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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Leslie (Gael. lis-Leven, ` garden on the Leven ') is a parish, containing a small post-town of the same name, at the middle of the western border of Fife. The town, situated near the SE border of the parish, is distant 12 miles E from Kinross, 12 SW from Cupar, 9 NW from Kirkcaldy, and 3 W from Markinch, to which it is joined by a branch line of railway, 4 ¼ miles long, which was opened in 1861, and became a part of the North British railway system in 1872. Carriers' carts ply between Leslie, Kirkcaldy, and Markinch; and an omnibus runs between it and the last-mentioned place. The town consists mainly of one long street of irregularly-built houses, situated on the top of a steep bank, and overlooking the valley of the Leven. Its position is picturesque, and its beauty is not interfered with by the presence of the mills, in which the majority of the inhabitants work, as these stand on the river at a little distance from the town. The town green is a fine open expanse at the E end of Leslie. It was once used for games and sports, and even, it is said, for bull-fights, a stone still existing to which were fastened the animals intended to fight, and hence called the ` Bull-stone.' In the High Street are the town-hall, built in 1872 at a cost of £1000, and containing one room 72 feet long by 40 broad, with two ante-rooms; the parish church, built in 1820, renewed about 1872, and having accommodation for 850 people; the Free church, rebuilt in 1879; 2 U.P. churches, the East and West; and a Baptist church, founded in 1880. Two public schools, called the East and West, with respective accommodation for 250 and 550 children, had (1882) an average attendance of 217 and 489, and grants of £172, 19s. 4d. and £427, 17s. 6d.

Leslie has a head post-office, with the usual departments, a branch of the Union Bank of Scotland, agents for 9 fire and life insurance companies, an institute and library of about 1000 volumes, a young men's Christian association, a ploughing society, and clubs for skating, bowling, etc. The chief hotel is called the Green Inn. The Leslie Cemetery Company was incorporated in 1862-67, and the Leslie Joint Stock Water Company in 1833. It possesses a capital of £600, and has paid 7½ per cent. of dividend. The water, which is excellent and plentiful, is brought from Balgothrie, the Countess of Rothes and the late Hon. Mrs Douglas of Strathendry having been mainly instrumental in introducing it. The gas company has £1877 of capital. Fairs are held at Leslie on the first Tuesday after 11 April and the first Friday in October.

The chief industries carried on in Leslie (town and parish) are spinning, bleaching, and paper-making. There are 3 flax-spinning works, the most extensive of which at Prinlaws employs a large number of ` hands.' Two of these also engage in bleaching. There are 2 paper-mills-Fettykil (started in 1848-49, and greatly improved of late years) and Strathendry. Besides 2 paper machines, the former has also several bag and label machines, the last being almost unique in Scotland. It employs about 200 hands, of whom nearly 70 are females. Strathendry Paper Mill has 1 paper machine, employs from 70 to 80 workers, and makes writing papers. The municipal government includes 2 bailies, 1 chancellor, fiscal, treasurer, and town-clerk. Eight police commissioners were appointed under the General Police Act, and 1 of these acts as first magistrate and 2 as junior magistrates. Pop. (1861) 3607, (1871) 3743, (1881) 3852, of whom 1637 were males and 2216 females, whilst 2341 were in Leslie proper, 259 in Croftouterly, and 1253 in Prinlaws. Houses (1881) 823 inhabited, 52 uninhabited, and 4 building.

The parish of Leslie is bounded N by Falkland, E by Markinch, S by Kinglassie, and W by Kinross-shire. The Leven traces the southern boundary, and two small streams, the Lothrie and the Cammie, drain the interior of the parish. Its greatest length, from W by N to E by S, is 5 miles; its breadth varies between 7 furlongs and 2¾ miles; and its area is 5028 acres. The western side of the parish includes part of the Lomond range, and rises near Drumain to 1060 feet above sca-level. The northern border is also hilly, attaining 898 feet ncar Little Balgothrie, 766 at Rhind Hill; and so is the round on both sides of the Lothrie Burn. Along the Leven the ground is generally much lower than in other parts of the parish; and at Cadham declines to 258 fect. From W to E there is a gradual upward slope, and in the lowlands the ground is, as a rule, highly cultivated and covered with fields, while in the uplands it is commonly pastoral. Trap rock abounds in the W and N, and has been extensively used for building. Limestone and coal are found in the E, and are worked on a small scale. The soil is mainly alluvial, or a mixture of sand and gravel. About three-fourths of the entire area are in tillage, some 312 acres are under wood, and the rest is cither pastoral or waste. Various antiquarian remains, as standing-stones, etc., have been discovered on the hills of this parish, which is said to have been the sceue of some severe fighting between the Romans and ancient Britons. Its records extend back for 300 years, but do not contain anything noteworthy. David Pitcairn, M.D. (1749-1809), chief among medical men of his day in London, has been claimed as a native. The Rev. Ebenezer Erskine (1680-1754) acted for a time as tutor in the Rothes family; and Adam Smith (1723-90), the author of the Wealth of Nations, when a child of three, was kidnapped from Strathendry by a band of Gipsies, but recovered by his uncle in Leslie Wood. The chief proprietors are the Countess of Rothes, the heirs of the Hon. Mrs Douglas of Strathendry, and Balfour of Balbirnie. The connection between the Rothes family and Leslie has always been a close one. Their family name is Leslie, and it has been said that the district was called after them, Leslie having been known as Fettykil till 1283, when Norman de Leslie obtained a grant of its woods and lands from Alexander III. In 1457 George Leslie of Rothes was created first Earl of Rothes; and his fifteenth descendant, Henrietta-Anderson-Mosshead Leslie, fourth Countess in her own right (b. 1832; suc. her brother, the twelfth Ear.l, 1859), holds 3562 acres in Fife, valued at £7343 per annum. Her seat, Leslie House, as built by the Duke of Rothes, who was Lord Chancellor of Scotland in the reign of Charles II., was originally a large mansion, quadrangular in form. Three sides were burnt down in 1763, and the fourth, when repaired, was made the dwellinghouse, and still exists as such. Externally it is a plain building, with no particular architectural features; but the interior is comfortable, and the principal rooms are fine. Notably so is the picture gallery, hung with family portraits, and 3 feet longer than the gallery at Holyrood. The grounds around Leslie House are most picturesque. Strathendry House is separately noticed. This parish is in the presbytery of Kirkcaldy and synod of Fife. The living is worth £325, 11s. 2d., made up of £257, 1s. 2d. for stipend, £35 for manse, £27 for glebe, and £6, 10s. for communion elements. A mission church, under the control of the Established church, has been organised, and an old school adapted to serve as a place of worship. Valuation (1865) £14,386, 18s. 2d., (1883) £19,251, 11s. 2d. Pop. (1801) 1609, (1831) 2749, (1861) 4332, (1871) 4294, (1881) 4345.—Ord. Sur., sh. 40, 1867.

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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