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


I.—Topography and Natural History.

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.

II.—Civil History.

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 Aberdeen.

In general, 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.

V.—Parochial Economy.

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 year.

The heritors 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.

January 1840.

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