ARBROATH, or ABERBROTHWICK, a partly landward, partly town-parish, in the county of Angus, being an erection out of the parish of St. Vigeans, of the town and royalty of Arbroath into a separate parish about the year 1560. In 1836, the Abbey parish of Arbroath was disjoined quoad sacra from that of Arbroath. This new parish is almost wholly urban. The old parish is bounded on the north by St. Vigeans parish; on the east by the German ocean; on the south and west by Arbirlot parish. The extent of sea-coast is about 1½ mile; the superficial area is 1,820 English acres. Average rent of land 50s. per acre. A peculiar species of grey micaceous sandstone, commonly known by the name of the Arbroath flag, is quarried here. Around the town the soil is rich and fertile; but towards the north-west there is a considerable extent of moor ground, the property of the community, which is now, however, covered with thriving fir-plantations. The Brothock, or Brothwick, a small stream rising on the north-west boundary of St. Vigeans parish, flowing south-east through that parish, and the town of Arbroath, and falling into the German ocean after a course of about 6 miles, gives name to the parish. The water-power furnished by this stream has led to the establishment of numerous manufactures for weaving, spinning, flax-dressing, and bleaching. About half-a-mile westward of the town is a strong chalybeate spring. Population, in 1801, 4,943; in 1831, 6,943. – The parish of Arbroath is in the presbytery of Arbroath and synod of Angus and Mearns. Patron, since 1715, the Crown. Minister’s stipend £219 12s. 6d., with an allowance of £4 8s. 11d. for manse and glebe. Unappropriated teinds £125 12s. 11d. Church enlarged in 1764; sittings 1,390. The minister has an assistant who receives a salary of £75. – The United Secession congregation was established in 1782. Church built in 1791, and enlarged in 1824; sittings 714. Minister’s stipend £105, with manse and garden. – The Independent congregation was established about the year 1800 church built in 1816; sittings 500. – The Baptist congregation was established in 1808; meets in the Mechanics reading-room. – An Episcopalian congregation has long existed here; chapel built in 1791; sittings 390; minister’s stipend £122, with a garden and £11 for a house.
The parish of ABBEY, erected under the authority of the General Assembly in February, 1836, has a population of about 1,960. The church was built in 1796-7, and originally formed a chapel-of-ease within the town of Arbroath; sittings 1,281; minister’s stipend £100. – The Relief congregation in this parish, formerly connected with the Relief Methodists, has a place of worship, built in 1826; sittings 572; stipend £120. – The United Secession congregation in this district of the town of Arbroath was formed in 1815; church erected in 1812; sittings 630. – There is a Scottish Independent congregation, established about 50 years ago; and a Berean congregation, originally formed in 1780.
The royal borough of ARBROATH is chiefly situated in the above parish, but a part extends into that of St. Vigeans. It is 18 miles east by north of Dundee, 12 west by south of Montrose, 15 south-east of Forfar, 13¾ south of Brechin, and 56 north-north-east of Edinburgh. It is on the estuary of the Brothock, in a small plain surrounded on the west, north, and east sides by eminences in the form of an amphitheatre, which command an extensive prospect of the friths of Tay and Forth, the Lothian hills, and the elevated parts of Fifeshire. The town consists of one street, nearly half-a-mile in length, running north and south from the sea, and another on the west side of smaller extent. Both these are intersected by other cross streets, and are in general well-built, though without regularity. To the eastward of the town, and locally in the parish of St. Vigeans, there are two handsome streets; on the west side of the Brothock there are also several neat streets, forming a suburb of considerable size. The town was lighted with gas in 1826. The town-house, containing a town-hall, town-clerk’s office, register-rooms, &c., is a handsome edifice, erected in 1806. The academy was built in 1821 at a cost of £1,600. In 1797 a public library was established, which now contains a collection amounting to above 7,000 volumes. The harbour is small, but can be taken by vessels in a storm, when they cannot enter any of the neighbouring ports. It is entirely artificial, but well-sheltered from the sea by a long pier erected in 1788; the inner harbour is secured by wooden gates. It admits vessels of 200 tons at spring-tides; but, at ordinary tides, only vessels of 100 tons can enter. It is defended by a battery erected in 1783. There is a signal tower here which communicates with the Bell-rock light-house, at the distance of 12 miles. [See article BELL-ROCK.] The port of Arbroath is of great antiquity; but its situation was, in ancient times, more to the eastward than at present. The site of the ancient harbour is still named the Old Shore-head; and an agreement is extant between the abbot and burghers, in 1194, concerning the making of the harbour. Both parties were bound to contribute their proportion; but the largest fell to the share of the abbot, for which he was to receive an annual tax payable out of the borough-roods.
The glory of the place was its abbey, the venerable ruins of which are still much admired by travellers. It was founded about 1178 by William I., and dedicated to the memory of Thomas-à-Becket. Its founder was interred within it; but there are now no authentic remains of his tomb. It is highly probable, however, that it must have been near the great altar, in a spot now walled in as a private burial-place. The monastery of Arbroath was one of the richest in the whole island, and its abbots were frequently the first churchmen of the kingdom. Cardinal Beaton was the last abbot of this establishment, at the same time that he was archbishop of St. Andrews. The monks were of the Tyronensian order, and were first brought from Kelso. This monastery formerly enjoyed great privileges. A charter is still extant from John of England, under the great seal of that kingdom, by which the monastery and citizens of Aberbrothock are exempted “a teloniis et consuetudine,” in every part of England, except London and Oxford. It has also been of considerable note in the Scottish history, particularly as the seat of that parliament, during the reign of King Robert Bruce, in which the celebrated manifesto was addressed to the pope. After the death of Beaton, the abbey felt the destructive rage of the reformers. The last commendatory abbot of Aberbrothock was John Hamilton, second son to the duke of Chatelherault, who was afterwards created Marquis of Hamilton. This abbey was erected into a temporal lordship, in favour of James, Marquis of Hamilton, son to the former, upon the 5th May, 1608. It afterwards belonged to the Earl of Dysart, from whom Patrick Maule of Panmure, gentleman of the bed-chamber to King James the Sixth, purchased it with the right of patronage of all the parishes thereto belonging, thirty-four in number. The abbots of this place had several special privileges. They were exempted from assisting at the yearly synods; and Pope Pius II. declared his resolution, in 1461, to excommunicate all those who would trouble them upon that head. Pope Bennet, by his bull, dated at Avignon, grants to John, Abbot of Arbroath, the privilege of wearing a mitre and other pontifical ornaments. The ruins of the abbey are “most deliriously situated,” and strikingly picturesque. The church was a most magnificent fabric, nearly of the same dimensions as the cathedral of St. Andrews, and of the most exquisite workmanship. Pennant, who visited Arbroath in 1772, thus describes the ruins: “The abbey was once inclosed with a strong and lofty wall which surrounded a very considerable tract: on the south-west corner is a tower, at present the steeple of the parish-church; at the south-east corner was another tower, with a gate beneath, called the Darn-gate, which, from the word darn, or private, appears to have been the retired way to the abbey. The magnificent church stands on the north side of the square, and was built in the form of a cross: on the side are three rows of false arches, one above the other, which have a fine effect, and above them are very high windows, with a circular one above. In April last a part adjoining to the west end fell suddenly down, and destroyed much of the beauty of the place. The length of the whole church is about 275 feet; the breadth of the body and side-aisles, from wall to wall, 67; the length of the transept 165 feet, the breadth 27. It seems as if there had been three towers; one in the centre, and two others on each side of the west end, part of which still remains. On the south side, adjoining the church, are the ruins of the chapter-house; the lower part, which is vaulted, is a spacious room well lighted with Gothic windows. Above is another good apartment. The great gate to the abbey fronts the north: above the arch had been a large gallery, with a window at each end. At the north-west corner of the monastery stand the walls of the regality prison, of great strength and thickness: within are two vaults, and over them some light apartments. The prison did belong to the convent, which resigned this part of its jurisdiction to a layman, whom the religious elected to judge in criminal affairs. The family of Airly had this office before the Reformation, and continued possessed of it till the year 1747, when it was sold and vested in the Crown with the other heritable jurisdictions. In the year 1445, the election of this officer proved fatal to the chieftains of two noble families.” The convent had that year chosen Alexander Lindsay, eldest son of the Earl of Crawford, and commonly known by the appellation of The Tiger, or Earl Beardy, to be the baillie, or chief-justiciar of their regality; but he proved so expensive by his number of followers and high way of living, that they were obliged to remove him, and appoint in his place Alexander Ogilvie of Innerquharity, nephew to John Ogilvie of Airly, who had an hereditary claim to the place. This occasioned a cruel feud between the families; each assembled their vassals; and “there can be little doubt,” says Mr. Fraser Tytler, “that the Ogilvies must have sunk under this threatened attack, but accident gave them a powerful ally in Sir Alexander Seton of Gordon, afterwards Earl of Huntly, who, as he returned from court, happened to lodge for the night at the castle of Ogilvy, at the very moment when this baron was mustering his forces against the meditated assault of Crawford. Seton, although in no way personally interested in the quarrel, found himself, it is said, compelled to assist the Ogilvies, by a rude but ancient custom, which bound the guest to take common part with his host in all dangers which might occur so long as the food eaten under his roof remained in his stomach. With the small train of attendants and friends who accompanied him, he instantly joined the forces of Innerquharity, and proceeding to the town of Arbroath, found the opposite party drawn up in great strength on the outside of the gates. The families thus opposed in mortal defiance to each other, could number amongst their