Hood Family and Coal Mining

Newton Parish - New Statistical Account

Newton:  1-Topography and Natural History  |  2-Civil History  |  3-Population  |  4-Industry  |  5-Parochial Economy


New Statistical Account for the Parish of Newton

Part 1-Topography and Natural History









Name, &c.— According to Chalmers in his Caledonia, previous to the Reformation, there were two parishes, Newton and Wymet, which now form the parish of Newton. "The name of Newton," (in former times, the spelling was Neaton or Naton), as he there remarks, "is obvious, and seems to show that there was in the neighbourhood some old town,"
Whatever there may be in this, the new town has in lapse of time passed away as well as the old, if there was one, there being now only what was the Mansion House when it formed a separate property, and a farm steading and remaining, - the church and manse having been removed, nearly a hundred years ago, to a more central situation for the united parishes. Anciently, Newton comprehended that part of the parish which is described by Chalmers as lying "on the western side of the Esk below Dalkeith," the barony of Lugton, however, been interposed betwixt it and the river, except for a short distance towards the south-eastern extremity: and was composed of the lands of Sheriffhall and Newton; while the other comprehended the lands of Edmonstone and Wymet, now written Woomet, Wolmet, and Woolmet. "This name," as the same author observes, "is of very doubtful etymology."


Boundaries, &c. —The parish is bounded by that of Dalkeith on the south; Inveresk on the east; and Liberton on the north and West. It may be "2 ½ miles in length by nearly one 1½ in breadth, comprehending an area of upwards of three square miles. What formed the ancient parish of Newton is generally of a uniform surface sloping towards the Esk; the other part, however, is chiefly occupied by a ridge, which commencing in the parish of Inveresk, makes a considerable rise just after entering this parish, and passes on by a gradual ascent to Gilmerton, where it attains its highest elevation.
From the crest of the ridge there is a very commanding prospect. Owing to the want of wood, the landscape for the most part is very uninteresting, and its aspect is far from being improved by the large villages of red tiled houses and numerous steam engines connected with the collieries.


Climate &c. — The climate is genial and salubrious, less rain, it is believed, falling in this parish and that of Inveresk joining, than most other places, from the westerly, which are the prevailing winds in summer, carrying the clouds past on either side, after leaving the Pentlands,-constituting what is called a weather-shed. In common with the east coast in general, however, it is exposed to the ungenial easterly winds which prevail in the early part of the season, though the fogs with which they are so often accompanied do not prevail so much as on the opposite shores of the Frith. We are not aware that there are any peculiar phenomenon of the atmosphere which serve as prognostics of the weather, but some miners are made aware of approaching changes by the state of matters below ground, since they are preceded by an increased flow of water from crevices, and issue of gases and foul air from amongst the minerals; and when very bad weather is at hand, these last are emitted with such force as to make an audible sound not to be mistaken.


Hydrography.—As has been already noticed, the parish, at one point, touches the Esk within the policy of the Duke of Buccleugh, and the Powburn slightly intersects it at the north-west corner; but in the parish otherwise, they can scarcely be said to be a perennial streamlet, which, as compared with the country generally, may be regarded as a peculiarity. The want of water, consequently, in dry seasons is much felt, and puts the inhabitants, in these cases, to no small inconvenience.


Geology, &c.—The geology of this parish belongs exclusively to the coal formation, which renders it unnecessary to enter into detail, its general characteristics being well understood. The ridge above mentioned is traversed in the western part of the parish by numerous edge seams of this valuable mineral running in general from north, 40 degrees east, to south, 40 degrees west, and with the adjacent limestone on the north, dipping at an angle of nearly 90. Of these there are at least fifteen of various thickness from 2 to 9 feet, and at no great distance there is the outcrop of about a dozen flat seams which run from south-east and north-east to north-west and south-west, with the dip of about 10 degrees. The first principle one of these from the surface, is the 4 foot or cubical coal, which terminates about the centre of the parish, the greatest depth at which it has been found been about 50 yards in sinking. The next in succession is the splint coal, about 16 yards deeper than the former, which varies from 5 to 7 feet in thickness. The third is the rough coal, generally 14 yards below the splint, and varying from 4½ to 5½ feet in thickness. The fourth is the beefy coal, which is found 14 yards deeper than the former, and in thickness varies from 3 feet 8 inches to 5 feet. The fifth is the diamond coal, which lies about 30 yards below the bed of the preceding, and about 4½ feet in thickness where it occurs. It is not found, however, in almost any of the workings of the Edmonstone collieries, which extend over the south-eastern part of the parish. The sixth is the jewel coal seam, which is the deepest that has been wrought. It is of very superior quality, and lies 10 yards deeper than the last mentioned in those places where it is found. Most probably there are a succession of valuable seams at a still greater depth, but as the expense of working would be too great to admit of their being turned to account, the riches of the field have not been further explored.
The depths above given apply to the field about the central of it. In the Edmonstone engine pit, which is the farthest working to the dip of the Jewel Coal, its depth is 84 fathoms; and the splint, which is the nearest to the surface, the four foot or cubical coal not been found there, is at the depth of 50 fathoms.
In general the flat seams in the parish are found extending in regular order: there are, however, what are technically termed nips and dikes, which, where they occur, occasion interruptions and dislocations, which have the effect of rendering mining operations often very troublesome and very uncertain in their results. In the eastern part of the parish there is a dike, a whose course is in general from south-east to north-west which has the effect of throwing the above seams down to the east from 10 to 15 feet, about 800 yards west of the place where this dike was first discovered in the Edmonstone coal field, there is another in the jewel coal seam, which may more properly be called a nip, the coal been found nearly on same level after the interruption thereby occasioned. It runs about north-east two degrees, in a direction to meet the one already mentioned, which in reality it is found to do. There are also two dikes in the Sheriffhall coal-field. The first occurs in the eastern part of it, where the diamond coal terminates, and runs generally north twenty degrees west. The other is near the hamlet of Sheriffhall, at the extremity of the parish, with the direction nearly north-west. This is called a revolution dike, because, to the west of it in the parish of Liberton, the nature and qualities of the seams are changed, and are decidedly inferior to those lying on the east, the seams already described. With regard to the edge seams, there is one found intersecting them a little to the north of the village of Edmonstone, which has the effect of shifting them some distance out of their previous course. All these dikes are of whinstone.
As to the surface, there is a considerable variety of soils and the parish. Towards the south-east corner, the soil is light and sandy, which has succeeded by a stiff clay. About the centre it is a rich loam or, which deteriorates as we ascend the ridge, the northern exposure of which is indifferent, while there is at the foot of it, in the north-west quarter, strong carse land, which at one time formed an extensive meadow.


Zoology and Botany.—Under these heads there is nothing to note in particular, there being no species of animal or plants but what is common to this part of the country generally. Game is not abundant, there being a want of cover; and as to farm stock, there is little or no breeding of any kind, with the exception of a few horses. As there is no waste land, there is no scope for the botanist; neither are there any plantations, with the exception of about 60 acres of thriving young wood added to the Duke of Buccleugh's park from his property in the parish, and the quantity of fine old trees surrounding the mansion house and diffused over the policy at Edmonstone, the seat of John Wauchope, Esq





© 2012   A Russell