1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Arbroath

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ARBROATH, or Aberbrothock, a royal, municipal and police burgh, and seaport of Forfarshire, Scotland. It is situated at the mouth of Brothock water, 17 m. N.E. of Dundee by the North British railway, which has a branch to Forfar, via Guthrie, on the Caledonian railway. Pop. (1891) 22,821; (1901) 22,398. The town is under the jurisdiction of a provost, bailies and council, and, with Brechin, Forfar, Inverbervie and Montrose, returns one member to parliament. The leading industries include the manufacture of sailcloth, canvas and coarse linens, tanning, boot and shoe making, and bleaching, besides engineering works, iron foundries, chemical works, shipbuilding and fisheries. The harbour, originally constructed and maintained by the abbots, by an agreement between the burgesses and John Gedy, the abbot in 1394, was replaced by one more commodious in 1725, which in turn was enlarged and improved in 1844. The older portion was converted into a wet dock in 1877, and the entrance and bar of the new harbour were deepened. A signal tower, 50 ft. high, communicates with the Bell Rock (q.v.) lighthouse on the Inchcape Rock, 12 m. south-east of Arbroath, celebrated in Southey’s ballad. The principal public buildings are the town-hall, a somewhat ornate market house, the gildhall, the public hall, the infirmary, the antiquarian museum (including some valuable fossil remains) and the public and mechanics’ libraries. The parish church dates from 1570, but has been much altered, and the spire was added in 1831. The ruins of a magnificent abbey, once one of the richest foundations in Scotland, stand in High Street. It was founded by William the Lion in 1178 for Tironesian Benedictines from Kelso, and consecrated in 1197, being dedicated to St Thomas Becket, whom the king had met at the English court. It was William’s only personal foundation, and he was buried within its precincts in 1214. Its style was mainly Early English, the western gable Norman. The cruciform church measured 276 ft. long by 160 ft. wide, and was a structure of singular beauty and splendour. The remains include the vestry, the southern transept (the famous rose window of which is still entire), part of the chancel, the southern wall of the nave, part of the entrance towers and the western doorway. It was here that the parliament met which on the 6th of April 1320 addressed to the pope the notable letter, asserting the independence of their country and reciting in eloquent terms the services which their “lord and sovereign” Robert Bruce had rendered to Scotland. The last of the abbots was Cardinal Beaton, who succeeded his uncle James when the latter became archbishop of St Andrews. At the Reformation the abbey was dismantled and afterwards allowed to go to ruin. Part of the secular buildings still stand, and the abbot’s house, or Abbey House as it is now called, is inhabited. Arbroath was created a royal burgh in 1186, and its charter of 1599 is preserved. King John exempted it from “toll and custom” in every part of England excepting London. Arbroath is “Fairport” of Scott’s Antiquary, and Auchmithie, 3 m. north-east (“Musselcrag” of the same romance), is a quaint old-fashioned place, where the men earn a precarious living by fishing. On each side of the village the coast scenery is remarkably picturesque, the rugged cliffs—reaching in the promontory of Red Head, the scene of a thrilling incident in the Antiquary, a height of 267 ft.—containing many curiously shaped caves and archways which attract large numbers of visitors. At the 14th-century church of St Vigeans, 1 m. north of Arbroath, stands one of the most interesting of the sculptured stones of Scotland, with what is thought to be the only legible inscription in the Pictish tongue. The parish—originally called Aberbrothock and now incorporated with Arbroath for administrative purposes—takes its name from a saint or hermit whose chapel was situated at Grange of Conon, 3½ m. north-west. Two miles west by south are the quarries of Carmyllie, the terminus of a branch line from Arbroath, which was the first light railway in Scotland and was opened in 1900.