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.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2022.

It has taken much time and money to make the six-volumes of Groome's text freely accessible. Please help us continue and develop by making a donation. If only one out of every ten people who view this page gave £5 or $10, the project would be self-sustaining. Sadly less than one in thirty-thousand contribute, so please give what you can.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry Arrow

Montrose (Gael. Alt-moine-ros, `the burn of the mossy point'), a seat of manufacture, a seaport, and a royal burgh in the parish just mentioned, at the mouth of the South Esk. It is, by the Caledonian railway, 9¾ miles E of Brechin, 21½ NNE of Arbroath, 38 NE of Dundee, 42¼ SSW of Aberdeen, 53¼ ENE of Perth, 116¾ ENE of Glasgow, and 123 NNE of Edinburgh viâ Stirling. By the North British railway it is 13¾ miles from Arbroath, 30¾ from Dundee, and 76 from Edinburgh viâ Broughty Ferry and Burntisland. It is the terminus of the Caledonian branch line from Dubton, and of the Montrose and Bervie line as well as a main station on the Montrose and Arbroath railway. The site of the town is a peninsula jutting southwards, bounded on the E by the sea, and on the S and W by the waters of the South Esk. Except for the low sand-bank along the edge of the links, the ground is almost entirely level. To the W of the town the river expands into a broad tidal loch known as the Montrose Basin and measuring 2 miles by 1¾ mile. At high water the whole area is covered, but at low water by far the greater portion becomes an unsightly expanse of mud. As the channel to the NE of the town is only from 115 to 130 yards wide, the tidal current sets up and down with great swiftness-often from 6 to 8 miles an hour; but this rush of water is beneficial, as its force clears off deposits from the town, and prevents the formation of any considerable bar across the mouth of the river. In 1670, by running a dyke from near the Forthill along the bank of the South Esk towards Dun, an attempt was made to drain and add to that estate some 2000 acres, but the bulwark-known as the `Drainer's dike'- had hardly been completed when it was breached and destroyed by a violent storm, traditionally said to have been raised by Meggie Cowie, one of the last local witches. A small portion of the area has, within the last five years, been reclaimed by the Montrose and Arbroath railway company. The basin is frequented by wild geese, ducks, and other aquatic birds. Although complaints of damp sometimes arise, neither the flatness of the site nor the large expanse of water around seem to have an injurious effect on the health of the inhabitants. The almost insular situation makes the climate very mild; and the basin at high water adds materially to the beauty of the neighbourhood.

History.—The origin of the name of Montrose has given rise to many conjectures—Mons Rosarum, the French Mons-trois (`three hills'), the British Manterrose (`the mouth of the stream'), the Gaelic Mon-ross (`the promontory hill'), Moin-ross (`the promontory of the moss'), and Meadh-an-ross (`the field or plain of the moss'), have all been brought forward, but the most likely seems to be that at the beginning of the article, which connects the name first with Old Montrose and so with Montrose, and seems also to account for the tradition (certainly unfounded), that the town at first stood at the former place. According to Boece the original name of the town was Celurca, but this seems rather to have been a contiguous place, as both Montrose and Salork are mentioned in a charter in the time of Malcolm IV., and again in the time of William the Lyon. All trace of the latter is now gone, but it was possibly higher up the basin than Montrose. Of the origin of the town nothing is known, but it has a high antiquity, for as early as the 10th century, when the Danes found the estuary a convenient anchorage, there was, according to Boece, a town here, and in 980 the inhabitants were massacred by a band of these searovers. In the 12th century, under Malcolm IV., we find that mills and saltpans had been established, and his successor, William the Lyon, lived in the castle from time to time between 1178 and 1198. In 1244 the town was burned, and at that time it seems to have been one of the considerable places of the kingdom. When it obtained burghal privileges is not known, but probably in the time of David I. At any rate, burgesses of Montrose are mentioned in 1261-62, and in 1296 twelve burgesses went to Berwick, and in presence of Edward I. took the oath of allegiance on behalf of themselves and the burgh. Edward himself was in Montrose the same year, from the 7th till the 12th July, when he lived at the castle which then stood on the Forthill. According to Wyntoun, Blind Harry, and Balfour, it was here that John Baliol 'did render quietly the realme of Scotland as he that had done amis.'

'This John the Baliol, on purpos
He tuk and browcht hym til Munros,
And in the castell of that town,
That then was famous in renown,
This John the Baliol dyspoyled he
52 all his robys of ryaltie.'

But this is a mistake, for, though the ceremony took place while Edward was here, the scene was at Stracathro, whither Edward went for the purpose, returning the same day. The castle was captured by Wallace in the following year, and seems to have been completely destroyed, for there is no more word of it.* Wallace landed here on his return from France:-

'Baith Forth and Tay thai left and passyt by
On the north cost [gud] Guthré was thar gy,
In Munross hawyn thai brocht hym to the land;'

