Duddingston, pp.338-339.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   DUDDINGSTON, a parish on the coast of Edinburghshire; bounded on the north by the parish of South Leith; on the south-east by the frith of Forth; on the east by Inveresk; on the south by Libberton; and on the west by St. Cuthbert’s and Canongate. It is of very irregular outline; and might have been nearly a rectangle, but for a triangular elongation on its eastern side, and the attachment of a westward stripe to its south-west angle. On the north, from the east base of Arthur’s seat to the sea, it is only 1½ mile long; but on the south, from Salisbury-green on the west to Magdalene-bridge on the shore, it is 3¾ miles. In its central part, over half its length, it is nearly 1½ mile in breadth; but in the western stripe it is only ¼ of a mile, and in the eastern angle diminishes from 1½ mile to a point. Nearly the whole of the parish is dressed in the richest garb of cultivation. A fertile soil, well-enclosed fields, a varied surface, the beautiful demesne of the Marquis of Abercorn, and a delightful intermixture of lawn and tillage, of water-scenery, rows of plantation, and fences of shrubbery, render it an attractive environ of the proud metropolis of Scotland. Pow burn and Braid burn enter it on the south-west, and, after forming a confluence, diagonally intersect it, and diffuse in their progress many beauties of mimic landscape. The united stream is conducted through the pleasure-grounds of the Marquis of Abercorn in an artificial canal, and afterwards traverses a romantic little dell, and passes on to pay its tiny tribute to the sea. Duddingston loch, spread out at the south-east base of Arthur’s seat, and measuring about 1¼ mile in circumference, smiles joyously amid the opulent scenery around it, and in winter allures crowds of skaters from the neighbouring city to its glassy bosom. On the north-eastern bank of the lake rises the fine Grecian form of Duddingston-house, surrounded by gardens, plantations, mimic temples, and various adornings indicating united opulence and taste. A little eminence, surmounted by the venerable-looking parish-church, under the south cope of Arthur’s seat and overlooking the lake, commands a wide expanse of beautiful and picturesque scenery. Overshadowed by the bold precipices of the neighbouring mountain, and shut out by it from every view of the magnificent and crowded city at its further base, a spectator feels himself sequestered from the busy scenes which he knows to be in his vicinity, or he hears their distant hum dying away on the breeze, and disposing him to enjoy the delights of solitude; and he looks south-east and north over a gorgeous panorama of elegant villas, towering castles, rich valleys, undulating hillocks, groves, ruins, and a plenteous variety of scenic tints and shading, till his vision is pent up by the Pentlands and Lammermoor, or glides away with the sinking sea into the distant horizon. Many of the scenes and objects within his view – such as Craigmillar castle – crowd his mind with historical recollections; and others – such as the peopled shores and the laden waters of the frith – portray, to him the enterprise and refinements of a modern age. Whether in the seclusion and loveliness of its own immediate attractions, or in the exhibition it gives of the wide landscape around it, softened and ruralized by the intervention of the mountain-screen of Arthur’s seat hiding Edinburgh from the view, the little eminence of Duddingston is captivating in its attractions, and draws to its soothing retirement many a tasteful or studious citizen of the metropolis to luxuriate in its pleasures. The pedestrian approach to it from the city possesses allurements of its own, to heighten the attractions of the resort; leading by a pleasant path through the king’s park, and under the basaltic columns of Samson’s ribs, overhanging the tunnel of the Edinburgh and Dalkeith railway. Though the parish, in its present state, is not excelled in the loveliness and exuberance of cultivation by any district in Scotland, and may compete with the finest spots in the rich champaign of England, it was, so late as 150 years ago, an unreclaimed moor, covered with sand, and variegated only by the rankest and most stunted shrubbery and weeds. About the year 1688, the proprietor of the estate of Prestonfield was Lord-provost of Edinburgh; and, better acquainted than his contemporaries with the value and fertilizing powers of city manure, he availed himself of ready and thankful permission, to carpet and enrich the sterile soil of his property with the accumulations of the yards and streets of the metropolis. So successful was his astute policy that, arid and worthless as his lands had been, they speedily became the first which were enclosed in the vicinity of Edinburgh, and are still esteemed the best grass pastures about the city, or perhaps any where else in Scotland. About the year 1751, the Earl of Abercorn, proprietor of the estate of Duddingston, compensated in vigour what had been lost by delay, in imitating the successful movements on the conterminous property; and having subdivided his estate into commodious farms, and enclosed and beautified it with hedgerows and clumps of plantation, expended £30,000 in rearing the architectural pile, and spreading out the array of water-embellishments and landscape decorations, which preside in its centre. Coal of excellent quality abounds in the parish, and finds a ready market in the metropolis. The strata of limestone and ironstone which run north-eastward through Edinburghshire, traverse the parish, and dip into the sea near its eastern extremity, and are said to look up again from the surface on the opposite coast of Fife. Clay of so pure a kind has been found as to be material for stoneware, and for crucibles capable of sustaining without injury a very high degree of heat. On the coast, in the interstices of rocks and stones, have been found curious and rare vegetable petrifactions; some of them resembling the finest Marseilles quilting, and others formed of reeds and shrubs known to be indigenous only in tropical countries. Small pieces of chalcedony and porphyry, and large masses of agate, have been picked up on the beach; but may now, it is presumed, be vainly sought for, after the peering searches of numerous virtuosos of a former generation. Marl of different kinds, of great richness and in much plenty, has been found in Duddingston loch. Indigenous plants of upwards of 400 species, and exhibiting a curious and interesting variety, allure the botanist to gratify his taste, and admire the interminable displays of creative skill and beneficence, round the banks of the loch, and along the roots and skirts of Arthur’s seat. The Fishwives’ causeway, forming the north-east boundary of the parish, and once a part of the great post-road to London, bears marks of considerable antiquity, and is supposed to be a remnant of those regular roads, converging to Holyrood-house, which Mary, of debated memory, patronized as a means of soothing or of benefiting her turbulent subjects. At the mouth of Duddingston burn, have been found, buried in a deep stratum of clay, and from bark to core as black as ebony, the trunks of large oak trees, – remnants, it is supposed, of the King’s forest, in which the inmates of the monastery of the Holy Cross had the privilege of nourishing their hogs. The Figgetwhins, formerly a forest, stretching over a considerable territory – sold in 1762 or 1763 for only £1,500 – and now in part the opulent and beautiful tract around Portobello, and in part the site of that extensive and smiling suburb of the metropolis, are said to have been a place of shelter and of rendezvous to Sir William Wallace and his copatriots, when they were preparing to attack Berwick. Monteath, the secretary of Cardinal Richelieu of France, David Malcolm, an essayist, a celebrated linguist, and a member of the Antiquarian society about 1739, and Pollock, professor of divinity in Aberdeen, were all ministers of Duddingston. The parish is cut, through its western wing or stripe, by the Edinburgh and Dalkeith railway, and is intersected from west to east near the shore by the Leith branch. It is traversed also by the great turnpike from Edinburgh to London, by way of Berwick. Population, in 1801, 1,003; in 1831, 3,862. Houses 633. Assessed property, in 1815, 14,194. 

