The old village hall, Middlebie
Middlebie Church from the air
The Middlebie Parish History Group started following a meeting in Middlebie in February 2008 to which Bob Martin was invited. He is a professional historian, whom we had met at the Catstrand Centre where there was a small exhibition of old maps, photos and information about the Glenkens area. He told us how he came to history as a mature student, and how interesting and important it is to collect and preserve the knowledge of the past in local communities.
A second meeting was held in April and enough people attended or expressed interest for us to make the decision to proceed with the formation of a Middlebie History Group. Because it was not intended to restrict membership or area of research to the village of Middlebie this was later amended to Middlebie Parish History Group thereby including the villages of Waterbeck, Eaglesfield and Kirtlebridge. Bob Martin was in attendance again and gave us the benefit of his experience in the running of a group of amateurs, and also the various sources of information. He made clear the distinction between history being the events which happened to people and heritage which is what has survived from the past.
A constitution was adopted and it was agreed that apart from chairman, secretary and treasurer there was no need for a formal committee structure. All group members to be involved as much as their interest and time dictates. Meetings are held in Middlebie Community Centre usually on Wednesday evenings on alternate months with extra ones in members' homes occasionally. We bring material to discuss and learn from the more experienced members.
Our aim is to collect, collate and preserve historical information relating to our local area. Results of the Group's findings will be made available to the community. We intend to share freely, especially with the primary school children, and visitors to the area, many of whom come because of family connections to this parish.
Membership is open to anyone with an interest in local history and new members are always welcome
If you have any material, information, pictures or memories of the area, please either attend one of the meetings, or telephone an office bearer. Any material offered to the Group could be collected, copied, and returned to the owner
The Middlebie Parish History Group is not a family history archive and is not able to conduct research for other people. If you are looking for information about family history in Middlebie Parish, we suggest that you visit the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society's website at www.dgfhs.org.uk
Chairperson: Linda Gilbert.
Treasurer: Ephene Champley.
Secretary: Mary Hollern.
The Parish of Middlebie
Click on the thumbnail below to see a map of the parish of Middlebie
A Brief History of the Parish of Middlebie
Middlebie Parish is situated in south east Dumfriesshire 6 miles NNE from Annan and 17 miles NW of Carlisle.
It consists of the ancient parishes of Middlebie, Pennersax (Pennersaughs) and Carruthers, united in 1609.
Middlebie was the seat of a Presbytery from some time after the Reformation until 1743. It was then divided to form the Presbyteries of Langholm and Annan. Middlebie parish is now in the Presbytery of Annandale & Eskdale. It is bounded by the parishes of Tundergarth, Langholm, Canonbie, Half Morton, Kirkpatrick Fleming, Annan and Hoddam. The villages of Eaglesfield, Middlebie and Waterbeck lie within the parish, with Kirtlebridge on its southern boundary.
In 1841 the population of the parish was 2154 and about sixty of these people were handloom weavers. There were inns and shops and the Lime Works Blacketridge. Tradesmen listed in 1841 include joiners, shoemakers, tailors, cloggers, masons, millers, carters, grooms, gardeners, dressmakers, straw-hat makers, etc. But now only Eaglesfield still has a general store and post office. In 1841 as well as 73 farmers 314 people were employed as agricultural labourers and 60 more as servants.
The mainline west coast London to Glasgow railway, previously the Caledonian railway once had a station at Kirtlebridge, where Thomas Carlyle would alight before walking up to his parents farm at Scotsbrig above Middlebie. From Kirtlebridge the Solway Junction line ran down to Annan and across by the Solway viaduct to Cumbria. It was built to transport iron ore to the Lanarkshire steelworks.
Eaglesfield and Hottsbridge by Waterbeck still have primary schools. The school at Middlebie closed in 1972 nearly a hundred years after it opened. The Eaglesfield building is now just over a hundred years old. The former school in Waterbeck village built about 1900 is now the public hall. Eaglesfield's public hall was built in 1892-3. Middlebie's old hall (a wooden ex- army building purchased in 1928) was demolished and a new one built in 2001.
Viking legacy in the names.
The name Middelby was recorded in about 1280, middel was the Old English/Danish Norse form of middle. It has been written that Middlebie took its name, signifying the "middle dwelling" or "middle station" from the Roman Camp of Birrens south of the village, and midway between Netherbie in Cumberland and Overbie in Eskdalemuir. However there are nine places ending -bie or -by in the Dumfries area and it is a frequent suffix in the north of England. James B. Johnston tells us that this indicates that Danish Vikings were in this area. These name endings derive from the Old Norse by-r and Icelandic boe-r meaning a dwelling, hamlet or town. Middlebie lies within Annandale, the suffix -dale derives from the Norse dail meaning a field or meadow. The main rivers running through the parish are the Mein Water and the Kirtle Water which reach the sea via the Solway Firth, firth being the Norse word for estuary. The -beck of Waterbeck is Icelandic/Danish for a brook, and rigg from the same language is a ridge of land. Satur derives from the Norse word saetor meaning summer pasture.
Norse measures of land, later continued by the Scots, were named and valued on a standard based on the weight of silver. Thus eighteen- or twenty-penny lands made an ounce land, and eight ounces made one merk or pound-land. These terms are still in use in the sassines of 1949 for the disposition of the forty-penny land of Satur and the tenshilling land of Darhipps thereafter called the Merkland of Satur, being part of the Burnfoot estate purchased by J.Boyes.
Churches and graveyards
Within the parish there are four churches; at Middlebie, with its surrounding graveyard, Waterbeck, Eaglesfield and Kirtlebridge. The churchyards, still occasionally used for burials, and the foundations of the old Churches still exist at Carruthers (also known as Crowdieknowe) in the north and Pennersaughs in the south; there is also a Burial enclosure in a field at Albie. The memorial inscriptions are listed in the Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society booklet "Middlebie Parish Graveyards". The present cemetery is to the south of the village of Middlebie, beside the road to Eaglesfield. A fine medieval graveslab now acting as a gate post at Crowdieknowe, along with other fragments suggest the church that stood here had architectural sophistication and rich patrons. Hugh MacDiamid whose maternal grandparents lived at Kirtleton in the north of the parish wrote a poem about the graveyard at Crowieknowe.
The church now standing in Middlebie was built in 1928 but a church has stood at Middlebie for many centuries. The previous plainer church was built in 1821. Before that virtually nothing is certain although it has been suggested that Saint Cuthbert, elected prior of the monastery of Melrose in the year 661, came to Middlebie in the course of his evangelistic tours. So it is possible that a Christian congregation came into being then. Certainly the well situated near the church has always been known as St. Cuthbert's Well. It is also recorded that there was a Well of Our Lady at Middlebie. To the east is a farm called Ladywells.
According to John Thomson there was a church at Middlebie when King David died in 1371. He says it may have been stone built with a thatched roof. In 1851 three 14th century silver brooches "found in the ruins of the ancient church of Middlebie, Annandale" were presented to the Museum of Scotland. The first recorded minister was Thomas Bell in 1615. Since then there have been 22 incumbents. Two Communion cups from 1617-19 are engraved "FOR THE KIRK OF MIDDILBIE".
Eaglesfield Church, which replaced the Mission Hall beside Thorlaw Cottages was dedicated in April 1953. Kirkpatrick Fleming United Free Church stood at Pincod on the road between Eaglesfield and Kirtlebridge, this became Eaglesfield Parish Church on the reunion of the Auld Kirk with the United Free Church in 1929, but Eaglesfield had grown to be the largest village in the area so fundraising began before the Second World War for a building in Eaglesfield. Only the manse remains at Pincod although the pulpit, pews, war memorial and some panelling from the old church were used in the new building.
Kirtlebridge Church, built to a design of James Gallison in 1840-41, and remodelled by Hardy and Wright in 1896-8, stands just inside Annan Parish. Kirtle Manse has been the home of the minister for the united churches of the parish in recent times. The others are all now in private ownership.
The United Presbyterian Church at Waterbeck dates from 1869, a year later than the manse next to it, and reputedly cost £1869. This building replaced the Old Relief Church built in 1792 for the Seceders, of whom there were nearly as many as Church of Scotland members in the mid 19th century in Middlebie Parish, their congregation had a leading place among those which separated from the Church of Scotland. The congregation reunited with the Church of Scotland as part of the "Grand Union" of 1929.
Carruthers Kirk, built as a Mission Church served the families of the north east remoter part of the parish. It was commonly known as Laurie's Close Church and stands close to the cottages of that name on the road from Waterbeck to Langholm, and is now a private house.