and, according to Froissart, Montrose was the port whence Lord James Douglas, at the head of a brilliant retinue, embarked in the spring of 1330 to fulfil the last charge of King Robert Bruce to carry his heart to Jerusalem and deposit it in the holy sepulchre. This, however, is against the testimony of the Scottish historians, particularly Barbour, who says Douglas sailed from Berwick. In the rolls of the parliament, held in Edinburgh in 1357 to arrange the ransom of David II., Montrose occupies the central position among the royal burghs, eight preceding and eight following it, and would therefore appear to have, at that period, attained considerable consequence. Subsequently, in the same year, John Clark, one of the magistrates, was among those who became hostages for the payment of the ransom. In 1369, David himself visited the town; and when the truce made between France and England in 1379 was renewed in 1383, with the stipulation that Scotland should be included if that country wished, a band of thirty distinguished French knights, who came to Scotland in the hope of the war going on, landed at Montrose and passed S by Perth to Edinburgh. During the 15th century the inhabitants had a bitter feud against the Erskines of Dun, seemingly on account of oppression endured at their hands, but this was changed by the well-known laird who figured among the Reformers, and who possessed great influence in the town, and established there a school where the Greek language was taught for the first time in Scotland by Pierre de Marsiliers, who had been brought by Dun from France in 1534. In 1548 the English fleet, which was sailing along the coast doing whatever mischief was possible, made a night attack, but the landing parties were, after a stiff struggle, beaten back by the inhabitants with Erskine at their head. Influenced, no doubt, by such a leader, and probably also prepared for the reception of the new views by their trading intercourse with the Continent, and particularly with Holland, the people early embraced the doctrines set forth by the Reformers. The spread of these must have been greatly aided by the teaching of George Wishart, who seems to have been first a pupil of, and then assistant to, Marsiliers, and who taught and circulated the Greek Testament so extensively among his pupils, that in 1538 the Bishop of Brechin summoned him to appear on a charge of heresy, and he had to flee to England. He returned in 1543, and for a time preached and taught openly 'in Montrois within a private house next unto the church except one.' When he had again to flee, the people, determined to have what they wished, got another preacher named Paul Methven, originally a baker in Dundee, who, we are told, having administered the sacrament 'to several of the lieges in a manner far different from the Divine and laudable use of the faithful Catholic church, was denounced rebel and put to the horn as fugitive' in 1559, while the inhabitants were ordered to conform to the old state of things and to attend mass. Andrew Melvil, who was born at Baldowie in the adjoining parish of Craig, was one of Marsiliers' later pupils, and his nephew James Melvil, who has in his Diary left an interesting account of his studies, was also educated here, but the teacher then (1569) was Mr Andrew Milne. The first minister, after the Reformation, was 'Mr Thomas Andersone, a man of mean gifts bot of singular guid lyff;' and the second was John Durie, who would seem to have been one of the stirring men of the time, for his future son-in-law, James Melvil, describes him on the occasion of their first meeting, when Durie was minister of Leith, as 'for stoutness and zeall in the guid cause mikle renouned and talked of. For the gown was na sooner af, and the Byble out of hand fra the kirk, when on ged the corslet and fangit was the hagbot and to the fields !' Before his death, too, in 1600, he had received in favour of himself, his wife, and his son, or the longest liver of them, a pension in consideration of 'the greit lang and ernest travellis and labouris sustenit in the trew preaching of Goddis word, besydes the greit charges and expenses, maid be him thir mony zeiris by gane in advancing the publick affayres of the kirk-thairwithall remembring the greit househald and famelie of bairnis quhairwith he is burdynit.' His death took place just immediately before the meeting of the General Assembly of 1600, which was held at Montrose in March in presence of the king, who was busy trying to force on his scheme of Episcopacy. One of the great struggles was about the sitting of the bishops in parliament, but on this and other points the Episcopal party were worsted, chiefly by the influence of Andrew Melvil, who 'remeanit in the town all the whyll, and furnisit arguments to the Breithring, and mightelie strynthned and incuragit tham.' When reproached by the king for coming, he, 'eftir the auld maner dischargit his conscience,' and said, 'Sir, tak yow this head, and gar cut it af, gif yie will; yie sall sooner get it, or I betray the cause af Chryst.'

* The castle seems to have been the royal residence when William the Lyon was at Montrose. and Edward I. lived there, but there is no record as to where David Ii. resided. In 1488 the grant by James III. to David Lindsay, Earl of Crawford, of 'the loftier title' of Duke of Montrose, mentions no castle but only the 'Castlested.' which would seem to imply that the castle was a ruin. or had altogether disappeared. The site was at the Forthill, near where the Infirmary now stands.

The great Marquis of Montrose was born at Old Montrose in Maryton parish; but some of his dealings with the neighbouring town of Montrose were of doubtful advantage thereto. In 1644, while he held Aberdeen for the king, a party of his men, headed by Alexander Irvine, younger of Drum, 'passit all over Die, intending onlie to go to Montroiss and to tak the tua brassin cartowis lying thair, if thay war not impedit;. . . and upone Wednisday the 24th of Aprile, be tua houris in the morning, with sound of trumpet thay cam to the toun, who had set on fyres upon thair stepill to walkin the countrie, and wes in armes thame selffis, and rang the commoun bell, bot all for nocht. Thay boldlie enterit Montross, dang the toune's people fra the calsey to thair houssis, and out of the foirstaires thay schot desperately, bot thay war forssit to yeild by many feirfull schotes schot aganes thame; quhair unhappelie Alexander Peirsone, ane of thair balleis, wes slayne, sum sayes by Nathaniell Gordoun, utheris holdis by ane hieland man, whom the said baillie also slew. Thairefter, it wes said, thay intendit to schip thir cartowis in ane schip lying in Montroiss water, pertening to Alexander Burnet, elder in Abirdene, be consent of Alexander Burnet, his sone, who hapnit to be thair, and had promesit no less, being ane antecovenanter. Bot, by this Burnetis knouledge, James Scot, now prouest of Mont ross, with certane of his neightbouris, had quietly con- voyit thame selffis with thair best goodis into the said schip. When scho began to fleit, scho drawis nar the schoir, quhair young Drum and his men war thinking to schip thair cartowis, according to Alexander Burnetis promeiss foirsaid, and to haue had thame about be sea to Abirdene. Bot, for by thair expectatioun, this schip schot fyve or six peice of ordinans disperatlie amongis thame, with about fourtie muscattis, quhair, by the gryte providens of God, thair wes bot onlie tuo men killit and sum hurt. Drum seeing this, thay returnit thame selffis, brak the quheillis of the cartowis, for moir thay culd not do, nor brak them thay micht not, and threw thame over the schoir, to mak them unserviceable. Drum returnis to the toune, and beginis to brak wp merchand boothis, plunder, and cruellie spolzie ritche merchandice, clothis, silkis, velvotis, and uther costlie wair, silver, gold and silver wark, armes, and all uther thing, quhairat the hieland men wes not slow. Thay brak wp a pype of Spanish wyne and drank hartfullie. Thay took Patrik Lichtoun, lait prouest, and Androw Gray, prissoneris. Thay left Montroiss in woful cace, about tuo efternone. . . Thair wes takin 32 hieland men-sum sayis 52-who had unwyslie biddin behind the rest, plundering the Montross goodis, and is takin, schaklit, and sent to Edinbrugh to pay for thair faultis. It is heir to be nottit that, notwithstanding of the many schotis schot within the toune and out of the schip, yit it pleissit God that few wes killit to Drumis syde, except tua or thrie persones, mervallous to sie ! and als few to the other syde, except Alexander Peirsone, ballie, who wes schot be Nathaniell Gordoun. Thair intentioun wes to haue schippit thir cartowis within the foirsaid schip, to have brocht about when scho cam with hir ladning to Abirdene; bot thay gat ane cruell assault, as ye have befoir, and wes michtellie disapoyntit. The Tutor of Struan, with sum hieland men, did brave service with thair schort gunis. It is said that Drum causit raiss fyre tua severall tymes in Montross, yit Major Gordoun still quenshit and pat out the samen.' Again, in 1645, while the marquis and Bailie were keeping one another, so to speak, in sight, the royalist cavalry were ordered to Montrose, 'with charge to tak thair intertynnement, bot no moir. Thay took the same, and wyne aneuche, but did no moir harme to the toun.'

