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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Dingwall (Scand. 'hill of justice'), a town and a parish of SE Ross-shire. A royal and parliamentary burgh, the town stands on the north-western shore, and a little below the head, of Cromarty Firth, which here is joined by the Peffer; by road it is 13½ miles NW of Inverness viâ Kessock Ferry, and by rail, as junction of the Dingwall and Skye railway (1870) with the main Highland line (1862), 53 ENE of Strome Ferry, 82¾ SW by S of Helmsdale, 18½ NW of Inverness, 210¼ NNW of Edinburgh, and 226¾ N by W of Glasgow. The beautifully-wooded plain on which it stands was once a swampy marsh. but since 1817 thorough drainage and spirited agriculture have made it one of the loveliest valleys in the N of Scotland. The burgh, lying snugly among rich clumps of trees, at the entrance of Strath Peffer, chiefly consists of one main street, a mile in length; and, while the majority of its houses are irregularly disposed and unpretentious architecturally, still there are several very handsome residences, most of which have sprung up within the past thirty years. Yet Dingwall is a place of hoar antiquity, the county town, having arisen under the shelter of the neighbouring castle of the Earls of Ross, which, built close beside the Firth, was almost surrounded by water, but now has left hardly a vestige, its site being partly occupied by a modern mansion. The Town-house is a curious old-fashioned edifice, with a spire; the County Buildings, a handsome castellated pile a little way E of the town, were erected in 1845 at a cost of £5000, and contain a court-house, county rooms, and a prison with eighteen cells. A public hall was built in 1871; and a cottage hospital, H-shaped in plan, in 1872-73, as a memorial to the late Dr William Ross. Near the church is a plain and simple obelisk, 6 feet square at the base, and 57 feet high, but thrown slightly off the perpendicular by an earthquake of 1816; in 1875 it proved upon exploration to mark the resting-place of its founder, George Mackenzie, the celebrated first Earl of Cromartie (1630-1714)- The parish church itself, with a steeple and 800 sittings, was built in 1801; the present handsome Free church in 1869; and the Episcopal church of St James, an Early Decorated structure with 120 sittings, in 1872, its predecessor having been destroyed by fire the year before. In 1874 a public park, adjoining the Beauly road, was gifted to the burgh by the late Sir James Matheson, Bart, of the Lews, who had at one time been provost; and Dingwall besides has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and railway telegraph departments, branches of the Bank of Scotland and the Caledonian and National banks, 21 insurance agencies, 3 hotels, gas-works, a masonic lodge, a literary association, militia barracks, a poorhouse, and a Friday paper, the Ross-shire Journal (1875). A corn market is held on every Wednesday from 26 September to 30 May, and the following are the fairs throughout the year:-New Year Market, third Wednesday of January; Candlemas (cattle and produce), do. of February; Janet's, first Wednesday of June; Colin's (cattle, etc.), first Tuesday of July; Fell Maree, first Wednesday of September; Martha's, do. of November; and Peffer, Tuesday before Christmas. After the forfeiture of the Earls of Ross in 1476 Dingwall seems to have gone down in the world; and its petition of 1724 to the Convention of Burghs sets forth that 'the town is almost turned desolate, as is weel known to all our neighbours, and there is hardly anything to be seen but the ruins of old houses, and the few inhabitants that are left, having now no manner of trade, live only by labouring the neighbouring lands, and our inhabitants are still daily deserting us.' Accordingly, in 1733, Inverness sent a deputation, which brought back word that Dingwall had no trade, though one or two were inclined to carry on trade if they had a harbour, also that it had no prison, and that for want of a bridge across an adjacent lake the people were kept from both kirk and market. Now, though its trade is still not very great, and though manufactures are conspicuous by their absence, Dingwall at least has a harbour- A mile below the bridge coasters had once to load and unload on the mud at low-water, their cargoes being carried along a bad road to and from the E end of the town. This inconvenience was remedied by shaping the lower reach of the Peffer into a regular canal, 2000 yards long, with two wharfs at which vessels of 9 feet draught can lie-such improvements being carried out in 1815-17 at a cost of £4365, of which £1786 was furnished by the Highland road commissioners and £600 by the Convention of Burghs. Erected into a royal burgh by Alexander II. in 1226, and having adopted the General Police and Improvement Act of 1862, Dingwall is governed by a provost, a senior and a junior bailie, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and 10 councillors, who also act as police commissioners. With Wick and four other burghs, it. returns a member to parliament, its municipal and parliamentary constituency numbering 229 in 1882, when the annual value of real property, exclusive of railway, was £7533, whilst the corporation revenue for 1881 was £152, and the harbour revenue £210. Pop. (1841) 1739, (1851) 1966, (1861) 2099, (1871) 2125, (1881-) 1918. Inhabited houses (1881) 351.

The parish is bounded N and NE by Kiltearn, SE by the head of Cromarty Firth and by the river Conan, separating it from the Nairnshire district of Ferintosh, S by the Tollie section of Fodderty and by Urray, and SW by the main body of Fodderty. It has an utmost length of 6¾ miles from NNW to SSE, and its width varies between 9½ furlongs and 4¾ miles, whilst tapering north-westward to a point. The Peffer winds 21/8 miles east-south-eastward along the Fodderty border and through the interior to the Firth; the Skiach runs 1¾ mile north-eastward across the northern interior; and Loch Ussie (6½ x 42/3 furl.) lies at an altitude of 419 feet, partly within a western projecting wing. Except for the low level strip, 3 furlongs wide, between the Firth and the Inverness highroad, and for a portion of Strath Peffer, the surface is everywhere hilly, even mountainous, from S to N attaining 259 feet near Blackwells, * 628 near Croftandrum, * 882 at Cnoc Mor, * 450 at Knockbain, 1109 at Cnoc a' Bhreac, and * 2000 at Meall na Speireig, those heights that culminate on the parish's borders being marked with asterisks, and one and all being dominated by Ben Wyvis (3429 feet). The rocks are gneiss and mica slate in the northern uplands, and in the S conglomerate and Old Red sandstone. Around the town there is a deep deposit of loam with a large admixture of clay, very suitable for the growth of wheat, but demanding great care in the cultivation; the soil on the lower slopes of the rising-grounds is also clayey; and the higher cultivated land is mountain clay or moorish soil, the former becoming very fertile with long-continued good treatment, the latter very difficult to improve (Mr James Macdonald in Trans. Highl. and Ag. Soc., 1877). In the N are remains of an ancient Caledonian stone circle. Tulloch Castle is the chief mansion; and 2 proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 12 of between £100 and £500,21 of from £50 to £100, and 26 of from £20 to £50. Dingwall is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Ross; the living is worth £436. A public school, with accommodation for 360 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 222, and a grant of £177,3s. Valuation (1881) £4992,18s. 2d., of which £2654 was held by Duncan Davidson, Esq. of Tulloch. Pop. (1801) 1418, (1831) 2124, (1861) 2412, (1871) 2443, (1881) 2217.—Ord. Sur., shs. 83,93,1881.

The presbytery of Dingwall comprises the old parishes of Alness, Contin, Dingwall, Fodderty, Kilmorack, Kiltearn, Urquhart, and Urray and Kilchrist, and the quoad sacra parishes of Carnoch and Kinlochluichart. Pop. (1871) 16,562, (1881) 15,517, of whom 330 were communicants of the Church of Scotland in 1878.-The Free Church also has a presbytery of Dingwall, with churches at Alness, Dingwall, Fodderty, Garve, Kilmorack, Kiltearn, Maryburgh, Strathconon, Urquhart, and Urray, which together had 4351 members and adherents in 1881.

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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