Dumfries, pp.346-352.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   DUMFRIES,1 a parish in the south of Nithsdale, at the middle of the south-west border of Dumfries-shire. Having the outline of a cone, with its apex toward the north, it is bounded on the north-west by Kirkmahoe; on the north-east by Tinwald; on the east by Torthorwald; on the south by Caerlaverock; and on the west by the river Nith, which divides it from Kirkcudbrightshire and the parish of Holywood. It is 8 miles in extreme length, and about 2½ in average breadth; and contains an area of 15 square miles. About 8 miles north of the burgh, or of the centre of the parish, a range of hills is cloven by the Nith, and they thence diverge and sweep down, in a well-wooded and picturesque amphitheatre, toward the Solway frith, terminating, on the east side, in the heights of Mousewald, and, on the west, in the towering summit of Criffel, and enclosing, in their progress, a beautiful and nearly level plain, of almost a regular oval figure. The centre of this plain, at the place where it is broadest, and where the two lines of hill are from 6 to 8 miles asunder, constitutes the parish of Dumfries. Its surface, for the most part, is a perfect level. But it rises in a brief but beautiful acclivity, from the edge of the Nith a little to the northward of the burgh, undulates along the arena occupied by the streets, and then rises into a low ridge of hills, which intersect the southern division of the parish, stretching away at half-a-mile’s distance from the river toward Caerlaverock. On their north-west face, where they look down upon the Nith, these hills are sloping, and wear the gentlest forms of beauty; but on the north-east they break down in abrupt declivities, and have a bold front and commanding outline. In one place, about 1¼ mile from the burgh, they present a precipitous front, and rise to a considerable height in two perpendicular rocks, known as the ‘Maiden Bower craigs,’ one of which has near its summit a remarkable cavity, said to have been the scene of Druidical rites for the testing of virginity. About 2 miles to the north-east of the burgh, is also a picturesque height, called Clumpton, which, at an early period, was, most probably, a mountain-grove and a haunt of the Druids, and, in a later age, was used as a beacon-post for commanding the considerable expanse of country which it overlooks. A beautiful eminence, called Corbelly hill, though not in the parish, but rising from the opposite bank of the Nith in the suburb of Maxwelltown, bears aloft an observatory, and mingles with the grouping of heights and lawns and groves on the Dumfries side, to form, if not a brilliant, at least an exquisitely fascinating landscape. Along the whole western border, the Nith sweeps gracefully under wooded and richly variegated banks; and along the eastern border the sluggish and almost stagnant Lochar flows listlessly on through the brown wastes of Lochar moss. All the eastern section or stripe of the parish forms part of this remarkable morass [see LOCHAR MOSS]; but is, to a considerable extent, reclaimed, and, in some spots, even smiles in beauty. The north and north-western sections are a reddish earth upon a freestone bottom; and the south-western is a strong clay, and, in the flat lands, a clay upon gravel. Plantations of oak, elm, and other trees, are of frequent occurrence. Around the town, in every direction, are enclosures surrounded with trees, gardens, and nursery-grounds, neat lawns and pleasant mansions, which impress a stranger with ideas of refined and opulent comfort. Several small lakes, particularly the Black and the Sand lochs, enrich the scenery of the parish, and, when pavemented with ice, are trodden by numerous groupes of curlers. In Lochar moss is Ferguson’s well, a mineral spring strongly impregnated with steel; and on the farm of Fountainbleau is a powerful chalybeate spring, which is numerously visited by invalids, and held in much repute for its medicinal properties. – Antiquities within the limits of the burgh will occur to be noticed in the next article; but a few exist in other parts of the parish. A short way south of the town, on a romantic spot called Castledykes, overlooking a beautiful bend of the Nith, stood formerly the fortified residence of the Comyns. Near Castledykes is a field called Kingholm, which either may have received its present name from Bruce, in connexion with his having slaughtered Comyn, or may have originally been called Comyngs-holm, contracted gradually into Kingholm. At the opposite end of the town, and upon the banks of the river, is another field still called Nunholm, which lies adjacent to the site of a nunnery formerly established at Lincluden. Toward the south end of the parish is an eminence called Trohoughton, which has been noticed by Pennant as a Roman station. In the eastern part of the parish, an antique, supposed to be a Roman sandal, was, many years ago, found; and in the Nith, nearly opposite to the town-mills, was found, about half a century ago, a small gold coin, thinner than a sixpence, but as broad as a half-crown, bearing, round the impression of a Roman head, the inscription ‘Augustus.’ There are in the parish several small villages, but all of inconsiderable importance. Dr. Wight, professor of divinity in Glasgow, Dr. Ebenezer Gilchrist, and Mr. Andrew Crossbie, advocate, were natives of Dumfries; and the Rev. William Veitch – of whose life Dr. McCrie has given an account – was, for some time after the Revolution, its minister. Population of the parish, including the burgh, in 1801, 7,288; in 1831, 11,606. Houses 1,509. Assessed property, in 1815, £8,086. 