James Melvil mentions 'a pest quhilk the Lord, for sinne and contempt of his Gospell, sent upon Montros' in 1566; and from May 1648 till February 1649 the plague again desolated the town, driving crowds to the country in panic, and making such fearful havoc among those who remained, that a large tumulus is pointed out on the links, immediately NE of the town, as the place where many victims to it were interred. In spite of all these misfortunes, the place continued to prosper; the enumeration of the articles in the merchants' booths plundered by Montrose's men, and mentioned above, would indicate a considerable trade; and a long, contemporary account of it, in the 17th century, describes it as 'a very handsome well-built toune, of considerable trade in all places abroad; good houses, all of stone, excellent large streets, a good tolbuith and church, good shipping of their own, a good shore at the toune, a myle within the river South Esk. . . It is a very cheap place of all things necessary except house-rent, which is dear, by reason of the great distance they are from stones, and makes their buildings very dear.' There were then on the outskirts 'malthouses and kilns and granaries for cornes, of three storeys high, and some more, and are increased to such a number that in a short time it is thought they will equall if not exceed the toune in greatness. . . They have a good public revenue, two wind-milnes, ane hospitall with some mortifications belonging to it; they are mighty fyne burgesses and delicate and painfull merchants. There have been men of great substance in that toune of a long time, and yet are, who have and are purchasing good estates in the countrey. The generalitie of the burgesses and merchants do very far exceed these in any other toune in the shire.'* About this time, too, the neighbourhood was highly esteemed for its beauty, which was celebrated in Latin verse by John and Arthur Johnston; while Franck, in his Northern Memoirs (1658), declares (he must surely have found the fishing in the neighbourhood very good) that it is 'a beauty that lies concealed as it were in the bosom of Scotland, most delicately dressed up and adorned with excellent buildings, whose foundations are laid with polished stone, and her ports all washed with silver streams that trickle down from the famous Ask.'

* The 'wind-milnes' must have been deemed of some importance, for in the beginning of the 18th century one of the citizens named John Young was sent by the magistrates to Holland to learn the best known methods of constructing and working windmills; and after his return he was the only person to be found in Scotland who understood the management of pumps in coalworks. In an 18th century print a windmill standing to the S of the Steeple, probably about the site of the present Infirmary, forms a prominent feature.

The church became a collegiate charge shortly before the Revolution, the inhabitants agreeing to tax themselves for a stipend to the second minister. This was during the time of the last Episcopal clergyman, David Lyell, who had been a presbyterian, but had conformed. He does not seem to have found his conscience quite easy under the change, or at any rate must have harped uncomfortably over it, for, 'some days before his death, as he was walking in the links about the twilight, at a pretty distance from the town, he espyed, as it wer, a woman all in white standing not far from him, who immediately disappeared, and he, coming up presently to the place, saw nae person there, though the links be very plain. Only casting his eye on the place where shee stood, he saw tuo words drawn or written, as it had been with a staff upon the sand, "Sentenced and condemned; " upon which he came home pensive and melancholy, and in a little sickens and dyes.'

On 21 Dec. 1715 the vessel in which the Chevalier had sailed from France made its appearance off Montrose, where probably a landing would have been made had it not been for the appearance of a ship which was suspected to be a man-of-war. On this account sail was made to the northward, and the actual disembarkation took place at Peterhead. In the following year, however, when all hope of success had vanished from the minds of the Jacobites, their forces in the retreat from Perth reached Montrose, where previous arrangements had been made for James to escape to France. Though the matter was kept a profound secret, a rumour of it had got spread abroad among the soldiers, and in order to allay suspicion, the royal baggage had to be sent forward with the main body of the army during a night march towards Aberdeen. James himself had his usual guard paraded before the door of the house where he was, as if for his departure, but slipping quietly out by a back door, he joined the Earl of Mar, and both passed through the gardens to the water's edge, where a boat was ready to carry them on board ship. The house where he had spent the day-and which is said to have been the same as that in which the Marquis of Montrose was born-has long been gone. It was the town house of the Duke of Montrose, and stood behind Peel's monument at the S end of High Street. It was here that James wrote to the Duke of Argyll expressing his regret at the misery caused by some of his operations, and telling how he had left a sum of money to make good the losses sustained. 'Among the manifold mortifications I have had in this unfortunat expedition, that of being forced to burn several villages, etc. as the only expedient left me for the publick security was not the smallest. It was indeed forced upon me by the violence with which my rebellious subjects acted against me, and what they, as the first authors of it, must be answerable for, not I; however, as I cannot think of leaving this country without making some provision to repair that loss, I have therefore consigned to the Magistrats of-the sum of-desiring and requiring of you, if not as an obedient subject, at least as a lover of your country, to take care that it be employd to the designd use, that I may at least have the satisfaction of having been the destruction and ruin of none, at a time I came to free all.' The letter was given to the officer left in command of the army, General Gordon, with instructions to fill up the blanks with the name of the town and the sum, before forwarding it to the Duke of Argyll, the money being the amount left over after providing for the subsistence of the army.

