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Culross and Tulliallan
Chapter XXV. Monuments of Culross and Tulliallan - Continued


THE original parish church of Culross, known as the West Kirk, is situated nearly a mile west by north of the Abbey Church, on the old road leading through the moor to Kincardine. Nothing whatever is known of its early history, beyond the information, already detailed, contained in the Act of the Scottish Parliament of 1633, which finally stripped it of its dignity as the parish church, and transferred this status to the Abbey Church, which had practically and solely served this function ever since the Reformation.

The West Kirk had thus never witnessed within its walls any other services than those of the Roman Catholic faith. It probably dates its origin from the first division of Scotland into parishes, which is sup* . posed to have taken place in the twelfth century, in the reign of David I. The primitive rudeness of its architecture warrants us in referring its erection to a very remote period, the style of building approximating very closely to those ancient edifices, few in number, which are still to be found in England, and have been classed under the denomination of Early Saxon. Its dimensions are small, having a length from east to west of about sixty-eight feet, and a breadth of eighteen feet. The only part of the walls that remains tolerably entire is on the east and south sides. The latter contains a low and primitive doorway, with jambs and lintel, unprovided with any ornament; and immediately adjoining it, on its west side, is a narrow aperture or window, once surmounted by a plain pointed arch. This last is the only remaining object in the architecture of the West Kirk that preserves a distinctly ecclesiastical character, if we except two large stones sculptured with crosses. These have been built into the walls, one of them serving as a lintel for the doorway just mentioned, and the other as that of a plain window three feet square on the north side. It seems difficult to account for their situation in their present position, unless we suppose them to have been originally tombstones, and that in Protestant times the ruined church may have been used as a burial-place, and the decaying walls patched up with those relics of a past age. By some the sculptures in question have been held to represent swords—to which, indeed, they bear some resemblance—and a theory was in consequence maintained that the West Kirk had formerly belonged to the Knights Templars. But there is no evidence whatever to support this, and there can be little question that the delineations on the stones are crosses in the medieval style of art.

What may originally have been a projection or transept on the south side of the church, is now used as the burying-vault of the Johnstons of Sands. It was purchased in the middle of the last century by the ancestor of the present proprietor from the Browns of Barhill.

The churchyard of the West Kirk is still occasionally used for interments, though for the most part these are confined to the Abbey churchyard. A handsome mausoleum has of recent years been erected on the west side, though not actually within the precinct, as the burial-place of Mr Dalgleish of West Grange.

In a field to the north of the West Kirk, on the farm of the Ashes, is a spring of excellent water, which bears the name of the Monks’ Well. The name seems to have come down from Roman Catholic times, as the designation of the fountain-head from which the monastery was supplied. At least there was then some kind of reservoir here, as, in an Act of the Scottish Parliament in 1594, confirming to Alexander Gaw of Maw his possession of certain lands conveyed to him and his predecessors by the Commendator and Convent of Culross, the field in question is designated “ The Cisterns.” At the present day, Culross Abbey derives its supply of water from the Monks’ Well, as did also the mansion of Valleyfield, till it was cut off in consequence of a dispute between Lady Baird and the trustees of Sir Robert Preston.

The mansion of Culross Abbey, which closely adjoins the eastern side of the Abbey churchyard, is said to have been built out of the materials of the old monastery, and very probably out of those of which the buildings of the refectory on the south side of the cloister court were composed. This splendid though uncompleted edifice was originally erected in 1608 by the first Lord Kinloss, King James’s favourite counsellor, and Master of the Rolls. I have already given my reasons for conjecturing that the plan was furnished by the celebrated Inigo Jones, who was then architect to the Court; and besides the public works in which he has left so many memorials of himself, had also designed several mansions for the English nobility. The whole style of architecture is so superior to anything that could have been produced in Scotland at the period, that doubts have been propounded as to its being the work at all of the early part of the seventeenth century. But all the historical and local evidence that we have goes to show that it really dates from that time; and the supposition being admitted of the services of an eminent foreign architect having been called into requisition, the encountering difficulty vanishes.

Culross Abbey, which thus succeeded to the title of the old monastery, is an oblong building of three storeys, flanked by turrets at the east and west extremities of its south front, which, standing on the crest of the hill, both commands a magnificent prospect, and, when viewed from below on the water, forms, with the church and monastery ruins, a most imposing and picturesque group, overshadowing the town of Culross. The architecture belongs to the Renaissance or Italian order, such as may be seen in Heriot’s Hospital, Edinburgh, the Banqueting House, Whitehall, Greenwich Hospital, and other buildings which are associated with the genius of Inigo Jones. It had originally only been, an edifice of two storeys, with a tower at each extremity; and the intention doubtless was to have it completed in the form of a quadrangle, with a court and grand entrance, most probably on the eastern side. A portion of the west side of the quadrangle, at right angles to the front or south side, was actually erected, and now remains to show the plan of the founder. It is said that Lady Hay, the last surviving niece of Sir Robert Preston, had in contemplation, besides the restoration of the tower of the church, the completion of the quadrangle of Culross Abbey.

The architraves of the windows on the first floor, as well as those on the upper storeys of the turrets, are marked with the initials L. E. B., D. M. B.— these denoting respectively Lord Edward Bruce of Kinloss, and his wife Dame Magdalen Bruce, a daughter of Alexander Clerk of Balbimie. On the east gable are two superimposed dates, 1608 and 1670. The first refers to the edifice as originally erected by Lord Kinloss; the second to the third storey, added in the year last mentioned by Alexander, second Earl of Kincardine.

On one of the old flags which used to be borne in former times on the occasion of riding the burgh marches, Culross Abbey was represented as a building of only two storeys. It had evidently been found too expensive and impracticable an undertaking to complete it in accordance with the original plan, and accordingly the makeshift device was employed of increasing the accommodation by the superimposition of a third storey and attics. These last have now disappeared, in consequence of the demolition operations of Sir Robert Preston. It is extremely likely that, in making this addition to the Abbey, Lord Kincardine availed himself of the services of his kinsman, the celebrated Sir William Bruce of Kinross, the first architect of his day, and the designer, both of the greater part of Holyrood Palace as then reconstructed, and his own splendid mansion of Kinross House on the shores of Loch Leven.

