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Cullen

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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Cullen, a coast town and parish of Banffshire. A seaport and royal and parliamentary burgh, the town is situated on Cullen Bay, at the mouth of the Burn of Deskford, 5¾ miles W by N of Portsoy station, with which it communicates thrice a day by omnibus, and which is 2¾ miles NNW of Tillynaught Junction, 8¾ W by N of Banff, 18 NNE of Grange Junction, and 61¾ NW of Aberdeen. Its mean-looking Old Town, standing a little inland, about the year 1822 was utterly demolished, to make way for improvements at Cullen House; a somewhat ancient part, called Fishertown or Seatown, on the shore, has a very irregular appearance, and is inhabited chiefly by fisher-folk. Close to the eastern extremity of Seatown, but on much higher ground, is the New Town, which, built in 1822 and subsequent years in lieu of the demolished Old Town, presents a regular and pleasant aspect, with its open market-place and its three streets, respectively 300, 400, and 550 yards long, and which at first was planned to be fully double its existing size. It enjoys the most charming environs, in the sweep of its crescent bay, in the rocky grandeur of the neighbouring coast, and in the lawns and woods of Cullen House, away to the conical Bin Hill of Cullen (1050 feet), 2¾ miles to the SW. At the town itself are a post office, under Fochabers, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, branches of the Union and North of Scotland Banks, 6 insurance agencies, gas-works, a public library, a news-room, and 3 hotels, to one of which, built in 1829, a town-hall is conjoined, with council, court, and ball rooms. The cruciform parish church, St Mary's, 5 furlongs SSW of the town, was founded by King Robert I., and made collegiate in 1543 for a provost, 6 prebendaries, and 2 singing boys, by Sir Alexander Ogilvie of Deskford, whose recumbent effigy surmounts a large and richly-ornamented tomb in a mural recess; as enlarged by an aisle about 1798, it contains 800 sittings. Other places of worship are Seafield chapel of ease (1839; 450 sittings), a Free church, and an Independent chapel; whilst a public school, with accommodation for 300 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 348, and a grant of £329, 4s. In the cemetery is a grey granite obelisk, 14 feet high, erected in 1876 to the memory of Provost Smith. The Castlehill, an eminence overhanging the sea, is crowned by remains of an ancient fort, whence vitrified stones have been extracted; but whether this is the royal castle where died Elizabeth, the Bruce's queen, or whether it stood nearer Cullen House, is doubtful. The eminent physician, Sir James Clark, Bart. (1788-1870), was a native of Cullen. Its harbour was formed in 1817, and enlarged in 1834, by the Earl of Seafield, at a cost of more than £10,000. With a depth at the pier-head of 8½ feet at neap, and of 12 at spring tides, it is one of the best artificial havens in the Moray Firth. The chief imports are. Coals, salt, and staves; and herrings dried fish, oats,. potatoes, and timber. The catching and curing of fish is the staple industry; and there are also a boatbuilding yard, a rope and sail works, a woollen factory, and a brewery. Fairs for cattle and horses are held on the third Friday of May and the first Friday of November. Dating its burgh privileges from the reign of William the Lyon (1165-1214), Cullen is governed by a provost, 2 bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, a billet master, and 6 other councillors; with Elgin, Banff, Macduff, Peterhead, Kintore, and Inverurie, it returns a member to parliament. Its parliamentary and municipal constituency numbered 322 in 1882, when the burgh valuation amounted to £3615, whilst the corporation revenue was £67. Pop. (1841) 1423, (1851) 1697, (1861) 1821, (1871) 2056, (1881) 2033. The parish of Cullen, triangular in shape, is bounded N by the Moray Firth, E by Fordyce, and SW by Rathven. Its utmost length, from N to S, is 15/8 mile; its utmost width, from E to W, is 1¼ mile; and its area is 925 acres, of which 38¾ are foreshore, and 15 water. The coast-line, 1¼ mile long, presents a bold rocky front to the Bay of Cullen, which is 2½ miles wide across a chord drawn from Scar Nose to Logie Head, and which from that chord measures 7 furlongs to its innermost recess. Three singular masses of rock here have been named the Three Kings of Cullen, most likely after the Magi, or Three Kings of CologneCaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar-whose skulls are shown in the cathedral there. The deep-channelled Burn of Deskford, otherwise known as Cullen Water (Gael. cul-an, 'back-lying water'), flows 2¼ miles north-north-westward along all the Rathven border; and the surface attains 143 feet above sea-level at the cemetery, and 211 towards the centre. A bed of stratified quartz, reposing conformably on a thick stratum of compact greywacke, underlies all the parish; Old Red sandstone forms two of the Three Kings, ½ mile W of which are two patches of New Red sandstone, on disrupted greywacke and beneath beds of drift; and in the S is fine lias clay, well marked by lias fossils. The soil near the shore is a mixture of sand and gravel, and elsewhere ranges from strong clay or light loam to a fine rich loam incumbent on a soft clay bottom. Cullen House, near the parish church, is a huge pile erected at various periods; the whole, as remodelled and enlarged in 1861 by the late Mr David Bryce, is a noble specimen of Scottish Baronial architecture. It crowns a steep rock on the right bank of the Burn of Deskford, across which a one-arch bridge of 82 feet span leads to the grounds and park, which, beautiful with streams and lakelets, trim lawns and stately groves, extend far into Rathven parish, and among whose adornments is a graceful temple, commanding a splendid view over the neighbouring sea. The house itself is rich in works of art; and its charterroom contains a valuable series of documents, extending back three centuries from 1705. Sir Walter Ogilvie, Knight, of Auchleven, younger brother of that Sir John Ogilvie who received a grant of the castle of Airlie, towards the middle of the 15th century married Margaret, sole daughter and heiress of Sir John Sinclair of Deskford and Findlater, and thereby acquired the said estates. His seventh descendant was in 1638 created Earl of Findlater. That title expired with James, seventh Earl, in 1811; and Cullen now is held by Ian Charles Grant-Ogilvie, eighth Earl of Seafield since 1701 (b- 1851; suc- 1881), who owns 48,946 acres in Banffshire, valued at£34,260 per annum. (See also Castle-Grant-) Three lesser proprietors hold each an annual value of from £50 to £100, and 23 of from £20 to £50. Cullen is in the presbytery of Fordyce and synod of Aberdeen; the living is worth £226. Valuation, exclusive of burgh (1882), £1217, 4s- 10d. Pop- of entire parish (1801) 1076, (1831) 1593, (1861) 1975, (1871) 2215, (1881) 2187.—Ord. Sur., sh- 96, 1876.

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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