- BANFF, a sea-port, burgh, market-town, and parish, in the county of Banff, of which it is the chief town, 165 miles (N. by E.) from Edinburgh, on the road from Aberdeen to Inverness; containing 3958 inhabitants. This place, called in ancient records, Bainiffe, Boineffe, &c., appears to have derived its name from the district in which it is situated, and which obtained the appellation of Boyn from the Gaelic, signifying "a stream," in reference to the river Boyn, by which it is intersected. The town, previously to the middle of the 16th century, was little more than a small fishing village, and seems to have owed its origin to the foundation of a Carmelite monastery, which was occasionally the residence of some of the Scottish kings; and to the erection of a castle, governed by a thane, or constable, who administered justice, and of which the only vestiges now remaining are, a portion of the outer walls, and the ditch by which it was surrounded. Few transactions of historical importance occur with reference to the place. In 1644, the lairds of Gight, Newtown, and Ardlogie, with a party of horse and foot, made an irruption into the town, and levied exactions upon the bailies, in the absence of the provost, who had taken flight, and compelled them and the townsmen to abjure the covenant, and to acknowledge submission to the king and his deputies, as formerly. In the following year, the Marquess of Montrose entered the town with a hostile force, plundered the inhabitants, and burnt several of their houses, in compensation for which losses, they obtained, on their petition to parliament, a grant of their own excise. In 1746, the Duke of Cumberland's troops, on their march to Culloden, passed through the town, burnt the episcopal chapel, and hanged one of the inhabitants, whom they suspected of being a spy; and in 1759, a French fleet, under the command of Thurot, appeared off the coast; but the apprehensions of the inhabitants were relieved by the dispersion of their vessels in a storm, before the enemy attempted to effect a landing. A battery of eighteen and twenty-four pounders was subsequently erected, on the heights immediately above the harbour, at an expense of £400, defrayed by the inhabitants; but, soon after the peace, it was dismounted, and the cannon returned to the government, by whom they had been supplied.The town consists of two portions, detached from each other, one of which, constituting the port, stands on an elevated level, terminating abruptly towards the Moray Frith, and having the battery at its northern extremity. Between this and the other portion, which is partly on the plain, and partly on the declivity of the bank of the river Doveran, is the present castle, a plain modern building, occupying an elevated site, and commanding the sweep of the river, with the fine slope on the opposite side, surmounted with the woods of Mountcoffer. The streets are regular and spacious, and the houses, though unequal in size, are in general neatly built; most of the older houses have been taken down, and rebuilt in a modern style, and the town retains few indications of its real antiquity. The streets are lighted with gas, by a joint-stock company established in 1831; and the inhabitants are supplied with water, conveyed into the town by pipes laid down in 1810, at an expense of £1100, and by pumps attached to several of the houses. Hot, cold, and shower baths, fitted up with every accommodation, have lately been established, by a company; and in connexion with a literary society founded in 1810, and which has a library of 2000 volumes, is a reading-room, well supplied with newspapers and the most popular periodical prints. An institution for the cultivation of science and the encouragement of native talent, was founded in 1828, and has collected a museum of natural history, antiquities, and curiosities, among which is a very extensive collection of the most beautiful shells found in Java and in the Eastern Archipelago. A room in the town-hall is appropriated, by the magistrates, to the use of the literary society.A principal trade of the port is the herring-fishery, which, within the last thirty years, has been established on the shores of the Frith, with considerable success, and is still very prosperous. The quantity of fish cured in the district of Banff, which extends from Gardenstown to Portsoy, is, in favourable seasons, about 30,000 barrels, of which one-half is sent to Germany, a considerable quantity to London, and the remainder to Ireland. The number of herring-boats from the port of Banff alone, has fluctuated exceedingly, and is at present very much reduced, probably from the want of room near the harbour, for the erection of the requisite buildings, and from the higher rate of dues; but the general trade of the district is still flourishing. Cod, ling, and turbot are found in abundance, off the coast, and, if prosecuted with spirit, might add greatly to the trade of the port; and lobsters, crabs, shrimps, and other fish are brought to the markets, but only for home consumption, though the bay abounds with shrimps, which might be made a profitable branch of trade. The salmon-fishery in the river Doveran, which is the property of Lord