   Duddingston contains the parliamentary burgh of Portobello, [See PORTOBELLO,] the villages of Joppa and Easter and Wester Duddingston, and the hamlets of Duddingston-mill and Duddingston Salt-pans. Joppa is a suburb of Portobello, with 389 inhabitants in 1831. – Easter Duddingston is situated in the eastern angle of the parish, on a rising ground near the sea, and consists of a few plain cottages inhabited by labourers. Population, in 1831, 171. – Wester Duddingston, situated on the north side of the loch, was once populous, and contained 30 looms; but now, though neat in appearance, and beautiful in situation, surrounded by gardens and plantations, and so attractive as to draw to its villa-like cottages summer-residents from Edinburgh, is very small, and contained only 225 permanent inhabitants in 1831. At the east end of it a house still stands in which Prince Charles slept on the night before the action at Prestonpans.1 Duddingston-mill is a joyous little hamlet, containing the parochial school, and delightfully situated near the centre of the parish, about ½ a mile east from Wester Duddingston. Near it is Cauvin’s hospital, an edifice resembling a large elegant villa, built in 1833, and maintained, for the board and liberal education of 20 boys, by a munificent bequest of Louis Cauvin, a Duddingston farmer. Duddingston Salt-pans consist of some straggling houses on the coast to the eastward of Joppa. 

   The parish of Duddingston is in the presbytery of Edinburgh, and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, Patron, the Marquis of Abercorn. Stipend £248 19s. 5d.; glebe £30. Unappropriated teinds £118 4s. 11d. The parish-church is a building of considerable antiquity, and, from the structure of the arches and the peculiar character of the ornaments, has been supposed by some to have been of Saxon erection. A very beautiful semicircular arch divides the choir from the chancel. In the churchyard is an elegant marble obelisk, to the memory of Patrick Haldane, Esq. of Gleneagles. During the reign of William the Lion the monks of Kelso acquired the church and lands of Duddingston; and these being at an inconvenient distance from their abbey, they appointed baron-bailies, and on advantageous terms to tenants let the lands. In 1630, the estate of Prestonfield was disjoined from the parish of St. Cuthbert. In 1834, a district more than a mile in length, and nearly half-a-mile in its greatest breadth, was disjoined from Duddingston, and erected into the quoad sacra parish of Portobello. Parochial schoolmaster’s salary £34, with about £12 fees. There are 10 non-parochial schools attended by about 300 scholars.

1  At the east end of Wester Duddingston, and nearly opposite Lord Abercorn’s gate, stood a memorable thorn-tree, known as Queen Mary’s tree, perhaps one of the oldest thorn-trees in Scotland, and of the greatest dimensions, being about 9 feet in circumference. It formerly stood within the park, but on widening the carriage-road, it was brought outside, and then several fissures appeared in the trunk, through which the elements of air and water were fast consuming the venerable tree. The road-trustees had these fissures filled up with stone and lime, and had it otherwise protected, but the violence of the gale on the 25th of May, 1840, pulled it up by the roots, laying it along a shattered and withered trunk. A well-known and justly reputed artist, who resides in the neighbourhood, has ascertained that the Duddingston thorn existed so far back as the reign of Alexander the Fierce (1107), when it was one of the landmarks of the property on which it grew. It is mentioned in the title-deeds of the Abercorn property, and hence the desire on the part of his lordship’s doers to preserve a precise knowledge of the spot on which it stood. The principal part of the wood was removed to a wood-yard in the neighbourhood, for the purpose of being made up into various fancy articles, furniture, rustic chairs, &c.

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