adherents many of the bravest and most opulent gentlemen in the country; and the two armies thus composed exhibited a splendid appearance of armed knights, barbed horses, and embroidered banners. As the two lines, however, approached each other, and spears were placing in the rest, the Earl of Crawford, who had received information of the intended combat, being anxious to avert it, suddenly appeared on the field, and galloping up between the two armies, was accidentally slain by a soldier, who was enraged at his interference, and ignorant of his rank. The event naturally increased the bitterness of hostility, and the Crawfords, who were assisted by a large party of the vassals of Douglas, infuriated at the loss of their chief, attacked the Ogilvies with a desperation which soon broke their ranks, and reduced them to irreclaimable disorder. Such, however, was the gallantry of their resistance, that they were almost entirely cut to pieces; and five hundred men, including many noble barons in Forfar and Angus, were left dead upon the field. Seton himself had nearly paid with his life the penalty of his adherence to a barbarous custom; and John Forbes of Pitsligo, one of his followers, was slain; nor was the loss which the Ogilvies sustained in the field their worst misfortune; for Lindsay, with his characteristic ferocity, and protected by the authority of Douglas, let loose his army upon their estates, and the flames of their castles, the slaughter of their vassals, the plunder of their property, and the captivity of their wives and children, instructed the remotest adherents of the justiciar of Arbroath, how terrible was the vengeance which they had provoked.” The revenues of this abbey at the Reformation were as follow: money £2,553 14s.; wheat 30 ch. 3 bolls, 3 fir. 2 pecks; bear 143 ch. 9 bolls, 2 pecks; meal 196 ch. 9 bolls, 2 fir.; oats 27 ch. 11 bolls; salmon 37 bar. and 2 bar. grilses: omitted capons, poultry, grassums, dawikis, and all other services and duties: to this is also to be added the teinds of the kirks of Abernethy, Tannadice, and Monifieth. While some workmen were employed in 1835, in clearing out the rubbish from the ruins of the abbey, they came upon a stone coffin containing the skeleton of a female which had been carefully enveloped in a covering of leather. This must have been some lady of rank in her day, and the good folks set it down as the remains of the Queen of William the Lion, who, as well as her husband, the founder of the abbey, was interred here.
The town shared the fate of the abbey, till about 1736, when its commerce began to revive. At that time a few gentlemen of property engaged in the manufacture here of osnaburghs and brown linens, which succeeded well, and is still the principal branch of manufacture. There are about 2,000 hand-looms employed on linen. Canvass weavers earn from 8s. 6d. to 11s. per week. The principal market for these goods is England. In 1806, there were stamped 1,484,425½ yards of cloth, valued at £83,454 15s. 9d. sterling. There are now 16 mills for spinning yarn in the town and suburbs. There were in 1791 about 50 vessels belonging to the place, each from 60 to 160 tons burden, employed in the Baltic and coasting-trade, making 4,000 tons register; in 1837 there were 77 vessels registering 6,700 tons. The principal imports are bones, hides, flax, and timber. – There is a railway from this port to the town of Forfar. Its length is 15¼ miles, with a rise of about 220 feet. Expense £70,000. The total number of passengers who had travelled on the Arbroath and Forfar railway since its opening, to the 10th August, 1839, was 60,763, – the weekly average being 1,929. The total amount of money received for passengers, goods, and parcels, in the same period, was £4,563 6s. 2½d., – making a weekly average of £144 17s. 4d. The population of the eight parishes through which the railway passes, including the towns of Arbroath and Forfar, is 26,833; so that the number of passengers in thirty-one and a-half weeks is more than double the number of inhabitants in these eight parishes. There is also a railway betwixt Arbroath and Dundee, 16¾ miles in length. – Arbroath is undoubtedly a royalty of very ancient erection. It was probably erected into a royal borough by William the Lion, about the year 1186; but this cannot exactly be ascertained owing to the loss of the original charter, which was taken by force out of the abbey – where it was lodged in the time of the civil wars, during the minority of James VI. – by George, Bishop of Moray. It was, however, confirmed in its privileges by a charter of novodamus from James VI. in 1599. It was formerly governed by a provost, 2 bailies, a treasurer, and 15 counsellors, and has 7 incorporated trades. The magistrates and council are now elected according to the provisions of 3° and 4° William IV. The council consists of 17 members. The boundary of the royalty is somewhat intricate. In 1834 about 6,660 of the population were within the royalty, and 4,587 inhabited houses in streets without the royalty. The property of the town, consisting of common lands, houses, mills, harbour, feu-duties, entries, customs, and imposts, was recently valued at £35,874; but the parliamentary commissioners were of opinion that this was too high. The revenue in 1788 was £864; in 1832, £2,922; the average annual expenditure for 20 years preceding 1832, had been £2,940; and the debt was £17,967. The revenue in 1837-8, was £3,859. It unites with the boroughs of Forfar, Montrose, Inverbervie, and Brechin, in sending a representative to parliament. The parliamentary constituency, in 1837, was 452; the municipal, 245. In 1811, the population, including that part of the town situated in the parish of St. Vigeans, was 9,000; in 1831, 13,795; in 1841, 14,576. In 1821, the number of houses within burgh was 1,739; in 1831, 2,360. Assessed property, in 1815, £22,858. The government cess, levied in 1832, was £105 2s. 6d. Its fairs are on the 31st January, 3d Wednesday of June, and 18th July.
