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Minto

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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Minto (Cym. maen-tal, 'the high stone'), a village and a parish of Roxburghshire. The village lies 1¼ mile N by W of Denholm, the birthplace of the poet Leyden, and 13/8 mile E of Hassendean station, on the 'Waverley route' of the North British, this being 4¼ miles NNE of the post-town, Hawick. The parish church here, built in 1831 from designs by William Playfair, is a handsome Gothic building, with 360 sittings, a square tower, and an harmonium presented in 1880 by the late Countess of Minto. The manse, 1 mile SSW, was built at the same time as the church, from designs specially prepared to suit the taste of the then holder of the living -Dr Aitken. It is in the Italian or Tuscan villa style. Minto parish is bounded N by Lilliesleaf, NE by Ancrum, SE by Cavers, and SW by Wilton. Its utmost length, from E to W, is 45/8 miles; its utmost breadth is 31/8 miles; and its area is 5620½ acres, of which 19½ are water. It embraces a considerable portion of the suppressed parish of Hassendean. The river Teviot flows 41/8 miles north-eastward along or close to the Cavers boundary, and from Minto is joined by Hassendean and Grindin Burns. Along the riverside extends a strip of haugh, from 1 to 1½ furlong in breadth, and less than 300 feet above sea-level. It is flanked by a steep bank, behind which the ground slowly rises to the northern boundary. Towards the western extremity of the parish is Hassendean Glen, near the foot of which is a fine petrifying spring. It also contains the spacious and recently enlarged mansion-house of Colonel Dickson of Hassendeanburn and Chatto. Towards the eastern part of the parish there is another dell -Minto Glen-of great and attractive beauty. It is intersected throughout its entire length by well-kept walks, and contains many larch trees of so great a size, that they are only rivalled by those in the Duke of Athole's plantations at Dunkeld. These larches were among the first imported into Scotland. At the head of Minto Glen, an artificial lake was formed in 1735, and upon a bank rising from its margin, Minto House is situated. Opposite the mansion-house stood the old parish church and churchyard; but when the present church was built, the burial-ground was converted into a flower-garden, which is yearly admired by visitors who come from all parts to view the beauties of Minto. To the W of Minto House rise the Hills of Minto, 'as modest and shapely and smooth as Clytie's shoulders.' They are 905 and 836 feet high, and, owing to their position, are easily seen from almost every point. Minto Crags, which form the chief natural feature of the parish, lie E of the Minto Hills. They are a large mass of trap rock, rising from a fairly level piece of , and attaining a height of 729 feet. The top is most irregular in outline, while the face, overgrown with ivy, grass, and wild-flowers, is formed of shelving projections, one above the other. Huge blocks, detached from the cliffs above, lie scattered along the bottom of the Crags. Clumps of trees grow, both at the top and foot of the cliff, as well as on the face, wherever they can obtain root-hold. 'The view from the Crags is highly diversified and beautiful. The windings of "the silver Teviot," through a pleasing vale, can be traced for many a mile, the prospect on one side being terminated by the fine outline of the Liddesdale hills, along with those on the confines of Dumfriesshire, and in the opposite direction by the smoother and more rounded forms of the Cheviots. Ruberslaw rises immediately in front, with Denholmdean on the right, and the narrow bed of the Rule on the left; while behind, to the N, are distinctly seen the Eildon Hills, the Black Hill, Cowdenknowes, Smailholm Tower, Hume Castle, and the Lammermuirs.' The summit of the Crags is crowned by a ruin, called Fatlips Castle, which is supposed to have been the stronghold of Turnbull of Barnhills, a well-known Border freebooter. A small platform, a little way below the top, is called Barnhill's Bed. It was used, in all probability, as a point of outlook. Sir Walter Scott alludes to it in the following lines from The Lay of the Last Minstrel:

'On Minto Crags the moonbeams glint
where Barnhill hewed his bed of flint;
Who flung his outlawed limbs to rest
where falcons hang. their giddy nest
'Mid cliffs from whence his eagle eye
For many a league his prey could spy;
Cliffs, doubling, on their echoes borne
The terrors of the robber's horn.'

Nearly two-thirds of the parish are in tillage, the other one-third being pasture land. In the E part of Minto are many plantations, the property of the Earl of Minto. Near the Teviot the soil is light loam; towards the N it is clay. The Crags are formed of eruptive rocks, and in Hassendean Glen is coarse red sandstone conglomerate. The North British railway traverses the parish for 3½ miles, and has a station at Hassendean. The chief landowners are the Earl of Minto, to whom belong two-thirds of the parish; the Duke of Buccleuch, Heron Maxwell of Teviotbank, and Colonel Dickson of Hassendeanburn. The principal residences are Minto House, Teviotbank, and Hassendeanburn. The first of these is the seat of Lord Minto, to whom this property gives the title of Baron and Earl in the peerage of the United Kingdom. Some time before his elevation to the bench as Lord Minto in 1705, Gilbert or 'Gibbie' Elliot (1651-1718), a grandson of Gilbert Elliot of Stobs, purchased the Minto estate. He had been created a baronet in 1700. The second Sir Gilbert (1693-1766), lord justice-clerk, was an accomplished Italian scholar, and formed a large library at Minto House. The third Sir Gilbert (1722-77) sat as member of Parliament, first for Selkirkshire and then for Roxburghshire. He was a poet of some merit; and his sister, Jean Elliot (1727-1805), was author of that immortal lyric, The Flowers of the Forest. The fourth Sir Gilbert (17511814) held several political and diplomatic posts, and, on account of his services, was raised to the peerage as Baron Minto in 1797, and as Earl of Minto and Viscount Melgund in 1813. William-Hugh Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, present and third Earl (b. 1814; suc. 1859), from 1857-59 acted as Chairman of the General Board of Lunacy for Scotland, and in 1870 was created a Knight of the Thistle. His countess, Emma-Eleanor-Elizabeth Hislop (1824-82), was author of Memoirs of the Right Hon. Hugh Elliot; Life and Letters of Sir Gilbert Elliot, first Earl of Minto; Lord Minto in India; Border Sketches, etc. The Earl owns 16,041 acres, valued at £15,857, 1s. per annum, viz., 8633 acres in Roxburghshire (£6884, 4s.), 1032 in Selkirkshire (£264, 5s.), 2930 in Fife (£5400, 10s.), and 3446 in Forfarshire (£3308, 2s.). See Lochgelly and Melgund. Minto House mile NE of the village, is a handsome four-storied building, erected in 1814 from designs by Archibald Elliot, Esq., architect. It contains a valuable library and an interesting museum. One of its chief attractions is the beauty of its site; another, the wide and magnificent view which it commands, especially from its upper windows.

The earliest notices of the barony of Minto occur in the 14th century, at which time it was in the possession of the ancient and powerful family of the Turnbulls. It passed from them to the Stewarts, and at length was sold to sir Gilbert Elliot, the great ancestor of the present family of Minto. A curious circumstance regarding the church of Minto is, that in 1374 it belonged to the diocese of Lincoln. Minto is in the presbytery of Jedburgh and synod of Merse and Teviotdale; the living is worth £469. The public school, with accommodation for 69 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 29, and a grant of £17, 7s. Valuation (1864) £4667, 13s. 8d., (1884) £5716, 5s. 11d. Pop. (1801) 477, (1831) 481, (1861) 430, (1871) 431, (1881) 425.—Ord. Sur., sh. 17, 1864.

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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