The entrance to Culross Abbey is on the north side; but all the principal apartments face the south, and command splendid views of the Forth and opposite shores. The first floor is almost entirely occupied by a grand suite of rooms, consisting of dining and drawing rooms, connected by a noble gallery, after the same manner as is displayed in Hatfield House, Herts, the seat of Lord Salisbury, which was designed by Inigo Jones for the first holder of the title—Elizabeth and James’s celebrated statesman, Sir Robert Cecil. One of those rooms used, in Lord Dundonald’s time, to be hung with fine Gobelins tapestry, and was known as the King's Room, from the tradition of King James having been entertained here on his visit to Scotland in 1617.

Notwithstanding the imposing appearance of Culross Abbey, the number of apartments that it contains is, owing to the narrowness of the building and the space taken up with corridors and state-rooms, not so great as might be imagined. Sir Walter Scott indeed, on the occasion of his visit, expressed the opinion that it could not be much more serviceable to Sir Robert Preston than as a banqueting-house.

By his will Sir Robert’s trustees were directed to maintain the Abbey in a habitable condition; and he moreover directed, in somewhat whimsical fashion, that the old designation of Culross Abbey should be exchanged for the appellation of the Abbey Elizabeth, in compliment to his deceased partner, Lady Preston, Miss Elizabeth Brown. This new nomenclature, however, was never adopted except in one or two legal documents, and is now quite abandoned.

After remaining untenanted, except by a housekeeper in charge, and almost wholly unfurnished, during a period of more than thirty years, Culross Abbey was, on the accession of the Elgin family, held in lease for eight years by Henry Liddell, Esq., of the Bombay Civil Service, who died here in 1873. It is now occupied by Major Johnston of the Madras Service, uncle of Laurence Johnston, Esq. of Sands.

The Abbey garden and orchard, comprising for the most part those belonging to the old convent, stretch down the slope of the hill towards the public road, and from their productiveness and fine exposure, still testify to the horticultural skill and judgment of the monks. They seem to have been laid out in their present terrace form by Alexander, second Earl of Kincardine, who at least must have built the pavilion or arbour which occupies the eastern extremity of the fine upper terrace, and bears the date of 1674. An ancient oak settle placed within this summer-house has carved upon it, among other indentations, the words “Jo. Cochrane, 1767,” which were probably cut there in his boyhood by the Hon. John Cochrane, Deputy-Commissary to the Forces in North Britain, and younger brother of Archibald, ninth Earl of Dundonald, the unfortunate projector and speculator. It is probable, however, that the seat is as old as the pavilion itself.

The whole of the grounds about the Abbey, though not of great extent, are extremely beautiful, both in themselves and the splendid views which they command. They used in former days to be the wonder and pride of the country round. One of the earliest descriptions of them is contained in the work entitled ‘A Journey through Scotland,' published in 1723, which, if I mistake not, is the production of no less distinguished an author than Daniel Defoe. The edition, however, that I have seen in the British Museum, does not bear his name on the title-page, and the narrative in question is not included in his ‘Tour through Great Britain,’ published in 1724. There can at least be no question as to the date of the work, whatever dubiety we may feel regarding the author. Having arrived at Korth Queens-ferry, he thus proceeds with the account of his journey:—

“Continuing my course westwards by the Frith banks, I arrived in four1 miles at Culross, a most noble ancient seat of the Bruces, Earls of Kincairn; it stands on an eminence, as that of Weems does, and hath a noble prospect across the Fri^h of the county of West Lothian, up the Frith to the mountains above Sterling, and down below Edinburgh. One cannot imagine a nobler palace. It is built all of freestone; the front to the south is above two hundred foot, with a tower three stories high at each comer, and under this front is a terras as long and as broad as that at Windsor, with a pavilion at each end, and below the terras run hanging gardens for half a mile down to the Frith. The design of these gardens was vast; but as they are, you can only judge of what they were to be and might be. When my Lord Mar was laying out his fine gardens at Allaway, I am told that when he saw these he thanked God that Culross was not his, for the expense of keeping it up would ruin him. The house is well furnished, and in the great staircase are some very good pictures of knights of the Golden Fleece, cardinals, bishops, abbots, and other eminent men of the name of Bruce. This branch of the Bruces is sprung from that of Blairhall, as that of Ailesbury in England is, and all of them from Bruce of Clackmannan; in this neighbourhood they are a very ancient clan, and very great in this neighbourhood.

“Culross is also a good market-town, and there hath been a large old monastery, whose ruins join the outer court of the Lord Kincaim’s palace. From Culross in six miles I arrived at the fine village of Alloway, belonging to Erskine, Earl of Mar.”

It is evident from the above that the journey here described must have been made not later than 1705, the year in which Alexander, third Earl of Kincardine, died. Subsequently to that, the Abbey was occupied by Lady Mary Cochrane and her husband. We know that Defoe visited Scotland two or three years previous to the Union, and had been despatched thither as a sort of commissioner to aid in bringing about that event. It is highly probable that he would make a peregrination through the principal burgh towns of Scotland, and Culross among the rest. I cling, therefore, strongly to the idea that the author of ‘ Robinson Crusoe ’ actually paid a visit to Culross, and that it is to his pen that we owe one of the earliest descriptions of the present Abbey and its grounds.

In further reference to this account—given, as I am inclined to think, by Defoe—it may be observed that the original design of the Abbey gardens and pleasure-grounds seems to have been on no less magnificent a scale than that of the mansion itself. The res angusta domi had in both instances prevented the complete realisation. It appears from the title-deeds of the Abbey that its site and some of the ground immediately adjoining were purchased in parcels from different proprietors. There was thus originally no Culross estate, properly so called; and even the Earls of Kincardine, as representatives of Sir George Bruce, notwithstanding the great extent of territory inherited by them, owned no large amount of property in the immediate vicinity of the family mansion. The lands which Lady Mary Cochrane succeeded in retaining—in opposition to the claims of the Black Colonel, who had purchased the? bulk of the Kincardine estates—were but of limited extent. Her son Charles Cochrane, however, made some additions to the family property.

