1902 Encyclopedia > County of Edinburgh, or Mid-Lothian, Scotland

County of Edinburgh
(also known as: Mid-Lothian)

COUNTY OF EDINBURGH, or MID-LOTHIAN, one of the lowland counties of Scotland, is situated between 55° 39' 30" and 55° 59' 20" N. lat., and between 2° 52' and 3° 45' 10" W. long. It is bounded on the N. by the Firth of Forth, on the N.W. by Linlithgowshire or West-Lothian, on the S.W. by Lanarkshire, on the S. by Peebles and Selkirk, and on the E. by Roxburgh, Berwick, and Haddington or East-Lothian. The area comprises 362 square miles, or 231,724 acres.

The surface of the county presents a great variety of scenery. The Pentland Hills advance boldly from the south-west to within five miles of the sea, rising to a relative height of from 1000 to 1300 feet. The loftiest summits are Scald Law (1898 feet), Carnethie (1890), West and East Cairn Hill (1844 and 1839), and West Kip (1806). They generally present a rounded appearance, and are covered with heath or grass. The south-eastern corner of the county is occupied by the Moorfoot Hills, which form a continuation of the Lammermuirs, and attain in Blackhope Scar a height of 2136 feet. Of more or less isolated emi-nences throughout the county it is enough to mention the Braid Hills and Blackford Hill to the S. of the city, Arthur's Seat towards the E., Corstorphine Hill about two miles to the W., and Dalmahoy Crags about seven miles to the S.W.

With the exception of the Gala, which rises on the south-east side of the Moorfoot Hills and flows south to join the Tweed, and the partial exception of the Tyne, which after a course of about seven miles passes into Haddingtonshire, all the streams, we cannot say the rivers, find their way to the Firth of Forth. The Esk (the largest) drains the district between the Pentlands and the Moorfoot Hills, and falls into the sea at Musselburgh. The southern branch has its sources near Blackhope Scar, receives the Redside and Middleton Burns, and flows past Newbattle Abbey ; the northern rises in the Pentlands, and proceeds through much picturesque scenery, past Penicuik, Roslin, Lasswade, and Eskbank; and the union of the two streams takes place a short distance below Dalkeith, within the grounds of Dalkeith Palace. The Braid Burn from Capelaw Hill passes between the Braid Hills and Blackford Hill, and reaches the sea at Portobello. The Water of Leith, with its head streams on the western slope of the Pentlands, flows past Balerno, Currie, Juniper Green, Colinton, Edinburgh, and Leith. The Almond, which has its origin in Lanark-shire, and its right-hand tributary the Breich Water, form the boundary between Mid-Lothian and Linlithgowshire. Most of these streams, and especially the Esk and the Water of Leith, afford a large amount of water-power, well-pre-served by means of artificial dams and embankments. The deep ravines which in some places they have formed in the Carboniferous strata through which they flow conceal spots of romantic beauty, in striking contrast to the immediately continguous scenery. The only lake is that at Duddingston, near Edinburgh; but there are several ex-tensive reservoirs connected with the water supply of the city, viz.—Threipmuir, Loganlee, Harelaw, Clubbiedean, and Torduff in the Pentlands, and Gladsmuir and Rosebery on the South Esk. The Cobbinshaw reservoir, situated at the head of the Bog Burn, a tributary of the Almond, is used for the supply of the Union Canal.

The geology of Mid-Lothian is of interest, not only from its intrinsic characteristics, but also as the subject of investigation of many of the most famous among Scottish geologists—Hutton, Hall, Jamieson, Cunningham, Hugh Miller, Fleming, and others. The Lammermuir and Moorfoot Hills are a continuation of the Silurian table-land of the south of Scotland, and consist mainly of strata of greywacke, grit, and shale, greatly contorted, broken, and altered in position. Sandstones, grits, shales, and mud-stones of the Upper Silurian occur in three very limited areas in the Pentland Hills, in the midst of Lower Old Red Sandstone formatious. They are abundantly fossili-ferous, especially on the North Esk,—Chondrites verisimilis, Amphispongia oblonga, Protaster Sedgwickii, Pterygotus acuminatus,YSiTio\ia Strophomenas, and Euom.phalus funatus being among the characteristic forms. The Lower Old Red Sandstone formations just mentioned are a massive series of grits, conglomerates, and volcanic rocks, resting uneonform-ably on the Upper Silurian series; the Upper Old Red Sand-stone is found only in a few small patches in the hollows of the Lower Silurian. All the four series into which it is usual to divide the Carboniferous system are well represented. The Calciferous Sandstone series breaks up into two groups :—the former consisting of reddish sandstones, and forming the south-western eminences of the Pentland Hills and nearly the whole site of the city of Edinburgh ; while the latter comprises white and grey sandstones, shales, limestone, and coal, and furnishes a good portion of the mineral wealth of the county. The Carboniferous Lime-stone series consists of strata of white and grey sandstones, shales, fire-clays, coal, and encrinal limestone,—one section being known as the " Edge coals " from the almost vertical displacement of the beds. The strata of the Millstone Grit are not very extensive—only appearing in a narrow band round the central part of the Dalkeith coal-field, and in a limited area to the south of Penicuik. The history of the igneous rocks which are sporadically distributed through the county is still matter of dispute,—the main question debated being whether the volcanic activity which has left its traces took place exclusively in the Carboniferous period, or broke out again later. The spot round which the discussion has principally been maintained is Arthur's Seat, which is the centre of the intrusive movement, although considerable masses of intrusive basaltic rocks make their appearance in many other localities. Diorite is the principal rock of Corstorphine Hill, and occurs also to the west of Eatho. Marks of glacial action may be observed at Corstorphine, Granton, Arthur's Seat, and on the Pentland Hills; and large beds of boulder-clay are present in the lower districts. Boulders of distant transport are rather rare, but a few apparently from the Ochils or even the Grampians may be discovered.

The cultivated condition of the county is incompatible with a varied or remarkable fauna ; but the botanist finds a rich harvest of smaller plants. Arthur's Seat and the Queen's Park, in spite of their proximity to the city, yield a considerable number of very rare specimens. Details may be sought in Professor Balfour's Flora of Edinburgh.

The climate naturally differs in different districts, accord-ing to elevation and distance from the sea. From obser-vations made at Inveresk, 90 feet above the sea-level, which may be taken as fairly representative, the annual mean of the barometer has only once fallen as low as 29 '68 in the twenty-one years from 1855 to 1875, and usually ex-ceeds 29-85. The maximum cold ranged from zero in 1860 to 22" in 1872 ; the maximum heat from 73° in 1862 to 88° in 1868 and 1873 ; and the mean annual temperature from 44° in 1855 to 48-2° in 1868. The average temperature of the six summer months beginning with April reached 55'8° in 1868, and sank to 51'6° in 1872. The annual rainfall varied from 16'50 inches in 1870 to 32'89 in 1862 ; and the number of fair days from 162 in 1872 to 247 in 1869. The greatest rainfall takes place in August at Edinburgh, Meadowfield, and Bonnington; but in January in the Pentlands. According to observations made at Inveresk over a period of 15 years, the wind blew from the N. 31 days,N.E. 40, E. 22, S.E. 24, S. 51, S.W. 119, W. 56, and N.W. 24. The N.E. and E. winds prevail in March and April, and especially in the neighbourhood of the city are remarkable for their cold and blighting character. Snow seldom lies long except in the uplands; but night frosts occur even as late as the beginning of June, severe enough to destroy the young shoots of the seedling trees in the nursery grounds. On the shores of the Firth, along the Almond and Esk, and in some of the richer flats the grain crops ripen early; two miles nearer the Kills and 200 feet higher the harvest is ten days later; and at an elevation of 600 feet another week at least intervenes.

The total area in cereals in 1876 was 38,189 acres. The quantity of wheat grown is gradually diminishing, occupying in 1876 only 4456 acres in contrast to 10,123 in 1856. The average produce in the more fertile districts is 31 bushels per acre, in the poorer districts from 24 to 25 bushels. The roots of the plant are in some seasons attacked severely by the larvse of the crane-fly (Típula olerácea), and the ears sometimes suffer from the wheat-midge. Of other cereals there were in barley 10,123 acres in 1856, and 11,982 in 1876 (the return varying from 42 to 48 bushels); and in oats 23,121 in 1865, and 21,311 in 1876. Beans declined from 802 aeres in 1866 to 467 in 1876. The area of sown grasses has greatly extended, being 26,907 acres in 1866, and in 1876, 31,869. The grass-seed is usually put in with the barley crops. Near the city sewage-farming has been carried on to a remarkable extent. The Craigentinny meadows between the city and the sea, compris-ing 200 acres, have been under sewage cultivation for upwards of 30 years. The produce, now consisting principally of natural grasses, is sold at from £16 to £28 per acre, and the whole realizes from £3000 to £4000 per annum. About 80 acres are under similar treatment at Lochend, 70 acres at Dairy, and 16 at the Grange. The total produce of the whole area under irri-gation is estimated at £6000. The acreage of turnips in 1856 was 14,517, in 1876, 13,342. About 16 or 18 tons of swedes, or 22 or 23 tons of common turnips, is considered a good crop for first-rate land. Potatoes hold much the same position as in former years, though the demand for them is not so great. A con-siderable quantity is despatched to England for seed purposes, while the seed required in the county is obtained from Perth, Lanark, or the neighbouring counties. The number of cattle was in 1862, 13,013, in 1876, 18,661. In the neighbourhood of Edinburgh especially, dairying forms a very important industry : the number of milch cows in the county is probably 11,000 or 12,000, of which 1800 or 2000 are kept in the town or suburbs, and supply about half of the milk necessaiy for the local con-sumption. Sheep are returned as—113,479 in 1866, and 168,565 in 1876. Very few horses are bred in the county, but several of the studs are of excellent character. The Clydesdale blood pre-dominates. Pigs form a very small item in the list of stock ; and the poultry yard is of distinct importance only in the farms in the neighbourhood of the city. The crop rotations vary considerably in different districts. Oats, potatoes, wheat, turnips, barley, and hay or pasture is a common order ; while a five-course shift of oats, potatoes and turnips, barley or wheat, hay, pasture, or a six-course shift (oats, beans, wheat, turnips, barley, grass), is used elsewhere. The average size of farms is 131 acres. According to the returns, out of a total of 1012 holdings 477 did not exceed 50 acres, 116 lay between 50 and 100, 294 were over 100 and under 300, 75 were from 300 to 500, and only 50 were more than 500. Leases of nineteen years are common ; the change of proprietor is as frequent as that of the tenants, and in some cases the same tenant has con-tinued to hold a farm under six or eight successive landlords. The average value of the arable land is calculated at from 40 to 55 shillings the acre ; that of the upland pastures at from 10 to 15 shillings. The whole of the county has been drained more or less thoroughly, and some portions twice over. Tiles and small stones began to be laid about 1830, with a distance between the drains of about 36 feet ; and since 1845 deeper drains, with pipes and collars, have been put into the intermediate furrows. Great improvements have been effected not only in the farm-houses and steadings since 1835, but also in the cottages for the labourers, which now for the most part contain a sitting-room and two or even three bedrooms. Steam thrashing-machines and grinding mills are not uncommon. The reaping-machine has been generally adopted within the last 20 years, except for very difficult ground, or where the crop has been laid by wind or rain. The assistance of the steam plough has hitherto been very partially obtained.

The nursery grounds of Mid-Lothian are more extensive than those of any other county of Scotland; and in the variety and quantity of their productions they are equal to any in Britain. To orchards proper there are devoted about 72 acres ; and no less than 775 acres, mainly in the vicinity of the city, are devoted to market gardening. Further details on the whole subject of Mid-Lothian agriculture may be found in Thomas Farrall's paper in Trans, of Highland and Agricultural Society, 1877.

It appears from the Owners and Heritages Return, 1872-73, that the county, exclusive of Edinburgh and keith, was divided among 3237 owners, holding land the yearly value of which amounted to.£581,603. Of the owners 78J per cent, possessed less than 1 acre, and the average value per acre over all was £2, lis. 3d. There were 9 proprietors holding upwards of 5000 acres, viz., Earl of Rosebery (Dalmeny), 15,568 ; Sir G. D. Clerk (Penicuik), 12,696; Robert Dundas (Arniston), 10,184 ; the Stair family (Oxenfoord), 9609 Heirs of Alex- Mitchell (Stow), 9038 ; Earl of Morton (Dalmahoy), 8944 ; G. K. E. Fairholm, 6200 ; Charles Cowan (Loganhonse), 5677 ; John Borthwick (Crookston), 5239. The duke of Buceleuch's property, though comprising only 3541 acres, is the highest on the valuation roll (£28,296), with the ex-ception of that of the railway companies.

Minerals.—Though not a mining district par excellence, Mid-Lothian possesses a considerable amount of mineral wealth. There are 19 colleries, which in 1876 employed 2179 persons and raised 715,803 tons of coal. With the exception of 90,000 tons raised in the parish of West-Calder, this was all obtained in the valley of the Esk. In its general character the coal does not differ from ordinary Scotch coal ; but a large quantity of the best cannel coal, used for making gas, is procured at Niddrie Colliery, and from the marquis of Lothian's mines at Newbattle and Dalkeith. The depth of the pits varies from 50 to 180 fathoms. On the east side of the Esk the strata lie at an angle of from 10° to 14°; those on the west side, at Niddrie and Gilmerton, at from 60° to 90°. Of blackband ironstone about 61,262 tons were raised in 1876, principally in the parishes of Lass wade and Penicuik; and 25,172 tons of fire-clay were obtained in the county. In the vicinity of West-Calder there is a large amount of shale, containing from 20 to 30 gallons of oil per ton. The extraction of the oil by distillation in retorts was introduced about 1862. About 258,278 tons were raised in 1876. Limestone is of frequent occurrence :—at Esperton in the south; at Cousland, Crichton, Burdiehouse, and Gilmerton, near Edinburgh; at the Camps, in Kirknewton parish; and at Muireston and Levenseat, still further west. Freestone is quarried at Craigleith, Redhall, Hailes, and Craigmillar. From Craigleith was obtained the greater part of the stone for the new town of Edinburgh ; Hailes furnishes an ex-cellent material for pavements and stairs ; and Craigmillar has been appropriated by the builders of the new docks at Leith. Barnton Mount supplies large blocks of whin-stone, which have been exported to England for docks, and even to Piussia, for fortifications ; the causeway stones for the streets of Edinburgh are mainly procured from the quarries at Batho; and a large number of smaller quarries for the supply of road-metal are scattered throughout the county.

Manufactures. —Owing its origin no doubt to the development of literature and publishing in the metropolis, the chief manufacturing industry in Mid-Lothian is paper-making. There are 22 paper mills in the county, most of them large and extensive works; and their aggregate annual production is 18,500 tons of writing and printing, and 5000 tons of coloured and wrapping paper. The most important mills, some of them dating from the beginning of the last century, are situated on the North Esk between Penicuik and Musselburgh, all producing writing and printing papers; while on the South Esk at Newbattle coloured papers are manufactured. On the Water of Leith there are eight separate mills, as well as one near Mid-Calder, and another at Portobello. An ancient vat-mill, called Peggy's Mill, still exists at Cramoud, producing hand-made hosiery papers, &c. There is a carpet factory on the Esk at Boslin; and the well-known establishment at Lasswpde, where velvet-pile and tapestry carpet was produced under Whytock's patent, is now removed to Bonnington. The manufacture of gunpowder is also carried on at Roslin, the works being distributed in the recesses formed by the sudden bends of the river. The Fushiebridge works have been discontinued. Iron foundries exist at Dalkeith, Westfield, Loanhead, Penicuik, Millerhill, and the suburbs of Edinburgh; brick and tile-works at Portobello, Millerhill, Newbattle, Bonnyrigg, and Bosewell; and candle works at Dalkeith and Loanhead. Leather also is manufactured at Dalkeith.

Besides the Scottish metropolis, the county contains the following towns and villages:— Leith and Granton, both flourishing seaports; Portobello, a watering-place about three miles to the east; Musselburgh, an agricultural and fishing town near the mouth of the Esk; Dalkeith, a market-town and borough of barony; Corstorphine, with a convalescent hospital and an ancient collegiate church containing several tombs of the Forrester family, who became possessors of the fee in 1371 ; Batho, erected in 1404 into a principality for the eldest son of the Scottish king; Cramond, formerly a place of much more importance than now; Mid-Calder, with a church of considerable antiquity, adorned with the armorial bearings of the Sandilands family; West-Calder, Balerno, Currie, Juniper Green, and Colinton, all manufacturing villages ; Liberton, deriving its name from the lepers who once were its principal inhabitants ; Gilmerton, mainly inhabited by coal-miners and carters ; Lasswade, Loanhead, Boslin, and Penicuik.

The population of the entire county in 1871 was 328,379, of whom 153,892 were males and 174,487 females. Excluding the boroughs of Edinburgh, Leith, Portobello, and Musselburgh, the population of the county proper numbered in 1851, 57,843 persons, and in 1871, 74,126, indicating an increase of 28 per cent, within that period. This increase occurs principally in the parishes of West-Calder, Lasswade, Colinton, Dalkeith, and Kirknewton.

Antiquities.—It is believed that Cramond was once a Roman seaport; and various objects of Roman art have been discovered in the vicinity and upwards along the bank of the Almond. On several heights are remains of early military works—the most important being that on Dalmahoy Hill, Braidwood Castle in the parish of Penicuik, and the so-called Castle Greg on the Harburn estate in Mid-Calder parish. "Eirdehouses " have been discovered at Crichton Mains, at Borthwick Castle, near Middleton House, &c, the first being especially in-teresting from the fact that some of the stones bore the marks of Roman masonry. There are hut-circles and a hill fort on Kaimes Hill, near Ratho ; a large tumulus, with three upright stones, at Old Listen; a smaller tumulus at Newbattle; a kistvaen at Carlowrie; and standing stones at Lochend, at Comiston (the Caiy stone), and several other places. The most remarkable of all perhaps is the " Cat Stane," on the Brigs farm near Kirkliston, which, according to an ingenious hypothesis of Sir James Young Simpson, marks the burial place of the grandfather of Hengist and Horsa. (See Proceedings of the Anti-quarian Society of Scotland, 1855, 1873, 1875.)

The following are among the most interesting of the residential and ecclesiastical buildings in Mid-Lothian, not within the limits of the larger towns and villages. Roslin Chapel, founded by the St Clairs in 1446, is one of the most highly decorated specimens of Gothic architecture in Scotland, and presents a remarkable combination of peculi-arities. Roslin Castle, the seat of the St Clairs, is a fine ruin, occupying a peninsular rock on the banks of the Esk, and must have been a very strong position before the days of cannon. Hawthornden, a little further down the stream, is interesting as the residence in the 17th century of Drummond the poet, as well as for the strange caves in the rock on which it is built. Dalhousie Castle, the seat of the earl of Dalhousie, is a modernized building of castellated style on the banks of the South Esk ; and Newbattle Abbey, the seat of the marquis of Lothian, occupies the site of the ancient Cistercian monastery a few miles down the stream. Craigmillar Castle is a fine ruin on a knoll three miles to the south of Edinburgh, which formerly was the residence of the Preston family, and afforded shelter on various occasions to Queen Mary. Borthwick Castle, also a temporary residence of the unfortunate queen, is a double tower on Middleton Burn, still bearing the marks of Cromwell's cannon balls. Crichton Castle, a mile and a quarter to the east, was the residence of the well-known family which produced the celebrated Sir William Crichton, and its ruins show " the builders' various hand." Dalmahoy Castle, near Ratho, is the seat of the earl of Morton, and preserves, besides other valuable antiquities, the only extant copy of the Bible of the Scottish Parliament, and the original warrant for committing Queen Mary to Lochleven. Melville Castle, near Lasswade, the seat of the earl of Melville; Colinton House, the seat of Lord Dunfermline; Calder House, the seat of Lord Torphichen ; Biccarton, belonging to Sir William Gibson Craig, Bart.; and Lauriston Castle, once occupied by John Law of Mississippi notoriety, may also be mentioned. Temple, on the South Esk, was at one time the chief seat of the Knights Templars in Scotland.

The history of the county is of little importance apart from that of the city of Edinburgh. Traces of early Celtic occupation still remain in such names as In-veresk, Almond, Leith, Dairy, Dalmahoy, Dalkeith, &c.; though by far the greater proportion of the villages, hamlets, and castles have received their present designation from Saxon possessors. The termination ton is very fre-quent Within the county lie the battlefields of Borough-muir, where the English were defeated by the earl of Murray in 1334; Pinkie, near Inveresk, where the duke of Somerset inflicted tremendous loss on the Scotch; and Rullion Green, on the eastern slopes of the Pentlands, where the Covenanters were routed by the royal troops under General Dalziel.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries