Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Peterhead

Peterhead, a parish containing a town of the same name in the NE of Aberdeenshire, and in the extreme E of the Buchan district of that county. The old name was Peterugie, which was exchanged for the present one about the end of the 16th century. It is bounded NE by a detached portion of Banffshire (St Fergus), E by the North Sea, SSW by Cruden parish, and W by the parish of Longside. The boundary along the NE is formed for 45/8 miles by the river Ugie-whence the old name of the parish-and here, as well as to the E, the boundary is natural; on the SSW and W it is artificial. The shape of the parish may be roughly described as a parallelogram with very irregular sides except on the SSW, where it is almost straight. The greatest length, from NW, at the point where the boundary line of the detached portion of Banffshire quits the Ugie NW of Roundhillock, to Cave o' Meachie on the coast on the SE, is 6½ miles; the greatest breadth, a line at right angles to this, from North Head at the town of Peterhead to Mill of Dens on the SW, is 4½ miles; and the area is 9449.267 acres, inclusive of 235.620 foreshore and 44.055 water. The height of the surface rises from sea-level along the eastern border westward with irregular undulations to Cowsrieve (229 feet) and Black Hill (350), and another rising ground turns eastward to the shore at Sterling Hill (209), in the extreme SE of the parish. Near the centre of the sea-coast is the conical Meethill (181 feet). The coast following the larger windings measures about 7¾ miles, and from it the promontories of Peterhead, Salthouse Head, and Buchan Ness project, the latter being the most easterly point of Scotland, though the promontory on which the town stands is not far behind, and the heads to the E of the harbour are still farther E. Between the point occupied by the town and Salthouse Head is Peterhead or Brickwork Bay, fully ¾ mile wide across the mouth, and ¾ mile deep, with rocky and shingly shores. Between Saltburn Head and Buchan Ness is Sandford Bay, 1 mile wide across the mouth, and ½ mile deep, and with a considerable portion of its shore formed by a fine sandy beach. Near the south-eastern point, however, a line of cliffs pierced by numerous chasms and caves begins and continues round by Buchan Ness till the southern boundary of the parish is reached. Only a small portion of the area is under wood, and there are about 100 acres of bare rock and 400 of moory and mossy ground, but the rest is all under cultivation, the soil varying from sand to rich black loam and stiff clay. The underlying rocks are granite or granitic, and are extensively quarried, the red varieties so well known commercially as 'Peterhead Granite' being largely used for ornamental purposes and for monuments. The drainage is carried off by a few rivulets flowing to the Ugie or directly to the sea. Old Craig or Ravenscraig Castle, a fine old ruin with great thickness of wall, is on the bank of the Ugie. It was the seat of a branch of the Marischal family, James IV. having, in 1491, granted to Sir Gilbert Keith of Inverugie the superiority of the lands of Tortastoun, Buthla, the 'Scottis Myln,' and the rock commonly called the Ravinniscraig, and farther given him permission to erect on the last a castle or fortalice, with battlements, machicoling, portcullis, and drawbridge, and all other defences -that might be found necessary. Boddam Castle, on the coast near Buchan Ness, was the seat of another branch of the same family, the Keiths of Ludquharne, Baronets of Nova Scotia, and the Earls-Marischal, who had their castle at Inverugie in the parish of St Fergus to the N, ½ mile E of Ravenscraig, were the founders and original superiors of the town. After their forfeiture part of the property was purchased by a fishing company, whose affairs having become embarrassed, it was again sold in 1728 to the Governors of the Merchant Maiden Hospital in Edinburgh. This institution, having purchased another portion of the Marischal estate from the York Buildings Company in 1783, is now superior of the town and proprietor of the adjacent estates. The annual rental of these properties is now probably about half the total amount originally paid for them. There are traces of Picts' houses near Boddam, and the Meethill seems, from its name, to have been latterly the Moat-hill or seat of baronial jurisdiction. At an earlier period it must have been a sepulchral mound, for when the foundation of the tower on the top was being dug, an urn and some human remains were found. The tower by which the hill is surmounted was erected in honour of Earl Grey after the passing of the Reform Bill. The landward industries are farming, brickworks, 1 mile S of the town at Invernettie, and 2¾ miles W near Berryhill, a distillery at Invernettie, granite working, and several mills. The parish is traversed by the coast road which passes from the town of Peterhead southward by Boddam to Ellon, and thence to Aberdeen, and northward by Fraserburgh to Banff; and by another main road which passes from the town westwards to New Deer. During the period of railway speculation a line was projected to pass from Aberdeen to Peterhead, and thence along the whole S coast of the Moray Firth, but the scheme fell to the ground like so many others in the crash that followed the railway mania. The line subsequently formed northward from Aberdeen passed inland by Inverurie and Huntly, and the parish had no railway communication till 1862, when the Formartine and Buchan section of the Great North of Scotland system was extended through the northern portion to the town of Peterhead. There are also stations at Newseat and Inverugie, the former 40¾ and the latter 42¼ miles from Aberdeen. There are a number of small properties, and the chief residences are Sandford Lodge, Invernettie Lodge, Dens, Meethill House, Blackhouse, Balmoor, Richmond, Cocklaw, Berryhill, and Ellishill House. Besides the town of Peterhead the parish contains the fishing villages of Boddam, Burnhaven, and Buchanhaven, which are all separately noticed, as are also Buchan Ness and the lighthouse there. The parish was first known as Inverugie of St Peter to distinguish it from Inverugie of St Fergus on the opposite bank of the Ugie, then as Peterugie, and finally as Peterhead. Up to 1641 it included Longside, but that parish was then disjoined on account of 'the wydnes of the said parochine [of Peterhead] and of the many comunicantis within the samen.' It is in the presbytery of Deer and the synod of Aberdeen, and the living is worth £480 a year. It includes the quoad sacra parishes of Blackhill, Boddam, and East Church, the latter connected with the town where the churches are noticed. The landward school board has under its charge the four public schools of Blackhills, Boddam, Burnhaven, and Tortorston, which, with respective accommodation for 80, 270, 130, and 70 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 68, 232, 145, and 63, and grants of £50, 14s., £203, 1s., £118, 5s., and £56, 12s. Ten proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 or upwards, 28 hold between £500 and £100, 38 hold each between £100 and £50, and there are a considerable number of smaller amount. Valuation (1884) £17,467, 7s., exclusive of the burgh, but inclusive of £781 for the railway. Pop. of parish, inclusive of the burgh and the villages, (1801) 4491, (1831) 6695, (1861) 9796, (1871) 11,506, (1881) 14, 257, of whom 6798 were males and 7459 were females. Of the whole population 8171 were in the ecclesiastical parish proper, 3926 were in East Church q. s., 394 were in Blackhill q. s., and 1766 in Boddam q. s.—Ord. Sur., sh. 87, 1876.

(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a parish containing a town"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Peterhead ScoP       Aberdeenshire ScoCnty
Place: Peterhead

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