PRESBYTERY OF ABERDEEN,
SYNOD OF ABERDEEN.
THE REV. JAMES ALLAN, MINISTER.
I.—Topography and Natural
The parish of Newhills, in
former times, was a part of the then extensive and incommodious parish of
Saint Machar, or Old Machar, whose church is situated in Old Aberdeen. The
distance betwixt the church and the remote confines towards the west was
so great, that it was hardly possible for the people resident there to
assemble at Saint Machar for worship, and for other religious purposes.
This circumstance had excited, it appears, the notice and sympathy of a
pious and humane individual, Mr George Davidson, of Pettens, a burgess of
Aberdeen,—and who had amassed a considerable fortune, and risen entirely
by his own industry. This man, having no family to provide for, and
feeling that he could not better dispose of his property than by applying
it "in better providing" (as he himself expressed it) for the spiritual
wants of the people with whom he was connected, and in whose salvation he
took a deep interest,—mortified for the endowment of a resident clergyman
in this western part of Saint Machar the lands of "Keppelhills,"
consisting of nearly 700 Scotch acres, which he had previously purchased
from the town of Aberdeen. He also caused a church to be built, upon these
mortified lands, about five miles distant from Saint Machar; and all at
his own expense, in the year 1663.
This property he disponed
and made over to the officiating clergyman at the time, the Rev. George
Melville, and to his successors in office in all time coming. The place of
worship, therefore, was originally a chapel of ease, and had continued to
be so for about three years.
This benevolent individual
also built a large stone bridge over the Buxburn, in the line of the old
road to Aberdeen, for the accommodation of travellers in the lower end of
the district; and mortified the lands of Bogfairlie and the lands of
Pettens in Belhelvy, to Saint Nicholas Church in Aberdeen.
The death of Mr Davidson did not prevent the
incorporation of the new church with the Established Church; for in 1666
the persons interested in the concern, and authorized to act, applied to
the Lords Commissioners for Planting Kirks for a disjunction of a certain
district of Saint Machar around the church built by Mr Davidson, and its
erection into a parish ; which application, having the consent of all
parties, was successful, and the decreet of the Lords Commissioners
accordingly was obtained that year.
Since that time the parish has continued
separate and distinct, and possesses all the privileges and rights which
belong to the other parishes of the Established Church of Scotland.
Name.—It appeared to have been the desire of
the applicants to give to this newly erected parish a name in some degree
resembling the name of the mortified lands of "Keppelhills," and hence it
was denominated "Newhills."
Extent.—The extent of the parish is very
considerable. It is reckoned to contain about 30 square miles, being about
6 miles in length, and 5 in breadth. It is of an irregular form, and is
bounded on the east by the river Don; towards the south, by the parish of
Peterculter and Nether Banchory; towards the north, by the parish of Dyce
and Kinellar; and towards the south-east, by Saint Machar, from which it
was originally disjoined.
Mansion Houses.—Some of the
heritors have beautiful seats, particularly Mr Forbes of Springhill, and
Mr Robertson of Hazel-head. The places of Sheddocksley, of Fairley, of
Crailston, of Cloghill, of Gateside, of Waterton, and the Place of
Newhills, (the seat and property of the minister, which has been very much
improved by him,) are all of them much admired.
There is a considerable part of this parish,
especially westward, of a hilly nature, some of which is covered with
wood, and part only with heath and stones ; but, notwithstanding of this,
there is a great and increasing population. In the year 1775, the amount
of the population was only 959, and in 1792 it was 1153; but at last
census, it was found to be 2255. Since that time, it has much increased;
and this has been owing to the feuing of grounds, and the improvements
which have been made along the three great turnpike roads which pass
through the parish, and which lead to the great and flourishing town of
throughout the parish there are very comfortable dwellings; and the
people, upon the whole, with the exception of some casual residenters, are
very quiet, well disposed, and industrious.
The number of illegitimate births during the
last three years is 18.