Reference has already been made to Slezer’s ‘ Theatrum Scotisa,’ which, published in 1693, contains both the earliest pictorial representation of Culross and its Abbey, and in the letteipress attached to the print the earliest descriptive account. The author’s name is thus stated on the title-page— “ John Slezer, Captain of the Artillery Company, and Surveyor of their Majesties Stores and Magazines in the Kingdom of Scotland.” The views compose a folio volume, and the plate representing each place is dedicated to the proprietor of the estate. That of Culross is inscribed, “To the Right Honourable Alexander, Earl of Kincardine, Lord Bruce,” See. The mansion and grounds of the Abbey bear a very close resemblance to their appearance at the present day, but the foreground and the rest of the picture generally are rough and extravagant. As regards the ruins of the monastery, there is shown a large castle-like building just in front of the present remains, whilst the arches on the south side of the cloister court which supported the refectory are also distinctly manifest. The following description is appended to the print, translated, it is said, from the Latin of Sir Robert Sibbald:—

“Culrosse hath its name from Cul, which signifies a bank or back; and Rosse, which was the ancient name of Fife, because it lies in the western corner of that shire.

“It is situated on a descent at the side of the river of Forth —its chief commodities being salt and coals. That which chiefly adorns it is the stately buildings of the Earl of Kincardin, with the gardens and terrace-walks about it, having a pleasant prospect to the very mouth of the river Forth. Near unto these buildings are to be seen the ruins of an ancient monastery.”

As regards the first part of the above description, it may be observed that there is no evidence whatever that Fife had ever anciently the designation of Ross, or that it ever included Culross within its territory. The allegation seems to have arisen from a fanciful idea regarding the peninsular form of “ The Kingdom,” as lying between the Firths of Forth and Tay. And Culross was supposed to mark the back of the peninsula, as Kinross did the head. I shall have something to say regarding the etymologies of Culross and its district in another chapter.

At the south-eastern extremity of the Abbey grounds, just without the eastern side of the garden of St Mungo’s, and closely adjoining the public road, are the remains of St Mungo’s Kirk or Chapel, founded by Archbishop Blackadder in 1503, on the reputed locality of the landing of St Thenew and birth of St Mungo. It is probable, indeed, that an older cell or chapel marked this site, and the ground seems in former times to have been part of the patrimony of St Mungo’s Cathedral in Glasgow. In the ‘ Regis-trum Episcopatus Glasguensis,’ edited by Cosmo Innes for the Maitland Club, it is stated that Robert Blackadder, the first archbishop of Glasgow, received from James IV., on 24th May 1503, a grant of the lands of Cragrossy, in Strathem, and on 27th May of same year, from the revenues of these lands* founded and endowed St Mungo’s Chapel at Culross. The terms of the foundation are as follows: “ Rob-ertus Glasguensis archiepiscopus primus a reditibus terrarum de Cragrossy quas ecclesiŽ donavit fundavit vnam capellaniam in ecclesia beatissimi Kentigemi confessoris vbi idem natus erat per archiepiscopum constructa et edificata prope monasterium de Culros.” The chapel is a complete ruin, almost level with the ground, with the exception of the north wall, which resembles a sunk fence in the bank above, and leaves it a matter of uncertainty whether it was originally built in this form or from the first stood detached, the intervening space between the wall and declivity having been subsequently filled up by the gradual descent of earth and rubbish. Two large beech-trees, certainly not of remote antiquity, flourish on the summit of this space. There is also the decayed trunk of an ancient elder-tree which grows near the north-western extremity, where some remains of the west wall and entrance are still visible. Of the south wall only the foundations are traceable, and these project into the public road beyond the present enclosing wall, wliicii was built by Sir Robert Preston. The eastern extremity of the building formed a three-sided apse—a construction differing from the ordinary shape of the apse, which is generally semicircular. The lower part of its east and north-east side is still entire, the latter exhibiting on the outside a fine front of hewn stone. Traces of windows are also to be seen here. The length of the chapel from east to west is 54 feet, and the breadth 20 feet. A wall, still partly remaining, separated the outer compartment or nave from the interior or chancel, and the raised floor of flagstones with their rounded edges is still very plainly marked here in front of the site of the high altar and east window. Traces of sedilia or seats appear along the north wall, which has a height of from 10 to 12 feet.

About twenty years ago St Mungo’s Chapel, which had been long abandoned to neglect, and turned into a receptacle of rubbish, was cleared out, and the outlines of the building, with its pavement of flagstone, disclosed to view. It was visited shortly afterwards by a party of members of the Scottish Antiquarian Society, including Drs Joseph Robertson and Robert Chambers, who were conducted to the various objects of interest around Culross by the Rev. W. Stephen, who acted as cicerone. Some excavations made either then or a short time previously resulted in the discovery of four skeletons— three of grown persons, and one of a child. These were lying almost immediately under the pavement, and must have been buried in Protestant times after a considerable depth of earth had accumulated. Many loose bones were also found among the rubbish.

