Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

History of Moffat
Chapter IX

Picture of Moffat in 1704-Its Gradual Development, as shown in 1746—Visitors—Discovery in 1748 of Bartfell Spa—Notice of the discoverer, John Williamson—Various analyses of the Water, with remarks thereon—Houses in the Town owned by the Marquis of Annandale—Building of Moffat House—Picture of Moffat In 1770.—State of the town in 1791, with reference to the Poor.—Moffat as a Market Town—Increase of the Revenue of the Burgh by the Markets—Its Trade—Changes effected by it.

FROM external signs we are apt to suppose that the prosperity of Moffat has ever been fluctuating. At the particular time of which we speak, one year it stands smiling in its peaceful beauty,—every external image indicating its completeness and lack of nothing; while in another, the aeronaut traversing its perfect streets and sunny by-paths may detect the want of that hopeful smile of future glory formerly depicted on its exterior, and in its place behold something which has a decided tendency to impress us with the idea of doubt as to its future power and fame. This is not owing to a diminution of visitors, "invalids with lameness broke," as far as can be seen. In fact, no reason can be assigned for this combination of seeming poverty and prosperity, save that the gossipping chroniclers to whom we depend for information regarding the aspect of Moffat at such dates, being of supposed English extraction, had their ..eyes jaundiced with prejudice to the self-evident beauties of a Scottish town. Judging from a sketch of Moffat in 1704, now before us, as represented by one of those in-embryo historians, we fancy the reader will detect the want of sincerity and truth in the statements of a writer talking of Moffat in 1679, previously quoted, if we are to give credence to the following:—"On the 17th of April, 1704, I got to Moffat. This is a small straggling town among high hills, and is the town of their wells. In sumer time people comme here to drink waters, but what sort of people they are, or where they get lodgings, I can't tell, for I did not like their lodgings well enough to go to bed, but got such as I could to refresh me, and so came away." The Reverend Dr. Alex. Carlyle gives us something illustrative of the gradual development of the town. Writing in 1745, and while speaking of dno Dr. Sinclair, he says—"He (Sinclair) and Dr. John Clerk, the great practising physician, had found Moffat waters agree with themselves, and frequented it every season in their turns for a month or six weeks, and by that means drew many of their patients there, which made it be more frequented than it has been of late years, when there is much better accommodation." Within the period of forty-one years Moffat's comforts had been considerably augmented, and its popularity and prosperity had increased. We have already alluded to the improbability of its having been in early times a place of fashionable retreat, and we fancy the preceding remarks of Dr. Carlyle fully exemplify this. It is absolutely impossible for Moffat to have been resorted to in 1679 by fashionable circles unless desirous of obtaining health and lost vigour through the medium of the mineral wells. In fact, as far as public patronage went at this date, it might almost be spoken of as a terra incognita. Even at the more modern period (1745) we find the well the cause in chief, the principal attraction, the "mere matter of health" (as a writer to whom we have casually referred in a former part of this work has been pleased to denominate it), and faith in the curative power of the water drawing people to its friendly shelters, who had felt the evils arising from being "long in populous city pent," or who from other causes needed the combined beneficial influences of the mineral water and the invigorating air to render their state more agreeable.

In 1748 the prosperity of Moffat was somewhat augmented by the discovery of another mineral spring —Hartfell Spa. Its discoverer, John Williamson, was apparently one of the "worthies" of the place. Members of this sect, humorously denominated "worthies," are seen everywhere, and nowhere so abundantly as in provincial towns, and Moffat to all appearance has been inundated by those whose education in deportment and polite manners has not altogether been neglected, and who scorn at manifesting frankness and candour by openly soliciting alms, but who, from their civilities, eccentricities, and little kindnesses done by them, merit the enviable appellation of "harmless creatures," and assuming the position of pensioners, become the objects of the visitors' charity. The successors of John are, however, not of the same species. They are of a less worthy type. His peculiarities lay in an entirely different direction. At one time his principal amusement consisted in scouring his native hills in pursuit of game, but his feelings were evidently of an exceedingly sensitive cast, and consequently he abandoned the sport for a trick of a more sombre aspect—he determined to encourage no longer the sale of flesh meat by personal consumption, and to make his con-elusion worthy of his former and almost unprecedented conduct, he ultimately gave himself up to the absurd belief in the transmigration of souls. John (lid not long survive the declaration of his discovery, but his name has been perpetuated in a monument erected over his grave in Moffat Churchyard by Sir George Maxwell, the inscription thereon fully explaining his accomplishments—

"In Memory of Jno. Williamson, who died 1769.
Protector of the Animal Creation,
The Discoverer of Hartfell Spa, 1748:
His life was spent in relieving the distressed.
Erected by his friends, 1775."

This is certainly a good character, but we scarcely fancy the discovery of the Hartfell Mineral Spring, if properly viewed, will add much importance to his name. Altogether it may be said that the respect given him after death exceeded the value of the discovery he made. And this becomes more decidedly apparent when we consider that Miss Whitefurde, to whom the prosperity of Moffat is much owing, has been absolutely neglected. In every respect the value of the mineral water which proceeds from the Hartfell spring is over-estimated, but by parties alone who know nothing concerning it, either with regard to its medicinal properties or the particular cases in which it should be applied. Some have had the arrogance, in the face of medical reports, to state, that this water is better than the other, inasmuch as it preserves its medicinal virtues for a great period. And what makes things still worse is the fact that, analysts of former times, such as Garnett, have failed in reality to understand the nature of the waters, for they, too, in a slightly modified manner, corroborated this statement, shown in 1854 by Dr. Macadam to be absurd. Garnett says, "The water of this spring may be kept long without injury to its medicinal powers." This idea having been promulgated by Dr. Garnett, people were struck by it, and accordingly sent it as far as the West Indies, in the vain hope that it would retain its curative powers. Dr. Macadam has, as will presently be shown, proven this statement to be unfounded. The following is Garnott's analysis:-

"The water of this spring may be kept long without injury to its medicinal powers. It is a powerful tonic of proved utility in obstinate coughs, stomach complaints affecting the head, gouty ones disordering the internal system, disorders to which the fair sex are liable, internal ulcers, &c" It has been hinted that Dr. Garnett was in a measure indebted to Dr. Johnstone, the then resident physician in Moffat, for his opinions on the uses and powers of the Hartfell water, as the reader will doubtless perceive, by our quoting the statement of the latter. Johnstone says, "I have known many instances of its particular good effects in coughs proceeding from phlegm, spitting of blood, and sweatings, in stomach complaints attended with headache; giddiness, heartburn, vomiting, indigestion, flatulency, &c.; in gouty complaints affecting the stomach and bowels, and in diseases peculiar to the fair sex. It has likewise been used with great advantages in tetterous complaints and old obstinate ulcers." This, we presume, is too palpable to bear further comment. To allow the reader again to see the difference between the analysis of Drs. Garnett and Thomson, we subjoin that of the latters:-

The following is Dr. Macadam's analysis:—

He accounts for the dissimilarity in results by saying that "it is most likely referable to differences in our processes than to great alterations in the mineral water." And now to analyse the capabilities of this water for transmission abroad. Talking of this, Macadam says—"On testing the contents of two bottles out of many of the Spa water, which had been carefully corked and scaled at different periods, varying from three weeks to a month before examination, not a trace of protosulphate of iron was found present in either. This was decided on by there being no blue solution formed on adding a solution of red prussiate of potash to the mineral water. This is a ready method for anyone satisfying himself of the value of the water. The bottles of water examined, and in which no iron in the state of protosulphate exists, were handed to Mr. Keddie, and the author (Dr. Macadam) by Mr. Hetherington, Apothecary in Moffat, and taken by him from his general stock of the water as kept on sale, and their contents were tested in his presence. The water was acid to the taste from sulphuric acid, and somewhat astringent from Ihe sulphate of Alumina which is retained in solution, but its chalybeate character was gone.....
The permanency of the chalybeate character of the "Hartfell" has therefore been greatly over-rated, and we date the period of its deterioration from the moment of its being collected at the spring."

Though the water of this spring is of little value, still it tended to increase the reputation of Moffat as a watering place. The crushing reports of recent analysts regarding its over-estimated efficacy, and the fact of its extreme distance from the town, caused it to be seldom resorted to. This neglect, however, only commenced some years since, for when Garnett and others proclaimed it to be the panacea for all human ills, it was taken by many, but it failed to effect such "marvellous" cures as its elder sister the sulphurous spring. The almost unsurpassed beauty of the district in which the well is situated attracts numerous visitors, and being in such close proximity to the well, curiosity leads them personally to investigate the strength of the water. The stretch of country seen from the heights of the Haxtfell range of mountains is a great inducement to the tourist, who, while gazing on the varied scene lying below and around him, the dark and grim gullies, the foaming cataracts, and the murky and rocky shades of Haxtfell, will instinctively give utterance to the lines of Words-worth—

"Lot the fields, the dwindled meadows;
What a vast abyss is there!
Lo, the clouds, the solemn shadows,
And the gli8tenings, heav'nly fair!
And the record of commotion
Which a hundred ridges yield—
Rocks, and gulfs, and distant ocean
Gleaming like a silver shield!"

Let us now look at the position and progress of the town, more especially in the matter of building. However much a visit from the inexorable rentcollector may be dreaded by parties frequently faulty in payment, the visit of the Laird is viewed with almost universal satisfaction, his tenants never considering that he is the cause of the actions of the factor, by them denominated "harsh." This excitement prevails more in provincial towns; and when the presence of the Laird is made known, many eagerly rush to gain an envied acknowledgment from him. Thus, it is not to be wondered at that, when in 1751 John, Earl of Hopetoun, then the possessor of the Annandale Estates, built for himself a mansion within the town for his occasional residence, the inhabitants were on the qui i,ire, as they naturally supposed that greater interest would be taken in them, from the fact of his occasiopally living in their midst. Moffat House—an old-fashioned building, three storeys in height, and built of the stone peculiar to the district—is the property of Mr Hope Johnstone, having descended to him from his mother, Lady Anne, to whom it was bequeathed by the Earl of Hopetoun, her father, who died without male heirs. Anxious to add importance to the town, some respected natives have claimed the existence of a Castle, or peel-house, on the site of Moffat House. These parties have evidently recognised the danger of meddling with old manuscripts, and considered investigation unnecessary. They have been arrogant enough to affirm that. Moffat was at one time 'protected by some rude fortress, but have failed to prove its existence to the satisfaction of the public generally, and we can scarcely fancy to the satisfaction of themselves. Till the building of Moffat House, the ground it occupies was bare, and a view could be obtained from that point, without the obstruction of any building whatever, to the river Annan.

About the year 1768, a number of the dwelling houses in the town, estimated at above a hundred, belonged in property to George, last Marquis of Annandale, and were rented by the inhabitants from him. Those houses for the most part were taken down, while the position they occupied was indicated by its being fenced in, and subsequently built upon, allowing it almost to bear the exact general aspect the town has at present, as far as the principal street (High Street) is concerned. Had a sketch been taken of Moffat exactly a hundred years ago (1771), it would have presented the same features, as regards the main street, as it has at present, with the exception of a bowling green, situated in the centre of the street, which is now non-eat, having been removed in the year 1827, to make room for the erection of the present set of Baths, opposite which it stood. In 1791, although slight building operations were commenced, all the houses were inhabited, and it was with difficulty that the necessities of its population regarding accommodation were met, far loss the demands of strangers who signified a desire to dwell within its peaceful bowers for a specified period. At this date, however, there were few who could with impunity be termed "poverty stricken," all appeared to have enough, and to spare, and consequently there were only ten persons who were actually "living on the parish," or in other words receiving alms from the parish funds.

Irrespective of its pastoral beauties, Moffat was well adapted for a market town from its convenient situation, and the amble land of vast dimensions which surrounds it. Hence, shortly after the Charter of 1662 conferred on it the privilege of regality and right of markets to be held within its bounds, we find markets springing into considerable size and repute, and the amount realized from such of no insignificant value. The Charter, in all its aspects, was well planned, inasmuch as every privilege conferred upon the town ultimately became of triple value, not only in the matter of external importance and authority, but likewise in the matter of pecuniary aid. Moffat is emphatically termed the market town of Upper Annandale, the district containing the parishes of Moffat, Wamphray, Kirkpatrick-Juxta, and Johnstone, indicating a population of upwards of 5000. The numbers attracted to the town on agricultural business, of necessity caused hotel accommodation to be provided, thus supplying proper comforts for visitors. This was a long existing and palpable defect, as, prior to the date we allude to, it had only the small and incommodious Black Bull Inn, rendered famous by Burns inscribing on the window pane of the same the well-known epigram on Miss Davies—

"Ask why God made the gem so email,
An' why so huge the granite?
Because God meant mankind should set
The greater value on it."

The reports of customs received from the markets vary, but always to the side which is indicative of increasing prosperity. In 1747 the amount raised by the Marquis of Annandale was 3 3s 6d. Although this, by denizens of a more important burgh, may be deemed insignificant; still it must be remembered that this ever accumulating fund was bound to prove of service to the administrator of justice within its bounds, or in more modern times the representatives of the inhabitants in raising some existing pecuniary drag upon its welfare.

Trade used its elevating power with regard to Moffat, in this the period of its first speculation and commercial achievement. It was what a Scotchman might term comparatively "brisk," fifty weavers ever spinning and exporting their manufactures as a fair example of Moffatian industry; while the other branches of trade were nobly represented. The prosperity of Moffat was at this time chiefly owing to the exertions of strangers, in the common acceptation of the word. Those strangers with labour and capital introduced right systems upon which to work, and then

"Succeeded next
The birthday of invention; weak at first,
Dull in design, and clumsy to perform."

which was destined to put the cope-stone of success on the fabric which they had raised. Though strangers more particularly merit the praise, still the Moffatianz deserve great credit for their share in the concern. But we shall take more special notice of this in the chapter bearing on the opening of the Caledonian Railway. [Moffat, at the period of which we have been writing, consisted of about ten streets, with many lanes running at stated intervals from them. It must be, however, remembered that those streets were not of the size we generally see, else Moffat would truly have been insignificant. The High Street (then existing as shown), a cheerful and healthy one, measures three hundred yards in length, and forty or fifty in breadth, while the number of lanes and byways have considerably increased. The change since then, as will be shown, has indeed been marvellous. The suburbs of the town constitute almost the largest part of Moffat, being perhaps twice or three times as large as Moffat proper. Formerly the houses outside of the town were exceedingly few, and at such distances from it, that one could scarcely claim for them any consistent connection with Moffat, a distinction probably not envied by their respective proprietors, as no doubt they fancied seclusion, and were anxious to keep aloof even from the infantile bustle of the pretty watering place.]

When we commenced the present work we viewed, as a subject which would give us infinite satisfaction, that which constitutes the remainder of the present chapter—the ecclesiastical establishment of the town. But it was a subject which was destined to give slight remuneration for untiring exertions to gain definite ideas of Moffat's position thus viewed. Though unwilling to anathematize the worthy enstodiers of those documents which we were anxious to secure and eagerly scrutinize, still we can scarcely refrain from raising our feeble voice against the apparent injustice of consigning documents, important to particular individuals such as ourselves, to rot and ruin, without their services being obtained to unravel the complicated mass of mysteries which are the frequent possessions of the historian. The greatest portion of those documents, which would have materially assisted us in the consideration of such a subject as this, is buried (for such we may truly denominate it) in the hidden recesses of venerable and scholastic institutions, to which access is not readily gained in the prosecution of antiquarian research and inquiry. While —infandum renovare dolorem --- some years since many valuable documents, bearing specially on this subject, were in a somewhat serious conflagration totally destroyed. These annoyances did not, however, prevent us from gaining information sufficient to give us an idea of the condition of the town, viewed ecclesiastically, though the succeeding pages referring to its religious denominations may more properly be viewed as a summary of events, rather than a continuous narrative from the time we last incidentally referred to its church history, which was during the reign of Charles II, when, with other privileges, he conferred upon the Earl of Annandale the right of patronage of the church situated within the town, and the "chaplanries" connected with it, as formerly shown. We now purpose tracing the descent of this right down to the' present time. The case of George, the last Marquis of Annandale, as hinted in a preceding chapter, had become worthy of the gravest apprehensions. "Can'st thou not minister to a mind diseased V' was a question which doubtless fell from the lips of disconsolate Mends, with eagerness as intense as the ideal of Shakespere is supposed to manifest, but was one, alas! which ever received a negative reply. Their grave suspicions were at last sadly realized, and in 1792 George breathed his last. Upon his death the advowson of the Parish Church became the property of the Earl of Hopetoun; and by his death in 1816 the right of presentation was invested in the hands of J. J. Hope Johnstone, Esq. Era George, the Marquis, "shuffled off this mortal coil," and left his titles to be matter of dispute for his successors in property, his eyes might have fallen on a fabric erected for the worship of God, a substantial ornament to the town, without the high pretensions to architectural beauty which its predecessor possessed, and given as a heritage to the inhabitants of the surrounding district. In 1790 the present Parish Church of Moffat was built, with accommodation for 1000 people. It was not, as might be supposed, erected on the site of the former church; but through the liberality of James, Earl of Hopetoun, it was put down on a piece of his own property 'midst old trees, which materially intensify the solemnity of the scene. One would be apt to regret this were it not for the fact that a remnant of the sacred edifice, which reared aloft its head in ages passed away, is still visible, an ample illustration of the words of "Delta "-

"How like an image of repose it looks,
That ancient, holy, and sequestered pile;
Silence abides in each tree-shaded aisle.