   Dumfries gives name to a presbytery and a synod, and is within the jurisdiction of both. At the Reformation it was bereft of several chapels which formerly belonged to it, and of endowments connected with particular altars, and left in possession of only its principal church, dedicated to St. Michael. In 1658, a second minister was appointed; and in 1727 a second church, called the New church, was built. In 1745, the old church of St. Michael was pulled down, and the existing structure erected. The patron of both this church and the New is the Crown. In 1838, a third church was built, and called St. Mary’s. All the places of worship in the parish, both established and dissenting, are situated in the burgh. Sittings in St. Michael’s 1,250; in the New church 1,185; in St. Mary’s 1,034. Stipend of the minister of St. Michael’s £332 1s. 11d., with a glebe of about £25 annual value; of the minister of the New church £231 13s. 4d. – The Episcopalian congregation dates at least from January 1762. The present chapel was built in 1817, and cost £2,200. Sittings 300. Stipend, on the average, £250. – The First United Secession congregation was established about 1760. The present church was built in 1829, and cost upwards of £900. Stipend, in 1836, £120; but the charge has since then become collegiate. – The Second United Secession congregation was established in 1807. The church was built in 1809, and cost £1,350. Stipend £164 4s., including an allowance of £20 for a house. – The Roman Catholic congregation is local to one-third of its amount; and, as to the remaining two-thirds, is scattered through the conterminous parish of Maxwelltown, and over the whole of Dumfries-shire and Kirkcudbrightshire. Previous to the erection of their chapel in 1813, they met in a private house in the burgh, and in the domestic chapel of Terregles-house. The chapel cost. £2,659 4s. 9d., and has 750 sittings. Stipend of the minister and his assistant variable, and in 1836, £121 1s. 1½d. The minister has also a house, rated at £15. – The Relief congregation was established in 1788. Sittings in the church 812. Stipend from £60 to £120, with a manse valued at £12. In July 1835, the Rev. Andrew Fyfe, who had been 27 years minister, left the Relief body and joined the Establishment, and was followed, in his movement, by about three-fourths of the congregation. A litigation as to the right to the property of the chapel and manse terminated in favour of the adherents to the Relief body. – The chapel of the Wesleyan Methodist congregation was built in 1782, and cost £500. Sittings 300. Stipend £81, with a house valued at £8. – The Independent congregation was established in 1801. Their present chapel was built in 1835, and cost about £700. Sittings 300. Stipend £80. – The Reformed Presbyterian congregation are of more recent establishment than any other of the dissenting congregations, and they have a commodious chapel. – According to a survey made by the elders of the parish, in 1835 there were belonging to the Establishment 5,118, belonging to other denominations 2,042, not known to belong to any religious denomination 3,886. Of the last class – so disproportionately and startlingly numerous – only 1,285 were above 12 years of age, all persons having been included who were too young to attend public worship. There are 3 parochial schools recently erected, and 36 non-parochial, most for the ordinary branches, and some for the higher and most polite departments of education. Probably in no place in Scotland are there greater or more numerous facilities for informing and polishing the minds of the young. Dumfries academy, the chief of the schools, has four masters; the salary of the classical master, the interest of £660 6s. 3d., with fees from each scholar of 7s. 6d. per quarter; and the salary of each of the other masters, the interest of £204 8s. 10d., with fees from each scholar of 5s. per quarter. 

