Dalkeith, pp.297-299.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   DALKEITH,1 a small parish in the county of Mid-Lothian, being only about 2 miles square, lying on the banks of the North and South Esk rivers; bounded on the north by Newton and Inveresk parishes; on the east by Inveresk and Cranston; on the south and west by Newbottle and Lasswade; and on the west by Lasswade and Newton. Its greatest length is 3½ miles; greatest breadth 2¼ miles. The surface is gently undulated, but in no quarter rises into hills; indeed the whole might be considered a plain, did not the steep banks of the rivers give it an uneven and broken appearance. The soil is light on the lower grounds, and, on a deep clay, well-adapted for raising either fruit or forest-trees, which arrive here at great perfection. – Adjoining to the town is Dalkeith park, of 800 Scots acres, within which, about half-a-mile from the town, is Dalkeith house, the seat of the Duke of Buccleuch, erected about the beginning of the last century, on the site of the old castle of Dalkeith. In ancient times, Dalkeith castle appears to have been a place of considerable strength, and to have stood some sieges. It was situated on a perpendicular rock of great height, and inaccessible on all sides, except on the east, where it was defended by a fosse, through which the river is said to have formerly run. It was, for some centuries, the principal residence of the noble family of Morton; and history records, that James, last Earl of Douglas, exasperated against John Douglas, Lord of Dalkeith, for espousing the cause of James II., who had basely murdered William, Earl of Douglas, at Stirling, laid siege to the castle of Dalkeith, binding himself by a solemn oath not to desist till he had made himself master of it. It was, however, so gallantly defended by Patrick Cockbuen and Clerkington, that the Earl of Douglas, and his followers, found themselves unable to reduce it, and were obliged to raise the siege. On the defeat of the Scotch army at Pinkie, in 1547, many fled to the castle of Dalkeith for refuge, among whom was James, Earl of Morton, afterwards regent of Scotland, and Sir David Hume of Wedderburn. It was besieged by the English, and defended for some time; but as it contained not a sufficient store of provisions for such a number of men as had fled to it, and as the besieged had no hopes of succour against the victorious army, it was obliged to surrender; in consequence of which, the Earl and Sir David were made prisoners. “Morton’s character,” says Gilpin, “is marked in history with those vices which unbounded ambition commonly ingrafts upon the fiercer passions, cruelty and revenge; to which we may add an insatiable avarice. Popular odium at length over-powered him, and he found it necessary to retire from public life. This castle was the scene of his retreat; where he wished the world to believe he was sequestered from all earthly concerns. But the terror he had impressed through the country during his power was such, that the common people still dreaded him even in retirement. In passing towards Dalkeith, they generally made a circuit round the castle, which they durst not approach, calling it, the lion’s den. While he was thus supposed to be employed in making his parterres, and forming his terraces, he was planning a scheme for the revival of his power. It suddenly took effect, to the astonishment of all Scotland. But it was of short continuance. In little more than two years, he was obliged to retreat again from public affairs; and ended his life on a scaffold.” When Morton was executed, the barony of Dalkeith was included in his attainder, and although the estate was finally restored to the Earl of Morton, yet the castle seems long to have been considered as public property, and to have been used as such. It was General Monk’s residence while in Scotland. In the year 1642, the estate of Dalkeith came into the possession of the family of Buccleuch by purchase from the Earl of Morton. According to Chalmers, the Douglases of Lothian obtained in early times a baronial jurisdiction over many lands, in several shires, which was called the Regality of Dalkeith. In 1541, James, 3d Earl of Morton, obtained a charter from James V., confirming this regality. In January 1682, George, Earl of Dalhousie, was appointed bailie of the regality of Dalkeith. After the death of the Duke of Monmouth, James, his son, was created Earl of Dalkeith. His mother, Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth died, in 1732, aged 81, when she was succeeded by Francis, her grandson. On the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions, in 1747, the Duke claimed £4,000 for the regality of Dalkeith; but was allowed only £3,400. The beauty of the