Parish of Dunnichen

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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1791-99: Dunnichen
1834-45: Dunnichen

Dunnichen, a village and a parish of Forfarshire. The village stands 1¾ mile E by N of Kingsmuir station, on the Dundee and Forfar section of the Caledonian Railway, and 3¾ miles ESE of its post-town, Forfar. A great March fair once held at it is now extinct.

The parish, containing also Letham village and Kingsmuir station, is bounded N and NE by Rescobie, E by Kirkden and Carmyllie, S by the Kirkbuddo section of Guthrie, SW by Inverarity, W and NW by Forfar. Its utmost length, from N to S, is 3¾ miles; its width, from E to W, varies between 7½ furlongs and 33/8 miles; and its area is 4922 acres, of which 827½ belong to the Dunbarrow detached section, and 5 are water. The surface, sinking near Letham to close on 300 feet above sea-level, thence rises south-westward to 418 near Craichie, 513 near Fairhead, and 614 near Draffinn; and west-north-westward to 764 at Dunnichen Hill, on the Rescobie border, which, either cultivated or planted to its summit, was originally called Dun-Nechtan, perhaps after Nectan Morbet, a Pictish king (45781). The rivulet Vinney, running from W to E along the base of Dunnichen Hill, receives some rills in its progress, and passes into Kirkden, there to fall into the Lunan. A marsh of some 50 acres in extent, called the Mire of Dunnichen, and containing an islet on which the ancient church of Dunnichen is said to have been built, was drained, and is now under cultivation. Sandstone, quarried for various purposes, is the prevailing rock; and the soils, for the most part, are either friable loams with predominance of sand, or friable clays on retentive bottoms. Fully three-fourths of the entire area are either regularly or occasionally in tillage, a little more than one-tenth is under wood, and the rest is either pastoral or waste. A Caledonian or Pictish fort, on a low southern shoulder of Dunnichen Hill, had left some vestiges, which were partly removed for building dykes, and partly obliterated by a quarry; another ancient fort on Dunbarrow Hill is still traceable in its foundations. In a sanguinary battle, fought on the East Mains of Dunnichen, the revolted Picts defeated and slew Ecgfrid, the Northumbrian king, recovering thus their independence, 20 May 685. Their victory has left its vestiges in stone-covered graves, with urns and human bones, both on the East Mains of Dunnichen and in a round gravel knoll near the Den of Letham. Dunnichen House, near the village, at the foot of the southern slope of Dunnichen Hill, is a fine mansion, beautifully embosomed in trees; the estate, purchased about 1700 by a Dundee merchant of the name of Dempster, was greatly improved by the eminent agriculturist, ' honest George Dempster, ' M. P. (1735-1818), and now is held by Lady Dempster-Metcalfe (suc. 1875), who owns 3970 acres in the shire, valued at £4868 per annum. Two other proprietors hold each an annual value of more, and two of less, than £750; and there are, besides, a number of small feuars. Dunnichen is in the presbytery of Forfar and synod of Angus and Mearns; the living is worth £204. The parish church (1802; 456 sittings) stands at Dunnichen village, and at Letham are Free and Congregational churches; whilst three public schools-Craichie, Letham infant, and Letham mixed-with respective accommodation for 100, 95, and 200 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 66, 62, and 92, and grants of £54, 4s., £46, 4s., and £97, 13s. Valuation (1882) £8421, 10s. 11d., plus £472 for railway. Pop. (1801) 1043, (1831) 1513, (1861) 1932, (1871) 1536, (1881) 1422.—Ord. Sur., sh. 57, 1868.

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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