Grantown on Spey


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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Grantown, a small town in Cromdale parish, Elginshire, within ¾ mile of the Spey's left bank. Standing 700 feet above sea-level, ¾ mile NNE of one station on the Highland railway, and 1¼. N by W of another (across the river) on the Strathspey section of the Great North of Scotland, by road it is 34 miles ESE of Inverness, 23 SSE of Nairn, and 34 SW by S of Elgin, whilst from its two stations it is 23¼. miles S of Forres, 96 N by W of Perth, 141½ N by W of Edinburgh, and 24 SW of Craigellachie Junction. It was founded on a regular plan in 1776 by Sir James Grant, Bart. of Castle Grant; and, comprising a central rectangle 700 by 108 feet, it mainly consists of small neat houses of whitish fine-grained granite, so as to equal or excel nearly all other places of its size in Scotland. The site, too, is a pleasant one, in broad Strathspey, with its hills and mountains; and the views are beautiful, away to the far Cairngorms. Surrounded on all sides by forests of pine and birch stretching away southward and eastward, and joining the forests of Ballindalloch and Rothiemurchus, the whole district around Grantown is of the most salubrious character. In no other part of Scotland are there more octogenarians and nonogenarians to be met with. Castle Grant, the seat of the Right Hon. the Earl of Seafield, chief of the great clan Grant, stands 2½ miles NNE of the town, in the midst of a demesne of more than 1000 acres in extent, thickly planted with pines of various kinds, and brought from all the pinebearing regions of the world-from the slopes of the Himalayas of Bengal and the Rocky Mountains of America. The surrounding forests belonging to the Earl of Seafield were traversed by a commission delegated by the French Government in 1881, and, as to management and arrangement, were reported on as being perfect. In spring and summer the climate is warm, but mildly bracing rather than exhausting; in winter it is cold, and occasionally intense, the thermometer ranging from 2o to 10o below zero. Sudden atmospheric changes are, however, infrequent; and hence, while in summer it is favourable for invalids, and highly recommended by the leading physicians of London and Edinburgh, in winter it is even exhilarating to debilitated constitutions. Hence it is finding increasing favour as a holiday resort. In 1877 a public hall, with 400 sittings, was built at a cost of £1500; a gravitation water supply, giving 68 gallons a head per diem, was introduced in 1881; and Grantown besides has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, branches of the Caledonian, National, and Royal Banks, the Strathspey National Security Savings' Bank (1846), offices or agencies of 12 insurance companies, 3 hotels, a court-house, a gas-light company, an orphanage (1824), a public library (1859), and an agricultural society (1812)Friday is market-day, and 16 fairs are held in the course of the year. The great event in Grantown's history is the visit paid to it by the Queen and Prince Albert during the ' First Great Expedition ' to Glen Feshie (4 Sept. 1860), a visit thus described in the Queen's Journal:-' On and on we went, till at length we saw lights, and drove through a long and straggling " toun," and turned doun a small court to the door of the inn [the Grant Arms]. Here we got out quickly-Lady Churchill and General Grey not waiting for us. We went up a small staircase, and were shown to our bedroom at the top of it-very small but clean-with a large four-post bed which nearly filled the whole room. Opposite was the drawing and dining room in one very tidy and well sized. Then came the room where Albert dressed, which was very small. The two maids (Jane Shackle was with me) had driven over by another road in the waggonette. Made ourselves " clean and tidy," and then sat down to our dinner. Grant and Brown were to have waited on us, but were " bashful," and did not. A ringleted woman did everything; and, when dinner was over, removed the cloth and placed the bottle of wine (our own which we had brought) on the table with the glasses, which was the old English fashion. The dinner was very fair, and all very clean soup, " hodge-podge," mutton broth with vegetables, which I did not much relish, fowl with white sauce, good roast lamb, very good potatoes, besides one or two other dishes, which I did not taste, ending with a good tart of cranberries. After dinner I tried to write part of this account (but the talking round me confused me), while Albert played at " patience." Then went away, to begin undressing, and it was about half-past eleven when we got to bed.-(Wednesday, Sept. 5.) A misty, rainy morning. Had not slept very soundly. We got up rather early, and sat working and reading in the drawing-room till the breakfast was ready, for which we had to wait some little time. Good tea and bread and butter, and some excellent porridge. Jane Shackle (who was very useful and attentive) said that they had all supped together, namely, the two maids, and Grant, Brown, Stewart, and Walker (who was still there), and were very merry in the " commercial room." The people were very amusing about us. The woman came in while they were at their dinner, and said to Grant, "Dr Grey wants you," which nearly upset the gravity of all the others; then they told Jane, "Your lady gives no trouble;" and Grant in the morning called up to Jane, "Does his lordship want me ?" One could look on the street, which is a very long wide one, with detached houses, from our window. It was perfectly quiet, no one stirring, except here and there a man driving a cart, or a boy going along on his errand. General Grey bought himself a watch in a shop for 2l.! At length, at about ten minutes to ten o'clock, we started in the same carriage and the same way as yesterday, and drove up to Castle Grant, Lord Seafield's place. It was drizzling almost the whole time. We did not get out, but drove back, having to pass through Grantown again, where evidently " the murder was out, for all the people were in the street, and the landlady waved her pocket-handkerchief, and the ringleted maid (who had curl-papers in the morning) waved a flag from the window. Our coachman evidently did not observe or guess anything. As we drove out of the town, turning to our right through a wood, we met many people coming into the town, which the coachman said was for a funeral. We passed over the Spey, by the Bridge of Spey.' Inverallan Established church, built in 1803, till 1835 was maintained out of the Royal Bounty Fund, and was raised to quoad sacra status in 1869. There are also a Free church and a Baptist chapel, which latter, dating from 1805, was restored in 1882. A public and a female school, with respective accommodation for 319 and 157 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 119 and 144, and grants of £112, 13s. 6d. and £105, 6s. Pop. (1841) 814, (1861) 1334, (1871) 1322, (1881) 1374.—Ord. Sur., sh. 74, 1877.

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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