Hood Family and Coal Mining

Newton Parish - Old Statistical Account

Old Statistical Account for the Parish of Newton, Midlothian



(County of Edinburgh Presbytery of Dalkeith Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale.)


By JOHN MAIN, D.D. Minister.



ACCORDING to Dr. Webster's report, the number of
souls in this parish, in the year 1755, was     —

By an exact list, taken in June last (1793), it was
found to be reduced to     —

Hence there is a decrease of     64
Of the above number there are . —
Under 8 years of age, —
Above that period of life, —
In all, 557 578 1135
The number of families is,
Annual average of baptisms for the last 10 years,
——————— marriages*,

[This explanation was given in a footnote at end of page 2 after 'School' ]
* No regular register of funerals has been kept for some time past. They can only be collected from the treasurer's accounts, who charges himself with the dues of the mortcloths, which he has received. This account must have been, for some time past, very deficient, owing to a circumstance, which will be explained afterwards, as the explanation may be useful to other parishes.


Proprietors. — There are 4 heritors in the parish; the Duke of Buccleugh, the Earl of Wemyss, Mr. Wauchope of Edmonstone, and his eldest son.


Ecclesiastical State. — Mr. Wauchope is patron of the parish. The stipend, which consists of money and grain, including 100 merks Scotch, as the interest of mortified money, and the allowance for communion elements, may be reckoned, at an average about 106l. per annum. The glebe consists of 7 acres, 1 rood, and 31 falls of good arable land, lying very conveniently round the manse, and all lately inclosed with a hedge, by the present incumbent. The church was built in the year 1742, and is situated very nearly in the centre, no part of which can be said to be more than a mile and a half distant from it. The manse was built in the year 1749, and stands within less than half a mile of the church, towards the E.


School. — The schoolmaster's salary is 100l. Scotch. The number of scholars, at an average of 10 years, amounts to 48; and the whole of his income, including the salary, school dues, and the emoluments of the session clerk's office, may be reckoned, at an average of that period, no more than 24l. per annum.


Poor. — The average of stated pensioners on the poor's roll, for the last 10 years, is 14. The expenditure on these, including occasional supplies to others, and the salaries of session clerk, precentor, beadle, synod and presbytery clerks, and presbytery officer, amounts, at an average, to 42l. per annum. The money at present in the kirk treasurer's hands, is a mere trifle. The poor, however, have been, hitherto, maintained pretty decently, by the funds arising from the weekly collections, and from the use of the parish mortcloths, without having recourse to any assessment for that purpose, though not without the necessity of frequent encroachments on the very small capital in the treasurer's hands.


Charitable Societies and Mortcloths. — The body of colliers, in this parish have been in use to keep what they call a box, from which they allow an aliment, or support, to such of the contributors as are laid aside from work by sickness. This, no doubt, afforded a temporary relief to the parish funds. But when the contributor dies, there is no provision made for the widow and family, who must, consequently, fall a burden on these funds. They purchased, some years ago, from this stock, a set of mortcloths, the use of which was given, gratis, to the contributors. The body of carters, who have a fund of the same kind, within these 2 or 3 years, followed their example. As the great body of the parish consists of these two descriptions of people, the kirk-session foresaw, that this practice, if allowed to continue, would soon go nearly to extinguish altogether the funds arising from the use of the parish mortcloths. They communicated their ideas on this circumstance to the heritors of the parish, who unanimously agreed to concur with the kirk-session in trying the point of law on this subject, and to defray the whole expence that should be incurred on this occasion. The neighbouring parish of Liberton, who were in the same situation, joined in the process. Accordingly, a decree of the Court of Session, dated November 30th 1792, was obtained, "strictly prohibiting the use of any but the parish mortcloths." Notwithstanding this decision in their favour, the kirk-session, in consideration of that degree of relief which they were sensible the parish funds derived from these boxes, by maintaining decently such of the contributors as may be laid aside, by accident or disease, were willing to grant them some indulgence. Accordingly, after having obtained the full consent of all the heritors, they agreed to allow them the use of their own mortcloths for the space of 20 years, by which time their present mortcloths may be supposed to be worn out; on condition that, at every time any of them are used, they pay to the kirk treasurer, for the benefit of the poor, the moderate sum of 4s.; it being expressly understood, that this indulgence shall continue only during the continuance of that aid which they have been accustomed to give to the parish funds; but, that the moment any of these boxes are given up, and consequently that aid is withdrawn, this indulgence shall be at an end; and the kirk-session, in that event, are determined immediately to avail themselves of the right which they now possess, by virtue of this decree.


Collieries. — Coal works have been very long carried on here. The following state of the seams of coal is given from the best authority: There are no less than 19 different seams that run through this parish, stretching nearly N. and S. Six of these seams are termed flat, because they lie in a horizontal position, and make but a small angle with the horizon; dipping to the eastward, 1 in 10, and sometimes 1 in 15 or 20 feet. The other 13 are called edge seams, owing to the position in which they stand, running down from the earth's surface in a perpendicular direction, and making an angle of near 90 degrees with the horizon. These seams vary in their thicknesses. The thickest of the flat seams are about 4 feet, and the thinnest about 2½. The thickest of the edge seams are about 9 or 10 feet, and the thinnest about 2. All of these seams have been already wrought in part; some of them probably 200 years ago; several of them by levels taken from the sea, and others by levels from the lowest parts of these lands. Some of the flat seams, which are of the best quality, have been wrought of late, and are still working by fire engines, and other machinery, 26 fathoms perpendicular depth below the sea. There still remain to be wrought a great quantity of these seams; which, if ever attempted in any future period, will require very powerful fire engines to drain the water from them, and consequently a great outlay of money, before these coals can be brought to market.


Wages and Character. — The business of a collier seems to be a very lucrative one. Each of them may earn 18s. or 20s. per week. It is however matter of much regret, that very few instances are known, of such as are so attentive as to save any thing at all. On the contrary, it is the heavy complaint of all the coal-masters, that a collier will work none, so long as he has any money in his pocket. This is the real reason of the scarcity of that article, which was so deeply and universally felt during the course of last winter.


Antiquities. — The only antiquity here, that deserves to be taken notice of, is a very high ridge, of a circular form, and of considerable extent, which evidently appears to be altogether artificial. The people of the country have always called it "The Kaim," a corruption, it is supposed, of the word Camp. If it is the remains of a camp, it could not be a Roman one, as it is well known that their camps were of a square form.



© 2012   A Russell