Parish of Arbroath and St Vigeans

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: Arbroath
1791-99: St Vigeans
1834-45: Arbroath
1834-45: St Vigeans

Abbey, a quoad sacra parish in Arbroath and St Vigeans parishes, Forfarshire, around the ruins of Arbroath Abbey, in the town of Arbroath. Constituted in 1869, it had a population in 1871 of 2338 within Arbroath parish, and 1742 within St Vigeans, and is in the presbytery of Arbroath and synod of Angus and Mearns. The church, erected in 1787 as a chapel of ease, at a cost of about £2000, contained 1281 sittings, but was enlarged by 80 more in 1879. Two schools under the Arbroath burgh school-board bear the names of Abbey and Abbey Church. The former, in May 1880, had an attendance of 230: the latter, closed during the day in December 1879, had then 119 evening scholars.

St Vigeans, a village and a coast parish of Forfarshire. The village, though small, is ancient; and is said to derive its name either from a hermit and confessor who died at Grange of Conon in the neighbourhood about the year 1012, or from the Irish ecclesiastic Fechin, abbot of Fobhar, who died in 664. It stands on the Brothock, 1¼ mile N of Arbroath. The parish of St Vigeans, one of the oldest in the country. consists of a main body and two detached portions. The main section, containing great part of the town of Arbroath, is bounded N by Inverkeilor, E and SE by the North Sea, S by Arbroath and Arbirlot, and W and NW by Carmyllie. It measures 75/8 miles from E to W; and varies in breadth between 1¾ and 43/8 miles. The smaller of the detached portions lies ¼ mile SW of the main body, from which it is separated by the burgh roods of Arbroath. It is 5 furlongs long by 3 broad, and bears the name of Hospitalfield, from having been the site of the hospital of Arbroath Abbey. The other section is 15/8 mile long by 13/8 mile broad, and lies 3 miles SW of Arbroath. It bears the name of Inverpeffer, and before being purchased in the 17th century by the Panmure family, belonged to the Fletchers, afterwards of Salton. The area of the entire parish is 13,413.521 acres, of which 1055.744 belong to the detached portions, whilst 393.362 are foreshore and 19.337 water. Up till about 1560 the parish of St Vigeans included the entire town of Arbroath with its abbey, and was sometimes called Aberbrothock. From the boundary with Inverkeilor to within a mile of Arbroath, the coast of the parish is a range of almost perpendicular cliffs, with a maximum height of 157 feet. In nearly their whole extent their base is covered with water at full tide, so that for the most part access to the large and interesting caves, crevices, and arches which are numerous along the seaward face, is possible only at low water or by boat. The chief of these spacious and romantic caverns are the Gaylet Pot, the Mason's Cave, and the Maiden Castle Cave. The cliffs figure in Sir Walter Scott's Antiquary as the scene of the dangerous adventure of Sir Arthur and Miss Wardour. The surface of the main portion of the parish is mainly occupied by three different declivities or ridges; while the streamlet Brothock, flowing SSE, divides it into two tolerably equal parts. The chief eminences are Dichmont Law (323 feet), about 1¼ mile from the coast, and Cairn Conan (597), in the W, 7½ miles from the sea, and commanding a beautiful and extensive view. Eruptive rock occurs in St Vigeans, but is not prominent; Old Red Sandstone is found tolerably general, and is extensively quarried at Whittingness, and has been a good deal used for building in Arbroath; and a softer variety, containing vegetable fossils, is quarried at Drumyellow and Brax. Diluvial ridges, consisting of boulders, gravel, sand, and clay strata, several of them 1 mile long, lie along the sides of the Brothock, and have a maximum altitude of about 40 feet. Several rocky heights of sandstone also occur near the lower course of the Brothock. One of them affords a convenient and conspicuous site for the parish church; and another very similar in appearance, 180 yards distant, is famous for an echo of four syllables. The soil varies in character throughout the parish, but is prevailingly fertile. In 1744, with the exception of garden ground, not more than 40 acres were enclosed within the parish. Now rather more than 800 acres are under wood, and nearly all the remainder is in tillage. The industries of the parish include, besides agriculture, a part of the textile industry in Arbroath, with fishing at Auchmithie, spinning in an extensive establishment at Inchmill, originally erected in 1808, and in smaller mills at Colliston and North Tarrey. The roads of the parish are good; and a section of the Arbroath and Forfar branch of the Scottish North-Eastern railway crosses it. Besides the village of the same name, St Vigeans parish includes the villages of Auchmithie, Colliston, Marywell, and Gowanbank, and part of the post-town of Arbroath. The chief modern mansions are Letham, Seaton, Abbethune, Springfield, Parkhill, Newton, Millbank, Woodlands, Almeriecloss, Beechwood, and Hospitalfield. The old mansion of Colliston is said to have been built by Cardinal Beatoun for his son-in-law. St Vigeans itself is in the presbytery of Arbroath and the synod of Angus and Mearns; the living is worth £359. The parish is divided ecclesiastically into St Vigeans proper and the quoad sacra parishes of Colliston and Inverbrothock, with parts of the quoad sacra parishes of Ladyloan and Abbey Arbroath. There is also a chapel of ease at Auchmithie. The parish church was originally erected not later than the beginning of the 11th century, but it was considerably enlarged before 1242, and repaired in 1485. Alterations or repairs took place during the 18th century, and some enlargements in 1822 and 1827, in course of which the church lost much of its original Saxon or Norman character. In 1872, however, it was restored at a cost of fully £3000, to a plain uniform 15th century Gothic style; and it now comprises a nave, aisles, pentagonal chancel, with a square tower and spire; while the interior is adorned with a carved oaken pulpit, an octagonal baptismal font, and beautiful stained-glass windows. It contains about 900 sittings. Both the ancient church and the surrounding burying-ground were noted for sculptured sepulchral stones; and several ancient crosses and finely executed mouldings have been found. A chapel, dedicated to St Ninian, formerly stood near the sea; and the adjacent St Ninian's Well was believed to possess great curative powers. Two public schools, Colliston and St Vigeans, with respective accommodation for 171 and 150 children, had (1884) an average attendance of 103 and 113, and government grants of £79, 8s. and £75, 15s. 6d. Valuation (1857) £16, 691, (1885) £20,970, plus £5351 for railway. Pop. of civil parish (1801) 4243, (1831) 7135, (1861) 10, 537, (1871) 12,805, (1881) 14, 982, of whom 1821 were in the ecclesiastical parish.—Ord. Sur., shs. 57, 49, 1868-65.

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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