Fife, is let for £1600 per annum, and there is, on each side of the estuary, a fishery in the open sea, of which one is let by the corporation for £191 per annum; the salmon are sent, either packed in ice, or pickled, principally to the London market. A very considerable trade is also carried on in the exportation of grain, live cattle, and cured pork; and in the importation of coal, groceries, and other commodities. During a recent year, 29,790 quarters of oats, 1174 quarters of wheat, 976 quarters of barley and bear, and 194 bags of potatoe-flour, were shipped from the port, chiefly for London and Leith; and 440 head of live cattle, 911 pigs, and 156 sheep and lambs, for the London market alone. The trade in cattle has since greatly increased; and in 1841, not less than 1792 head of cattle were sent to London. The number of vessels registered at Banff, as the head of the district, is sixty-seven, of the aggregate burthen of 4301 tons; of these, ten schooners of 878 tons, and eleven sloops of 657 tons aggregate burthen, belong to this port, and the remainder to the several creeks of Fraserburgh, Gardenstown, Macduff, Portsoy, Port-Gordon, and Garmouth. Several of these vessels make voyages to Sweden, for iron and deals; to Russia, for hemp; and to Holland, for flax; and, in the autumn, frequently to Hamburgh and Stettin, with cargoes of herrings, bringing in return grain, wool, bark, and hides.The harbour is situated at the western extremity of a circular bay, at the opposite extremity of which are the town and harbour of Macduff; both these extremities are rocky, and between them is a beach of sand. The old or inner harbour, completed in 1775, was formed by two piers and the land, inclosing a triangular area, having at the angle towards the north-north-east, an entrance which, in 1816, was protected by a new pier and breakwater, forming a basin, or outer harbour, to the north of the former. This addition, which was made under the superintendence of the late Mr. Telford, at an expense of £18,000, one-half of which was defrayed by government, though not productive of all the benefit expected from it, as ships have since been wrecked in the new basin, has still materially diminished the swell in the old harbour, now one of the safest in the Moray Frith, and has afforded additional facilities for the entrance and departure of vessels. A vessel drawing 12 feet water can enter the new basin, at highwater of neap tides, and one drawing 15 feet, at spring tides; and vessels drawing respectively 8 and 10½ feet water, may enter the old harbour at high-water of neap and spring tides. A patent slip, on Morton's principle, has been constructed in the harbour. Ship-building is occasionally carried on, and there is a small manufactory for ropes and sails, chiefly for home use; the thread and stocking manufacture, formerly pursued here, has been discontinued for some years. A public brewery, erected on the high ground above the harbour, was once conducted on a large scale, but, of late, has been confined to the supply of the immediate neighbourhood: a distillery at the Mill of Banff, about a mile from the town, produces on an average from 11,000 to 12,000 gallons of proof spirits annually. A foundry for machinery, grates, ploughshares, and various kinds of cast-metal work, was established about fifteen years since, by Messrs. Fraser, and affords employment to ten men; the works are set in motion by a steam-engine of six-horse power, constructed by the proprietors. The market is on Friday, and is well supplied with fish of every kind; there are no cattle-markets, and, though by charter the inhabitants are allowed seven or eight fairs, only four are held, and of these, the Whitsun-fair alone is of any consideration. Coaches pass daily to and from Aberdeen and Elgin, and to and from Peterhead.From a grant of a toft and garden in the burgh, by William the Lion, in 1165, to his chaplain, Douglas, Bishop of Moray, the town appears to have been previously a royal burgh; and, according to tradition, it received from Malcolm Canmore, those privileges which were ratified by Robert Bruce, and subsequently, in 1372, by Robert II., who also conferred upon the inhabitants liberties equal to those of Aberdeen, which were afterwards confirmed by James VI. and Charles II. The government is vested in a provost, four bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and ten councillors, all elected by the £10 constituency; the corporation revenue is about £1200. The taxes and assessments for the burgh, however, are not imposed as in other burghs, by the magistrates and council, but by the inhabitants themselves, assembled in a special court for that purpose. The affairs of police are under the management of commissioners, who are elected in accordance with the provisions of a particular act of parliament, and by whose authority the police rates are levied and expended. No one could formerly carry on business without becoming a member of the merchant-guildry of Banff, or of the incorporated trades, of which there are six, namely, the hammermen, wrights, shoemakers, tailors, coopers, and weavers, who all claim exclusive privileges. The town is classed with Elgin, Cullen, Inverury, Kintore, and Peterhead, in returning a member to the imperial parliament; and under the Reform act, the constituency includes the qualified voters in the neighbouring, and otherwise independent, burgh of Macduff. The townhall, a spacious but plain building, erected within the last sixty years, occupies two sides of a quadrangle, with a tower at the external angle, of older date, surmounted by a spire of graceful proportion, together 100 feet high; the building is of hewn stone, three stories in height, and contains a hall, two large drawing-rooms, a council-chamber, a court-room for the sheriff's court, offices for the chamberlain and sheriff clerks, and the prisons for the burgh. The old prison contained two apartments, each nineteen feet square, for the reception of civil prisoners; and two cells for criminals; but they were badly arranged, and totally inadequate for the purpose of classification. The new jail, by which the old one has been superseded, is on the best principles.The parish, which formed part of that of Boyndie till 1634, is about six miles and a half in length, and two miles and a half in breadth in the centre, from which, towards each extremity, it diminishes materially; comprehending about 6312 acres, of which 3778 are good arable land, 1161 uncultivated and in pasture, and about 220 wood. It is bounded on the east by the river Doveran, which has its source on the confines of the counties of Aberdeen and Banff, and falls into the sea at the town; and on the west, by the burn of Boyndie, by which it is separated from the parish of that name. Over the former of these rivers, situated close to the town, is a substantial stone bridge of seven semicircular arches, erected at the expense of government, in 1779; and over the latter, are two stone bridges, of two arches each. The surface is very uneven, rising, in the lower part of the parish, from 200 to 300 feet above the sea, and forming an eminence called the Gallow Hill; and in the upper part of the parish, are eminences of much greater elevation, though less raised above the surface of the adjacent lands. The system of agriculture is improved; and within the last forty years, a large tract of land, previously in pasture, has been brought under tillage. Draining has also been carried on to a very considerable extent, and the greater portion of the land is inclosed with fences of stone; the farm-houses and offices are generally well built, and many of them afford superior accommodations. The rateable annual value of the parish is £12,889, including £6977 for the burgh. The substrata are chiefly clay-slate and greywacke. At Cairn of Ord, in the south-western part of the parish, is found granite, which, in some places, rises to the surface; it is of excellent quality for building, and has been quarried for that purpose, but, on account of its distance from the sea, it has not been worked to any great extent. The scenery is, in several parts, pleasing, and in others romantic and picturesque: the river Doveran, on its first entering the parish, winds into a rocky glen, of which the steep sides, crowned with luxuriant wood, are connected by a circular arch of stone; beyond this point, the glen gradually expands into an open valley, round the eastern side of which the river forms a graceful curve, inclosing the plain on which Duff House is situated. The road from Aberdeen winds round the verge of a verdant hill, on the extremity of which, sloping towards the sea, and stretching into the bay, is the town of Macduff; and on the western side, near the bend of the river, rises a precipitous bank, on the summit of which is seen the mausoleum of the Duff family, embosomed in sheltering woods, and, near it, a funereal urn containing some human bones that were found on the spot, which was formerly the cemetery of the Carmelite monastery. Duff House, the splendid residence of the Earl of Fife, occupies the grounds formerly belonging to the monastery, which were, in 1630, conveyed to Lord Airlie, and, in 1690, to Lord Fife, who, in 1752, purchased the superiority, which had been granted by James VI. to King's College, Aberdeen. The mansion was erected about the middle of the last century, by Lord Braco, after a design by Adams, the first architect of that name, at an expense of £70,000; it is a spacious quadrilateral structure of freestone, in the Roman style of architecture, and contains a choice collection of paintings of the Flemish and Italian schools, and numerous portraits by the most eminent masters. The demesne is richly planted, and comprehends much interesting scenery; and, from many points, commands extensive and varied prospects.The parish is ecclesiastically in the presbytery of Fordyce and synod of Aberdeen; the minister's stipend is £245. 19. 9., with a manse, and the glebe is valued at £45; patron, the Earl of Seafield. The church, situated on the south side of the town, is a plain structure, erected in 1790, and is capable of containing 1500 persons; the interior is chastely decorated, and has some handsome monuments of marble, one of which, by Bacon, representing a soldier weeping over a funereal vase, is finely executed, and was erected by Sir David Ochterlony, and the army under his command, to the memory of Lieut.