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Parish of Penicuik

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: Penicuik
1834-45: Penicuik

Penicuik (Cymric pen-y-côg, ` hill of the cuckoo '), a town and a parish in the S of Edinburghshire. A burgh of barony and a police burgh, the town, which stands, 600 feet above sea-level, on the left bank of the river North Esk, by road is 12 miles N by W of Peebles and 10 S of Edinburgh; whilst its station at the terminus of a branch line (1872) of the North British railway is 15¾ miles distant from the latter city. It is also easily reached from Glencorse and Pomathorn stations. From its wide main street, running -NE and SW, two streets diverge north-north-westward and south-south-eastward; the Valleyfield suburb lies close beside the river; and Kirkhill, ½ mile to the NE, though treated in the Census as a separate village, is likely in time to become absorbed into Penicuik. The place wears a well-built airy appearance, superior to that of most towns of its size; contains some good shops and spacious well-to-do dwellings; and has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, a branch of the Clydesdale Bank, 2 hotels, a gas company, a drinking fountain (1864), angling, bowling, cricket, and curling clubs, horticultural and ornithological societies, a reading club (1841), Liberal and Conservative associations, hiring fairs on the third Friday of March and the first Friday of October, etc. In the churchyard, at the NE end of the main street, stands the Romanesque tower of the old parish church, St Kentigern's, whose nave has been converted into three mausoleums. In front is the present church, a plain edifice of 1771, with a tetrastyle Doric portico, a clock, and a stone cross. It was enlarged in 1837, and greatly improved in 1880, being now sufficiently commodious. The Free church, built in 1862-63 at a cost of £2050, is a Gothic structure, with a large four-light window, 600 sittings, and an unfinished spire. Designed by Mr F. T. Pilkington, it is not so unlike his Barclay Church at Edinburgh. Other places of worship are a U.P. church (1867), a Roman Catholic chapel school (l883), and St James's Episcopal church (1882), the last an Early English edifice, with nave and apsidal chancel, a marble altar, and over 200 sittings.

Messrs Alexander Cowan & Sons-we abridge from Bremmer's Industries of Scotland-are among the oldest, best-known, and most extensive manufacturers of paper in Scotland. They hale three mills at Penicuik.; but as these stand within a few hundred yards of each other, they are worked as one establishment. The central position is occupied by the Valleyfield Mill, which is by far the largest of the three. Its nucleus was built in 1709* by Mr Anderson, printer to Queen Anne, or by his widow. In 1779 Mr Charles Cowan bought the mill; and, with the exception of the years 1810-14, when it was fitted up by Government for the reception of 6000 French prisoners of war, † the premises hale since continued in the family. As time wore on, the accommodation in the Valleyfield Mill became unequal to the requirements of an increased trade, and a neighbouring corn-mill was acquired in 1803 and converted into a paper manufactory. This mill is now known as Bank Mill, because it was at first devoted to making paper for bank-notes. In 1815 the operations of the firm were further extended by the purchase of a paper-mill belonging to Mr Nimmo of Edinburgh, and now known as the Low Mill. A few years after the close of the French war the Valleyfield Mill was repurchased from Government, fitted out with the most improved appliances, and started afresh in 1821. The late Mr Alexander Cowan was among the first in Britain to appreciate the value of the paper-making machine, and to introduce it into the trade; and both he and his successors hale ever shown a readiness to seek out and adopt whatever appliances or arrangements gale promise of improving or facilitating the manufacture of paper. Besides their three mills at Penicuik, Messrs Cowan hale a fourth at Musselburgh. At Penicuik they hale in operation file machines of the most perfect construction; and these of themselves occupy several large buildings. The machine most recently set up is one of the largest and finest in Britain. Including the drying apparatus, it is 250 feet in length, and is capable of turning out 2500 square yards of paper in an hour. Between 2000 and 3000 tons of paper are made annually, all being the finer kinds of writing and printing papers. The quantity made daily is probably equal- to a web 20 miles long and above 5 feet wide. The water-wheels and steam-engines employed in the mills are equal to over 200 horse-power. About 600 persons are engaged in the various departments, and these are treated-with great consideration and liberality by Messrs Cowan. There are also two saw-mills and an iron-foundry; but, next to paper-making, the most important industry is the raising of coal, shale, and ironstone. To its recent development is chiefly due the marked increase of population in the course of the last few years, though the mines are mainly situated in the adjacent parishes of Glencorse and Lasswade.