* * * * *

On moss green'd pediments and tombstones gray,
And spectral silence pointeth to decay."

The living of the Parish may be thus stated-19 lialders equal parts of meal and barley, and which includes 8 6s. 8d., to meet the expenses necessitated during the communion season, and 89 59. in money. The Glebe comprises fifteen imperial acres, at present let at 40 per annum, and this, in terms of the lease, will continue for eleven years, but there is reserved for other purposes one acre which surrounds the Manse. When, in 1843, Dr. Archibald Stewart was appointed assistant and successor to the then minister of the parish—Mr. Johnstone—the church was in a comparatively good condition. On the translation of Dr. Stewart to a parish in Galloway, the now respected minister of St. Andrew's, Edinburgh, succeeded him, and by his zeal and Christian efforts kept the church in a flourishing state. The present minister, the Rev. John Gibson M'Vicar, D.D., LLD., known not only in the ecclesiastical world as an earnest and able expounder of the truth, but also in the field of literature as a philosophical writer, which entitled him to the honours which have been profusely showered upon him, succeeded to the benefice in 1853, rendered vacant by the appointment of Mr. Stewart to St. Andrew's, Edinburgh. * The efforts of Dr. M'Vicar have been signally rewarded, and the crowded state of the church during the summer months testifies to the high estimation in which he is hold alike by his own parishioners and by those who, to gain ease and relaxation, make the town their Bummer quarters. Byron has said of Time that it "But drags or drives us on to die I" and although it is asserting its influence on the physical condition of the worthy doctor, his present state does not render him incapable of attending to his parochial duties and the fulfilment of the more essential acts of a Christian minister. Our wish and prayer is, that he may be long spared to occupy the position which hitherto he has filled with efficiency.

The United Presbyterian congregation was called into existence somewhere about the end of last century, though the present church, remarkable for its tasteful and elegant architecture and the prominent position which it occupies, was not erected till 1862, causing an expenditure of about 4000. The following are the names of the respective clergymen who have possessed the living:-

WM. HUTTON, present minister.

In all the departments of Christian enterprise, the congregation is nobly represented, and through the efforts of the present pastor the church has not only retained the flushes of prosperity on its countenance, brought into life through the instrumentality of his predecessors, but it has visibly increased year by year; and he deserves much merit for his indefatigable exertions to put the church even in a more prosperous condition, and for his unremitting attention to the interests of his flock.

The Free Church of Moffat was erected immediately after the Secession of 1843, on a site gifted by Peter Tod, Esq. of Riddings. The cost of the church, including all expenditure for necessary alterations on the fabric, has been estimated at between eight and nine hundred pounds. The Rev. Robert Kinnear, previously minister of Tothorwald, was inducted first minister to the charge in August, 1843; and still holds the benefice in conjunction with the Rev. Kenneth Moody Stewart, A. M., ordained colleague and successor in December, 1868. "In addition to the equal dividend from the Sustentation Fund, there has always been what is called a 'Supplement.' " Like the United Presbyterian Church, however, the stipend has varied from year to year. The number of communicants is between 360 and 380, and besides this there is a large number of adherents, but there being no seat rents there is no known seat holders. From March, 1870, to March, 1871, the total sum raised for various purposes was the handsome one of 501 19s. 4d. In 185, a Manse was erected at a cost of 600. At no period of her history was the church in a more flourishing condition. It has two zealous Christian ministers to superintend the administration of affairs; it has its complement of elders to assist them; it has a large number of church members to stand by and encourage them in their labours of love and works of faith; and a large, stedfast, and united congregation, who for any good object readily give their pecuniary aid. In concluding this chapter, we wish for the various religious denominations, a continuance of that prosperity which they have hitherto merited and received.

Return to Book Index page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus