Penicuick, pp.504-506.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   PENICUICK, a parish in the middle of the southern verge of Edinburghshire; bounded on the north-west and north by Currie and Colinton; on the north-east by Glencorse; on the east, including the north side of a long easterly projection, by Lasswade and Carrington; on the south-east by Temple; on the south and south-west by Peebles-shire; and on the west by Liston Shiels, the detached part, civilly of Kirkliston, and ecclesiastically of Kirknewton. The form is very irregular; but, in a general view, is a parallelogram of 7½ miles by 4, stretching north-westward and south-eastward, with a square projection 1½ mile deep from the north-east corner, and a triangular projection of upwards of 2 miles along each side, from near the south-east corner. The area is about 20,000 Scottish acres. The North Esk, coming in a little below its source, traces most of the south-western and part of the southern boundary; then runs north-eastward, with about two-thirds of the parish on its left; and, before taking leave, lingers on the boundary with Lasswade. Its immediate basin or glen is, over most of the way, not a little picturesque, – in some places highly romantic, – and, in two, deeply associated with the musings of genius: see articles HABBIE’S HOWE and NEWHALL. Though the stream is small, it sprinkles its path with beauty, and, by driving a succession of mills, contributes more to the wealth of the population than if gold dust were mingled with its sands. Owing to georgical improvement by draining in its upper basin, it has lost some of its former water-power, and now requires to be drawn off in its prodigal moments into a storage of large reservoirs. The South Esk traces the boundary northward along the whole eastern side of the triangular projection. Logan-water, or Glencorse-burn, cleaving down the Pentland range, and furrowing out a vale of pastoral loveliness and romance, rises in the interior, not far from the south-west corner, and runs away north-eastward, lingering for a while, and swelling into Compensation Pond, on the boundary with GLENCORSE: which see. About ten or twelve burns traverse the interior, or run along the boundaries, and pay their tiny tributes to one or other of the three principal streams. Bavelaw-burn, a tributary of the water of Leith, and the feeder of a reservoir for regulating the water-power of that most distinguished of all Scottish streams for driving mills, forms for 2 miles the division with Currie. Springs, both numerous and copious, supply the district with a profusion of the purest water, and at one time drew the attention of the Edinburgh Water company for the supply of the metropolis, and yielded only to the famous Crawley spring in Glencorse. Some petrifying springs occur, and also some chalybeates, — the latter neglected. The north-western half of the parish is wholly occupied with the picturesque range of the Pentlands, sending up some summits about 1,600 feet above sea-level, but occasionally giving place to softness and forms of beauty along the course of the streams. The south-western division is, to a great extent, bleak moorland, and contains, near the village of Penicuick, extensive beds of sand and gravel; but it has many pendicles, and several stripes of both scenic and agricultural interest. The soil of the parish is exceedingly various, consisting of clay, gravel, sand, moss, and their numerous combinations. The expanse of moorland, though yet for the most part unreclaimed, is gradually confessing the power of the plough; and the other districts are warmed and beautified with wood to the large aggregate extent of considerably more than one-twentieth of the whole parochial area. The arable lands amount probably to little short of 7,000 Scottish acres; and exhibit large specimens of some of the boldest and most energetic land-reclamation in Scotland. The sheep and cattle pastured on the heights and declivities of the uplands are almost all of cross-breeds, the Ayrshire and the Cheviot giving the tone. The climate is none of the healthiest, but improves with the invasion and taming of the wastes. The minerals of the south-eastern district nearly all belong to the strata upwards from the transition rocks. Fossils, especially the conchal and the dandritic, are unusually numerous and interesting. Specimens of an unknown fossil-tree exist at Newhall; and an account of an other remarkable fossil-tree found in the parish is given in the supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Coal abounds, but, owing to the frequency of its disturbance by dikes, it has hitherto been little worked. Limestone is extensively quarried and burned in aid of georgical improvement; and some of it, in the upper part of the parish, is so hard as to take the cut and the polish of marble. Iron-ore occurs in nodules and in beds and veins of schist. Lead ore is found in small quantities in Carlops-hill on the southern boundary; and at the Picket-craig, half-a-mile west, a vein was for some time worked which yielded silver. The hills, in one direction, are chiefly porphyritic, and, in another, abound with freestone, ironstone, and the species of stone called Petunse Pentlandica. 

