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Urquhart ( listen (help·info); Scottish Gaelic: Urchard) is a small village in Moray, Scotland with a population of 420 (as at the 2001 Census). It is approximately five miles east of Elgin, and between the villages of Lhanbryde and Garmouth.
Barony of Urquhart History
Mary Queen of Scots, the Dowager Queen of France, in 1561 rewarded her trusted friend, and most loyal supporter George Seton, 7th Lord Seton, with the stewardship of the estates of Pluscarden Priory and four years later, she gave the Priory to his son, her godson, Alexander Seton. During the troubled years that followed, the Setons lost possession, but they regained control in 1581 when Alexander was appointed Commendator. They subsequently retained it when, six years later, the monastery was dissolved and its rich lands, scattered across the southern plains of Moray Firth from the approaches to Castle Urquhart in the west to Urquhart-on-Spey in the east, were erected into a barony for him, providing him with the title of Urquhart when he became Lord of Session the following year. Subsequently, Lord Urquhart, 1st Baron of Urquhart was created Lord Kyvie in the Peerage of Scotland, and was later created Earl of Dunfermline. In 1605, he was appointed Lord Chancellor of Scotland, a post he held until his death in 1622. Since that time the feudal Barony of Urquhart has been passed by inheritance and through land acquisition many times. The current and 19th Baron of Urquhart is Robert A. Cromartie of Urquhart-on-Spey, FSA (Scot).
Village of Urquhart History
In farmland on the northern part of the village lies the a small but well-preserved stone circle near which flint and stone implements of neolithic age have been found, as well as some fine gold armlets. An important Bronze Age or early Iron Age hoard was found at Law Farm near Urquhart in the nineteenth century. Comprising a group of 36 or 37 gold ribbon torcs, the remaining 10 collars are now in the collections of the British Museum, the National Museum of Scotland and the Marischal Museum in Aberdeen.
In 1125 David I, King of Scots, founded a priory, as a cell of the Benedictine Dunfermline Abbey, on low ground just to the ENE of the village. This was an attempt to 'introduce civilisation' to the local native population of Celts. However, in 1454 the Benedictine's abandoned Urquhart Priory, moving instead to Pluscarden Abbey, SW of Elgin, after the merger of the two had been agreed by a bull of Pope Nicholas V. The buildings soon started to fall into disrepair and decay and in 1654 the site had become a ruin and the remaining building materials were removed to be used in the construction of a granary in the nearby village of Garmouth and in the repair of the manse and churchyard wall.
The first reference to a church in Urquhart, which was dedicated to Saint Margaret, appears in a deed of 1237. This church fell into disrepair early in the 19th Century and in 1843 was replaced with the building of a new Parish Church on Gashill just to the north of the village. At around the same time, the remains of the original church were used to build a new Free Church of Scotland at the east end of the village. In 1938 the 2 churches were united and in the mid-1940s the St. Margaret's Free Church and manse were sold and the proceeds used to refurbish the St. Margaret's Church Hall. Two beautiful stained glass windows from the Free Church and a Celtic Cross, thought to have come from the priory, were incorporated into the building. In 1988 the Parish Church was closed and united with Saint Andrew's Church in the neighbouring parish of Lhanbryde. With the closure the communion table, baptismal font, and several chairs were placed in St Margaret's Hall. The Parish Church and manse were sold, the former now converted to a bed and breakfast and St. Margaret's Hall is now used as the village place of worship, with services being held there on the last Sunday of each month.
In 1884 a station was opened in Urquhart on the Great North of Scotland Railway (GNSR) Moray Coast line. This saw the village become more attractive as a place to live with people working elsewhere along the railway line, especially in Elgin. The railway line was closed in 1968 as a result of the 'Beeching Axe'.
The village remains an attractive place to live for people working in Elgin and elsewhere in the local area. With the closure of the village shop the only amenity is a small public house, the Royal Oak.
Notes and references
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