situation is greatly heightened by the serpentine windings of the two Esks, which unite in the park about half-a-mile below the house, and the fine woods with which it is surrounded. “It stands on a knoll,” says Gilpin, “overlooking a small river. The knoll is probably in part artificial; for an awkward square hollow hard by, indicates that the knoll has been dug out of it. Beyond the river are woods; and a picturesque view of the town and church of Dalkeith. But the house fronts the other way, where it is not only confined, but the ground rises from it. It might have stood with great advantage, if it had been carried two or three hundred yards farther from the river; and its front turned towards it. A fine lawn would then have descended from it, bounded by the river, and the woods. We often see a bad situation chosen: but we seldom see a good one so narrowly missed. There are several pleasing pictures in Dalkeith house; one of the most striking, is a landscape by Vernet, in Salvator’s style. It is a rocky scene through which a torrent rushes: the foaming violence of the water is well expressed. I have not often met with a picture of this fashionable master which I liked better. And yet it is not entirely free from the flutter of a French artist.”2 Stoddart says of Dalkeith house, in his ‘Remarks on Local Scenery and Manners in Scotland,’ [Vol. i. pp. 123 – 125.]: “The front view is by no means good, as the ground, rising from it, is soon bounded by the trees. The architecture is of the Corinthian order, and has the formal grandeur of the period when it was built, – the latter part of the seventeenth century. On the opposite side, it appears much more picturesquely seated, on an almost perpendicular bank, overhanging the river. It is said, that the castle was originally a place of great strength, inaccessible on all sides, except the east, where it was defended by a fosse, now filled up. The rock too has been partly covered with earth, gently sloped down to the river, and decorated with shrubberies; yet this part of the improvements has not been executed with much taste: there is a formality, both in the disposition of the ground, and in the planting, which but badly suits the rapid Esk, and the wild wood on the opposite side. To the north of the house is a stone bridge, of a single arch, 70 feet wide, and 45 high, exceedingly heavy in its effect. At its first erection, two stags – the supporters of the Buccleuch arms – were placed on it, as ornaments; but they frighted the horses which passed them so much, that it was found necessary to remove them. From this bridge the house would appear to advantage, if the shrubberies, above which it rises, were in better taste. The park is a noble piece of ground, containing about 8,000 Scotch acres, planted with a number of fine old oaks, and other venerable trees, and watered by the two Esks, the North and South, whose streams unite about half-a-mile below the house. The South Esk has a pleasing wildness, being almost entirely overshadowed by the dark hangings of the ancient wood: the North Esk comes into more open day; but has several very pleasing walks on its banks, with views of the town and church of Dalkeith, &c. In this park were formerly kept some of the native wild cattle of Scotland described by Pliny, [see article CUMBERNAULD]; but the Duke and his son having experienced a dangerous attack from them, they were destroyed.” The park is well-stocked with deer. – Population of the parish, in 1801, 3,906; in 1831, 5,586. Houses, in 1831, 567. The two villages of Lugton and Bridgend had a population, in 1838, of 284. Assessed property, in 1815, £11, 911. – This parish, to which the barony of Lugton was annexed in 1633, is in the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and is the seat of a presbytery. Patron, the Duke of Buccleuch. Stipend £316 9s. 2d.; glebe £40. Unappropriated teinds £610 11s. 11d. The old church accommodates 1,130. An additional church has been built by the Duke of Buccleuch at the west end of the town; sittings 1,000. – There are two United Secession congregations. The 1st of these was established in 1744; church built in 1812; sittings 880. Stipend £100, with manse and garden. The 2d was established, and the church built in 1749; sittings 436. Stipend £100, with a manse. – A Relief congregation was established here in 1768. Church seats 685. Stipend £139, with manse. – An Independent church was formed here in 1804. Chapel accommodates 300. Stipend £85. – A Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built in 1789; sittings 240. –  Parochial schoolmaster’s salary £34 4s. 4½d. a house and garden, &c., with an average fee of 15s. for each pupil; average number of pupils 100. There are 10 private schools in this parish. 