-Col. Lawtie, a native of this place. A chapel in connexion with the Established Church, for a district including the more remote portion of the parish and others adjoining, and a manse, have recently been erected, at the upper end of the parish, at an expense of £600; the stipend of the minister is derived from the seat-rents, augmented with £20 Royal bounty. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, Episcopalians, members of the United Secession, Independents, and Wesleyans, and a Roman Catholic chapel. A grammar school was founded in 1786, under the direction of Dr. Chapman, formerly rector of the grammar school of Dumfries; the number of boys usually attending is about 170, and the rector, who is obliged to employ two qualified assistants, has a considerable salary from the funds of the town. This school is endowed with funds, the interest of which is regularly appropriated to the maintenance of sixteen bursaries; one, in the gift of the presbytery of Fordyce, is worth about £30, and the others are from £2 to £3 per annum. A free school was founded by Mr. Alexander Pirie, who, in 1804, bequeathed to the town-council and kirk-session £1100 for that purpose, with a tenement, and £100 for the erection of a school-house and house for the master. Mr. George Smith, a native of Fordyce, by will dated at Bombay, in 1769, vested in the magistrates of Banff, the residue of his estate, amounting to £10,297. 16. 6., of which he appropriated £1000 to the endowment of an infirmary in this town or at Fordyce, and £40 per annum to a school-master, to educate as many boys of the name of Smith as the funds would maintain, at £25 per annum each; the dividends, amounting to £308. 18. 8., are applied according to the will, and nine boys are maintained and educated. Mr. James Wilson, of Grenada, vested the whole of his stock, after the decease of certain annuitants, in the magistrates of Banff, to be appropriated to charitable purposes, according to their discretion; this estate, which ultimately produced £3561. 16. 1. three per cents, and £2647 in cash, was appropriated to the erection of an infant school, a free school on the Madras system, and class-rooms for the grammar school teachers, with a library and museum. Mr. Alexander Cassy, a native of the town, then resident in Pentonville, in 1819, bequeathed the residue of his estates to the magistrates, to be appropriated to the half-yearly relief of aged and infirm persons and helpless orphans; of this property, £10,000 three per cents have already fallen into the disposal of the trustees, who apply the dividends. Miss Elizabeth Wilson, in 1825, bequeathed to trustees the whole property of which she should die possessed, the produce to be appropriated to six poor tradesmen and six poor maidens; the annuitants receive from £9 to £10 each per annum. Alexander Chalmers, Esq., of Cluny, in 1834, bequeathed property which will amount to £40,000, in trust, to the lord-lieutenant and member for the county, the minister and magistrates of Banff, and others, for the erection and endowment of an hospital and dispensary, to be called Chalmers' Hospital, for the county of Banff; the hospital to be erected on the site of the residence of the founder.Scarcely any vestiges of the ancient Carmelite monastery are remaining; some arches, apparently parts of cells, are still to be traced in the yard of the inn called the Royal Oak, and near the foundry is a vaulted chamber, now occupied by the boiler of the steam-engine belonging to that establishment. A portion of the building occupied by Sir George Ogilvy, afterwards Lord Banff, and which appears to have been regarded as a palace, from the occasional visits to it by the Scottish kings, was destroyed, in 1640, by General Monroe, who, having marched into the town, encamped in the gardens of that house, which he totally destroyed, carrying away the timber and iron-work, and leaving only the shattered walls, a heap of ruins. That part of the town which is called the Sea-town, is supposed to occupy the lands of the chapel of the Holy Rood; and another chapel, dedicated to St. Thomas, is thought to have stood somewhere between the site of the parish church and St. Andrew's chapel. The Knights Templars anciently had a preceptory in the town; their possessions were erected into a lordship, in favour of Sir John Sandilands, in 1563, and several small and scattered portions of their lands appear to have passed into burgage tenures. The old castle of Inchdrewer, erected about the time of James IV. or V., is still so entire as to be habitable, and is now in the occupation of a tenant; it is chiefly memorable for the death of a lord of Banff, who was burnt in it in 1713, under circumstances that have never been fully explained. Adjoining the mausoleum of Lord Fife, is an ancient monument, on which is the recumbent figure of an armed warrior, with the inscription, "Hic Jacet Johannes Duff, de Maldavat, et Baldavi; obiit, 2 Julii, 1404:" this monument, with the ashes of the deceased, was brought from Cullen. James Sharp, Archbishop of St. Andrew's, who was waylaid and assassinated, was born at Banff Castle, in 1613.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.