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NORTH BERWICK

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]

"NORTH BERWICK, a parish and burgh in the county of Haddington, Scotland, 9 miles to the N.W. of Haddington, and 22 miles to the N.E. of Edinburgh. It is in a secluded situation in the north corner of the county, on the south coast of the Frith of Forth, and has recently become a much-frequented watering-place. The surface is generally level, the soil fertile and well cultivated. The surface rests upon red sandstone and trap rock. The town consists chiefly of two streets at right angles to each other, in the form of the letter T. It received a charter from Robert III., under which, confirmed by James VI., it is a royal burgh, governed by 2 bailies and 12 councillors. It is also a parliamentary borough, contributory with three others to Haddington in returning one member. The population of the parliamentary burgh in 1851, was 863; in 1861, 1,164, with 198 houses and 233 children at school. The neighbouring coast is rocky and dangerous, and the harbour of North Berwick difficult of approach. It has a good pier, but is only a tidal harbour. There is a large new hotel and a reading-room in the town; and of late years many houses have been built for the accommodation of visitors. The living is in the presbytery of Haddington, and in the patronage of Sir Hew Dalrymple, chief heritor. The church has recently been enlarged, and there are four other churches, besides Free and United Presbyterian churches, and an Episcopal chapel recently opened. Near the town on the south is North Berwick Law, a conical hill rising to the height of 800 feet. Its eastern side is a gradual slope, and covered partly with wood: its western and southern sides are steep and rugged. Not far off is North Berwick House, the fine seat of Sir Hew Dalrymple. Two miles to the north-east of the town, on the brow of the sea cliffs, are the ruins of the famous and formidable castle of Tantallan, once the seat of the Douglases. It is not known at what time or by whom this fortress was erected. The exterior walls, forming a quadrangle, are of immense thickness, and still nearly perfect. Several of the doorways are in the Saxon style of architecture. The sea surrounds it on three sides, and on the other side were two deep ditches crossed by draw-bridges. The popular conception of its strength is expressed in the saying-" Ding down Tantallan! Mak' a brig to the Bass." This stronghold was the scene of some of the incidents in" Marmion." It was besieged in 1528 by James V., but without success. After standing impregnable for centuries, it was destined to fall by the hands of the Covenanters, who besieged, took, and dismantled it in 1639. It was purchased by the Dalrymples soon after 1700, and still remains in their possession. A little to the west of the town are some remains of a Cistercian nunnery, founded in the middle of the 12th century by Duncan, Earl of Fife. Its value at the period of the Reformation was about 220 per annum. The remains consist of massive portions of the wall, now surrounded by trees and shrubs. There are some ruins of a chapel near the harbour. The Bass Rock lies about 2 miles off the coast, opposite Tantallan Castle. Craig Leith Island also lies near. The parish is 3 miles in length from E. to W., with a breadth of 3 miles.

"CANTY BAY, a village in the parish of North Berwick and county of Haddington, Scotland, 2 miles from North Berwick. It is seated on the sea-coast, opposite the Bass Rock, at the boundary of the parishes of North Berwick and Whitekirk."

"TANTALLON CASTLE, in the parish of North Berwick, county Haddington, Scotland, 3 miles E. of North Berwick, and 7 miles N. of Haddington. It was the impregnable stronghold of the Douglasses, as described in "Marmion," overlooking the Frith of Forth, and opposite the Bass Rock, but was finally taken and dismantled by the Covenanters in 1639, notwithstanding the proverb, "Ding doon Tantallon! Mak' a brig to the Bass.""

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson 2003]

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[Last updated at 21.03 on Thursday, 27 March 2003, Gaz3 v01.25, by David Howie. 2000]

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