   Dumfries, a royal burgh, the county-town of Dumfries-shire, the seat of a circuit-court, and of a presbytery and a synod, and the metropolis of the south-west quarter of Scotland, is a place of elegance, importance, and great antiquity. It is situated in N. lat. 55° 2′ 45”, and W. long. from Greenwich 3° 36′, on a slight undulating elevation on the east bank of the Nith, about 9 miles above the entrance of that river into the Solway frith. It stands 72 miles south from Edinburgh; 74 miles to the east of south from Glasgow; 60 miles south-east from Ayr; 30 miles to the south of west from Langholm; 8 miles south- west from Lochmaben; 33 miles round the eastern extremity of the Solway frith from Carlisle; and 341 miles by way of Manchester from London. Dumfries exults in the elegancies and attractions of a minor capital, in the snugness and pomp of a numerously opulent and aristocratical population, and in the bustle and productiveness of a crowded agricultural market. As a town, it is, as to both situation and structure, one of the most beautiful in Scotland. Built of a dark-coloured freestone, it, in some spots, has the sombre aspect of a town of brick; but many of its edifices being gauzed in a white paint, and others so decorated with the brush as to resemble structures of Portland stone, it presents a tout-ensemble of variegated tints and mingled gaiety and sadness which suggests ideas of the picturesque. Entering the town from the north, a stranger passes along a street of the beautiful and populous suburb of Maxwelltown; then turning round a right angle, he crosses the Nith on a handsome bridge, erected in 1794, whence he commands a view of the burgh and its suburb, stretching partly to the northward but chiefly to the southward, along the sloping banks of the river; he now traverses Buccleuch-street, light and airy in the aspect of its buildings, and the site of the county-buildings and two elegant places of worship; he here passes to the right a street which intersects the lower part of the town in a line parallel to the river, and, at the top of Buccleuch-street, he glances, through an opening on the left, on a cluster of new streets which reminds him of some snug but airy nook in the new town of Edinburgh; he next wends round an irregular but wide opening on the left, and finds himself in a spacious area, whence narrow but romantic-looking streets diverge, the one parallel to Buccleuch-street away to the Nith, and the other in the opposite direction curving round northward to meet the river above a graceful bend which it makes before approaching the bridge; and standing in the centre of the area, with his face to the south, he is overshadowed from behind with the facade and spire of the New church, and looks down the broad far-stretching High-street, sweeping away southward parallel to the Nith. This street is nearly a mile in length, but, like a brook in a romantic glen, it deviates so from the straight line as, while disclosing part of its beauties, to allure a spectator onward to behold more; and it is of very unequal width, averaging probably about 60 feet, but expanding at three points into at least 100. At several places in its progress it sends off branch-streets at right angles toward the Nith; about half-way along it is joined from the south-east, at an angle of 50 or 60 degrees, by English street, the spacious thoroughfare to the south; and all along the east it is winged by lanes and clusters of buildings which, together with the streets lying between it and the Nith, make the average breadth of the town ¼ of a mile. All the streets are well-paved, clean, and lighted up at night with gas; some of the smaller ones are remarkably elegant; and the great thoroughfares present an array of large and brilliant shops which may almost bear comparison with those of the proud metropolis. The Nith adds much both to the beauty and salubrity of the town, approaching it under an acclivity richly covered with wood, – breaking over a caul built diagonally across it for the supplying of a cluster of grain-mills with water, – alternately leaping along in a shallow current, and swelling backward upon the caul by the pressure of the flowing tide, – and both above and below the town, diffusing verdure and beauty over banks which are rich in promenading retreats for the citizens. Dumfries still wants a luxury for a long time desiderated, and the absence of which excited surprise in a stranger, – a supply, by means of pipes, of good spring water. 

   A little below the bridge which communicates with Buccleuch-street, is the old bridge, built in the 13th century. This was originally a structure of 13 arches, and was esteemed the best bridge in Great Britain next to that of London; but it now consists of only 6 arches, and is mounted by a rapid ascent on the Dumfries side to what was formerly its centre, and affords accommodation only to foot-passengers. On the south side of Buccleuch-street are the county jail and bridewell, the latter originally used as the court-house, and both built in 1807. They are surrounded by a high wall, bridewell in front and the jail in the rear; but are heavy-looking buildings, and inconvenient places of confinement. Directly opposite, on the north side of Buccleuch-street, and communicating with the jail by a vaulted subterranean passage, is the county court-house. This was originally the spacious chapel, or “tabernacle,” erected by the Haldanes during the briefly triumphant inarch of their missionary operations in Scotland; and, after having for years stood unoccupied, it was converted into a courtroom and other judiciary offices, and architecturally renovated and adorned, so as to combine interior commodiousness with exterior elegance of appearance. In the middle of the High-street, cleaving it, for a brief space, into two narrow thoroughfares, is a cluster of buildings surmounted by the Mid steeple, and including the chambers in which the meetings of the town-council are held. Opposite to it, in the eastern thoroughfare, is the Trades’ hall, erected in 1804, for the meetings of the seven incorporated trades. Overshadowed by the Mid steeple is a sudden expansion of the High-street called Queensberry square, the centre of traffic for the south-west of Scotland, and, in common with all the adjacent thoroughfares and opens, the theatre of dense crowds of actors on the day of the weekly market; and in this square a Doric column of handsome architecture, erected in 1780 by the gentlemen of the county, in memory of Charles, Duke of Queensberry, rears aloft its fine pinnacle, and superintends the busy scenes around. In George-street, the assembly-rooms, of recent erection, display much beauty of architectural design. At the town head, or on the elevated bank of the Nith, before it sweeps round toward the New bridge, stands, in a spacious area, and commanding a fascinating view, the High school or academy. This institution has a rector and four masters, and has, for a quarter of a century, been celebrated as a place of liberal education. The buildings are elegant, the class-rooms capacious, and the masters well-qualified for their duties. The Crichton Royal institution was originally designed to be an university, but is a large and handsome asylum provided by the bequest of upwards of £100,000 by the late Dr. Crichton of Friars carse. At the south-east extremity of the town is the Dumfries and Galloway Royal infirmary, founded in 1776, and maintained chiefly by legacies, private contributions, parochial allowances, and annual grants from the counties of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, and Wigton. It is commodiously fitted up in the interior, but is a large and somewhat gloomy building, suggesting, by its appearance, sympathy for its suffering inmates. This institution is the only one of its class in the south of Scotland, and has been of incalculable benefit to the surrounding district. The poor’s hospital, erected in 1733, by the bequest of two relations of the name of Muirhead, supports, as inmates, poor orphans and aged paupers of both sexes, and affords pensions to upwards of forty widows at their own homes; and it is maintained partly by its own funds, and partly by subscriptions and donations. At the west end of the town is the public dispensary. In various localities are the offices of six banks; four of which are recently erected, and beautiful edifices. The town has two large and commodious inns, besides a number of secondary ones proportioned to its bulk and importance. The Commercial inn is an object of curiosity, from its having been, in his retreat from England, in December 1745, the head-quarters of Prince Charles Stuart. The theatre of Dumfries, though small, is of handsome structure and under spirited management. 

