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



I.—Topography and Natural History.

Name.—Udny derives its name from a family, which, for many centuries, has possessed the barony of Udny, on which the kirk stands. The etymology of Udny is not known. It was erected into a parish by act of Parliament, passed 19th December 1597, entitled "Ratification—Ane Act anent Christ's Kirk of Udny" being separated from the parishes of Ellon, Tarves, Logie Buchan, and Foveran. The lands taken from Ellon and Logie Buchan still pay small sums out of the teinds of these lands to the ministers of Ellon and Logie Buchan.

Extent and Boundaries, &c.—The parish is almost circular, except on the north-east, where it juts out to a considerable extent. It is supposed to contain about 16 square miles. It is situated in the district of Aberdeenshire called Formartin, and is bounded on the north and north-west, by Tarves; on the west, by Bourtie; on the south-west, by Keithhall; on the south, by New Machar and Fintray; on the south-east, by Belhelvie; on the east, by Foveran; and on the north-east, by Logie Buchan and Ellon.

Three small streams run from west to east till they terminate in the river Ythan, about six miles distant. Two of these streams bound the parish,—the one on the south, the other on the north.

Abundance of granite, and a vein of limestone, runs from southwest to north-east in a zig-zag direction. In many places the vein is covered with a stratum of grayish slate, and the lime-rock is all more or less mixed with the slate, which injures the quality of the lime.

Lime-works have frequently been started; but are never worked to any extent, as the water breaking in upon the quarry, and the inferior quality of the lime, render them a losing concern.

The soil is for the most part loam, on a bottom of granite, and sometimes on clay. The granite bottom is under the best soil.

II.—Civil History.

Proprietors.—These are, Earl of Aberdeen, Sir William C. Seton of Pitmedden, and Colonel Udny of Udny. The rest of the parish is divided among eight heritors and three bodies corporate.

Registers.—A baptism and money register were begun about the year 1720, but have been very irregularly kept, especially the former.

Mansion-Houses.—In 1819, a neat mansion-house was built of granite, on the estate of Pittrichie, then the property of James W. Mackenzie, Esq. The property now belongs to Alexander Milne, Esq.

On the barony of Udny is a Castle, supposed, from its shape, to have been built about the end of the thirteenth, or beginning of the fourteenth century. Its dimensions are, length outside 46 feet; inside 28 feet; breadth outside 35 feet; inside 17 feet; height 71 feet.

The walls are thick enough to admit of bed-closets within them. The two under-stories are vaulted, the upper one of which contains a spacious hall, the whole length and breadth of the castle. It is neatly floored, or rather pavemented, with oblong hexagonal granites, very neatly joined. Its height to the top of the arch is about 20 feet.

An attempt was made in 1801 to modernize the castle; but the undertaker of the work having failed in circumstances, it remains in an unfinished state. The castle is said to have been the work of three successive proprietors, who all lived the ordinary period of life. One built the two under-stories, or the vaulted work, the next completed the walls, and the third put on the roof. It is reported that all the three were nearly ruined by it. This is not to be wondered at, when we consider that they had only the barony of Udny, not 400 Scots acres in extent; and at that time there could , not be more than 60 acres in cultivation. The present proprietor has extensive estates in this parish, likewise in Ellon and Foveran.

At Tillygreig, the seat of Arthur Harvey, Esq. is a small mansion, suited to the estate, which rents about L. 500. It is about to be repaired and enlarged. At Pitmedden are two mansions, both in ruins.



About 60 acres may be supposed to fall to Hillbrae, in the parish of Udny, of an undivided common between Udny, Belhelvie, and Foveran, called Faichside. About 270 acres are planted, chiefly with fir. About ninety years ago, Mains of Udny, being the lands about Udny Castle, were tastefully laid out in square fields, averaging about 16 acres, and divided by lanes, all planted with four rows of beech and elm, and a hawthorn hedge next the fields. The hedges are all decayed. and the two inner rows of trees were cut down about forty years ago. The outer rows have attained a considerable size, and give the place, at a distance, the appearance of a close wood, and the castle appears to advantage in the centre.