On the bank behind the chapel was St Mungo’s churchyard, enclosed by a wall, of which a small portion still remains on the east side of the garden attached to the house of St Mungo’s. Persons only recently deceased remembered seeing tombstones here, and one of them informed me that on one occasion he had dug up a coffin-handle. This was about 1816, when Sir Robert Preston was planting clumps of trees round the fishing cottage, and had given orders that the mould required for that purpose should be taken from the ground behind St Mungo's ChapeL On understanding that he was desecrating a churchyard, he directed that no more earth should be taken from that place. There is reason to believe that burials took place occasionally here as late as 1750. During the last century also, St Mungo’s Chapel was used as a place of meeting by the Freemasons of Culross, who were in the practice of walking thither in grand procession. The local fraternity was a branch of the great St Mungo's Lodge of Glasgow, which is said to have been in the habit of sending representatives on such occasions. The so-called “ St Mungo’s lands ” or territory in the neighbourhood of the chapel appear to have been regarded as ecclesiastical property belonging to the see of Glasgow, and thus gave Archbishop Black-adder an indisputable right to raise on this spot a chapel in honour of the saint. Certainly we find Queen Mary, in virtue of the annexation at the Reformation of the ecclesiastical domains to the Crown, bestowing on the city of Glasgow by royal charter, in 1566, “the lands, rents, and revenues belonging to the chaplaincies and altarages of St Mungo.” In 1572 the city made over these to the University of Glasgow, who appear, however, to haVe afterwards disposed of their right. The chapel and churchyard seem to have been regarded as the property of the church of Culross. We have already seen, in Chapter xiv., a claim preferred by the kirk-session against Mrs Sands, living near St Mungo’s Kirk, for an alleged encroachment she was making on what was considered to be ecclesiastical or parochial property.

Next to the Abbey there are no houses more interesting about Culross than the two old mansions enclosed within a court at the north-west comer of the Sand Haven, and known as “ the Colonel’s Close,” from having been occupied in the first half of the last century by the Black Colonel. Of the two houses, one bears the date 1597 and the initials G. B., from the great George Bruce, its founder; the other has the date 1611 and the initials S. G. B., having been erected after Bruce had been raised to the rank of a knight. Though respectable and substantial in appearance, such as befitted the residence of a wealthy burgess of the day, they are by no means remarkable for splendour or beauty of architecture, and certainly were not designed by Inigo Jones.

It is the interior of these houses which possesses the chief interest, from the curious painted ceiling with which the principal apartment in each is adorned. The ceilings are coved, and the material on which the paintings are executed consists of thin planking, now very much decayed. The colours are still wonderfully vivid, though in many places time and damp have obliterated the pictures. In the older house these consist of a series of allegorical designs, well drawn, and having attached to each a sentence in black-letter, as a text for the pictorial sermon, which is either some moral lesson or a representation of the general instability and uncertainty of human affairs. In the days of Queen Elizabeth and James these were favourite subjects both for the artist and poet, and in the latter capacity Edmund Spenser has shown himself facile princeps as the week-day preacher who presents sacred and philosophic truths in attractive guise.

These pictures in Sir George Bruce’s old house, though they cannot lay claim to a high artistic excellence, are nevertheless of very respectable execution. Among the designs are “Ulysses and the Sirens,” “ Fortune with her Wheel,” &c. They are most valuable as specimens of house decoration of the period, and King James has doubtless frequently sat under and contemplated them on occasion of his visiting Culross in his expeditions from Dunfermline, and partaking of the hospitality of Sir George Bruce.

The same house contains a muniment or strong room, with a vaulted roof and a massive iron door. There used to be in the room with the painted ceiling a curious folding-down bed, fixed in the wainscot, showing that our ancestors, though they were fond of splendidly carved couches, with grand canopies and heavy curtains, were yet singularly indifferent to comfort in their arrangements for sleeping. Their ideas of bedroom accommodation seem to have been limited to one state chamber, whilst the ordinary members of the family contented themselves with concealed beds, shakedowns, and makeshifts of every kind.

The painted room in the mansion of 1611 is of a less pretentious character than that in the older house, the ornaments consisting mainly of geometrical delineations. Each house is quite distinct from the other, and both are in a woful state of dilapidation, especially the older mansion of 1597. No one has occupied either for many years, and the havoc caused by wind, weather, and general neglect has been very great. It is much to be regretted that something has not been done to rescue those memorials of the great merchant-prince of Culross from rapidly approaching destruction.

It is possible enough that the second house may have been erected by Sir George to accommodate his son, the younger George Bruce of Camock. It is clear that, being both situated within the same court, they could only have been intended as residences for members of the same family, or at least very intimate friends. And there seems to have been only one garden, common to both mansions.

From references in the burgh and kirk-session records there can be little doubt of at least the first Earl of Kincardine, Sir George Bruce’s grandson, having resided in the tenement in the Sand Haven, though in which of the houses is quite uncertain. His brother Alexander, second Earl, may also have resided here for a time, though shortly after 1670, at latest, he had removed to the Abbey, which had passed from the representatives of the first Lord Kinloss to those of his younger brother, Sir George Bruce. The Kincardine family continued to possess the property in the Sand Haven till about 1700, when it was transferred, with the bulk of their estates, by judicial sale to the Black Colonel.

Colonel John Erskine of Camock having found himself prevented from including in his purchase the mansion and grounds of Culross Abbey, which he had to resign to Lady Mary Cochrane, took up his abode in the Sand Haven, and from him the tenement derives its old and most fitting designation of the Colonel’s Close. Tradition has constantly asserted, though I have been unable to find direct confirmation of the fact, that the Black Colonel occupied one of the houses in the court, whilst the other was tenanted by his kinsman the White Colonel. There was thus a double propriety in the bestowal of the appellation. Latterly the Colonel’s Close became the property of the Halkerston family, the members of which, father and son, were successively town-clerks of Culross. It passed by inheritance from Miss Halkerston, last resident of the name in Culross, to her relative, the late Captain James Kerr of East Grange. After his death it was sold by his representatives to Mr Luke, in the possession of whose family it still remains.

When Captain Kerr succeeded to the Colonel’s Close, he found it designated in the title-deeds as the Palace or Great Lodging in the Sand Haven of Culross. Not well versed in ancient legal phraseology, he at once leapt to the conclusion that the tenement of which he was now proprietor had in ancient times been a royal residence. He consequently dubbed it “The Palace,” and its surrounding court “Palace Yard.” The title was captivating; and to the present hour people not merely speak of the building as “The Palace,” but assertions have even found their way into print of its having been an ancient residence of one or more of the Scottish kings.

Now the whole of this nomenclature is an absurd blunder, originating in Captain Kerr’s mistake of identifying with a royal residence the “palatium” or “palace” in the title-deeds of the Colonel’s Close. This is nothing more than the appellation which, in law Latin and phraseology, is used to denote any large or imposing building, more especially any building which is occupied by a nobleman. Culross Abbey is also designed The Palace or Great Lodging, and many similar instances from other places in Scotland might be produced. The term “Colonel’s Close,” as my friend Mr Stephen used to observe, ought still to be retained, both from having been so long employed, and from its preserving the memory of an important local if not historical personage. But when the public has once laid hold of a name, it is almost impossible to get it altered; and I fear, therefore, that the misnomer of “The Palace” will continue to mislead and perplex as long as the building itself exists.

The town-house of Culross deserves some notice, were it for nothing more than the elegant bell-tower which imparts so picturesque an appearance to the lower part of the town, and is in its way as characteristic a feature of Culross as her church and abbey. The building itself dates from the year 1626; but the tower was only erected in 1783, and provided then with a clock and bell. The town-hall, or “tolbooth,” as it used to be called, faces the Sand Haven, and is approached by a double flight of steps leading to the first floor, which contains the council-chamber and a room formerly known as the “Debtors’ Room,” but now used as the house of the town-officer. The ground-storey is what used to be known as the “ Laigh Tolbooth ” or the “ Iron House,” and, as this last grim title imports, was frequently used as a prison. Another place of confinement was in the so-called “High Tolbooth,” or garret of the town-house, a dreary fireless place, contained within the lofty roof of the building, and lighted through the slates. Here the unfortunate women accused of witchcraft used to be confined and “ watched.” In front of the town-hall stands a stone platform, well known in Scottish burghs as the “Tron,” or “Trone,” which, in Edinburgh and Glasgow, gave a designation to the churches immediately adjoining. It was the place where commodities were weighed, and the term belongs properly to the weighing-machine itself, which consisted of a wooden post supporting two cross horizontal bars with beaked extremities. From the latter circumstance, the word is derived—i.e., from the old Norse trana, a beak or crane. It is probably also connected radically with tree and throne.

Previous to the erection of the present town-hall there had been an older building, the site of which, in a Scottish Act of Parliament of 1594, is spoken of as the “ground of the auld tolbuith.” No information can be procured now regarding its situation. It had doubtless been the prcetorium and prison-house in the days of the burgh of barony under the abbots.

Just where a narrow passage, like the neck of a bottle, connects the Back Causeway with the open space about the Cross, stands a tower-like building containing a fine spiral staircase, which gives access to two large apartments in the adjoining tenement, used as workshops by Mr John Harrower, the proprietor. The lower one of these is a fine well-proportioned room, lined with oak-panelling, beautifully carved, of which that on the east wall is still in good preservation, and is, moreover, adorned with some fine inlaid work of a different material. It bears the date 1633, which, however, is probably only that of the panelling itself, as indicating the period when, in churchwarden phrase, the apartment was “beautified” by its owner, some wealthy burgess of the seventeenth century. His initials, J. A., and A. P. (those, doubtless, of his wife), are carved with the date on the wainscot, and they also appear on a beautifully carved door, now detached, though still in Mr Harrower’s possession, which had belonged to the same apartment. The initials may stand for John Adam and Alison Primrose; but I can produce little more than conjecture in support of this statement. There was a family of substantial burgesses in Culross in the seventeenth century of the name of Adam; and one of them, who bore the designation of Bailie William Adam, suffered severely in the days of Charles II. for his Covenanting principles. He may have been the son of John Adam, who again may have married an Alison Primrose, of a family of great repute in ancient Culross, from a member of which, Duncan Primrose by name, as already mentioned, the former lairds of Bumbrae and the present Rosebery family are descended.

The tenement in question looks to the south, facing the Cross, and has other apartments besides those to which access is gained from the turret stair. One of these is on the same floor, was originally fitted up in the same style, and communicated probably with the lower wainscoted room. The wall which forms the north boundary of both is provided with a range of curious arched recesses of hewn stone, which some have imagined served the purpose of containing book-shelves. Following this conjecture, it has been surmised that the two apartments in question formed a library, and had possibly belonged as such to the abbots of the old monastery. Others have connected them with Bishop Leighton, to whose diocese Culross belonged. And the appellation of “the Study,” which the tenement has borne from time immemorial, has been explained as expressing the purpose for which it was originally employed.

As no positive evidence whatever exists on the subject, I venture to put forward my own opinion, that the recesses were nothing more nor less than cupboards or buffets, which served to contain plate and other articles, as a fitting appendage and set-off to the general splendour of the apartments. And as regards “ the Study,” I think the term has been derived not from these rooms, but from a very curious apartment at the top of the turret stair. This forms externally a prominent object, projecting as it does slightly from the lower walls of the tower on which it rests. It is entered from the summit of the spiral staircase, by a tiny corkscrew stair of its own, which is both of the narrowest dimensions and closed at the foot by a door. Ascending it, we find ourselves in a small chamber of about nine feet square and a little over seven feet in height. It contains a fireplace, and has three small windows or apertures, looking respectively east, west, and south, commanding views of the whole town of Culross, and taking in the Forth and its shores as far as Queensferry on one side, and the Carse of Falkirk on the other. There is no opening on the north side, doubtless from the view in that quarter being obstructed by a steep sloping bank. It is exactly such an apartment as formed the habitation of the sage Herr Teufelsdrockh and overlooked the whole city of Weissnichtwo. The little staircase leading to it is so narrow, that in the case of an old woman who lived and died here, it is alleged to have been necessary to carry her down and place her in her coffin on the landing-place at the top of the lower stairs. Certainly no place could embody more completely the idea of a philosopher or wizard’s chamber, cut off as it is so completely from the outer world, and yet affording such scope for the study both of nature and mankind, in the distant view of sea and land, and the near one of the surging tide of humanity which on market-days gathered round the Cross of Culross.

I conclude, therefore, that this little chamber, from having been used at one time as a study or observatory, has given its name to the whole tenement, the walls of which, it may be remarked, are of an extraordinary thickness—the gable end having a breadth of nearly four feet. Adjoining the house, as we ascend the hill, is another tenement, occupied by Mr Harrower himself, which has a remarkable semicircular projection that may at one time have served as part of a staircase. What may also have been the doorway at the foot is now converted into a window, and over it appears the following Greek inscription :—

“God provideth and will provide; ”

one of those pious and pithy sayings which our forefathers were so fond of engraving on their dwellings. The date and author of the inscription are unknown, and the house to which it belongs, though old, has no other characteristic deserving of special notice.

