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The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)
Volume XII - Aberdeen
Parish of Foveran

[Drawn up by the late incumbent, the Rev. Maxwell Gordon.]

I.—Topography and Natural History.

Boundaries, &c.—This parish is situated in the district of For-martine. It is bounded on the south, by the parish of Belhelvie; on the west, by the parish of Udny; on the north by the burn of Tarty, from the parish of Logie Buchan, and by the river Ythan, from the sands of Forvie; on the east, by the German Ocean. It extends about seven miles from east to west, and about three from south to north.

The river Ythan is about a quarter of a mile east of the village. It is here of a serpentine form, and is navigable nearly a mile and a-half. The ships are loaded and unloaded at low water; but it is hoped that a pier will soon be built, which would prove a great accommodation to the farmers, particularly those at a distance. The river abounds with salmon, sea-trout, flounders, and a great many other small fish; but it is chiefly famed for its abundant produce of mussels. The quantity taken out of the river annually amounts to some hundred tons, and is sold at L.1, 10s. per ton.

It is much to be regretted that the entrance to the river is bad, and occasionally dangerous, owing to the sand shifting at its mouth, and there seems to be no remedy for it. The sandy beach extends from the mouth of the Ythan, about one mile and a-half north, and eight or ten miles south. On the south beach, there were lately many stake-nets for catching salmon, but bag-nets have now been substituted in their room, as they are worked with less trouble and expense.

The fine little burn of Foveran runs through the parish, and falls into the Ythan near the village of Newburgh. There are three meal-mills upon it, all of the best construction, and abundantly employed.

It is well known that there is little wood on this part of the east coast of Scotland; but the plantations around Foveran House and Ythan Lodge, mentioned in the last Statistical Account, have thriven tolerably well. In the western part of the parish, where Mr Hunter of Tillery built, a few years ago, a most handsome and commodious house, and laid out the grounds with great taste, wood grows very rapidly. The Huntingdon willow seems peculiarly suited to the climate and soil of the coast side.

II.—Civil History.

Antiquities. — The following is an extract from a manuscript in the Advocates' Library of Aberdeen, written about the beginning of the last century, by Sir Samuel Forbes of Foveran: "Foveran has its name from the castle here, which is very old, and is thought to be so called from a sweet and very impetuous spring (at the foot of the wall, having an arch built over it,) for the Irish 'Foveran' signifies a spring. There was once an hospital founded by Sir Alexander dimming, second Earl of Buchan, and son to the founder of Deer Abbey, Justiciary of Scotland under Alexander the Third, and one of the six regents on his death. Here is still an hospital, founded for three poor men, by the first Alexander Forbes of Foveran, who have each of them a peck of meal and a groat weekly." There is still a small fund in the hands of the Foveran family, the interest of which a poor man gets under the name of bede money. There is now no vestige remaining of the Castle of Foveran, nor of Turing's Tower, which was still more ancient; but we need not say that the sweet spring, that bountiful gift of God alluded to by Sir Samuel, continues to flow with all its wonted abundance. There is a marble bust in the dress of the time of Charles I. lying on the ground, near the site of the old castle.

Land-owners.—The heritors of the parish are, Colonel Udny of Udny; Mr Robertson of Foveran; Mr Hunter of Tillery; General Gordon of Cairness; and the family of Wardhouse. Colonel Udny resides in London, and only occasionally visits his fine property here. The Foveran family have not resided much at Foveran House for some years past, but it is hoped that Mr Robertson will soon settle among us.

Antiquities.—There is a very ancient burial-ground in the neighbourhood of the village. It is the burial-ground of the family of Udny, and it should not be allowed to lie in so totally open a state. There are some remains of an ancient chapel within the ground, which goes among the people under the name of Rood Church. In a service before the Sheriff of Aberdeen, on 10th January 1558, of Elizabeth Meldrum, relict of Alexander Gray, burgess of Aberdeen, among others, of certain crofts and roods of land, lying in the barony of Newburgh; the boundaries often refer to the Cross of Newburgh, the lands of the altar of St Crispin, and Crispinianus, the lands of the Holy Rood, the lands of the Chapel of the Holy Rood.

The castle of Knockhall, now in ruins, is situated about half a-mile north of Newburgh, and was, at one period, the residence of the family of Udny. It was built in the year 1565, was burnt by accident in 1734, and was never repaired.


Agriculture.—The land, generally speaking, is fertile, and produces abundant crops of all kinds. There are many large and fine farms in the parish, and the tenants are most industrious and intelligent. An excellent understanding subsists between them and their landlords, and they live in great harmony among themselves. They are very hospitable. Their houses, or most of them, are built of stone and lime, two storeys high, and covered with slates. They are neatly finished, and comfortably fitted up.

As an instance of the progress of improvement in the parish, it is worthy of notice, that, since the year 1824, in the Culterculleri district, 250 acres of barren land have been improved; about 16,200 ells of ditches for fences, and about 10,000 ells of drains have been cut; about 4900 ells of stone dikes have been built.

About twenty fat cattle per week, on an average, have been shipped from this parish for the London market during the last six years.

Navigation.—The number of ships belonging to the port is eight. Tonnage, 646. These vessels are employed in the coasting and foreign trade, and import coal and lime, timber and bones. Grain is the only export. There are a pilot-boat and two fishing-boats belonging to the village. The fish caught in the sea are, haddocks, cod, skate, flounders, &c. There is a ferry-boat on the Ythan, about three-quarters of a mile above the village, which gives at present a rent of L.16 per annum.

V.—Parochial Economy.

Village.—The village of Newburgh, a small but thriving sea-port, is pleasantly situated on the banks of the burn of Foveran, near its junction with the river Ythan. There are now several substantial and commodious houses in the village, and its general appearance is much improved. In former times, Newburgh was too much famed for smuggling, but, happily for the morals of the people, since the appointment of the coast-guard, this has been entirely suppressed. The land at Newburgh is a fine strong black soil, and produces, abundantly, bear, turnips, and potatoes, with a few oats. The average rent of the land about the village is L.4 per acre. The village contains 450 inhabitants, and 120 houses. There are no less than seven ale-houses, the same number as when the last Statistical Account was written. There are in the village a baker, shoemakers, wrights, blacksmiths, and fleshers. There are likewise four merchants, who deal in all kinds of groceries and haberdashery goods. A tide-waiter resides in the village. There is one Society, called the Newburgh Shipmasters' Friendly Society. A branch of the National Savings' Bank has been established' in connection with the Ellon District National Savings' Bank. A bone-mill, belonging to Messrs Black, of six or eight horse power, is in constant employment at the proper seasons. There are eight granaries, large and substantial buildings, belonging to Messrs Black, Falconer, Gray, and Mitchell. A considerable sum of money was bequeathed by the late Mr Mather, native of this parish, for educating and clothing twenty poor fishermen's children belonging to Newburgh. The writer understands that the Magistrates of Aberdeen, Mr Mather's Trustees, have established a school in the village for the education of these twenty poor children. The same benevolent individual left L.20 per annum to the minister, or schoolmaster, for lecturing once a-week to the poor people of the village. The minister preserves the right of lecturing in his own hands, but the duty has been performed during the last three years by the Rev. Robert Abercrombie Gordon, our parish schoolmaster. Mr Mather left also four bursaries at Marischal College, under the patronage of the minister of Foveran, to be given to boys educated at the parish school of Foveran.

Means of Communication.—This parish is intersected by the Aberdeen and Peterhead turnpike road, on which two mails pass and repass daily. There is also a daily coach from Aberdeen to Ellon. There are three public-houses on this line of road within the parish. Another turnpike road from Aberdeen to Methlick touches the western extremity of the parish : and there is a most useful turnpike road now completed, I believe, from Old Meldrum to the village of Newburgh. There are several good cross roads which strike off from the Peterhead turnpike; and one of them in particular, called "the Fiddes road," which branches off opposite the Foveran Arms Inn, is most useful to the inhabitants of this parish, as it joins the Udny turnpike road, and opens up a fine communication with that part of the country.

Ecclesiastical State.—The church, a plain substantial building, was built in the year 1794, and accommodates about 700 people. There are three very handsome marble monuments on the inside wall of the church, two of them belonging to the Foveran family; and the third, which belongs to the Udny family, is a most valuable monument, (with busts said to be very striking likenesses of two of that family,) and was executed at great expense, by Bacon, the celebrated London sculptor. Handsome churchyard walls have just now been built, with a fund bequeathed for that purpose by the late Miss Robertson of Foveran. The attendance of the people at church is very exemplary, and their devout appearance and great attention to the preacher have frequently been taken notice of by strangers. The number of communicants is, upon the average, about 630. Between 20 and 30 young communicants come forward annually.

The offices at the manse, which were built between sixty and seventy years ago, are at present in a ruinous state, especially the roof, and the manse will soon require considerable repairs. The glebe is very small, and is most inconveniently situated at a distance from the manse; but the minister is accommodated with suitable ground by Mr Robertson of Foveran.

Education.—The parish school is situated in the eastern part of the parish, and is much too small and low-roofed for the accommodation of the large number of scholars who attend it. There is reason to hope that the heritors will soon pay attention to this most important subject. There is another school at Cultercullen, in the western part of the parish, with an endowment of L.8, a free house, and ground for a cow. It is well attended.

Poor.— The average collection at the church door is about L.60 per annum. The number of the poor has increased greatly of late, and their wants, from whatever cause, still more rapidly. Nearly L.100 are now necessary annually for their maintenance. The session has hitherto been enabled to meet the demand, by having received several legacies and donations; but an application to the heritors for assistance must very soon be made, or a small fund, which has not been broken in upon for many a year, must be used.


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