   DALKEITH, a town in the above parish, 6¼ miles south-east of Edinburgh, and 18½ north-west of Lauder, on the Great south road from Edinburgh. Population, in 1838, 4,642. It is situated on a narrow stripe of land between the two Esks, the banks of which are here beautifully fringed with wood. The principal street is broad and spacious, containing a number of elegant houses, and the whole town may be considered as well-built. One of the greatest markets in Scotland for grain is held here every Thursday. It is the most extensive ready-money corn-market in Scotland. The quantities of the different kinds of grain exposed for sale in the market-place of Dalkeith in the year ending on the 1st July, 1839, were as follows:- Wheat, 10,220½ qrs.; barley, 15,803 qrs.; oats, 43,630½ qrs.; pease and beans, 1,821½ qrs.:- in all 71,475½ quarters; while the aggregate quantity sold in Haddington markets – supposed to be next in magnitude – during the same period was 42,361 qrs. It is to be observed, however, that 1838-9, being a year of comparative scarcity, neither of these returns can be taken as a fair representation of the quantity brought to market in ordinary seasons, which in the case of Dalkeith, it is thought, may be moderately stated at 100,000 qrs. – There is another market of considerable extent held every Monday for the sale of meal, flour, and pot-barley, a considerable portion of the supplies brought to which come from the more southern parts of the county, and from the neighbouring counties of Roxburgh, Berwick, Peebles, and Selkirk.3 Dalkeith is also remarkable for the number of its shops and the extent of business done in them. Favoured by its extensive markets and convenient situation, the shopkeepers of this place contend successfully with those of the neighbouring metropolis in supplying with their peculiar commodities the inhabitants of the south and western parts of the country, and they have thus contributed in no slight degree to the present comfort and respectability of the place. Though well-adapted for the prosecution of manufactures, the opposition of the extensive landed proprietors in the neighbourhood has hitherto – except in one instance – prevented their introduction into the parish. Extensive corn and flour mills have been erected by His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch on the North Esk, – and on the South Esk there is a smaller erection of the same kind, belonging to the Marquis of Lothian. A few manufactures have been introduced; but these have not been carried to any considerable extent. – A gas light company was formed in 1827. There are here branches of the Royal bank, the National bank, the Commercial bank, the Edinburgh and Leith bank, and the Leith bank Fairs are held here on the 1st Thursday after Rutherglen May fair, and the 3d Tuesday of October. – In July 1640, a National security savings bank was established by the desire of the Scientific association, for the benefit of the working-classes, and there is every prospect at present of the institution being, ultimately, successful. In 1835, an association was formed to provide for the delivery of popular lectures on the more interesting branches of physical and economical science. The subjects which it has succeeded in bringing before the inhabitants are chemistry, natural philosophy, geology, zoology, botany, and political economy. In 1837, a library of scientific works was begun in connexion with the association. During the summer-season, Dalkeith is much resorted to by parties of pleasure from Edinburgh. The church is a Gothic fabric, founded by James Douglas, Earl of Morton, in the reign of James V. The town is governed by a baron-bailie under the Duke of Buccleuch. Originally the baronial right belonged to the family of Graham, and subsequently to that of Douglas. In 1642, it was acquired by the family of Buccleuch. Previous to 1759, Dalkeith, like other burghs of barony, was entirely regulated by the superior and his bailies; but, in that year, a statute was obtained appointing certain trustees to superintend the paving, cleaning, and lighting of the streets, and to supply the inhabitants with water; and providing a revenue for these purposes by imposing a small tax on the ale, porter, and beer consumed in the parish. The powers conferred by this act have been continued and extended by subsequent statutes, which acknowledge – and, to some extent, preserve – the influence of the feudal superior, by investing the baron-bailie, for the time being, with the powers of a trustee. The direct and proper jurisdiction of the baron-bailie is very limited, extending only in criminal affairs to the imposition of small fines, or to imprisonment for one night; and, in civil matters, to granting warrants at the instance of landlords for the sale of their tenants’ furniture in order to recovery of rent. More serious cases are referred to the sheriff of the county, and all matters of local police regulation are taken up by the trustees. Vacancies occurring in the office of trustee are filled up by the surviving members, who are understood to select for this distinction individuals who have been nominated by, or are believed to be agreeable to the bailie. Being self-elected, and holding the office during life, the trustees are obviously in the utmost degree independent of the inhabitants over whose affairs they preside, and, in times of political excitement, the appointments to this office have generally been found to assume an anti-popular complexion; yet it must be stated to the honour of the trustees, that, as a body, they have never interfered with politics, and that the prudence and attention with which they have discharged their gratuitous duties could scarcely have been increased by any amount of popular control. Indeed, it may be truly affirmed that Dalkeith is one of the cheapest and best governed towns in the country. The customs are leased from the superior by trustees under local acts, at a rent of £100. Their produce is about £250. The trustees administer a revenue of about £600.  

   Few things have contributed more to the health and enjoyment of the inhabitants of Dalkeith than the formation of the railway between that place and the metropolis. This undertaking was commenced in 1827, and opened for the conveyance of passengers to Edinburgh and Fisherrow in 1831. Leith was connected with the main line by a branch, in 1835; and, in the end of 1838, another branch was carried forward from the south line near Newbattle to the town of Dalkeith, by the Duke of Buccleuch. The views of the company were originally limited to the conveyance of coal, and other mineral produce, and manure, &c., between the mines of Mid-Lothian, and Edinburgh, Dalkeith, Leith, and Fisherrow. Passengers were not thought of in the original estimates of the railway, although they have become the chief source of profit. Their number averages now about 300,000 per annum, and the tonnage about 120,000 per annum. The main line and the Fisherrow branch are the property of the original subscribers. The Leith branch is a separate concern, belonging to a different set of subscribers; and the Dalkeith branch is the exclusive property of the Duke of Buccleuch. These railways are worked by horses, which are considered the most economical power for short distances in a populous country where stoppages are very frequent. There have been run upon this railway about 12,000,000 of miles, and carried about 2,000,000 of passengers, from its opening in July, 1831, up to October, 1840, that is, 9¼ years, without one fatal accident, and none others of a serious nature. – Amongst the many useful and enterprising works commenced by the present Duke of Buccleuch, there are few more magnificent in point of pictorial effect than the bridge now in progress over the Esk, on the south-east of Dalkeith. The arches are 5 in number, of 120 feet span each, constructed of built beams of timber abutted upon stone piers of tasteful architecture, and thrown across one of the most beautiful turns of this beautiful stream. The appearance of the bridge is light, airy, and exceedingly elegant, while the different views through the arches into the fine grounds of Wood-burn, and up the valley of the Esk, are of the most picturesque description. This bridge is to connect an extensive coal-field on the property of the Duke at Cowden with the Dalkeith railway; but it rarely happens that beauty and usefulness are so felicitously blended as in the present instance. When finished, this bridge will be an object of great attraction to all who visit the romantic scenery of the Esk. It is within ten minutes’ walk of the Dalkeith railway station.

1  Dal-caeth, or keith, that is, ‘the Narrow dale,’ according to Chalmers. Some suppose keith equivalent to cath, signifying ‘Battle:’ in which case Dalkeith would mean ‘the Field of Battle.’ 

2  The same tourist adds: “Here, and in almost all the great houses of Scotland, we have pictures of Queen Mary; but their authenticity is often doubted from the circumstance of her hair. In one it is auburn, in another black, and in another yellow. Notwithstanding, however, this difference, it is very possible that all these pictures may be genuine. We have a letter preserved, from Mr. White, a servant of Queen Elizabeth, to Sir William Cecil, in which he mentions his having seen Queen Mary at Tutbury castle. ‘She is a goodly personage,’ says he, ‘hath an alluring grace, a pretty Scottish speech, a searching wit, and great mildness. Her hair of itself is black; but Mr. Knolls told me, that she wears hair of sundry colours.’ ” 

3  In the Old Statistical Account of the parish of Dalkeith, published in 1794, it is stated that “The village is abundantly supplied with excellent butcher-meat, which may be had in great perfection on the Thursdays and Saturdays. The butchers here contribute considerably to the supply of the Edinburgh market, and some of them sell there the whole of what they kill. During the season of winter and spring, the price of beef is 4d. the lb. avoirdupois; veal, 5d.; mutton 5d.; and pork, 4d. From the month of September till about the middle of January, the price of beef and mutton is 3d. or 3½d. the pound; but during the rest of the year it is not lower than what has been mentioned above. In the summer season, chickens sell at about 3d. the pair, and hens from 16d. to 18d. In summer, the price of butter is 10d. the lb. Butter is sold here by tron weight 22 oz. to the lb.; in winter it rises sometimes to 1s. or 1s. 1d. The wages of labourers in husbandry, during the summer-season, are from 1s. to 1s. 3d. the day. Mowers receive from 1s. 8d. to 2s. Gardeners from 1s. 2d. to 1s. 6d. In winter, common labourers receive from 8d. to 10d., and gardeners 1s. The wages of domestic female-servants, a-year, are from £2 10s. to £4.” The reader will be interested in comparing these prices and wages with those now current in Dalkeith. Very little butcher-meat is now sent from Dalkeith to the Edinburgh market: the London mart is the great object of attention. In the winter of 1838, Mr. Plummer of Dalkeith sent butcher-meat of different kinds to London to the value of £10,000; and, on an average, the amount sent from Dalkeith to London may be £15,000 per annum. Ewe mutton now averages, from October to January, about 5d. per lb.; and from January to October, 6d. Wedder mutton fetches about 1d. per lb. more. Beef sells at the same price as mutton. Veal fetches 7d. per lb. from October to January; and 9d. from January to October. The price of poultry is nearly the same as in 1793. The price of butter varies greatly from year to year. Perhaps 10d. per lb. for Scottish salt-butter has been the average price for a series of years. Male agricultural labourers get from 10s. to 12s. per week all the year round, female labourers, about 5s. per week.