Parish of Strichen

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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1791-99: Strichen
1834-45: Strichen

Strichen (old forms Stratheyn and Strichney; Gael. Strath-a'en,' the strath of the river'), a parish containing a small town of the same name in the Buchan district of Aberdeenshire. It is bounded N by detached portions of the parishes of Aberdour and Fraserburgh, NNE by the parish of Rathen, E by the parish of Lonmay, S by a detached portion of Banffshire, and by the parish of Old Deer, SW by the parish of New Deer, and WNW by the parish of Tyrie. The boundary is formed for 1¾ mile on the N by the Ugie, which separates Strichen from the detached section of Aberdour, and for 2½ miles on the S by the same river which here separates the parish from Old Deer and the detached section of Banffshire. Elsewhere it partly follows the courses of small burns, but is mostly artificial. The greatest length, from the extreme E point beyond New Leeds to the point on the W where the parishes of Tyrie, Strichen, and New Deer meet beyond Craigculter, is 67/8miles; the average breadth at right angles to this is about 25/8miles; and the area is 10, 2062/5 acres, of which 23 are water. The surface is hilly, and the height above sea-level rises from the centre of the parish towards both the NE and SW. The lowest point (125 feet) is where the Ugie leaves the parish on the SE, and the highest points are 769 feet at Mormond Hill (NNE), 440 at Adziel Hill (SSW), and 383 in the woods of Strichen House. Though a considerable amount of land was reclaimed between 1824 and 1855, a third of the parish is still peat-moss, rough-grazing, or waste; about 400 acres are under wood; and the rest is arable, but the soil is, on the whole, poor, though there are patches of good land here and there. The underlying rocks are granite and Lower Silurian beds. The impure limestones in the latter were formerly worked. The drainage of the parish is carried off by the northern branch of the Ugie-which, besides forming part of the northern and southern boundaries as already noticed, has a course of 23/8 miles from NW to SE across the centre of the parish-and small streams flowing to it. The greater part of the parish was originally in Rathen and the rest in Fraserburgh, but a church and family burial aisle having been erected in 1620 by Thomas Fraser, * proprietor of Strichen, the parish was constituted in 1627, and its disjunction confirmed by Act of Parliament in 1633. The great-grandson of this Thomas was the Hon. Alexander Fraser of Strichen (d. 1775) who, under the title of Lord Strichen, was one of the judges of the Court of Session from 1730 till his death, and as such took part in the trial of Isabella Walker. the prototype of Effie Deans, in 1736, and also in the decision of the Douglas Cause in 1768. Lord Strichen's great-grandson, Thomas Alexander (1802-75), succeeded to the Lovat Estates in 1816, and made good his claim to the dormant peerage of Lovat in 1857. He had previously, however, sold the estate of Strichen in 1855 to George Baird (1810-70), one of the Gartsherrie family, in the possession of whose son, George Alexander Baird, it now is. (See Stitchel.) The mansion, Strichen House, about ¾ mile SW of the centre of the parish at the town, is a three-story building, measuring 126 by 90 feet, erected in 1821. It is Grecian in style, and has a portico with fluted Doric pillars. The finely wooded grounds, originally laid out by Gilpin, contain a stone circle, and the ruins of an old chapel a little to the W of the house. This is the circle mentioned in Dr Johnson's Tour, where he says he and Boswell' dined at the house of Mr Frazer of Streichton, who showed us in his grounds some stones yet standing of a druidical circle, and what I began to think more worthy of notice some forest trees of full growth.' Boswell adds that they went out of their way to see the circle, as Dr Johnson was anxious to inspect an example. Their entertainer was Lord Strichen's son, at one time an officer in the King's Dragoon Guards, and seemingly a somewhat eccentric personage. It was he who founded the village of New Leeds, which was intended to be a rival to the great Yorkshire town of that name, but which never throve, and is only a poor straggling hamlet. There were to be statutory fairs, and the laird offered a prize of an eight-day clock to the' drunkest man that should appear' in the first of those markets. This same Captain Fraser erected' Rob Gibb's Hunting Lodge,' on the W side of Mormond Hill, and also caused the well-known' White Horse of Mormond' to be cut on the SW slope of the Hill. The stag on the SE slope was cut in 1870. (See Mormond.) The horse is represented as standing stiffly erect, and measures 162 feet from the point of the nose to the tip of the tail, and 126 feet from hoofs to ears, while the body is 106 feet long and 41 deep. The parish is traversed along the centre for 6¼ miles from SW to ENE by the Fraserburgh extension of the Formartine and Buchan branch of the great North of Scotland railway system, with stations at the town of Strichen and at Mormond near the ENE border. Two main lines of road from Aberdeen to Fraserburgh also pass through the centre and E end, and there are good district roads.