For a short time in 1745 the Royalists had their quarters here, but they were driven out by the Jacobites, whose influence in the neighbourhood seems then to have been considerable. The 'Hazard,' a sloop-of-war of 16 guns and 80 men, was then sent to regain the position, and entering the basin commanded the town with her guns, so that the anti-Government party were compelled to retire. Captain David Ferrier of Brechin, the Jacobite deputy-governor, was not, however, so easily dispossessed of his prize, for entering the town at night he took possession of the island of Inchbrayock, and erected an earthwork to protect his men. The same afternoon a French vessel, which was coming in with troops, was run on shore out of reach of the 'Hazard's' guns, her cannon were dragged to land and mounted at the island, and the fire opened from these at last compelled the government ship to surrender. The 'Hazard' proved for a time serviceable to Prince Charles Edward, but early in the following year she was driven ashore at the Bay of Tongue and lost to the Jacobites, as was also a large sum of money then on board. Admiral Byng came to avenge her capture, but had to confine himself to sinking the long boat of a French vessel that was lying off the coast. In 1746 the Duke of Cumberland passed through the town-the site of the house where he slept being now occupied by the National Bank-and a garrison was posted at the place, notwithstanding which, on 10 June (the anniversary of the old Chevalier's birthday), the Jacobite ladies showed their constancy by wearing white gowns, while the boys made bonfires along the streets. The officer in command of the station overlooked the matter, as he had no wish to punish ladies and children, but Cumberland with his usual vindictive cruelty had him deprived of his commission, and threatened to cause the children to be whipped at the cross to frighten them from their bonfires, a threat which he is actually said to have had carried into execution in some cases, it being alleged that one of the culprits so treated was Coutts, afterwards the great London banker.

In 1773 Montrose was visited by Dr Johnson and Boswell on their way from Edinburgh to the Hebrides. 'We found,' says Boswell, 'a sorry inn where I myself saw another waiter put a lump of sugar with his fingers into Dr Johnson's lemonade for which he called him "Rascal ! " It put me in great glee that our landlord was an Englishman. I rallied the Doctor upon this, and he grew quiet. Before breakfast [the next morning] we went and saw the town-hall, where is a good dancing-room and other rooms for tea-drinking. The appearance of the town from it is very well; but many of the houses are built with their ends to the street, which looks awkward. When we came down from it I met Mr Gleig, a merchant here. He went with us to see the English chapel. It is situated on a pretty dry spot, and there is a fine walk to it. It is really an elegant building, both within and without. The organ is adorned with green and gold. Dr Johnson gave a shilling extraordinary to the clerk, saying, "He belongs to an honest Church. " I put him in mind that Episcopals were but dissenters here; they were only tolerated. "Sir," said he, "we are here as Christians in Turkey."' The Doctor himself records his impression briefly. 'We travelled on to Montrose which we surveyed in the morning, and found it well built, airy, and clean. The town-house is a handsome fabric with a portico. We then went to view the English chapel, and found a small church, clean to a degree unknown in any other part of Scotland, with commodious galleries; and what was yet less expected, with an organ.' The town in those days seems to have had a number of beggars, for in the passage immediately following, Johnson remarks that when he had proceeded thus far he had opportunities of observing what he had never heard, 'that there are many beggars in Scotland,' though, to their credit be it said, that they solicited 'silently or very modestly.' The English Episcopal Church that is mentioned is St Peter's, which was founded in 1722, but was unfortunately burned down in 1857, just after it had been repaired.

Except a visit from Burns in 1787, and another from the Queen, who took train to Perth from a temporary station near the present Victoria Bridge, on her return from Balmoral in 1848, the town may be said to have no later history. Although since the latter part of last century it has had less increase of population and less growth of trade and industry than most towns of its class and in its position, it has yet thriven in a steady way that is perhaps better than sudden bursts of prosperity would have been, and there is but little sign of the fulfilment of the old rhyme:—

'Bonnie Munross will be a moss:
Dundee will be dung doun:
Forfar will be Forfar still:
And Brechin a braw burgh toun.'

The town was the birthplace of Robert Brown (1773-1858), the eminent botanist; Joseph Hume (1777-1855), politician and reformer; Sir Alexander Burnes (1805-41), Asiatic scholar and traveller; Sir James Burnes, his elder brother, who also distinguished himself in India; Sir James Duke (1792-1873), Lord Mayor of London in 1848-49; Sir William Burnett. the inventor of the process known as ' Burnettising ' for deodorising bilge water and preserving timber from rotting; and George Paul Chalmers, R.S.A. (1836-78). Alexander and James Burnes were sons of a cousin of Robert Burns, and the former w as killed at Cabul, were he was political resident. Old Montrose has given to the family of Graham the successive titles of Earl (1505), Marquess (1644), and Duke (1707) in the peerage of Scotland. This family can be traced back to 1128, when William de Graham witnessed a charter of King David i. to the monks of Holyrood. The early members of the race were all distinguished for their bravery. The first of them connected with Forfarshire was Sir David Graham, who obtained a grant of Old Montrose from Robert i. The first Earl w as killed at Flodden, and the third was appointed Viceroy of Scotland in 1604. The first Marquess was James, who figures so prominently in the time of Charles i. His son and successor, who was restored to the title and the estates in 1660, was known as the ' Good Marquiss.' Viscount Dundee was sprung from a branch of the same family. The dukedom was conferred on the fourth Marquess as a reward for his steady support of the Union. The family has long ceased to have any connection of interest with either the town or neighbourhood. Their present seat is Buchanan Castle, Stirlingshire.