* Among several curious old tombstones in the churchyard is one to 'Annabel Millar, spouse to Thomas Rutherfoord, papermaker at Pennycuik. who died 1 April 1735.'

† Eskmill Paper Mill (James Brown & Co.), which then was a cotton factory, was at the same time converted into barracks for 1500 soldiers. Penicuik became active and stirring. and was considerably enriched. but sufered damage in the moral tone of its people. The reversion of the mills. at the close of the war, from their warlike occupancy to the manufacture of paper, was felt to be an event of general joy, and was celebrated by a general illumination. On a spot in the grounds of Valleyfield, where upwards of 300 of the prisoners of war were interred, stands a neat chaste monument, from a design from Hamilton. with the inscriptions, ' Grata queis patriæ sed et omnis terra sepuichrum.' and ' Certain-inhabitants of this parish, desiring to remember that a men are brethren, caused this monument to be erected '

Under the General Police and Improvement (Scotland) Act of 1862, Penicuik is governed by a senior and two junior magistrates, with 5 police commissioners, a townclerk, and a treasurer. The municipal voters numbered 619 in 1884, when the annual value of real property amounted to £9765, whilst the revenue, including assessments, was £297. Pop. of town (1841) 907, (1861) 1570, (1871) 2157, (188l) 3793, of whom 3051 were in the police burgh, 46 were in Lasswade parish, and 2016 were females. Houses (1881) 755 inhabited, 32 vacant, 9 building.

