Monday, 11 March 2013
Bridgend and Crieff in the Early 19th Century
McNee's Jamary about 1900
My recent piece on cock fighting in Crieff in the early part of the 19th century proved an interesting look at the way of life of yesteryear . The same little book “ Crieff in the Victorian Era “ contains numerous little gems . I have singled out a brief essay looking at the Bridgend circa 1830s . Bridgend was very much its own place in those days and Bridgenders did not consider themselves part and parcel of the “ toon up the hill ” !As one drives south towards the bridge note the higgledy piggy nature of the street scape with houses and cottages jutting out at awkward angles in total disregard for a uniform building line ! Many of these old cottages still have an appendage at the rear which in days gone by was the loom shed – now transformed by Ikea or its likes into modern fitted kitchens ! This was a community dependant on weaving - initially wool, then linen and then eventually cotton. The web – masters or middle men such as the father of James MacRosty lived in the “ up market “ part of Bridgend which is now named Earnbank Road . From
Earnbank Road there is a
narrow winding access to what was once the Earnvale Woollen
Manufactory erected by James Mitchell from Comrie . This was on the site of an old saw mill and was
erected about 1860 according to Porteous . The use of water power was significant as the Lade was taken from the Weir at the top end of
what is now MacRosty Park ( near the old Morgan’s Wood ) , and was used
to power the machinery before it joined the Earn upstream from the Bridge . The history of the building is quite fascinating . A fire ravage its
fabric and it was rebuilt . On the death of Mitchell it was rented out by
Messrs McKenzie, Campbell & Co in 1877 . Just one year later, the mill was
again burned down in somewhat strange circumstances, to be rebuilt yet again and
eventually run by the spinning company R & H Hay from Whins of Milton near Stirling
. After closing it was eventually used as the head quarters of well known
Crieff landscape gardener and nursery
man , the late Derek Halley .
Another interesting little building in Bridgend is the wooden mission hall at the entrance to Park House Dairy . No doubt the good people of Bridgend resented the good intent of their Crieff neighbours!
What things were like in the early part of the 19th century is fascinatingly accounted in this little essay from “Crieff in the Victorian Era” :
A lovely cloud of dust – not of the crushed metal order – has its being somewhere about those parts of South Bridgend where at present a prosperous jamary holds sway ;and, sweeping over the bridge before a delightful summer’s breeze , curls and circles in the air and forms into any number of fantastic looking shapes – the favourite representation being the ponderous bows of the old Norse warship . Before the breeze has lost its playful influence , the dust reaches the Gallowhill , where it feels the want of sufficient encouragement , and drops dead opposite somebody’s door . The track of the phantom can be followed if one cares to do so , and if anyone wants to take a different route , he may be slipping off his shoes and stockings and rolling up his trousers wade the Earn , and arrive at any desired destination on the other side , without let or hindrance . But in this ( past ) age of achievement and advancement people hold no very decided superstitions about the bridge- though it looks as unstable as a dromedary in a travelling menagerie , and the usual custom is not to wade through the water but to go across the river in the manner common to later- day pedestrians . ( It may be mentioned that the bridge referred to was rather a deformed looking arrangement . Local historians of more or less importance have endeavoured to solve the question of its deformity , but in giving a satisfactory answer they have all ignominiously failed . The fact is that the disfigurement was caused by a big Comrie earthquake which took place many years ago , before reporting became “ extraordinary “and before the extent of the upheavals was measured by the wavy movement of liquid ink in the office of the senior magistrate . The present bridge over the Earn as built in 1868 .)
When one reaches the north side of the bridge and takes a step or two up the hill he finds he has got at last to Crieff. I say at last , as anyone not acquainted with the place may not know exactly when he is in or out of it . Scattered here and there , in various shapes and sizes , and facing in all directions are a few thatched houses , Some face north and south , while others are due east and west . \There is no interfering Dean of Guild Court to instruct the peaceful householders as to what is regular or irregular , or to direct them in the law regarding oriels ; so they fix their windows and their doors just where and how they please , and consult no one as to whether they have done right or wrong. Here indeed, the flag of freedom waves triumphantly. On the street side the grass grows for the benefit of about a dozen cows , and all manner of wild flowers prosper in abundance .The seeds from this wayside paradise flit hither and thither as the prevailing winds direct , and when you see a fair exhibition of the cottage garden on the thatched roof , you know that Nature has been exceedingly kind in presenting her beauties unsolicited . Up near the chimneys , which have their faces delightfully coloured with soot generated from the fumes of Auchnafree peats ,dandelions and poppies rear their heads side by side with buttercups and bluebells , while along the rigging , grass grows in a healthy form , competing each year for the highest blades .Somewhere about the gables , from which the rain has been running in streams on to the kitchen floor, the spaces are closely turfed , and heavy stones are added to keep the wind from doing further damage . If the cow is at all a cleanly beast – sometimes whether it is or not – it is permitted to hang its hat on the door “ ben the hoose “ , and to bellow at its convenience ; but generally speaking , the animal is apportioned a room at the back , with a through entrance from the kitchen. The family pig – a lower animal- for reasons which need not be stated is allotted a separate house in the yard, and there it grunts the the livelong day as it stares between the gaping spars at the green kail which grows temptingly outside . Sometimes it raises itself on its hind legs, with the usual grace, and looks over the top spar to admire the scenery and general crops in the garden .The trough , however slips out from below, and as the beast falls back with a semi – summersault into three feet of filth an extra special grunt is foerth coming by way of expressing its contempt for “ sour grapes “ .
Further up the street you are in a nobbier community. A clay pipe and a few sample groceries denote a merchant’s shop, and if you find a shoe or two in the window you know this is a shoemakers. Here there is some attempt at decoration. The holes in the window panes are padded up with old shirts and trousers, red creepers try to climb the door posts and a bull finch chirps at the outer door . Up the street you may see some children playing with the dust; here and there dogs lie basking in the sun , and occasionally a busy weaver appears at his door to note the progress of the sun on its journey west ward. Further up the hill, there a few better class houses . You know what that means . the addition of a chimney pot in a falling condition, and a sneck on the door which works every sixth trial. There is also an effort at white washing.
Here ,then ,is Crieff in which prosper a noble class of worthy and contented weavers , whose sons may live to see their families grow up brilliant schollars , or to learnof their success as highly intelligent poachers .