Streets and Public Buildings.—The town has two principal lines of street running in a general direction from N to S. That to the W is the principal, and from N to S has the names of Northesk Road, The Mall, Murray Street, and High Street; that to the E is known to the N as Mill Street, and to the S as Baltic Street and Apple Wynd, and is mostly very irregular and narrow. On the W side of High Street a fine wide street-Hume Street-was formed in 1880 to give access to the new station of the Montrose and Arbroath section of the North British railway system. High Street is continued westwards to the river by Castle Street and Upper Fishergate, much improved in recent years, but still of unequal width, narrow, and winding. To the W of this, branching off also from High Street, is the wide modern Bridge Street. Along the side of the river is Wharf Street, eastward of which, towards the old station and harbour, are Hill Street, Commerce Street, Ferry Street, and River Street. Eastwards of Baltic Street and Mill Street is an open space, partly laid out as public gardens, which is known as The Middle Links, about which are a number of excellent houses. The chief cross streets from E to W are Broomfield Road at the extreme N end of the town, Rosehill Road at The Mall, and John Street off High Street and continued across the Middle Links by Union Street. The line by Bridge Street or Castle Street, High Street, Murray Street, The Mall, and Northesk Road lies along the main coast road from Dundee to Aberdeen.

Till near the end of last century the traffic was conveyed across the South Esk by ferry-boats crossing the river between Ferryden and the harbour, but the road was then diverted to the westward, and bridges constructed between Montrose and Inchbrayock,* and across the south channel between Inchbrayock and the S bank of the river. The bridge over the south channel was a substantial stone structure and still remains, that over the main channel was a heavy timber bridge, erected in 1793-96, and deemed a wonderful structure. One of the openings was moved like a drawbridge, in order to allow of the passage of ships up the river. In consequence, however, of an ill-advised narrowing of the channel at its site, the rapid current soon carried away the old bed of the river, and threatened to sweep away the foundations of the bridge; and after various expedients had been tried to prevent its destruction, it eventually became a piece of mere shaking patchwork, and was condemned. In its place it was determined to erect a suspension-bridge, and this, designed by Sir Samuel Brown, R.N., and founded in Sept. 1828, was finished in Dec. 1829 at a cost of £23,000. The distance between the points of suspension is 432 feet, and the total length, including approaches, is about 800 feet. The towers are 23½ feet high from foundation to roadway, and 71 feet high altogether; 39½ feet wide at the roadway; and each is pierced by an archway 18 feet high and 16 wide. At a distance of 115 feet from the towers are the chambers where the ends of the chains are secured. The chains themselves, which are double, and 1 foot apart, are made of the best cable iron, with bars 8 feet 10 inches from centre to centre, and the joints of the upper main chains over the middle of the bar in the lower. The suspending rods are 5 feet apart. In 1838, on the occasion of a boat-race in the river, a large crowd on the bridge rushed from one side to the other, and the sudden strain, owing to some imperfection in one of the saddles on the top of the north tower, causing the upper chain on one side to give way, it fell on the lower chain, killing several people. Had not the under chain proved sufficiently strong to support the sudden strain, the whole crowd would have been precipitated into the water. The bridge was speedily repaired, but in October the same year a violent southwesterly gale produced such violent vibrations as to tear up, destroy, and throw into the river about two-thirds of the roadway. The main chains, however, remained uninjured, but repairs were necessary to the amount of £3000. Hitherto the lateral oscillation in the centre had been as much as from 3 to 4 feet, but now, by the introduction of new supports, designed by J. M. Rendal, London, this was reduced so as not to exceed 3 or 4 inches. A portion of the roadway at each side, reserved for footpassengers, is railed off from the carriageway by longitudinal timber traverses, which so abut upon the towers, and extend above and below the roadway, as to thoroughly stiffen the whole structure. When this bridge was first erected, the centre span of the stone one, across the south channel, was taken down and replaced by a drawbridge to allow vessels to pass up to Old Montrose, but it is hardly ever used. Financially the suspension bridge has always been in difficulties, for, notwithstanding the pontage income, there still in 1871 remained a debt of n ore than £18,000, and as the revenue derived from tolls was then threatened with a great reduction, should the proposed formation of a direct Montrose and Arbroath railway be proceeded with, the company promoting that line became bound to pay annually £983, 6s, in perpetuity as compensation for the anticipated loss. When the Roads and Bridges Act came into operation in 1883 the pontage was finally abolished. Whilst the foundations of the northern towers were being dug, a large number of human bones were found in the small eminence close by, on which the castle stood, and which is known as the Castlehill or Forthill. A short distance up the river from the suspension bridge is the viaduct by which the Arbroath and Montrose railway crosses the South Esk. It was designed by Mr W. R. Galbraith, and is 475 yards long. There are 16 spans, the one at the S side being 63 feet wide, the two at the N side respectively 54 feet and 57 feet 6 inches, and the others 96 feet. The girders are supported on double cylindrical piers sunk in the bed of the river to an average depth of 18 feet, 7 feet 6 inches in diameter up to low water, and thence 5 feet in diameter. It was erected in 188283 to replace the original viaduct constructed in 1878-80, somewhat on the same plan as the Tay Bridge; but after the disaster to that structure, although it was used for goods traffic, the Board of Trade refused to grant it the necessary certificate for passenger traffic, and it was removed. Across the south channel there is a brick viaduct of 16 arches.

* So named from an old church dedicated do St Braoch.

The infirmary, near the N end of the suspension-bridge, was originally connected with the old lunatic asylum noticed in the account of the parish. It afterwards became separate, and the present building, erected in 1837 at a cost of £2500 and enlarged in 1865, includes a fever ward, a small-pox ward, and a dispensary. It is under the charge of the same directors as the lunatic asylum, and the average annual number of patients is over 400.

