives it at £592, 923 (exclusive of railways and water-works, which, with the exception of portions within burghs, were valued at £116, 392). Th]e city of Edinburgh returns 2 members to parliament; the Leith Burghs (Leith, Portobello, and Musselburgh), 1; and the rest of the county, 1. The parliamentary constituency of the county proper in 1881-82 was 4018. Pop. (1801) 122, 597, (1811) 148, 607, (1821) 191, 514, (1831) 219,345, (1841) 225, 454, (1851) 259, 435, (1861) 273, 997, (1871) 328,379, (1881) 388,977, of whom 183, 669 were males and 205, 308 females. Houses (1881) 72,677 inhabited, 5493 uninhabited, 1006 building.

The county contains 32 quoad civilia parishes, and parts of four others. Ecclesiastically it is divided into 59 quoad sacra parishes, and parts of 4 others; and it includes also 5 chapelries. These are divided among the presbyteries of Edinburgh, Haddington, Linlithgow, and Earlston; and all, with the exception of a part of a parish in Earlston presbytery, are included in the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. In 1876 the Church of Scotland had 67 churches in the county; tbe Free Church of Scotland, 60; the United Presbyterians, 47; Episcopalians, 21; Congregationalists, 8; Roman Catholics, 7; Baptists, 6; Evangelical Union, 5; Methodists, 3; Reformed Presbyterians, 1; United Original Seceders, 1; and other denominations, 10. In the year ending Sept. 1880 the county had 198 schools (121 public), which, with accommodation for 43,761 pupils, had 43,990 on the rolls, and an average attendance of 34, 403. The certificated teachers numbered 378, assistant teachers 37, and pupil teachers 416. The registration county gives off part of Kirkliston parish to Linlithgow, but takes in parts from Linlithgow, Selkirk, and Haddington shires, and had 388, 649 inhabitants in 1881. All the parishes are assessed for the poor. The number of registered poor in the year ending 14 May 1881 was 8129; and of casual poor, 4788. The receipts for the poor in the same year were £96, 607, and the expenditure £88,861. In 1881 pauper lunatics numbered 808, their cost being £20,158. The percentage of illegitimate births was 8.1 in 1871, 7 2 in 1877, 7.6 in 1879, and 7.3 in 1881.

The history of Edinburghshire cannot well be separated from the history of the larger district of the Lothians. The territory now known as Midlothian was included in the district usually ascribed to the Caledonian Otaleni or Otadeni and Gadeni. In Roman times the tribe of Damnonii seems to have dwelt here; and the district was brought within the northern limit of the Roman province in Britain by Agricola in 81 A.D.Thence onwards the Lothians were the scene of many struggles and wars for their possession; and about the beginning of the 7th century, when historians recognise the four kingdoms of Dalriada, Strathclyde, Bernicia, and the kingdom of the Picts, under tolerably definite limits, Edinburghshire was the centre of what the latest historian of early Scotland calls the ' debateable lands ' -a district in which the boundaries of the four kingdoms approached each other, and which was sometimes annexed to one of these kingdoms, sometimes to another. Lodoneia or the Lothians was thus peopled by a mixed race of Scots, Angles, and Picts; but seems most often to have been joined to Bernicia, with which it was absorbed into the great northern earldom of Northumbria. But the kings of Scotia or Alban, who, about the 9th century, had established their rule from the Spey to the Forth, succeeded, after many efforts, in bringing this rich district also under their sceptre. The final scene was at the battle of Carham in 1018, in the reign of Malcolm II. From that date an integral part of political Scotland, practically without intermission, the county was the scene of many battles and skirmishes between the English and the Scotch. In 1303 a small native force defeated near Roslin a much larger army of Southrons; in 1334, the Boroughmuir, now a southern snburb of Edinburgh, witnessed another victory of the Scots under Sir Alex. Ramsay over the English under Count Guy. In 1385 the county was devastated by Richard II. of England; a century and a half later it suffered the resentment of Henry VIII.; and the fields of Pinkie (1547), Carberry Hill (1567), and Rullion Green (1666), are all included within its limits.