The parish, containing also Howgate village, was anciently called St Mungo. In l616 it gale off a portion of its territory to form with Pentland the parish of Glencorse, and since 1635 it has included - the quondam parishes of Mount Lothian and St Catherine. It is bounded NW by Currie, NE by Colinton, Glencorse, Lasswade, and Carrington, E by Temple, S by Eddleston and Newlands in Peeblesshire, SW by Linton in Peeblesshire, and W by Kirkliston (detached). Its utmost length, from WNW to ESE, is 9¼ miles; its breadth varies between 5 furlongs and 5¾ miles; and its area is 292/3 square miles or 18,966¾ acres, of which 86½ are water. The beautiful river North Esk flows 5 miles south-south-eastward and east-by-northward along the Peeblesshire border, and not far below its source expands into the North Esk reservoir ( ¼ x 1/8 mile). It next goes 4½ miles north-eastward through the interior, and lastly, 13/8 mile north-north-eastward along the Lasswade boundary. During this course it is joined from Penicuik parish by Monks Burn, Black Burn, and Cuiken Burn, the two last tracing parts of the Lasswade and Glencorse boundaries. Another of its affluents, Logan or Glencorse Burn, has been fully described in our article on Glencorse parish. Fullarton Water runs north-north-eastward along the Temple boundary on its way to the South Esk; and Balelaw Burn, a feeder of the Water of Leith, traces part of the Currie border. Copious springs of excellent water afford abundant supplies to every district; and some are known to hale petrifying or chalybeate qualities. At Cuiken Burn's influx to the North Esk the surface declines to 496 feet above sea-level; and the highest point in the south-eastern division of the parish is Auchencoth Moss (976 feet) at the Linton boundary. The north-western is very much hillier, occupied as it is by the slopes and summits of the Pentland Hills- Paties Hill (1500), West Kip (1806), Scald Law (1898), Carnethy Hill (1890), Hare Hill (1470), and Black Hill (1628), of which Scald Law, or the Sisters, is the highest point in the range. Including some lesser summits and a number of intersecting glens and hollows, the parish of Penicuik presents a grand western background to a great expanse of rich lowland landscape, and embosoms a variety of charming scenes, of which the most famous are noticed under Habbie's Howe. The rocks of the hills are eruptive, for the most part porphyry; whilst those of the south-eastern district are variously Silurian, Devonian, and carboniferous, thickly overlaid in places with diluvium. Sandstone, of various qualities, is plentiful; limestone has been largely quarried; coal abounds, but is so much intersected by trap dykes, that it has not been very much worked; iron ores occur in beds, veins, and small masses; and a few garnets and pieces of heavy spar hale been found. The soil of the arable lands is exceedingly various, and comprises clay, sand, gravel, moss, and numerous combinations of two or more of these. About two-fifths of the entire area are in tillage; one-twentieth is under wood; and the rest of the land is either pastoral or waste. Penicuik House, near the North Esk's left bank, 1¼ mile WSW of the town, was built in 1761 by Sir James Clerk from his own designs, and is a large oblong Grecian edifice, with an octostyle Ionic portico. The lofty entrance-hall is adorned with statuary and with Roman antiquities from Cramond and Middlebie; and the roof of the great drawing-room or ` Ossian's Hall ' is painted with twelve life-size figures, by Runciman, of characters in the poems of ossian. The grounds, 1000 acres in extent, are of great beauty, the house itself standing on a level holm in a bend-of the river, with a picturesque glen behind carrying up the view to the ruins of Brunstane Castle and the western extremity of the Pentlands—a little plain in front, gemmed with pond and garden, and overhung by wooded ascents, by swells and eminencies on either side, dissevered by ravines, and moulded into many curves of beauty. In front of the house is an artificial lake, and westward is another large piece of water well-stocked with fish. These ponds are notable as the scene of the boyish boatings which kindled the enthusiasm of John Clerk of Eldin (1736-1812), the brother of Sir James, for nautical studies, and remotely led to the production of his Essay on Nalal Tactics. The offices, 280 feet distant, form a large square, with a rustic portico and an elegant spire and clock; and, behind them, serving as a pigeonhouse, is an excellent model of the quondam celebrated Roman Temple on the Carron, called by Buchanan ` Templum Termini,' but popularly denominated Arthur's Olen. On the opposite side of the river, at the end of an avenue on the top of the bank, and ½ mile from the house, stands an obelisk, raised by Sir James Clerk to the memory of his own and his father's friend and frequent visitor, Allan Ramsay (1686-1758). On a conical eminence directly in front of the house, and 3 furlongs distant stands the round Flag Tower (1750), which is seen at a great distance. On another eminence close on the Esk, and midway between the house and the town, stands another tower, formerly called Terregles, the original seat of the ancient proprietor of the parish; and onward from it to the termination of the grounds at the village is a profusion of pleasant and striking scenes. About a furlong above the garden, on the margin of the Esk, is Hurlycole, a subterranean passage 147 feet long, 7 high, and 6 broad, with a dark cell in the middle in which are seats for 6 or 8 persons, the whole cut out of the solid rock in 1742. Directly opposite this is another artificial sheet of water, stored with perch and trout. John Clerk (1611-74), the son of a Montrose merchant, haling made a fortune in Paris, in 1646 purchased the lands and barony of Penicuik from Dr Alexander Pennicuik; and John, his son, was created a baronet in 1679. His sixth descendant, Sir George Douglas Clerk, present and eighth Bart. (b. 1852; suc. 1870), holds 13,196 acres in Edinburgh and Peebles shires, valued at £11, 415 per annum. (See J. Small's Castles and Mansions of the Lothians, Edinb. 1883.) Other mansions, noticed separately, are Newhall and Logan House; and six lesser proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, eleven of between £100 and £500. Penicuik is in the presbytery of Dalkeith and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £200. In 1883 the following were the six schools under the school-board, with accommodation, average attendance, and grant:-Howgate public (100, 66, £62, 5s.), Kirkhill public (256, 247, £211, 19s.), Nine Mile Burn public (100, 36, £26, 11s.), Penicuik public (463, 346, £310, 7s.), Penicuik female (126, 66, £49, 4s.), and Valleyfield infant and industrial (192, 156, £118, 14s.). The Wellington Reformatory Farm School (1857), 2 miles from the town, had an average of 109 inmates in 1882, when its total receipts were £1889. Valuation (1871) £19,143, 0s. 6d., (1884) £27, 464, 13s. 5d., of which £2499 was for railways and water-works. Pop. (1801) 1705, (1831) 2255, (1861), 3492, (1871) 3765, (1881) 5309.—Ord. Sur., shs. 32, 24, 1857-64.

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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