High Street was, till 1748, divided along the centre into two streets by a row of houses called Rotten Row, but it is now a wide handsome open thoroughfare. Many of the houses still present their gables to the street, but these older features are slowly disappearing. Projecting into the street towards the S end is the town-hall, erected in 1763, and with an upper story added in l819, a plain building, with arcaded basement and a pediment containing an illuminated clock. It contains a council-room, a guild-hall a court-room, a coffee-room, a reading-room, and a large apartment used as a public library (founded in 1785; annual subscription one guinea). There is an extensive collection of books amounting to over 19,000 volumes. Besides this there is a trades' or mechanics' library with 7000 volumes (founded 1819; annual subscription 4s. 4d.) and a grammar school library, founded in 1686, and containing many old and rare books. The old Trades' Hall on the E side of High Street, a short distance N of the town--hall, is now known as the Albert Hall. The statues close by are those of Sir Robert Peel, erected in 1855; and of Joseph Hume, M. P.-a native and for some years member for the Montrose district of burghs-erected in 1859. The prison to the S of the town-hall superseded a disgraceful old jail in the Steeple with only two or three miserable cells. Built in 1832, it has become almost useless in consequence of the transference of all long-sentence prisoners to the prison of Dundee, though those with sentences of not more than 14 days are still kept here, and part of it is used as a police court-room.

There seems to have been a parish church as early as the 13th century, but the present building, which is immediately E of the town-hall, was erected in 1791 on the site of an older church, and measures 98 by 65 feet. It is one of the largest in Scotland, the double tier of galleries and area containing 2500 sittings. The square steeple of the older church with its octagonal spire formed a prominent feature in old views of the town. The spire was of later date, having been added in 1694- the date on the vane now in the museum. It was in it that Thomas Forster, a priest, met his death at the hands of John Erskine of Dun, a circumstance that led to the young laird's retirement to the Continent for a season, and thus to his adherence to the doctrines of the Reformation; and on it ' a fyre of joy ' burned in June 1566 on the reception of the news of the birth of James Vi. The steeple having become somewhat rickety was taken down in 1831, and the present one, 200 feet high, erected in 1832-34 after designs by Gillespie Graham at a cost of £3500, the gable of the church being altered and improved at the same time. There is a fine brass chandelier which belonged to the old church. Round the building is the old burial ground, which contains the grave of Maitland the historian. There is a new cemetery at Rosehill Road on the NE of the town. Melville Established church, built in 1854 as a chapel of ease, is now a quoad sacra parish church. It has 800 sittings. St John's Free church, in John Street, a Grecian building, was erected in 1829 as a chapel of ease at a cost of £3969, and contains 1370 sittings. St George's Free church, built soon after the Disruption, contains 1300 sittings; and St Paul's Free church, a plain Gothic building with a spire (1860), has 520 sittings. Mill Street U.P. church, built in 1830 for a congregation formed in 175o, contains 500 sittings; John Street U.P. church, built in 1824 for a congregation formed in 1787, has accommodation for 750 persons; and Knox U.P. church, in Castle Street built in 1860, for 300. The Independent church, in Baltic Street, was built in 1844 in place of a previous chapel, and contains 700 sittings. The Evangelical Union church (1849) has accommodation for 400; and the Wesleyan church at the foot of New Wynd, built in 1873 in room of an older church dating from 1814, accommodation for 330. The Scottish Episcopal church (St Mary), in Panmure Place, was built in 1844, partly with a donation of £1000 from H. Scott, Esq. of Brotherton, and, as restored and enlarged in 1878, is a good Early English edifice, with organ, fine stained-glass windows, and 350 sittings. The English Episcopal church (St Peter), whose early history has been already referred to, was rebuilt in 1859, and contains 500 sittings. Within garden ground on the W side of Murray Street there were, till the beginning of the present century, remains of a Dominican monastery. The original building, ' biggit and foundit ' and dedicated to the Virgin Mary in 1230 by Allan the Durward, last male representative of the De Lundins, seems to have stood on the portion of the links known as St Mary's, near Victoria Bridge, but in 1516 the monks removed to new buildings in the position first mentioned. Almost nothing more is known of their history except that they found themselves disturbed in their new abode by the noises in the streets, and were, in 1524, allowed to return to their first dwelling.

Montrose Academy stands on the Links, and was, as we have already seen, in existence as early as the middle of the 16th century at least. Its early fame and its connection with Wishart and the Melvils has been already noticed. One of the teachers in the 17th century was David Lyndsay, a cadet of the Edzell family, who became Bishop of Brechin, and was afterwards Bishop of Edinburgh when Jenny Geddes threw her stool at Dr Hanna's head. ' The bishop of Edinbrugh. named Mr David Lyndsay, cuming to preiche, heiring of this tumult cam nevertheless to Sanct Geillis kirk and teichit, but inquietatioun. Sermon endit and he going out of the kirk dur, these rascall wemen cryit out against bischopis, reddie to stane him to the death, but being a corpulent man wes haistellie put in the Erll of Roxbrughe coache, standing hard besyd, and was careit to his lodging; the samen rascallis still following him and throwing stones at the coache, so that he escaipit narrowlie with his lyf. ' Among the later pupils were Joseph Hume and Sir James and Sir Alexander Burnes. The present building, which is surmounted by a low dome, was erected in 1820, and contains accommodation for over 700 pupils. The average attendance is about 300, and the work, embracing the usual secondary subjects, is carried on by a rector, six masters, and three assistants. There is a very small endowment, so that the income is to a large extent dependent on fees. From funds bequeathed by Mr John Erskine, of Jamaica, in 1786, education is provided at this school for eight poor boys, and a salary of £50 is paid to one of the assistant masters. Dorward's Seminary - near the Academy, erected in 1833 partly at the expense of the Incorporated Trades and partly by subscription, and afterwards transferred to the management of Dorward's Trustees-gives instruction in English, writing, arithmetic, navigation, Latin, and French, and the work is carried on by a master and mistress. In 1883 thirteen schools, with accommodation, average attendance, and Government grant, were:-Erskine Street (152, 135, £114, 13s. 4d.), High Street (73, 119, £100, 10s. 6d.), Lochside (120, 74, £57, 4s.), Montrose (384, 291, £232, 6s.), Townhead junior (180, 109, £80, 0s. 6d.), Townhead senior (207, 206, £193, 14s.), White's Place (204, 191, £88, 17s. 6d.), White's Place infant (163, 154, £114, 18s.), Castle Street mission (242, 193, £115, 18s. 9d.), Dorward's Seminary (136, 61, £42, 15s.), Dorward's Lower Seminary (123, 60, £27, 3s. 7d.), St John's Free Church (320, 179, £l06, 3s.), and Union Street Works (83, 32, £29, 14s.).