   Of the ecclesiastical edifices by far the most interesting is the old parish-church, situated at the south-east end of the town, and dedicated to St. Michael, the patron saint of Dumfries. The present edifice was built in 1745, and is surmounted by a lofty and handsome spire. The cemetery around it is famous for the vast multitude, and the singular variety of its monuments, – its splendid mausoleums rising like mimic temples over the ashes of the gifted and the wealthy, – its forest of obelisks, columns, and elevated urns, robed in white painting, and appearing in the dim moonlight like an assembly of spectres, – and its crowds of simple bead-stones rearing their humble forms over the remains of the worthy but unknown to fame. Exclusive of such as are in a ruinous condition, the monuments, according to a calculation of Mr. McDiarmid – whose genius has thrown so much lustre on the burgh – could not. be reared at a much less expense than £100,000. There are 120 monuments of the first class of architecture; considerably upwards of 700 tomb-stones on pillars, and in good repair; about 220 head-stones or erect slabs; and about 1,000 other monumental structures or stones which are more or less dilapidated. Among the monuments is one erected over the ashes of three witnesses to the truth, who were martyred during the persecutions of the Stewarts. But the structure which, more than any other, attracts the gaze of strangers, is a splendid mausoleum over the mortal remains of the poet Burns. The body of the bard, who spent at Dumfries the latter unhappy years of his life, and who, after his death, gave name to the small street in which he died, was originally interred in a corner of the cemetery, and honoured with only a plain monumental stone. But a subscription, sanctioned by a contribution of fifty guineas from George IV., having been raised to express admiration of the poet’s genius, his body, or as much of it as could be collected, was exhumed from its obscure resting-place, and transferred to the site of the present mausoleum. This beautiful edifice, 

“The homage of earth’s proudest isle, 

To that bard-peasant given,” – 

was constructed according to a design furnished by Thomas F. Hunt, Esq. of London, at a cost of £1,450;; and it contains, in the interior, a fine emblematic marble structure, designed by Peter Turnerelli, which represents the genius of Scotland investing Burns, in his rustic dress and employment, with her poetic mantle. So great is the concourse of visitors to the mausoleum, that a pathway has been beaten out by their feet across all the graves intervening from the entrance to the cemetery, and the beadle who attends the visiters is supposed to realize £40 or £50 a-year from their donations. The New church – as it is still called – looks down the High-street from its north-west end, and is a fine edifice, surmounted by a spire. It was built partly of materials from the dilapidated old castle of Dumfries, on the site of which it stands; and was first opened for public worship in 1727. The parish-church of St. Mary’s, an erection of 1838, looks down English-street, the great thoroughfare to England; and is a conspicuous and arresting object to strangers entering the town from the south. It was built according to a design furnished by John Henderson, Esq. of Edinburgh; and is a beautiful light Gothic structure, with an ornamental spire supported by flying buttresses. The Episcopalian chapel, and the Second United Secession meeting-house, are both – especially the former – neat and agreeable edifices, and contribute, with the county-buildings, to present an attractive picture to a traveller entering the town from the north. The Roman Catholic, the Independent, and the Reformed Presbyterian chapels all likewise do credit to the ecclesiastical architecture of the burgh. 