Soil, Produce, Manufactures, &c.— The lands of
this parish are in general not of the best quality. The soil is commonly
of a black colour, and of a light quality, and is placed upon a hard pan
or retentive subsoil, which, in wet seasons, is very injurious to the
growth of corn, and turnips, and grasses, the agricultural produce of the
district. In some parts, however, there are fields of a very superior
quality, and yielding most abundant crops. These principally are the
property of Lord and Lady James Hay, the value of whose lands is about
five-sixths of that of the whole parish. Upon their grounds, there are
immense quarries of blue granite stone, which are extensively wrought, and
yield them an annual rent of about L. 250; in these, there are generally
employed about 260 men. Stones from these quarries are prepared and sent
to Aberdeen, London, and elsewhere.
Manufactories.—There are also upon this
property, which is bounded by the river Don, three paper manufactories.
One of them at Waterton, belonging to Mr Pine, has two large machines,
which form, dry, size, and press the paper, and all in one operation. The
paper is generally a fine printing paper; but sometimes also for writing.
The number of persons generally employed is about 150. The machines throw
off an immense quantity of paper, and they are wrought day and night. The
other two manufactories have also each a machine. They work in the
manufacture of wrapping-paper, and a considerable number of hands are
employed at each. Besides this, there is on the same property, a large
manufactory of worsted, wherein there are about 67 persons employed.
There are also a brewery of considerable
extent, and two mills for the manufacture of snuff. There are no fewer
than five meal-mills, and two flour-mills, some of which manufacture grain
to a great extent, for the supply of Aberdeen and the adjoining country.
On other properties in the parish there are three other meal-mills, two of
which carry on a very extensive trade. It may be said, therefore, of Lord
and Lady James Hay's property in the east end of the parish, that it is of
a very superior value, and that there are few places where such numerous
and extensive manufactories are carried on, within such a limited space.
These manufactories and stone quarries give to
this part of the parish a bustling and very interesting appearance.
In this parish, there are very few of what may
be called large farms. There are 35 heritors and feuars, and most of the
feuars occupy their respective grounds.
The principal occupation of the parishioners,
apart from the quarries and manufactories, is the dairy. In consequence of
the short distance from Aberdeen, and the large village of Woodside in the
vicinity, they pay more attention to this than to the rearing of young
cattle, and they turn it to very great account.
Rent.—The lands, in some cases, are pretty
high rented,— some averaging L. 3 and upwards per Scotch acre; but the
common rate of rent may be stated at from L. 1, 10s. to L. 2.
In this parish, there is still a great extent
of barren uncultivated ground ; but, of late years, a very great change
has been effected. Improvements are going on; and are encouraged by the
nearness of the markets, and the plentiful supply of all kinds of manure.
Ecclesiastical State.—The present church was
built by the heritors of the parish in 1830, is centrically situate,
large, and commodious; superior to any country church in the county, and
perhaps in the north; and is capable, it is supposed, of holding all the
parishioners who are capable of assembling at one time.
The minister's stipend arises from the rents
of the mortified lands, which are let to tenants on leases of nineteen
years endurance, but it is not nearly so large as might be expected, as a
great part of the ground is barren, and not susceptible of improvement,
and as the tenants, till the present incumbent's admission, were under no
restrictions as to farming, and not obliged to make any improvements.
Another reason is, that these mortified lands are alike liable, with the
other lands in the parish, to all public burdens and assessments, and have
to pay a certain feu-duty to the town of Aberdeen. It is thus difficult to
state what may be the average amount of stipend, as it varies from year to
pay the usual allowance for communion elements, and a trifle in name of
stipend, as part of the unexhausted teinds.
There are only a few Dissenters in the parish,
and two small families of the Popish persuasion.
Education.—There is one parochial school, to
which is attached a salary of L. 33, 7s. 6d. There is an excellent
school-house, and superior accommodation for the scholars; and all the
branches of education are taught which are required in any country school.
The teacher's fees may amount to L. 25 per annum.
There are other two schools in the parish,
built by subscription, but they are unendowed, and the teachers, having no
salary, are dependent on the school fees.
Poor.—The average number of persons receiving
parochial aid is 52; the average sum allotted to each per quarter, 10s.;
the average annual amount of contributions for the poor is L. 104,—
whereof L. 40 is from church collections, and L. 64 from alms or legacies.