Dorward's House of Refuge, at the N end of the Middle Links, was erected in 1839, and is endowed from a fund of £29, 600 bequeathed by William Dorward, merchant in Montrose. It is a neat Elizabethan building, affording accommodation for 150 inmates, but has generally only about 80. In 1882 these were 23 men, 15 women, 25 boys, and 15 girls. It is managed by trustees from various public bodies. The Museum of the Natural History and Antiquarian Society is a neat building in Panmure Place, erected in 1837. It contains valuable collections of natural history objects, and a fine collection of coins and other antiquities. On Saturday it is accessible for the very small charge of one penny. The Barracks, to the NE of the harbour, were originally the buildings of the lunatic asylum, which were transferred to Government in 1860 to be converted into a depôt for the Angus and Mearns militia, officially the 5th Brigade Scottish division R. M. Artillery.

Commerce and Trade, etc.—The manufacture of linen yarn and thread was introduced at a comparatively early period, and has been vigorously carried on. An annual market for these products was held in the early years of last century, and drew to it manufacturers from all parts of Forfarshire and Kincardineshire and from some parts of Aberdeenshire, to dispose of their goods. The making of sailcloth was begun in 1745; but after a short burst of prosperity it fell off, so as almost to become extinct. It has, however, now again revived and become very extensive. The manufacture of sailcloth, fine linen, lawns, and cambric was so prominent at Pennant's visit to the town in 1776, as to draw from him a eulogy on the skill and industry employed, as well as the beauty of many of the fabrics produced. Flax-spinning, with newly-invented machinery worked by one of Boulton and Watt's engines, was commenced in Ford's Mill, a factory built for this in 1805; and in 1805-6 the engineman who had charge of the machinery of this work was the great inventor of the locomotive engine, George Stephenson. An engineman's wages in those days could not have been large, but during the year Stephenson was in Montrose he saved a sum of no less than £28. Flax-spinning is now the principal industry, and gives employment to a large number of hands, both in the town and in its neighbourhood, as does also the weaving of part of the yarn into floor-cloths, ducks, sheetings, dowlas, canvas, and other fabrics, and the bleaching operations therewith connected. There are also extensive rope-works, tanworks, mills, machine-making establishments, breweries, starch-works-dating from 1798-soap-works, and an artificial manure and chemical work. Shipbuilding was once extensively carried on, but is now extinct, though there is still a good deal of boatbuilding. The registration or custom-house port used formerly to comprehend the whole coast from Buddon Ness on the S to Bervie-brow or Todhead on the N, and included Westhaven, Easthaven, Arbroath, Johnshaven, and Gourdon; but it is now restricted to the reach from Redhead to Todhead, and therefore includes now only Johnshaven and Gourdon. The number of vessels within the smaller range, with their tonnage, has been at various dates as follows:

Year. Sailing
Tons. Steamers. Tons. Total
1868 112 17,320 2 40 114 17,360
1875 78 13,529 4 1156 82 14,685
1882 50 9,287 7 2053 57 11,340
1883 44 8,256 8 1840 52 10,096

By far the greater part of the ships belong to Montrose itself.

The harbour comprises the whole reach of the South Esk from the bridge to the sea, but is occupied principally in the upper part of that reach. It is naturally very good, and has been well cared for. The entrance is somewhat narrow, and cannot easily be taken, with the wind from certain points; but the depth over the bar is 18 feet at low water of spring tides, and it is therefore accessible at all hours to vessels of large draught. To the N of the fairway is a dangerous bank called the Annet Sands. There are leading lights, and on the promontory at the S side of the mouth of the river is Montroseness or Scurdyness lighthouse (1870), with-since 1881-a double intermittent or occulting light, its periods of light being always four seconds, and its periods of darkness two seconds and eight seconds alternately. The light is visible at a distance of 17 nautical miles. The quays are well constructed and commodious. A wet dock, measuring 450 by 300 feet, with a depth of 19 feet at spring tides and 15 at neaps, and capable of accommodating 6000 tons of shipping, was formed in 1840 at a cost of £43,000. There is a patent slip, capable of raising vessels of 400 tons. Tramways connect the harbour with both the Caledonian and North British railway stations. The present trustees are 5 elected by the county, the sheriff of the county, the provost and senior bailie of Montrose, 2 members elected by the town council, 9 chosen by the municipal electors, and 4 elected by the town council of Brechin. It was acquired by this body from the town council in 1837, under act of parliament, by which a payment of £600 a year in perpetuity is to be made to the latter body. The following table shows the tonnage of vessels that entered from and to foreign ports and coastwise, with cargoes and ballast, at various dates:—

Year Entered Cleared
British. Foreign. Total. British. Foreign. Total.
1860 48,882 17,638 66,520 33,790 17,066 50,856
1874 66,915 25,414 92,329 66,902 22,479 89,381
1881 71,319 21,426 92,745 68,122 20,947 89,069
1882 65,998 28,041 94,039 67,450 26,214 93,664

The foreign trade is chiefly with the Baltic and Canada. The chief exports are grain, manufactured goods, and fish, and the chief imports are timber, coal, flax, hemp, and wheat. The trade in wood is second only to that on the Clyde, and more unmanufactured tobacco is imported here than is brought into any other port in Scotland except Glasgow and Leith. The amount of customs in 1866 was £3154, in 1874 £1787, in 1881 £1305, and in 1882 £1093. Montrose fishery district embraces the coast from Broughty Ferry to Gourdon, and on 1 Jan. 1883 had a total of 182 first class boats, 244 second class boats, and 193 third class boats, with a total tonnage of 4954, and 1180 resident fishermen and boys. Of these, however, only 1 first class boat, 4 third class boats, and 8 men and boys belonged to Montrose itself. In the year before the value of the boats was £37, 012, of the nets £25, 500, and of the lines £7624. The total persons employed in connection with them were 2882, the number of barrels of herrings salted or cured 39,199, and the number of cod, ling, or hake taken 110, 392. Of the whole number of boats, about a quarter belongs to the small fishing-village of Ferryden, on the opposite side of the South Esk from Montrose. But few of the boats fish at home, the number in 1883 being 174, which had a total catch of 15, 344 crans.