   Dumfries is rich in its religious, educational, literary, and social institutions. It has Bible and missionary societies, both general and congregational, for aiding the diffusion of Christianity; a Liberian society for assisting the free negroes on the African coast; a Samaritan society for watching over the well-being of the poor; a friendly society for the support of widows; an association for resisting the encroachments of infidelity; 4 endowed, and upwards of 30 unendowed schools; an astronomical association; a horticultural society; a mechanics’ institution; an annual exhibition of works of art; four public reading-rooms; a public library, established in 1792; a society library, established at an earlier period; two other public libraries, and three circulating libraries maintained by the trade speculation of booksellers; and three weekly newspapers, the Courier, the Herald, and the Times, – the first long known beyond the usual limits of provincial newspaper circulation, for the high literary character impressed upon it by its editor Mr. McDiarmid. Dumfries has altogether an intellectual and polished tone, which invests it with an importance far paramount to the bulkiness of its papulation. In keeping, also, with the aristocratic character of a portion of its inhabitants, it has a character – an evangelical moralist would say, not an enviable one – for gaiety and fashionable dissipation. Besides its successful demand for select and celebrated actors in its theatre, it has a regatta club, a share in the meetings of the royal Caledonian hunt, and annual races in autumn on the crowded racing-ground of Tinvvald downs. It was, till very recently, remarkable likewise for its frequent public processions, and its periodical shooting, in the field called Kingholm, for ‘the siller gun,’ – a bauble presented to the town by James VI., when returning from his visit to Scotland, as an expression of his satisfaction with the loyalty of the burghers. 

   The navigation of the Nith has at a great expense been materially improved. Embankments have been thrown up, and various devices practised to counteract the devastating effect of the deep and impetuous tide which rushes up from the Solway; so that many vessels, which were formerly obliged to unload at Glencaple or Kelton, can approach close to the burgh. Quays also are provided against whatever emergencies may occur, or for the accommodation of vessels of larger size, at brief intervals along the river. Besides those at the town and at Glencaple and Kelton, there is one, called the new quay, at the bend of the Nith near Castledyke; so that there are altogether 4 quays within a distance of 5 miles. In the year 1811, the harbour stood greatly in need of repair, and an act of parliament was obtained for the purposes of repairing it, and of improving the navigation of the river Nith. Obstructions had been formed in the channel, and it was necessary for the purposes of trade to cleanse, deepen, and straighten it. By this act commissioners were appointed for these purposes, with ample powers to carry them into execution. Under this act £18,930 9s. 11d. had been expended up to 1834 in attempting to improve the channel of the river, and in repairing the harbour. From the varying currents, the navigation is still very dangerous; but a rock which ran across the bed of the river, visible at low water, and prevented large vessels from passing Glencaple, has recently been cut away. The amount of the debt affecting the harbour in 1834, was as follows:- 

£.     s.   d
On Bond, 5,000    0    0 
Balance due the treasurer, on last settlement of his account, at 28th September, 1833, 909    7    3 
£5,909 7

The debt is yearly decreasing, in consequence of £250 yearly being provided for its liquidation. 

   The duties leviable from vessels arriving at the port are the following: From coasting vessels 2d. per ton register; from foreign vessels 6d.; from goods ½d.; from coal 6d.; from lime 6d. And from outward-bound vessels: coasting vessels 2d.; goods ½d. These dues are moderate, and the revenue arising from them during the five years from 1828 to 1832 averaged £1,083 5s. per annum. A part of the expenditure incurred has arisen from improvements upon the light-house at Southerness, and upon the landing-places at the mouth of the river. From 12 to 14 foreign vessels belong to the Nith, and trade chiefly with America. But the port is regarded as extending from the creek of Annan, or the head of the Solway frith to Glenluce bay on the coast of Galloway; and, in 1835, it claimed 192 registered vessels, 11,798 tonnage; and in 1836 yielded £4,218 of revenue to the custom-house. The number of vessels belonging properly to Dumfries is about 80. A steam-vessel also plies weekly between it and Whitehaven, holding communication thence with Liverpool, and conveys a large quantity of goods and live stock, especially sheep, to the English market. The principal imports are timber, slate, iron, coal, wine, hemp, and tallow; and the principal exports wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, wool, freestone, and live stock. Dumfries, however, figures more as a mart than as a port. Its markets have long been famous for the transfer of stock from Scottish to English dealers, and for their bulky, unfluctuating importance. On every Saturday is a market of little value; and on every Wednesday is a great market, more resembling an annual fair than a matter of hebdomadal occurrence. On the sands, an open space along the side of the river, the cattle-dealers dispose weekly of an immense number of cattle and pigs; and, from the end of December till the beginning of May, they there dispose of many thousand carcases of pork, usually selling upwards of 700 in one day, and sometimes, in a few hours pocketing £4,000 or £5,000. There are also great annual fairs at Whitsunday and Martinmas for black cattle, and, in October and February, for horses. But the chief market is an annual fair in September, when about 6,000 head of cattle are exposed for sale. During the droving season, too, a vast number of transactions are effected privately throughout the surrounding country; no fewer than 20,000 head of cattle, which had not been exposed in market, having been known, in a period of ten days, to pass the toll on the thoroughfare to England. So many pass through Dumfries, that the custom levied at the bridge has frequently amounted to £700 a-year. At each of the horse fairs about 500 horses are disposed of; and at that in February an immense number of hare-skins are sold, probably not fewer than 30,000 or 35,000. Manufactures are considerable in hats, which employ 200 workmen; in hosiery, principally of lamb’s wool, which engage nearly 300 stocking-frames; and in shoes and clogs, or wooden-soled shoes, which employ upwards of 300 individuals. There are also several breweries, several tanneries, and an extensive basket-making establishment. 

   The municipal government of Dumfries is vested in a provost, 3 bailies, a dean-of-guild, a treasurer, and 19 merchant-councillors, constituted according to the Reform act; and the town is divided into four wards, who elect the council and the commissioners of police. The report of the convention of royal burghs in 1709 stated the sett of Dumfries, or the constitution of its council, to be what it still is under the act of municipal reform. The 7 incorporated trades of the town are hammermen, squaremen, weavers, tailors, shoemakers, skinners, and butchers; and these formerly wielded a paramount influence in the council. Dumfries unites with Annan, Lochmaben, Sanquhar, and Kirkcudbright in sending a member to parliament. Parliamentary constituency, in 1839, 592; municipal, 485. A large part of the heritable property formerly belonging to the town has been sold during the present century. The debts with which the town was burdened, as well as the extensive improvements which have been carried into effect during that period, are assigned as the cause of these sales. All of these alienations are stated to have been made by “public roup for full value,” and no undue preference appears to have been shown to existing councillors. The property, thus disposed of, amounted to £15,305 1s. 7d. Corporation revenue, in 1838-9, £1,596 6s. 11d. The present property of the town consists principally of mills and granaries, which, in the year ending 15th October, 1833, yielded a rental of £357 19s. 8d. sterling. The burgh is also possessed of some shops and houses in the suburbs, with small portions of land attached to them, which yielded a rental last year of £179 10s.; and it has feu-duties, which yield annually £114 4s. 5d. This was stated to comprehend the whole of the real property of the burgh, with the exception of a sum of £1,125 9s. 9d. of arrears, which have accumulated since 1815, and a great part of which is represented as desperate. 

Ordinary Revenue.

   The revenue of the burgh for the year ending 15th October, 1833, stood as under:

£   s.   d
1. Feu-duties, 144    4    5 
2. Rents of Lands, 179    10    0 
3. Rents of mills and granaries, 357   19     8 
4. Customs, 589    17   10 
5. Teinds, 81     1    6 
6. Import on ale, 66   15    0 
7. Rents of church seats, 236   18    8 
8. Burgess composition, 24    4    0 
£1,650 11 1

Casual Revenue.

Miscellaneous articles, 0   16    0 
£1,651    7    1 

   The expenditure of the burgh for the year, from 1832 to 1833, stood thus: 

Ordinary Expenditure.

£   s.   d
1. Interest on debts, 276    8    0 
2. Repairs on public buildings, &c., 310    3   10 
3. Public burdens, 69    1    3 
4. Entertainments, 45    7    6 
5. Salaries, 440   13    5 
6. Miscellaneous articles, 50   14    1 

Casual Expenditure.

1. Miscellaneous articles (subscription and advances on occasion of cholera, and aliment of prisoners),  386   16    8 
2. Law expense (partly to account of old balances), 164    6    3 
 £1,74311—-0 
During this year the magistrates paid off debts to the extent of  800    0    0 
And contracted debts to the extent of 525   14    1 
Difference, 274    5   11 

The burgh, from time immemorial, has possessed a right to levy tolls and customs for cattle and various descriptions of commodities passing across the river Nith. At what time this right was first constituted is uncertain; but the burgh is in possession of documents showing that this tax was levied in 1425. In 1681 this right was confirmed by an act of the Scottish parliament; and it was then declared that the burgh should possess, in all time coming, a right to levy customs from “Portractford exclusive, downwards to the mouth of the water of Nith,” for the purpose of upholding the bridge of Dumfries. The amount of the dues leviable is not defined under the act, but they were fixed by a minute of council in 1772. The burgh has also the right to levy sundry small customs within burgh, and these, together with the bridge-custom, in the year ending 15th October, 1833, yielded £589 17s. 10d. The amount of police assessment for 1832 was £815 6s. 9d., and the annual revenue was further increased by a sum of £212 7s. 2d., arising from the sale of manure, and police fines. This sum is amply sufficient to defray all the ordinary charges. The parliamentary boundaries of Dumfries, under the reform act, include Maxwelltown and its suburbs on the west side of the Nith. Being the metropolis of an important county, it has a large number of resident lawyers; and, in addition to its quarter-sessions, it has twice-a-year the circuit justiciary court for the southern districts of Scotland, and the sheriff and small debt courts.  