The Cross of Culross is an ancient structure as regards its basement, but the upper part is modem, having been re-erected in 1819. Four streets converge on the little space fronting the Cross. A little down from the latter, in the Middle Causeway, nearly opposite the Dundonald Arms, is a fine old house, which tradition has connected with Robert Leighton, who as Bishop of Dunblane, the diocese to which Culross belonged, is said to have resided here on the occasion of his official visitations. The house is old enough to have existed in the days of “ the saintly Leighton,” and it contains at least one large and handsome apartment, finely panelled. But the tradition has been as little verified as the conjectures regarding the Study.

Facing the town of Culross, and running parallel to the shore at the distance of about a hundred yards, is a ridge of rocks, known as the Ailie rocks, behind which the votaries of Neptune may indulge in.the luxury of a bath without the least risk of being overlooked by profane gazers. At the western extremity of these rocks is what is referred to occasionally in the burgh records as the Oxcraig. This derived its name from the existence there of a species of rude staircase, up which cattle were driven to be shipped on the farther side for Borrowstounness. Near this point is a large blue boulder-stone, which, according to popular tradition, marks the place of sepulture of those who died of the plague in 1645, and were buried here to prevent the dissemination of infection by their being interred in the churchyard. Here also were deposited, it is said, the bodies of any persons who by suicide or other demerits had rendered themselves unworthy of Christian burial. A medical man in Culross who lived at the head of the Tanhouse Brae, and had been discovered hidden in a chimney after having murdered his wife, was apprehended and lodged in prison, where he ended his life by poison. His body was interred also near the Blue Rock. Bones and fragments of coffins have frequently been exhumed and floated ashore from this spot, as I am credibly assured by persons on whose averments I can place unhesitating reliance. The Blue Rock has now been somewhat diminished, from portions of it having been broken down and carried away to make road-metal. At a little distance on the west side of the harbour is the pier of Culross, which originally was disconnected from the shore, and could only be reached at low-water or by wading. A new pier, constructed of stones taken from the Oxcraig, was erected a good many years ago, and connected with the outer pier by a wooden jetty.

About two hundred yards up the Forth, and nearly due west from the extremity of the outer pier, is the celebrated moat of Sir George Bruce, now merely visible at low-water like a heap or riclde of stones. It was here that formerly a massive circular building towered above the surface of the water, as has been already described in the extract from the “Pennilesse Pigrimage” of the Water Poet, which presents a very graphic picture of the appearance of the moat and mine in 1618. Having been blown down in the great storm of the Borrowing Days, at the time of King James’s death, the works were completely destroyed, and never again resumed. At present the three concentric walls of hewn stone of which the building consisted are still distinctly visible, though almost level with the ground. The tops of piles are also to be seen, and the spaces between the three walls are firmly packed with blue clay. The distance between the two outer walls is 3 feet, and between the second and third walls fully 15. The diameter of the inner wall, which enclosed the shaft of the pit, is 18 feet, while that of the outer wall from edge to edge is about 60. The landing-place is supposed to have been on the eastern side,

and there are also remains on the south-west side of what seems to have been a breakwater. The moat communicated by workings under the sea with a pit on the shore, which is supposed to have been sunk in the hollow below the house of Castlehill or Dunimarle. The projection on the sea-shore, formerly an old “bucket-pat,” has also some claims to be regarded as the site of the pit which the king descended on his memorable visit, to emerge subsequently by the moat. Remains of masonry which belonged to this pit, and the draining apparatus connected with it described by Taylor, are said to have been in existence in this neighbourhood up to the beginning of the present century. At the present time nothing regarding its site can be affirmed with certainty.

A very interesting monument of old Culross—and possibly, after the camps or earthworks, shortly to be mentioned, the very oldest in the parish—is the Standard Stone, on the outlying unenclosed portion of Culross Moor, a little to the north of the farm of Bordie. It consists of a block of freestone, flush with the ground, and containing two rectangular holes, in which tradition asserts that the Scottish Standard was fixed on the occasion of the conflict in the middle of the eleventh century between King Duncan’s army and the invading host of Danes. The larger hole is about 20 inches long by 12 broad, with a depth of 10 inches; whilst the smaller is 12 inches long by 11 broad, with a depth of 8 inches. Immediately to the south of this, on the farm of Bordie, is the field know as “Gib’s croft,” in which it is said that Gib, the son of Sweyn, King of Norway, was killed. The name seems a strange one for a Scandinavian prince; and it is questionable whether any higher degree of credit can attach to this tradition regarding the battle of Culross than to the story of the prowess, at the battle of Luncarty, of the stalwart ploughman and his sons who turned the tide of battle in favour of the Scots, and became the ancestors of the Errol family.

A little to the west, and north of the Standard Stone, in the open and unplanted part of the moor, is a curious memorial of the persecuting times, called the Pulpit. This is a stone or rock projecting from the side of a hollow in the moor, facing the north, and affording a convenient position for an orator or preacher addressing an audience standing or reclining on the ground below. The stone is partly hollowed out beneath, so as to present a sort of canopy towards the north—a circumstance that would not be worthy of mention, except that it serves to identify the rock and its surroundings. Conventicles are said to have been held here—a tradition which bears great marks of probability from the nature of the spot, which is both screened from observation and capable of accommodating a considerable assemblage. Culross Moor commands an extensive prospect on all sides, and scouts would be posted at various points of vantage to give notice of the approach of dragoons. We know, certainly, that conventicles were held in the neighbourhood of Culross in the reign of Charles and James II., and no fitter place could be found for them than hollow places in the moor. The Rev. John Blackadder, the deprived minister of Troqueer, and one of the Blackadders of Tulliallan, held meetings, if not here, at least in the immediate neighbourhood. Another place on the moor that has been connected with conventicles is what is called the Prayer Brae, on the north-east skirts of the moor, about two miles from the Pulpit. But though such may really have been the case, no special locality can be pointed out; and I am strongly inclined to think that the name itself, which has principally given currency to the assertion, is a corruption. It is spelt “Prebry” in the burgh records, and seems to be derived from the Gaelic preas-braigh—i.e., the “thicket height,” or the “ brae covered with wood.” I shall have occasion afterwards to refer to the matter in the chapter on etymology.

The “Bore” or “boundary” stone of Culross Moor, already mentioned, will shortly again be referred to in connection with Tulliallan.

About half a mile to the east of the Standard Stone, on the estate of Blair Castle, there existed, previously to 1847, the remains of an ancient British' intrenchment, said to have been occupied by King Duncan previous to the battle of Culross, and known by the name of Duncan’s Camp. It was completely obliterated in that year by Mr Alison, then proprietor of the Blair Estate. Mr Stephen thus describes its appearance:—

“The site lay about a furlong or more to the north-west of Blair Castle. There was little even at this time to mark oat the ground or site. Indeed I believe the remains then shown were those not of the camp, but of the Prsetorium or general’s quarters. There was no ditch or trench such as we find on the Castlehill and at the Moor Dam; there was simply a hollow of some ten or twelve yards in diameter— the entrance having to appearance been from the north, the ground sloping gently south. On the south side there was a wall or rampart of earth about five feet high. The whole ground was overgrown with brushwood and briers.”

Another camp, situated about the same distance from the Standard Stone in a westerly direction, has been less ruthlessly treated, and is still tolerably well preserved. It closely adjoins the east side of the piece of water known as the Moor Dam or Tulliallan Water, and is said to have been the encamping place of the Danish, as Duncan’s Camp was of the Scottish host, previous to the battle of Culross. It bears popularly the name of the “French Knowe,” and has a diameter of about 60, and a circumference of about 180 yards. The ground has been partially planted with trees, and a portion of the camp has been encroached on by the water, but the oval trench and rampart can still be distinctly discerned.

A third camp in the parish of Culross is about the most perfect of all—though, being now covered with trees, and concealed within the recesses of a dense wood, its existence is almost unknown. It stands on the rising ground called Castlehill, on the estate of West Grange, about a quarter of a mile to the south-west of Bogside Station. Its dimensions are nearly the same as those of the camp on Tulliallan Water, and its contour is more perfectly preserved. A tradition quoted in the Old Statistical Account of Culross asserts it to have been the station to which the Danes retreated after the battle of Inverkeithing. This may bear some remote reference to the last defeat of the Danes, when they were glad to secure a retreat for themselves in their ships, and permission to bury their dead in the island of Inchcolme.

Sir Ralph Abercromby, it is said, when residing at Brucefield on his paternal estate in the neighbourhood, took great interest in the camp of Castlehill, and used .frequently of an afternoon, when he had military friends staying with him, to conduct them thither, to view this specimen of ancient castrame-tation. It was then free from trees, and commanded a very extensive view. Like all British or Danish encampments, it is oval in shape, and belongs in no way to Roman engineers, whose works are characterised by a square outline.

The parish of Tulliallan contains little that is interesting in an antiquarian point of view, except the two old churches and the old castle. Of the former, the oldest building has now almost entirely disappeared, and its site is occupied by the mausoleum of Lord Keith and his family. This building, with the ancient little churchyard in which it stands, is situated in a remote comer of Tulliallan Park, about three-quarters of a mile to the north of the present castle. The original church, which had existed from Roman Catholic times, and probably from a period considerably anterior to the Reformation, was, 98 already mentioned, of extremely small dimensions. The parish of Tulliallan comprehended then merely the barony of that name; but the annexation to it in the middle of the seventeenth century of a large cantle of territory with a teeming population, taken from the adjoining parish of Culross, rendered it necessary to make more extended provision for the exigencies of public worship. A handsome new church in the Romanesque style of architecture was accordingly erected in 1675, about a mile to the south of the old church, on a rising ground overlooking the Forth and town of Kincardine. It was in its turn abandoned about half a century ago, as being too small to accommodate the worshippers in it; and an elegant new church, with a handsome tower, was erected at a little distance below. The church of 1675 was unroofed and dismantled,' but the walls and belfry remain entire, and it retains the appearance of a picturesque ruin. The surrounding churchyard is still the bury-ing-place of the parish, though of late years a new cemetery, erected by Lady Keith a little to the east of the town on the Torrybum road, has been gradually coming into favour with the public.

The old castle of Tulliallan is a picturesque ruin, situated in a park planted with fine old trees, about a mile to the north of the town of Kincardine. It commands a splendid view of the Carse of Stirling and rich grounds of Dunmore, with the Campsie Hills, crested by the Earl’s seat, in the far distance; whilst to the right of the spectator appears the sinuous crest of the Ochils, in the valley between which and the Campsies flows the silver Forth, with its many reaches and finely cultivated banks. At one period the Forth must almost have washed the walls of the building before the alluvial tract of carse land which now separates it from the river was reclaimed. In a notice of the parish drawn up by Mr Bait in 1722, and inserted in Macfarlane’s Geographical Collections, preserved in MS. in the Advocates’ Library, it is stated that the Castle of Tulliallan, formerly the seat of the Blackadders, stands close to the sea, and at that period was altogether in ruins.

The castle must have been a princely place in its day, befitting the residence of one whose brother was a munificent Churchman and first Archbishop of Glasgow. It stands on a square platform, supported by a wall, and surrounded by a moat which is still perfectly conspicuous. Some very ancient elder-trees overhang the moat on the west side. The castle consists of a main building three storeys in height, with a tower or keep at the north-east corner of five storeys. The lower or ground storey seem to have been chiefly used for kitchen, and servants’ accommodation, though the roofs of the apartments exhibit a series of beautifully groined vaulting, resting partly on the walls, partly on stone pillars, of which one very fine octagon column stands in the centre of, and supports the roof of, the kitchen. Access to the upper apartments was gained by two turret staircases at the south-west comer and west side of the building; whilst a third staircase of a similar description, though not springing from the ground, led on the east side from the first floor to the upper chambers of the keep.

