Scottish History Online - A Histroy of Huntly, Scotland

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A Potted History of Huntly

A short synopsis of the history of Huntly in the heart of Gordon country, Aberdeenshire.

We know that the first Lord of Strathbogie received the lands from King William the Lion at the end of the 12th century. He built a Castle made of timber on a man made mound close to the river Deveron and later around 1376 this was replaced with a large stone tower house as the Gordon settled in Strathbogie. The tower was itself replaced with a larger more spacious structure about 1450, the Castle was also known at this time as the "Strathbogie Castle" and various, frequent reconstruction’s of the Castle took place over the next two hundred years.

Situated near the Castle was the village of Strathbogie, built along a mediaeval highway with fords crossing the Rivers Deveron and Bogie was for a long time, only of a long row of cottages (often referred to as the "Raws of Strathbogie"). The village, through the development of milling and cloth weaving and by the accompanying status of the village being raised to a Burgh of Barony in 1488, in favour of George 2nd Earl of Huntly, was soon to be turned into a thriving market town.

The Reformation saw Huntly as one of the main strongholds of the Catholic faith in Scotland. Priests of the Counter Reformation flocked, either to the Castle or one of the prominent Gordon Lairds for sanctuary. The Reformation, Bishop’s Wars and the Civil War of the 17th century saw armies frequently traverse Strathbogie causing great hardship to its people. When Alexander, 2nd Duke of Gordon died, his widow raised her son Duke Cosmo as a protestant and so the link between the chief of the Gordon’s and Catholicism was severed.

In the 18th century prosperity came to Huntly due to the expansion in the production of linen in the town. Brought largely, by the expertise of Irishman Hugh McVeagh who settled in Huntly in 1731. At its height Huntly’s Linen manufacturing accounted for one third of all Scotland’s Linen produce. Sadly the industry collapsed at the start of the 19th century with the introduction of cheap imported cotton good s from the Americas.

1770 saw plans drawn up by Alexander, 4th Duke of Gordon for the town’s enlargement. Huntly prior to this consisted of Old Road, Castle Street, the Square and several lanes leading of it. The Dukes new streets were laid out in a grid system (not unlike the Basque Towns in France) and many of the fews were sold of for houses and factories.

From his estate, Duke Alexander in 1793 raised a new regiment with valuable help from his wife Jane Maxwell who is said to have "kissed every new recruit". With it’s own Tartan, woven by Mr Forsyth a weaving manufacturer in the Square, the Regiment was soon to be known as the ‘Gordon Highlanders’ and retained strong links with the Town of Huntly until its amalgamation with the Queens Own Highlanders in 1995.

The son of the 4th Duke was George who married Elizabeth Brodie, a wealthy heiress. George had no son to follow him and so was the last Duke of Gordon. After his death, the Duchess Elizabeth built the Gordon Schools as a memorial to her late husband. The eminent architect Archibald Simpson designed this fine building.

Many new industries in the 19th century made Huntly prosperous and this, accompanied by the introduction of the railway to the town in 1854 further expanded business. For a small town Huntly had an amazing verity of industry. Beer was brewed, whisky distilled, agricultural machinery was made, several mills on the Bogie produced cloth; there was a boot and shoe factory, a tinplate works which manufactured, amongst many other things, lamps for ships, and a millwright who supplied all sort of machinery for industry. There was even a factory that made cigarettes! Most of these industries have disappeared but to some extent new ones have taken their place.

© John A. Duncan of Sketraw, KCN, FSA Scot.

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History of Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland