- FIFESHIRE, a maritime county in the east of Scotland, bounded on the north by the river Tay, on the east by the German Ocean, on the south by the Frith of Forth, and on the west by the counties of Perth, Kinross, and Clackmannan. It lies between 56° 3' and 56° 25' (N. Lat.) and 2° 35' and 3° 38' (W. Long.), and is about 48 miles in length and 18 in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 504 square miles, or 322,560 acres; 30,548 houses, of which 29,036 are inhabited; and containing a population of 140,140, of whom 65,715 are males, and 74,425 females. This county anciently formed part of the extensive district of Ross, which derived its name from its peninsular shape, and included the present counties of Kinross and Clackmannan, with portions of the counties of Perth and Stirling, all under one common jurisdiction. The lands of Clackmannan were first separated from this district, and erected into a distinct county; and subsequently, in 1425, that portion forming the head of the peninsula was made a county under the appellation of Kinross. The remainder, including a small part previously belonging to Perthshire, almost entirely constitutes the modern county of Fife, of which the name is of obscure and doubtful origin. The district, originally inhabited by the ancient Caledonians, became subject to the Romans, who penetrated into its most secluded retreats, and subsequently to the Picts; but the particular details of its history during these periods are not distinctly recorded.After the subjugation of the Picts, and the union of the two kingdoms under Kenneth II., that monarch, in acknowledgment of the eminent services rendered to him by Macduff, a powerful chieftain who had contributed greatly to his victory, conferred upon him all the lands he had conquered from the Picts. These extended from Fifeness to Clackmannan, and from the rivers Tay and Erne on the north, to the river Forth on the south; and of this territory the king also appointed him hereditary thane. Though occasionally subject to Danish incursions, the district, from its central situation between the northern and southern divisions of the kingdom, enjoyed almost undisturbed tranquillity under its thanes, of whom Duncan Macduff, having aided in the destruction of the usurper Macbeth, and in the restoration of Malcolm Canmore, was created Earl of Fife by that sovereign, and invested with many privileges, which were made hereditary in his family. Among these, the most important were, the placing of the Scottish kings in the chair of state at the ceremony of their coronation, the honour of leading the van of the royal army, and the liberty of compromising for manslaughter by the payment of a fine proportioned to the rank of the victim. This last immunity was commemorated by the erection of a stone pillar called Macduff's cross, a certain area around which afforded sanctuary. After the death of Duncan, the twelfth earl, Murdoch, Duke of Albany, by marriage with his only daughter, succeeded to the earldom of Fife, which, on his attainder in 1425, reverted to the crown. It was subsequently revived as an Irish peerage in the person of William Duff, of Braco, who was created Baron Braco of Kilbride, and Earl of Fife, in 1759; James, the second earl, was made Baron Fife in the peerage of Great Britain in 1790, and the title is now vested in his descendant, the present earl.Prior to the Reformation, the county was included in the archdiocese of St. Andrew's; it is at present in the synod of Fife, and comprises the presbyteries of St. Andrew's, Cupar, Kirkcaldy, and Dunfermline, and about sixty parishes. The shire is divided into the districts of Cupar, Kirkcaldy, St. Andrew's, and Dunfermline: a sheriff's court is held at Cupar for the three first-named, and one at Dunfermline for the last-mentioned district. The justices of the peace hold petty sessions in all the districts, their decisions being subject to revision by the courts of quarter-sessions, which are held at Cupar, the county town. Besides the county town, Fife contains the royal burghs of St. Andrew's, Dunfermline, Inverkeithing, Burntisland, Kirkcaldy, Kinghorn, Pittenweem, East and West Anstruther, Dysart, Kilrenny, Crail, Auchtermuchty, Falkland, and Earlsferry; the towns of Leven, Largo, Limekilns, Pathhead, Ferry port-on-Craig, Newport, Aberdour, Markinch, and Newburgh, with numerous smaller towns and villages. Several of the towns have been royal residences, and many of them are sea-ports with tolerable harbours at high-water; but the best harbour is that at Burntisland, where a pier was built in 1844, at which steamers and other vessels may land goods and passengers at all times of the tide. The principal port of the county is Kirkcaldy: at Dysart is a wet-dock, in which vessels are always afloat. Under the act of the 2nd of William IV., Fife returns one member to the imperial parliament; and there are also two districts of burghs within the county, each of which sends a representative; while Dunfermline and Inverkeithing join with Culross, Stirling, and Queensferry, in sending another.The surface is pleasingly diversified with gentle undulations, and in some parts with hills of lofty elevation; and is separated by ranges of hills into several beautiful and extensive vales, of which the principal, called the Howe of Fife, is watered by the river Eden, described below. The chief hills are, the East and West Lomond, of which the former has an elevation of 1260, and the latter of 1280 feet above the level of the sea; the Largo Law, 1020 feet in height; and the Kelly Law, which is 800 feet. Most of the hills are covered with verdure almost to their summit. The rivers are, the Leven, the Eden, the Orr, and the Lochty: the Leven issues from the lake of that name, in the county of Kinross, and, flowing through a richly-cultivated strath, falls into the Frith of Forth at Leven. The Eden has its source in the confluence of several small streams in the parish of Strathmiglo, and, taking an eastern direction, runs by the town of Cupar, and joins the German Ocean at St. Andrew's bay. The river Orr rises in a lake now drained, and, pursuing a south-eastern course, in which it is joined by streams from Loch Fittie and Loch Gellie, and by the Lochty, flows into the Leven near Cameron Bridge. The principal lakes are, Loch Lindores, about a mile in length, and varying in breadth, abounding with pike and perch, and beautifully situated in a richlywooded spot; Loch Kilconquhar, in the parish of that name, about two miles in circumference; Loch Gellie, three miles round; and Kinghorn loch, a natural reservoir situated near that town, which supplies the mills with water.The soil is exceedingly various; along the Frith of Forth, a deep rich loam alternated with clay and gravel; from the mouth of the Eden, along the shore northward, a fine light, dry, and sandy soil; to the south of the Eden, of inferior quality. West of St. Andrew's are tracts of moor and moss, with some intervening portions of fertile land; towards the river Tay, a rich soil, resting on whin rock; and on the slopes of the hills, a productive clay, with loam and gravel. The system of agriculture is in a highly improved state; the extent of the farms varies from fifty or sixty to 400 or 500 acres; the buildings are generally substantial and well arranged, and on most of the farms are threshing-mills, of which some are driven by steam. The lands have been drained, and are inclosed with walls of stone, or hedges of hawthorn. The chief crops are, oats, wheat, barley, turnips, and potatoes; much attention is paid to the rearing of cattle, and the number of sheep is exceedingly great. The number of horses employed in agriculture, in 1844, was 8158, and otherwise, 2466: occasionally, numbers of pigs are fed. The plantations are very extensive, but chiefly of modern growth: on the lands of the Earl of Leven is a forest of Scotch firs, several miles in length; but little ancient timber is found except in the grounds of some of the principal mansions. The prevailing substrata are coal and limestone, both of which are of good quality, and largely wrought. Freestone of different colours, from a dark red to a beautiful white, of compact texture, and susceptible of a high polish, is also abundant; and in the northern districts, whinstone, of which the rocks principally consist, is predominant, and of excellent quality for the roads. Ironstone is found in various parts; in some places in seams too thin to remunerate the labour of working it; in others in veins of greater extent, and yielding from thirty-three to forty per cent. of ore, wrought for the Carron Iron Company. Lead and copper have been found in several places; the former, principally in the Lomond hills, has been wrought, but not with any profitable result, and the works have been discontinued. The seats are, Falkland House, Leslie House, Melville House, Crawford Priory, Donibristle, Balcarras, Broomhall, Dunnikeir House, Raith, Wemyss Castle, Balcaskie, Bethune, Balbirnie, Craigsanquhar, Dysart House, Elie House, Pitmilly, Dunbog, Rankeillor, Lathrisk, Pitferran, Torry, Inchdairny, Strathendry, Mugdrum, Rossie, Pittencrieff, Largo House, Newton-Collessie, Durie, Innergelly, Mount Melville, Kelly House, Cambo, Scotscraig, Fordel, Balgarvie, Lochore, St. Fort, Kemback, Fernie, Kilconquhar, Charlton, Kilmaron, and others. These mansions are for the most part handsomely built, and, with their surrounding grounds, form a striking feature in the scenery.The principal manufacture is that of linen, which is carried on throughout the county; the fabrics are, damasks, diapers, Osnaburghs, Silesias, and the plainer kinds of brown linens, ticking, checks, and sail-cloth, which are made in most of the villages. The spinning of flax is carried on to a great extent; and at Dunfermline, Kinghorn, Abbotshall, Leven, and other places, are large mills for the purpose. The manufacture of paper, soap, candles, and glue, is also extensive; and there are several iron-founderies, tanneries, potteries, brick and tile works, numerous bleachfields on the Leven, a vitriol-work, breweries, distilleries, malting establishments on a very large scale, and various other works. Shipbuilding is carried on at the several sea-port towns on the south. The commerce of the county consists chiefly in the export of cattle and sheep, grain, potatoes, and other agricultural produce, coal, limestone, and lime; and in the importation of timber, bark, hides, tallow, flax, hemp, tar, iron, slates, groceries, and other articles. Facility of communication is afforded by good roads; at Newport is a commodious ferry across the Tay to Dundee, and steam-boats ply daily from Largo, Leven, and Dysart, to Mid Lothian. There are two ferries, also, of great importance across the Forth; one connecting Burntisland, in Fife, with Granton; and the other, higher up the Frith, connecting North and South Queensferry. The total annual value of real property in the county, assessed to the Income tax for the year 1842, was £508,923, of which amount £381,572 were for lands, £74,654 for houses, £22,564 for mines, £4797 for quarries, £1159 for fisheries, and the remainder for other kinds of property not comprised in the foregoing items. There are numerous remains of antiquity, among which are the ruins of the ancient abbey and palace of Dunfermline, the abbey of Lindores, the palace of Falkland, the tower and chapel of St. Regulus, Cardinal Bethune's Castle, the Castle of Macduff, the Castle of Ravenscraig, Rosythe Castle, and the Castle of Lochore, with various others, which are noticed in articles on the places where they are situated.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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