Rent.—The rent of land is a trifle under L. 1 Sterling an imperial acre.

Live-Stock.—Much attention has been paid of late to the improvement of cattle, by importing breeds from Kirkcudbright and Durham; but the Aberdeenshire breed, mostly black without horns, suit the country best, as they thrive upon inferior keep. Rearing cattle is more advantageous than raising grain.

Draining.—Though much has been done by draining, yet no branch of improvement has been less attended to. The drains are seldom cut deep enough. This is principally owing to the open ditches, or water tracks, not being cut to a sufficient depth to admit the water from the drains on either side of the ditch. Seldom are either the ditches or drains cut deeper than three feet, or three feet and a half, whereas the ditches should never be less than seven feet, and the drains about five feet and a half deep.

Leases.—Leases are generally for nineteen years—by far too short a period upon unimproved farms.

Most of the land is entailed, and the proprietors are restricted from giving leases for more than nineteen years, and also from giving more than one year's rent at the end of the lease, for houses, fences, drains, &c. in short, for all improvements. These restrictions were long acted up to by the proprietors, but have been as much as possible departed from by them for several years; and many of them, at their own risk and expense, give great encouragement to industrious tenants. There is an emulation, in most cases, between the proprietor and his tenants, whether the former shall be the more liberal, or the latter the more industrious. The result has been, that the rental of the parish, about forty years ago little more than L. 2000, is now above L. 7000, and the farmers' capital has increased more in proportion than the rent. The valued rent of the parish is L. 5831 Scots, divided as follows:—

Quarries.—There are granite and limestone, both worked with iron levers and hammers, and the rock occasionally burst with powder.

Formerly, a considerable sum was realized annually for poultry. Now, the farmers can afford to use all their poultry themselves, and none is sold but by the cottars and tenants on small possessions.

The butter and cheese, especially the former, made in this parish, are considered of superior quality. This is owing to most of the land being on an open or rocky bottom, producing fine grass.

The land is managed generally under a six or seven shift. In the former case, which only answers with the better land, one-half of the farm is under grain, one-third under grass, and one-sixth under turnips and potatoes. There is little clay land in the parish, and consequently little fallow. All the farmers have small gardens for raising vegetables for their families. In many of them are raised gooseberries and currants, and a few apples.

At Pitmedden, the seat of Sir William C. Seton, is one of the finest and best laid out gardens in the north of Scotland. It was made at a great expense, about the middle of the seventeenth century, and produces apples and pears, especially the former, superior to any in Scotland.

V.—Parochial Economy.

Means of Communication.—A post-office was established in the centre of the parish about three years ago, by the influence of the Earl of Aberdeen, who does everything his Lordship can for the good of the country. There is a daily post from Aberdeen. A turnpike from Aberdeen leading north, and another from New-burgh, the nearest port, distant seven miles, leading west, cross each other in the centre of the parish. The line of turnpike between Aberdeen and Meldrum passes through the west part of the parish, nearly parallel with the road from Aberdeen through the centre of the parish. A public coach passes and repasses daily on both the turnpikes from Aberdeen. All the streams which public roads cross have excellent stone bridges.

Ecclesiastical State.—The church is situated within half-a-mile of the north boundary of the parish—rather inconveniently for people in the south end of the parish. It was built in 1821, and seated for 750. The seats are all rent-free, and the church is very commodious, with a neat low spire.

The manse was built in 1759, and repaired and enlarged in 1781. The glebe consists of about 7 imperial acres, 4 of good land, 3 of bad—value L.10 per annum.

The stipend is 16 chalders of victual, half meal half barley— barley Linlithgow measure.

About 280 families in the parish, and, in general, between 500 and 600 persons attend the Established Church every Sabbath.