   Its ancient arms was a chevron and three fleurs de lis; but that used for many years past is a figure of St. Michael, winged, trampling on a serpent, and bearing a pastoral staff. The motto is “Alorburn,” a word which, during many centuries of warfare when the burgh was constantly exposed to danger, was used as a war-cry to assemble the townsmen. The side toward the English border being that whence danger usually approached, a place of rendezvous was appointed to the east, an area intersected by a rill called the Lowerburn or Lorburn; and when the townsmen were summoned to the gathering, the cry was raised, “All at the Lowerburn,” – a phrase which was rapidly elided into the word “Alorburn.” A street in the vicinity of the original course of Lowerburn, bears the name of Lorburn-street. The populous suburb of Maxwelltown, formerly called Bridgend, agglomerates with Dumfries, and properly forms part of the town; but it is under separate jurisdiction, both civil and ecclesiastical, and will be noticed in a separate article. See MAXWELLTOWN. In consequence of a considerable part of it being colonized with Irish, and in other respects out of keeping with the flaunting character of the aristocratic burgh, it is treated with some contempt by the Dumfriesians, and, though contributing some fine features to the scenic grouping of their town, figures in their conversation chiefly as an object of sport. Including this suburb, the population of Dumfries amounted, in 1831, to 16,271. 

   Dumfries appears to have originally grown up around a strong castle or border-fortress, which was of great importance during the 12th century, and – especially in the times of Wallace and Bruce – was often a subject of contention between the Scotch and English. So early as the reign of William I., who died in 1214, it was of such importance as to be the seat of the judges of Galloway; and it appears to have received its charter either immediately after the accession of that monarch, or during the preceding reign, that of David I. From several remains of antiquity, it even appears to have been a place of some consequence before the end of the 8th century. So great and almost paramount a public work as the old bridge could have been thought of only in connection with a town and thoroughfare quite as important to Scotland, in the middle ages, as modern Dumfries is to the country at present; and this erection was constructed before the middle of the 13th century, by the Lady Devorgilla, third daughter of Allen, Earl of Galloway, and mother of King John Baliol. The same lady founded at Dumfries a monastery of Grey Friars. This edifice stood on a mound at the margin of the Nith, and, though long since untraceable, continues to give name to Friars Vennel, one of the considerable streets of the town. In 1305, Robert Bruce had, in the chapel of this monastery, an angry altercation with the Red Comyn, a relation of its foundress. Hesitating about asserting his title to the crown, and irritated by opposition from Comyn, he poniarded the latter before the altar, and, rushing out to his friends who waited at the gate, hurriedly expressed a doubt that he had slain him. “You doubt!” cried one of his friends; “I mak siccar;” and he immediately ran to the wounded rival of his master, and despatched him. Bruce, by this event, was committed to open warfare; and, unfurling his standard against the opponents of his claims, he led them on to Bannockburn, and there trod over their bodies to the throne. After the assassination of Comyn, the frequenters of the Grey Friars’ chapel deserted it, and began to resort to the chapel of St. Michael, which stood on the site of the present St. Michael’s church. Edward I. of England, in the course of his inroads into Scotland, occasionally halted at Dumfries; and here he ignominiously put to death the brave patriot and brother-in-law of Robert Bruce, Christopher Seton. The scene of Seton’s execution was a mound or slight eminence to the east of the town, at the entrance of the town, then and previously the gallows-hill or common place of public execution, but now known as Kirsty’s (Christopher’s) mount. Christian Bruce, the widow of Seton, erected on the spot a chapel to his memory; and her brother, King Robert, granted, in 1324, a hundred shillings yearly out of the barony of Caerlaverock, for the support of a chaplain who should offer masses for the soul of the deceased. All vestiges of the building, which was called St. Christopher’s chapel, have disappeared. 

   Dumfries castle was seized and garrisoned by Edward I., after he had dethroned John Baliol; but was retaken by Bruce after he had slain Comyn; and before 1312, it was once more seized by the English, and was again, in that year, retaken by Bruce. In 1307 Edward II. marched upon Dumfries, and received the homage of several Scottish nobles. In 1396 the burgh obtained some important immunities from Robert III.; in 1485 it received from James II. a charter, confirming its privileges and possessions; and in 1469 it obtained from the Crown all the houses, gardens, revenues, and other possessions, which had been the property of the Grey Friars.2 During the troubles which so long harassed and devastated the borders, Dumfries was frequently, in spite of the brave resistance of its citizens, plundered and burned. In 1536, one such disaster was signally retaliated by Lord Maxwell, who made an incursion into England, and reduced Penrith to ashes; and about the same period, either that nobleman, or some member of his family, built a strong castle for the defence of the town. In 1565, this castle was surrendered to Queen Mary, when, at the head of a portion of her troops, she visited the town to reduce and castigate some of her disaffected nobility. In April, 1570, Lord Scroop, acting under the Earl of Essex, made a devastating inroad upon Dumfries-shire, and, in spite of a brave resistance on the part of the townsmen of the burgh, who marched under the leading of Lord Maxwell to oppose him, he took and plundered the recently erected castle, and set fire to the town. The citizens, harassed by frequent and heavy calamity from invasion and rapine, felt aroused to attempt the rearing of some strong rampart for their protection. In 1583, they erected a strong building called the New Wark, which served the double purpose of a fortress, and of a retreat for the people, and a repository for their goods when they were beaten back by invaders. No vestiges, however, either of this erection, or of the old castle, or of the castle built by the Maxwell family, can now be traced. About the time, too, when the New Wark was erected, or possibly at an earlier period, a rude fortification or extended rampart, called the Warder’s Dike, was thrown up on the south-east side of the town, between the Nith and Lochar moss. 