The Town of Strichen was originally laid out as the village of Mormond, by Lord Strichen, in 1764, to promote' the Arts and Thactures of this country, and for the accommodation of Tradesmen of all Denominations, Manufacturers, and other industrious people to settle within the same.' It is now a thriving little place, with pretty surroundings, almost exactly in the centre of the parish, on the NE bank of the Ugie, on flat ground at the SW end of Mormond Hill, and has a railway station 10¼ miles SSW of Fraserburgh, 18¾ W by N of Peterhead, and 36¾ N by W of Aberdeen. The two principal streets meeting at the N end are wellbuilt, and there is a town-hall, Established, Free, Episcopalian, and Roman Catholic churches, a public, an Episcopalian, and Nichols Free schools, branches of the North of Scotland and the Town and County banks, agencies of 7 insurance companies, a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, under Aberdeen, a public library, a gas company, an agricultural society, a company of rifle volunteers, and three hotels. There are live stock markets on the first Thursday of every month, and hiring fairs on the Wednesdays after the 19th May and the 12th November. The town-house was erected by Mrs Fraser of Strichen in 1816 at a cost of £2000. The present parish church, to the S of the town, built near the site of the old one in 1799, has 950 sittings. There is a burial-ground to which an addition was made in 1874, but the parishioners long continued to bury at Rathen, and some of the lych-stanes, where the bearers rested, may still be seen along the old road, over Mormond Hill. The church bell came from the old building, and has the inscription,' Henrick Ten Horst me fecit Daventria anno, 1633.' The Roman Catholic church, to the W of the town, built in 1854, was, with the priest's house and a croft, reserved for the Church of Rome, when the estate was sold to Mr Baird. None of the other churches call for notice. In the neighbourhood of the town the Ugie is crossed by a railway viaduct and four stone bridges. Of these two are modern-one having replaced an old bridge near the S end of the town-while the others are old, that to the N being a high-backed structure. The second, at Howford, was built in 1777. Pop. of town (1861) 1030, (1871) 1184, (1881) 1204, of whom 511 were males and 693 females. Houses (1881) 298 occupied, 4 unoccupied, and 2 being built.

The parish is in the presbytery of Deer and the synod of Aberdeen, and the living is worth £200 a year. Ecclesiastically a portion of the W of the parish is given off to the quoad sacra parish of New Pitsligo. Besides the churches already mentioned, there is a U.P. church at New Leeds. Under the school board (5 members) Strichen public school, at the town, with accommodation for 262 pupils, had, in 1884, an attendance of 163, and a grant of £141, 11s. The Episcopal school (All Saints) has accommodation for 160. Mr G. A. Baird owns almost the entire parish, and 22 others hold each between £50 and £20. Valuation (1860) £6581, (1885) £13, 296, 16s. 5d., of which £1802 is for the railway. Pop. (1801) 1520, (1831) 1802, (1861) 2472, (1871) 2318, (1881) 2348, of whom 1074 were males and 1274 females, while 2013 were in the ecclesiastical parish. Houses (1881) 493.—Ord. Sur., shs. 87, 97, 1876.

* The Frasers of Strichen were a branch of the house of Lovat, through Thomas Fraser of Knockie.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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