With the exception of the staircase in the centre of the west side—from which, with considerable difficulty, and even some peril, the first floor may be reached—the stone steps in the three turrets have almost completely disappeared; and of the floors, only that of one of the upper apartments remains entire. It is formed by the vaulted roof of the kitchen; whilst the same vaulting beneath a second chamber on the first floor has to a great extent fallen in, leaving only a narrow border along the walls, to be traversed with some little trouble and risk. These two chambers had evidently been the state apartments of the castle; and being large and well proportioned, and lighted with one or two spacious windows, besides smaller openings, all commanding beautiful and extensive prospects, they impress one with no unfavourable idea of the domestic accommodation of an old Scottish baron. In the western apartment are the remains of a finely hewn stone fireplace; and in the eastern, which is over the kitchen, the remains of a chimney and fireplace can also be traced. An upper row of chambers, serving as bedrooms, formed a second floor above these state halls; and still higher above all were the bartizans and battlements of the castle.

The family of Blacater or Blackadder, to which the castle and barony of Tulliallan formerly belonged, was a very rich and powerful one, and an offshoot from the famous clan of that name in Berwickshire. From a passage in Pitcairn’s ‘Criminal Trials’ (year 1504), it would appear that the estate had come into their hands through the marriage of a Blackadder with Elizabeth Edmonstoune, the heiress of Tulliallan. Her son and successor, Sir Patrick Blackadder, appears as one of the witnesses to the deed of endowment of his brother Robert, the celebrated Archbishop of Glasgow, in favour of St Mungo’s Chapel, founded by him at Culross. A successor of Sir Patrick in the Tulliallan estate—but whether son or other relation, does not appear—was John Blackadder, who, along with William Lothian, a priest, was beheaded in 1530 for the murder of James Inglis, abbot of Culross. The family would seem to have decayed after this, and in the early part of the seventeenth century the property went to swell the acquisitions of the celebrated Sir George Bruce of Camock. The following passage from Pitcairn’s ‘ Criminal Trials,’ under date 10th November 1619, chronicles an outrage that seems to have been perpetrated by servants or dependants of Sir George,—it is to be hoped without sanction or connivance on his part, though he undertakes the function of cautioner for the delinquents:—

“Taking the King's free liege—Famishing one of the lieges to death in private carcere.—Patrick Cowie in Kincardin; Johnne Dow, his servand; Johne Andersone, cordiner thair; Thomas Cowie, querriour thair; and David Miller, salter in Eister Kincardin,—

“Delated of the taking and keeping of umqle Thomas Davidsoun, hynd and servand to Alexander Leask in Porter, be the space of fyftene dayis in private carcere within the said Patrick Coweis hous; and thairfra caiyeing him to the pitt1 of Tullieallane, quhair, throu want of intertenement, he famisched and deit of hunger and remanent crymes contenit in the Letteris.

"The justice continewis this matter to the third day of the next justice-air of the scheriffdome quhair the de-fenderis dwellis (Clackmannane), or sooner, vpon xv. dayis warning. And ordanis thame to find new caution, &c.; quha fand Sir George Bruce of Camock, knyt, personallie present, for thair re-entrie.”

Nothing further is recorded of this horrible case, and it is probable that further procedure in it was quashed. A period of nearly one hundred and thirty years was still to elapse before the abolition of heritable jurisdictions with their inevitable concomitant abuses.

About half a mile to the south of the castle is an eminence bearing the name of the Chapel Hill, but on which no remains of any kind are now visible. It was doubtless in Roman Catholic times crowned by a small chapel, to serve as a landmark to, and promote the pious aspirations of, mariners passing up and down the river.

The new castle of Tulliallan, built by Lord Keith, father of the present proprietrix, Lady W. 6. Osborne Elphinstone, is situated on the rising ground immediately behind the town of Kincardine, and nearly a mile east by south of the old castle of the Blackadders. It is a large and elegant mansion, built on a combination of the Gothic and Italian styles, and opening on beautiful gardens laid out in the old French manner, like those of Versailles or Fontainebleau. It contains a splendid suite of staterooms, the walls of which are adorned by many fine family portraits. In the summer and autumn they are thronged by a succession of distinguished guests, the princely hospitalities of Tulliallan having long been renowned. The adjoining grounds, extending to a great distance east of the castle, are laid out in beautiful walks formed out of the old moor of Culross, the termination of which and of the ancient burgh territory is marked by the celebrated “ Bore ” or boundary stone—a shapeless lump of sandstone, which hes about a quarter of a mile from the house, near the kennels, on the left side of the rivulet which comes down from Tulliallan Water. In the days when the Culross marches formed an annual pageant, it used to be a favourite jest with the people of Kincardine to cover the Bore-stone with leeks, in anticipation of the arrival of the Culross magnates, and as a mild pleasantry in reference to the commodity in the growth of which their town enjoyed a preeminence.


The Tomb of Sir George Bruce in Vault adjoining Abbey Church of Culross.


The Market-place and Cross of Kincardine-on-Forth.

In concluding this notice of the monuments of Culross and Tulliallan, the Cross of Kincardine, standing in the open space in the centre of the town behind the Commercial Inn, should not be forgotten. It consists of an elegant Corinthian pillar, nearly 19 feet in height by 4 in circumference, raised on a' flight of steps, and seems to have been erected in the seventeenth century by one of the Earls of Kincardine, as it has the arms of the family carved on the capital. It is said that both this Cross of Kincardine and the Cross of Perth were cut from blocks taken from the quarry of Longannet.

In the Debtors’ Room is the inscription in gold lettere, by a grateful municipality, to Sir George Preston of Valleyfield, for his benefaction of 2000 marks to the town of Culross. This circumstance goes to show that there must have been some subsequent rearrangement of the interior of the tolbooth, as it is extremely unlikely that such a memorial would have been attached to the wall of a prison chamber.


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