   Dumfries was visited in 1617 by James VI., when he was on his return to England; and it then received from him ‘the siller gun,’ to be shot for every seventh year by the incorporated trades. During the reign of Charles I. it shared largely in the disasters which overspread the country; and it shared still more largely in those of the dark reign of Charles II. On the 20th of November, 1706, 200 Cameronians entered the burgh, published a manifesto against the impending union of the two kingdoms, and burnt the articles of union at the cross. The Covenanters were indignant that the articles of union made no recognition of their solemn league and covenant, and that they, on the other hand, recognised the constitution of the church of England, which they had sworn to overthrow and exterminate; but notwithstanding the intemperance and tumultuousness of their well-meant proceedings, they happily did not succeed in precipitating the town into any serious disaster. During the insurrection of 1715, when Viscount Kenmure encamped on the heights of Tinwald, and menaced the burgh with his army, the war-cry of ‘Loreburn’ arose for the last time in the streets of Dumfries; and so loud was its sound, and startling its reverberations, that the Viscount, without attempting to execute his menaces, broke up his camp, and marched away to Annan. During the insurrection of 1745, a part of the citizens cut off at Lockerby a detachment of the Highlanders’ baggage, and, in consequence, drew upon their town a severer treatment from the Pretender than was inflicted on any other burgh of the size. Prince Charles, on his return from England, let loose his mountaineers to live at free quarters in Dumfries; and he levied the excise of the town, and demanded of the citizens a contribution of 1,000 pairs of shoes, and £2,000 sterling. An alarm having reached him that the Duke of Cumberland had expelled his partizans from Carlisle, and was marching rapidly on Dumfries, he hastily broke away northward, accepting for the present £1,100 of his required exaction, and carrying with him Provost Crosby, and Mr. Riddell of Glenriddell, as hostages for the payment of the remainder. The town suffered considerably from the plunderings of his troops; and is supposed to have sustained, by his visit, damage to the amount of £4,000 sterling. The king to whom, in opposition to the Stuarts, the town was steadfastly attached – afterwards granted, from the forfeited estate of Lord Elcho, the sum of £2,800, to compensate in part for the losses of the citizens, and express his approbation of their loyalty. Since 1746, the burgh has plenteously participated in the blessings of peace and increasing enlightenment, and though moving more slowly than some other towns in the race of aggrandizement, has been excelled by none in the gracefulness of its progress, and the steadiness and substantial character of its improvement. 

   Dumfries gives the title of Earl in the Scottish peerage, to the ancient family of Crichton of Sanquhar. In 1633, William, 7th Lord Crichton, was created Earl of Dumfries, enjoying, at the same time, the titles of Viscount of Ayr, Lord Crichton of Sanquhar and Cumnock, and other honorary distinctions. In 1696 the earldom, owing to a want of male heirs, passed to a female branch of the Crichton family, who married a member of the family of Dalrymple, and son of the 1st Earl of Stair. William Dalrymple, her eldest son, and 4th Earl of Dumfries, afterwards succeeded to the Stair peerage. On his death the earldoms were again separated, – that of Dumfries passing to his nephew, Patrick Macdowall of Feugh. This last Earl’s heir or inheritrix was a daughter, who married John Stuart, eldest son of the Marquis of Bute. By a royal licence the Bute family, the present proprietors of the earldom, have assumed the name of Crichton.

1  The original name was Dunfres, and is supposed to have been derived from the Gaelic Dun and phreus, signifying ‘a Mound covered with brushwood,’ or ‘a Castle among shrubs.’ The lightness of the soil, which was unlikely, in the forest period of Scotland, to bear indigenous trees of a size greater than copsewood, seems to indicate that the appellation was appropriate. 

2  Infeftment was recently given on a royal charter in favour of the magistrates of Dumfries, confirmatory of all their former rights, privileges, and corporate immunities, the records of many of which had been lost or destroyed in 1715 and 1745, and other troublesome times. This new grant also confers on the town a right of guildry, of which it was not formerly possessed. James VI. had granted to the corporation a signature to that effect, about the year 1621; yet it did not appear that infeftment had ever passed upon it. This document was only lately, and by accident, brought to light.

One thought on “Dumfries, pp.346-352.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s