There are 8 families of Episcopalians, and 7 of Seceders in the parish.

The Established Church is remarkably well attended. Within the last seven years, the number of communicants has increased from 527 to 598.

Education.—There are two schools,—one parochial and the other on the teacher's own adventure. The latter receives small sums from some of the heritors occasionally as a reward. Salary of parochial school is L. 32; amount of fees of each school about L. 20 a year. The parochial schoolmaster has the legal accommodation. School-fees per quarter, 2s. for English; 3s. for English and writing; 4s. for arithmetic; and 5s. for Latin. Till the present parochial schoolmaster fell into bad health, when it was given up, an academy was kept at the parochial school for nearly fifty years, attended by from 20 to 30 gentlemen's sons, at L. 30 a-year for board and education. The academy was the means of giving better education to the parishioners than any of their neighbours had an opportunity of obtaining. Many of the younger farmers belonging to the parish, who received their education at the Udny Academy, attended several sessions at the Aberdeen universities. . Some of the parishioners' sons became professional men, who, had it not been for the academy, would have been in humble life.

There is not a person in the parish above fifteen years of age who cannot read and write.

Poor and Parochial Funds.—About 31 receive parochial aid, at the average rate of L. 1, 16s. per annum. Besides these, several are maintained at from 2s. to 3s. per week, and many get occasional supplies.

Average collection on Sundays at the church 10s. The poor's fund has also the interest of a mortified sum of L. 350. Use of mortcloth yields about L.2, 15s. per annum; and fines for immoralities L. 3 per annum; accidental legacies, in small sums, may yield L. 8 per annum, and gifts from charitable individuals may yield L. 4 per annum. It is much to be regretted that many of the poor, when once they receive a little relief, anxiously look for more; and when they once receive relief, it too frequently breaks the spring of industry, and renders them quite dependent.

Fairs.—Three fairs are held at Green of Udny, chiefly for disposing of black-cattle. The fairs are well attended.

Inns.—There are 7 inns, by far too many, as they have a very bad effect on the morals of the people.

Fuel.—Formerly peats were the only fuel, procured at a great waste of time and labour, though little or no money was laid out for it. Now, about one-half of the fuel is coals, bought at Aberdeen and Newburgh, at about 4s. the imperial boll of 36 stones. Coals are much cheaper than peat.

Miscellaneous Observations.

At the time of the former Statistical Account, forty-six years ago, a great proportion of the parish was covered with broom, whins, and bulrushes. These are now extirpated, and the eye meets with nothing but cultivated and mostly enclosed fields. Fewer hands are now employed in agriculture than were formerly, in proportion to the extent cultivated. The improved method of working, especially the thrashing-machines, as every farm above fifty acres has a thrashing-machine, has greatly diminished human labour. The consequence has been, that many of the labourers have repaired to Aberdeen, or where they could find employment, which accounts for there being more births than burials in the parish. About forty years ago, there were ten meal mills in the parish. The spare grain was all milled and sold in Aberdeen. There are now only three meal mills in the parish. These have not constant employment. The farmers mill little more than what is sufficient for their families. It is found more advantageous to sell grain than meal.

In the parish are 8 blacksmiths, 8 shoemakers, 5 tailors, 5 wrights, and 3 masons. Most of them work by the piece. There are 2 gardeners, who work at 1s. 6d. per day, with victuals. Farm-servants compose the chief body of the people. They are sober, industrious, and trustworthy. Some of the tradesmen are dissipated. There are 6 merchants in the parish upon a small scale. They all retail groceries and coarse cloth. Most of them sell spirits, which circumstance has a strong tendency to hurt the morals of the people. The farmers take most of their groceries from Aberdeen. Many of the cottars and small tenants barter their butter and eggs with the country retailers, for groceries.

A few weeks before Whitsunday and Martinmas, markets are held in different parts of the country for engaging farm-servants. The best sign of the times is, when the servants are scarce, and wages high.

January 1840.

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