   Penicuick-house, situated on the left bank of the North Esk 1½ mile above the village, and the seat of Sir George Clerk, Bart., the proprietor of one-half of the parish, has many features of interest at once in itself, in its pleasure-grounds, and in its associations. It was built in 1761, and afterwards environed with the rich and numerous embellishments of its grounds, by Sir James Clerk, Bart. It stands on a flat in a curve of the river, with a picturesque glen behind carrying up the view to the ruins of Brunstane-castle, and the western extremity of the Pentlands, – a little plain in front, gemmed with a beautiful artificial pond and a rich garden, and overhung by ascents which are mantled all over with wood, – and swells and eminences on each side, dissevered by ravines, and moulded into many curvatures of beauty. Westward, and above the level of the house, is a second large piece of water well-stocked with various kinds of fish. The ponds are notable as the scene of boatings in his boyhood, which kindled the enthusiasm of John Clerk of Eldin, the brother of Sir James, for nautical studies, and remotely led to the production of his work on Naval Tactics. The house has, in front, a handsome portico supported by eight columns, and a flight of steps on each side, defended by balustrades; and it is surmounted by a row of vases, and roofed with lead. The offices, 280 feet distant, form a large square, with a rustic portico, and an elegant spire and clock, and, behind them, serving as a pigeon-house, is an exact model of the quondam celebrated Roman temple on the Carron, called by Buchanan, “Templum Termini,” but popularly denominated Arthur’s Oven. On the opposite side of the river, at the end of an avenue on the top of the bank, and half-a-mile from the house, stands an obelisk, raised by Sir James Clerk, to the memory of his friend and frequent inmate, Allan Ramsay. On a conic eminence directly in front of the house, and 3 furlongs distant, stands a round tower which is seen at a great distance. On another eminence close on the Esk, and midway between the house and the village of Penicuick, stands another tower, formerly called Terregles, the original seat of the ancient proprietor of the parish; and onward from it to the termination of the grounds at the village is a profusion of luxuriant and striking scenes. About a furlong above the garden, on the margin of the Esk, is Hurly-cove, a subterranean passage 147 feet long, 7 high and 6 broad, with a dark cell in the middle in which are seats for 6 or 8 persons, the whole cut out of the solid rock in 1742. Directly opposite this, is a third artificial sheet of water, stored with perch and trout. The interior of the house fully corresponds with such wealth and variety in the interesting features and furniturings of its grounds. The rooms are spacious, and splendidly furnished and embellished. Runciman owed both his celebrity as a painter, and the occasion of his death to his acting a part in adorning them; being, when young, one of the persons who painted them, he drew the notice of Sir James Clerk, then a chief patron of Scottish genius, and was sent by him to study the ornate departments of his art at Rome; and after he had reached the zenith of his fame, he was employed to decorate with his brush the large apartment, called Ossian’s hall, the ceilings of which are painted with designs from Ossian’s Poems; and contracted his death-illness from being obliged to lie constantly on his back while executing the performance. In the house is an excellent collection of books, paintings, Roman antiquities, and miscellaneous curiosities. The Roman antiquities are chiefly from Antoninus’ wall, and the camp at Netherby; and among the miscellanea is a buff coat which Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, wore at the battle of Killiecrankie, and through which, beneath the arm-pit, he received the fatal bullet. NEWHALL, which competes with Penicuick-house in interest, is separately described. 

   Remains of various towers and mansions exist, all historical knowledge of which is lost. About ¾ of a mile south of the village of Penicuick, on a peninsula between the glen of the North Esk and that of one of its tributaries, are the remains of old Ravensnook, once the property of Oliver Sinclair, brother to the laird of Roslin, and, under James V., commander-in-chief of the forces, who was defeated and made prisoner at the battle of Solway-moss. About 1½ mile above Penicuick-house, and on the same bank of the Esk, stands Brunstane-castle, an extensive ruin, said to have been inhabited by the predecessors of the Earl of Dumfries. Three miles north-west of the village, on the left bank of Logan-water, completely surrounded by the Pentlands, stands Logan-house, a ruin of remarkably thick walls and small narrow windows, and once a favourite hunting-seat of the Scottish kings. On the neighbouring grounds occurred the celebrated match between the hounds of the royal Bruce and those of Sir William Sinclair of Roslin, detailed by Sir Walter Scott in the Notes to the ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel.’ Upwards of 2 miles farther west stands Bavelaw-house, once also a royal hunting-box, but still entire and uninhabited. – On the summit of the pass over the Pentlands, alluded to in the article Newhall, and at an elevation of 1.500 feet above sea-level, are remains of a Roman Catholic station; the cross gone, but the pedestal remaining, with two deep erosions, obviously formed by the kneelings of multitudinous wayfarers across the dreary wild. – In central situations in the parish are vestiges apparently of towns or large villages, no historical notice of which exists. 

   The village of Penicuick, a burgh-of-barony, stands on the left bank of the North Esk, where it forms the boundary-line with Lasswade, 10 miles south of Edinburgh, and 9 miles north-east of Linton. It consists chiefly of a single street, extending north-east and south-west. The parish-church – which stands at its north-east end – is a chastely elegant Grecian structure, built in 1771 at the expense of Sir James Clerk, and both highly creditable to his taste and memory, and not a little ornamental to the village. It has a portico, supported by four Doric pillars, and surmounted by a stone-cross, – the portico inscribed, in Hebrew characters, with the word ‘Bethel.’ The shops and dwelling-houses have in general an air of neatness and comfort, decidedly superior to those of most places of its size; and a number of new houses are both spacious and elegant. The village is lighted with gas, and has a monthly baronial bailie court, and a number of special constables, nominated by the bailie, but seldom required to act. Annual fairs are held on the third Friday of March and the first Friday of October. The place has a subscription library, a savings’ bank, two friendly societies, and a total abstinence society. Its population is about 700. The other villages are Nine-mile-burn, 2½ miles south-west of Penicuick, with a population of about 100, and KIRKHILL and HOWGATE: which see. – The manufactures are seated principally in and below Penicuick, and are mainly concentrated on the production of paper. There is a gunpowder manufactory at Marfield, upon the North Esk. A large building, erected by government during the war as a cavalry barracks, has been occupied during the last ten years as a foundry. A few looms in Penicuick bring their workmen a similar pittance to what now too generally belongs to their class. A saw-mill was erected three or four years ago, and is constantly employed. No fewer than six paper-mills line the banks of the North Esk, and annually consume about 12,000 tons of rags, produce a quantity of paper 1½ yard wide, equal to about 7,500 miles in length, and yield government about £29,000, or £30,000 of duty. In 1810 the older factories were converted by government into depôts for prisoners of war, – that of Valley-field for 6,000, and that of Eskmills, then a cotton factory, for 1,500; and the cottages of the workmen were fitted up as barracks for the necessary military-guards. The place became stirring and active, and was considerably enriched, but suffered damage in the moral tone of its people. The reversion of the mills, at the close of the war, from their warlike occupancy to the manufacture of paper, was felt to be an event of general joy, and was celebrated by a general illumination, and some other kindred demonstrations. On a spot in the grounds of Valley-field, where upwards of 300 of the prisoners of war were interred, stands a neat chaste monument, from a design by Hamilton, with the inscriptions, “Grata quies patriæ, sed et omnis terra sepulchrum,” and “Certain inhabitants of this parish, desiring to remember that all men are brethren, caused this monument to be erected.” – The parish is traversed through Howgate by the old Dumfries turnpike; through Penicuick by the new Dumfries and the Peebles turnpike; and through Nine-mile-burn by the Biggar turnpike. Population, in 1801, 1,705; in 1831, 2,255. Houses 379. Assessed property, in 1815, £7,570. 

   Penicuick is in the presbytery of Dalkeith, and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. Patron, Sir George Clerk, Bart. Stipend, £158 6s. 8d.; glebe £16. The church has been thrice enlarged since 1830. Sittings 800. An United Secession meeting-house, usually designated of Penicuick, is really situated at Bridgend, ¾ of a mile north of the village, and within the quoad sacra parish of ROSLIN: which see. An United Secession congregation was established, and built a chapel in Howgate about the year 1750. Sittings 390. Stipend £100, with £10 for sacramental expenses, and a house and a glebe, the latter worth from £8 to £10 a-year. A school-house belongs to the congregation. A survey by the parish-minister, made in 1835, exhibited the population then as 2,286, of whom 1,434 were churchmen. Most of the paper-workers, however, are dissenters. Schoolmaster’s salary £34, with about £40 fees, and at least £12 other emoluments. There are 8 non-parochial schools, 3 of them conducted by females, and one an infant-school. – The present parish comprehends the greater part of the old parish of Penicuick, and the whole of the old parish of Mount Lothian. Part of old Penicuick, jointly with part of the abolished parish of Pentland, was, in 1616, erected into the parish of GLENCROSS: which see. On the bisecting line which marked off the disjoined portion, anciently stood the chapel of St. Catherine’s, erected by Sir William Sinclair, in consequence of his hunting-match with Bruce, and curiously storied in the Notes to the ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel.’ The ancient church of Penicuick was dedicated to St. Mungo, and long bore his name; and it was an independent parsonage. The parish of Mount Lothian consisted of the district on the south-east, lying inward from the South Esk. The church belonged, before the Reformation, to the monks of Holyrood, and was served by a vicar. In 1635 the church was transferred to the Episcopate of Edinburgh; and, in 1638, the parish was suppressed. The name Penicuick, so very variously written in modern times, was, in early times, spelt Penicok, and is believed to have been derived from the Gaelic Bein-na-cuack, or the British Pen-y-coc, both of which mean ‘the Cuckoo’s hill.’

One thought on “Penicuick, pp.504-506.

Leave a Reply