South Queensferry


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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Queensferry or South Queensferry, a small town and yet smaller parish of Linlithgowshire. The town is a royal and parliamentary burgh, the royal comprising all the parish of Queensferry, and the parliamentary extending into Dalmeny. It stands on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, here only 11/8 mile broad, and has a station on a branch line of the North British, 53/8 miles N by W of Ratho Junction and 13¾ WNW of Edinburgh, from which by road it is 9 miles distant. Its site is a belt of low ground at a point opposite the peninsula of North Queensferry, and the intermediate island of Inchgarvie, where the firth is suddenly and briefly, but very greatly, contracted in breadth. The ground behind the town rises abruptly; and immediately at the summit, or even on the slope of the steep bank, becomes open agricultural country. The town comes first into notice as the station at which St Margaret, the queen of Malcolm Ceannmor, passed the Forth in her numerous excursions between Edinburgh and Dunfermline during 1068 and 1093; and it received in honour of her, both its present name, and some early Latin designations of similar import, e.g., Port Reginœ (1164) and Passagium Reginœ (1182). Malcolm IV., the great-grandson of Margaret, made the monks of Dunfermline a grant of the right of ferry at the place, and of a small piece of ground within the limits of the present royalty, -a grant which probably led almost immediately to the erection of the town; and, in 1164, he granted also to the monks of Scone a free passage here for the abbot, the monks, and their men. In 1294 Pope Gregory confirmed to the abbey of Dunfermline ` dimidium Passagii Sanctae. Margaritæ Reginæ; ' and in a charter (1363) of general confirmation of regality jurisdictions by David II. to the monks of Dunfermline, ` Passagium ' figures as a burgh of regality along with ` Dunfermlyne, Kirkcaldy, and Muskilburgh. ' The place, as a burgh of regality, was again granted to the monks by Robert I., regranted by Robert III., and confirmed in 1450 by James IV. A new charter was granted, in 1636, by Charles I., confirming the preceding royal grants, but at the same time confirming a charter by Robert, commendator of Dunfermline. As this is the latest extant charter, and the record of the Great Seal for the period is defective, no evidence exists as to the precise year when the town was erected into a royal burgh. Yet proof is decisive that the erection took place before 1641, as the Scots Act of 1641 ratifies and approves of the charter of erection into ` ane free Burgh Royall and in ane free Port, Haven, and Harbour, with the haill liberties, privileges, and immunities pertaining to ane free Burgh Royall.' In 1639 a commissioner from it appears for the first time to have sat in parliament; and in the parliament of the following year he recorded a protest that he had produced his commission for Queensferry as a royal burgh, and that ` he had ridden, sitten, and voyced in this parliament as the rest of commissioners of burghs ' He was confronted by a counter-protest on the part of the burgh of Linlithgow, that he ` had neither riddin, sittin, nor voyced in parliament for the Queensferry; ' but in 1641, the same Act of Parliament which erected the place into a separate parish, freed it from the galling opposition of Linlithgow, and definitely recognised it as a royal burgh.

Queensferry, in spite of its antiquity and historical importance, has always been small; nor has it ever been enriched by much commerce, or dignified by great events. Its principal street varies in width, but is generally narrow, and wends irregularly to a total length of 650 yards, partly along the shore and partly into the interior. A street of 200 yards goes off from this at right angles, with a terrace along the road leading to Kirkliston. Three short alleys lead down to the harbour, and a fourth leads to the parish school-house. These streets and lanes compose the whole town. Only a square tower, with E and S wings, remains of a Carmelite friary, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and built and endowed by Sir George Dundas of Dundas as early as 1332. In 1884 the present Mr Dundas of Inchgarvie announced his intention of converting this fragment into a public reading-room. The plain parish church, built in 1633 and refitted in 1821, contains 400 sittings, and has an excellent bell, bearing date 1635. Queensferry besides has a U.P. church, a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch of the Clydesdale Bank, a water supply (1819), gasworks, a town-hall, a pleasure fair on the second Friday of August, and four hotels, of which that at Newhalls is the ` Hawes Inn ' of Scott's Antiquary. The harbour and ferry works of North and South Queensferry, Newhalls, and Port-Edgar were greatly improved in 1809-18, from designs by Rennie, at a cost of £33, 825; and in 1877-78 the North British Railway Co. expended a further sum of £30, 000 on the construction of a timber landing jetty, 900 feet long, a whinstone breakwater, 1300 feet long, a new railway station, etc. A ferry steamboat, the ` Queen Margaret, ' was placed on the passage in 1821; but the opening of the Granton and Burntisland ferry has greatly diminished the number of passengers, who in 1811 numbered 228 to 447 a day. It remains to be seen what will be the effects of the completion, about 1888, of the great Forth Bridge (see Forth and North British Railway), whose construction in the summer of 1884 was employing 1200 men, of whom 1000 were resident either in South or in North Queensferry; but there can be little or no doubt that its completion will be highly beneficial to the place. In the 17th century, about 20 vessels, most of them large brigs, belonged to Queensferry, and some trade in ship-building was carried on. But now no vessel belongs to the port, nor are any built at it; and the commerce of the place consists principally of a coasting trade in coals, manures, and barley inward, and in stones and potatoes outward. Herring fishing is a chief employment during the winter months; and there are connected with it a dozen boats belonging to the town. George iv. embarked at Port-Edgar, 15 Aug. 1822, on his return to England; on 5 Sept. 1842, the Queen and Prince Albert drove from Dalkeith to South Queensferry, embarked on the ` William Adam,' and, after a short cruise up the Forth, landed at North Queensferry, whence they drove on to Scone; on 23 Aug. 1884 the Prince and Princess of Wales, after visiting the Forth Bridge Works, drove through the town on their way from Dalmeny to Hopetoun; and shortly afterwards the Forth Bridge Works were visited by Mr Gladstone and Sir Stafford Northcote. The parish, formed out of Dalmeny in 1636, is in the presbytery of Linlithgow and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £355. The town is governed by a provost (which office has been held by the Earls of Hopetoun and Rosebery), 2 bailies, and 6 councillors, and they, in 1882, adopted in part the General Police Act. The magistrates have jurisdiction not only within the royalty but also in the parliamentary bounds, which include the Forth Bridge; and in olden times they were in the habit of exercising jurisdiction much beyond this. Queensferry unites with Stirling, Inverkeithing, Dunfermline, and Culross in sending a member to parliament. The burgh became bankrupt in 1881, but obtained its discharge on a composition of 12s. 6d. per £ in 1882, and in 1883 and 1884 it had a corporation revenue of £120, exclusive of assessments. The municipal and the parliamentary constituency numbered 243 and 204 in 1885, when the annual value of real property within the parliamentary burgh amounted to £6978, 5s. (£3127 in 1875). Pop. (1841) 1233, (1851) 1195, (1861) 1230, (1871) 1521, (1881) 1966, of whom 1136 were males, 290 belonged to the ` Royal Warden ' training ship, and 1676 were in the parliamentary burgh, 1064 in the royal burgh or parish of Queensferry.—Ord. Sur., sh. 32, 1857. See W. W. Fyfe's Summer Life on Land and Water at South Queensferry (Edinb. 1851).

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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