During the war, in 1781, this coast was annoyed by a French privateer, named the Fearnought of Dunkirk, commanded by one Fall. On the evening of the 23d of May, he came to anchor in the bay of Arbroath, and fired a few shot into the town; after which he sent a flag of truce on shore, with the following letter:
“At sea, May twenty-third.
“Gentlemen, I send these two words to inform you, that I will have you to bring to the French colour, in less than a quarter of an hour, or I set the town on fire directly; such is the order of my master the king of France I am sent by. Send directly the mair and chiefs of the town to make some agreement with me, or I’ll make my duty. It is the will of yours.
“To Monsieurs Mair of the town called
Arbrought, or in his absence, to the
chief man after him, in Scotland.”
The worthy magistrates, with a view to gain time to arm the inhabitants, and send expresses for military aid in the true spirit of subtle diplomacy, gave an evasive answer to Monsieur Fall’s letter, reminding him that he had mentioned no terms of ransom, and begging he would do no injury to the town till he should hear from them again. Upon this Fall wrote a second letter to them in the following terms:
“At sea, eight o’clock in the afternoon.
“Gentlemen, I received just now your answer, by which you say I ask no terms. I thought it was useless, since I asked you to come aboard for agreement. But here are my terms; I will have £30,000 sterling at least, and 6 of the chiefs men of the town for otage. Be speedy, or I shoot your town away directly, and I set fire to it. I am, gentlemen, your servant. I sent some of my crew to you; but if some harm happens to them, you’ll be sure will hang up the main-yard all the preseners we have aboard.
“To Moosieurs the chiefs men of
Arbrought in Scotland.”
The magistrates having now got some of the inhabitants armed, and their courage further supported by the arrival of some military from Montrose, set Fall at defiance, and “ordered him to do his worst, for they would not give him a farthing.” Whereupon, says the worthy historian of this memorable transaction in the annals of Arbroath, terribly enraged, and no doubt greatly disappointed, he began a heavy fire upon the town, and continued it for a long time; but happily it did no harm, except knocking down some chimney-tops, and burning the fingers of those who took up his balls, which were heated. On the 24th he sent a third letter on shore, by some of our own people, whom he had captured at sea. It run thus:
“At sea, May 24th.
“Gentlemen, See whether you will come to some terms with me, or I come in presently with my cutter into the arbour, and I will cast down the town all over. Make haste, because I have no time to spare. I give you a quarter of an hour for your decision, and after I’ll make my duty. I think it would be better for you, Gentlemen, to come some you aboard presently, to settle the affairs of your town. You’ll sure no to be hurt. I give you my parole of honor. I am your,” &c.
To this letter the magistrates sent a verbal reply informing Monsieur Fall that they would be glad to see him on shore, and, at the same time, they hoisted a flag of defiance on the Ballast-hill. Finding all his threats in vain, alter firing a few ineffectual shot, the Frenchman weighed anchor, sailed in pursuit of some sloops which had appeared in the offing, and did not return. To prevent the recurrence of insults of this kind, a battery was soon after erected by subscription, between the harbour and the sea, on the Ballast-hill, mounting 6 twelve-pounders, and having a complete command of the bay, “so that,” adds our annalist with most excusable triumph, “now no Fall, with his Fearnought, dare insult Arbroath with impunity.”