Municipality, etc.—As already noticed it is uncertain when Montrose became a royal burgh, but in the charters of confirmation and renovation granted by David II. in 1352, and by Robert II. in 1385, there is a rescript of a charter believed to have been granted by David I. Subsequent extension of privileges was granted by James IV. Municipal matters are attended to by a provost, 3 bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, a hospital master, and 12 councillors, and this corporation is probably the only one in Scotland that can boast of ever having had female burgesses, since in 1751 the ladies Jean, Mary, and Margaret Falconer, daughters of Lord Falconer of Halkerstone, were raised to that dignity. The council acts also as the police commission, and the police force consists of 12 men (one to every 1247 of the population) with a superintendent, whose salary is £150. - The number of persons tried at the instance of the police in 1883 was 237, the number of those convicted was 234, the number committed for further proceedings 5, and the number not dealt with 21. The corporation property is valued at about £72, 000, and the liabilities to be charged against it to about £38, 000. The annual revenue is about £2900. Gas is supplied by a company formed in 1827, whose works are in Lower Hall Street. Water was brought first from Glenskenno in 1741 at a cost of £1300; and the present supply, which comes from the North Esk above Kinnaber, was introduced in 1857 at a cost of about £8800. A thorough scheme of drainage was carried out subsequent to 1873. The incorporated trades are blacksmiths, wrights, shoemakers' weavers, masons, and tailors. Under various trustees there are 23 charitable funds bequeathed between 1744 and 1882 with capitals varying from £50 to £4000, the interests being chiefly applied to the assistance of indigent persons not paupers. The hospital fund granted by King James Vi. in 1587 gives assistance to about 150 persons, who receive quarterly allowances from it. The burgh arms are, On a shield argent, a rose seeded and barbed proper: the supporters are two mermaids proper; the crest a hand sinister issuing from clouds, and holding a branch of laurel, with the motto, Mare ditat, rosa decorat.

The town has a head post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, and offices of the Bank of Scotland, British Linen Company, Clydesdale, Commercial, National, North of Scotland, Royal, and Town and County Banks. There is also a National Security Savings' Bank, agencies of 49 insurance companies, and 8 hotels. The newspapers are the Liberal Montrose Review (1811) and the Conservative Montrose Standard (1837), and are both published on Friday. There are three Masonic lodges-Kilwinning, St Peter's (No. 120), and Incorporated Kilwinning (No. 182). Among the miscellaneous institutions may be noticed the Rossie Pleasure-Grounds (to the S of the town, laid out in 1868-70, and open to the public), the Rossie Boys' Reformatory (1857)-with about 65 inmates-in Craig parish, a public coffee house and reading-room (1880) in Castle Street, a model lodging-house in South Esk Street, the Temperance Hall in Market Street, the Assembly Hall in High Street, the Lifeboat station, the Natural History and Antiquarian Society, the Scientific and Field Club, a Young Men's Christian Association, a branch of the Bible Society, a Town Mission, a Society for Improving the Condition of the Poor, a Destitute Sick Society, a Ladies Clothing Society, a Temperance Society, six Good Templar Lodges, a Court of Foresters, two Lodges of Odd fellows, two Lodges of Free Gardeners, a St Crispin Lodge, a United Society of Seamen, a branch of the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Royal Benevolent Society, a Horticultural Society, an Orchestral Society, a Harmonic Union, a Tonic Sol-fa Association, six golf clubs-the links affording one of the best golfing greens in Scotland-a curling club, two bowling clubs, three cricket clubs, and five football clubs. The volunteer hall was opened in 1883; and there are an artillery and two rifle volunteer corps, in connection with which the Angus and Mearns Rifle Association (1860) holds a meeting on Montrose Links annually in August. Sheriff small debt courts for the parishes of Craig, Dun, Logie-Pert, Lunan, Maryton, and Montrose are held on the third Friday of January, March, May, July, September, and November; and there is a justice of peace small debt court on the first Monday of every month. The weekly market is on Friday, and there was formerly an annual fair-which figures in John o' Arnha-on 3 May, Rood Day, whence the name Ruid or Rood Fair. This and another old fair held in July, and lasting four days, are now abolished, and fairs are held on the Fridays after Whitsunday and Martinmas (o.s.).

Montrose unites with Arbroath, Brechin, Forfar, and Bervie in returning a member to parliament (always a Liberal since 1837), and is the returning burgh. Parliamentary constituency (1883-84) 2050, municipal constituency 2412. Valuation (1876) £51,144, (1883-84) £57,142, 13s. 6d., including £4399 for railways. Pop. of parliamentary burgh (1831) 12,055, (1841) 13,811, (1851) 15, 238, (1861) 14, 563, (1871) 14, 548, (1881) 14, 973, of whom 6705 were males and 8268 females. Houses (1881) 2777 inhabited, 66 vacant, 6 building. Of the total population at last census 3023 men and 1908 women were engaged in connection with industrial handicrafts or dealing in manufactured substances, while 2522 were boys and 2394 were girls under 15 years of age.

See also Jervise's Memorials of Angus and Mearns (Edinb. 1861); and Mitchell's History of Montrose (Montrose, 1866).

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

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better