Central Lothian very probably was placed under the administration of a sheriff, or under some similar administration, as early as the epoch of the introduction of the Scoto Saxon laws. A sheriffdom over it can be traced in record from the reign of Malcolm IV. down to the restoration of David II.; but appears to have extended during that period over all the Lothians. The sheriffdom underwent successive limitations, at a number of periods, till it coincided with the present extent of the county; it also, for many ages, was abridged in its autbority by various jurisdictions within its bounds; and it likewise, for a considerable time, was hampered in its administration by distribution into wards, each superintended by a serjeant. The last sheriff under the old regime was the Earl of Lauderdale, who succeeded his father as sheriff in 1744; and the first under the present improved system was Charles Maitland, who received his appointment in 1748.-A constable was attached, from an early period, to Edinburgh Castle; and appears to have, as early as 1278, exercised civil jurisdiction. The provost of Edinburgh, from the year 1472, had the power of sheriff, coroner, and admiral, within Edinburgh royalty and its dependency of Leith. The abbot of Holyrood acquired from Robert III. a right of regality over all the lands of the abbey, including the barony of Broughton; and, at the Reformation, he was succeeded in his jurisdiction by the trustees of Heriot's Hospital. The monks of Dunfermline obtained from David I. a baronial jurisdiction over Inveresk manor, including the town of Musselburgh; and, at the Reformation, were succeeded in their jurisdiction by Sir John Maitland, who sold it in 1709 to the Duchess of Buccleuch. The barony of Ratho, at Robert II.'s accession to the crown, belonged to the royal Stewarts; was then, with their other estates, erected into a royal jurisdiction; went, in that capacity, to Prince James, the son of Robert III.; and, at the bisection of Lanarkshire into the counties of Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, was disjoined from Edinburghshire and annexed to Renfrewshire. A right of regality over the lands of Dalkeith was obtained by the Douglases, and passed to the family of Buccleuch. The estates in Edinburghshire belonging to the see of St Andrews were erected into a regality, and placed under the control of a bailie appointed by the archbishop. The lands of Duddingston, of Prestonhall, of Carrington, and of Carberry also were regalities; and the first was administered by a bailie, the second by the Duke of Gordon, the third by Lord Dalmeny, the fourth by Sir Robert Dickson. These several jurisdictions comprised a large proportion of the county's territory, and a still longer one of the county's population; and they must, in the aggregate, have greatly embarrassed the paramount or comprehensive civil administration; but all were abolished in 1747. A justiciary of Lothian also was appointed in the time of Malcolm IV., exercised a power superior to that of the sheriff, and had successors wielding that superior power, or entitled to wield it, till the time when the baronial jurisdictions became extinct. The power of the Archbishop of St Andrews also, being both baronial over his own estates and ecclesiastical over the entire county, was often, in the Romish times, practically paramount to that of the sheriff; and even after the Reformation, when the archiepiscopal prerogatives were wholly or mainly abolished, it continued for a time to throw impediments in the way of the sheriff's movements. There are Caledonian stone circles in Kirknewton parish and at Heriot-town-hill; and there are cairns and tumuli at many places in the county. Pictish forts may probably have preceded the Castles of Edinburgh and Roslin; and it is very possible that the caves at Hawthornden House were either formed or enlarged by the Picts also. Traces of Roman occupation are still to be discerned; and Roman coins, weapons, etc., have been found in various parts. There are several old castles, some forming most picturesque ruins. In many cases comparatively modern erections have superseded the older buildings. Among the more interesting old castles are those at Roslin, Catcune, Borthwick, Crichton, have left their ruins at Holyrood, Newbattle, and Temple-the last, as its name suggests, having been an important house of the Knights Templars. There are vestiges of an ancient hospital on Soutra Hill. There is no good history of Edinburghshire, but reference may be made to The County of Edirburgh; its Geology, Agrieulture, and veteorology, by Mr Ralph Richardson (1878), and The Geology of Edinburgh and its -Neighbourhood, by Prof- Geikie (1879)- Both are merely pamphlets; the latter refers to other and larger authorities- Comp- also Mr Farrall ' On the Agriculture of Edinburghshire, ' in Trans- Highl- and Ag. Soc- (1877)

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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