ANNAN (surveyed in 1859)
The coastal burgh of Annan is situated on the left bank of the River Annan at the edge of the Solway Firth, in Dumfries and Galloway. Originally created a burgh of barony in the late-twelfth century by the Bruce family, Annan was recognised as a royal burgh by King James V in the 1530s. Traditionally a market town, the appearance of a cotton mill in 1785 brought with it new employment opportunities. The nineteenth century saw the development of the port and, with it, the growth of shipbuilding and the formation of trading links with North America and the Baltic. The population of the municipal burgh in 1851 was estimated to be 4,570.
Annan’s old town centre is largely built of sandstone and includes a number of impressive and historically significant buildings. Bridge House, which was built in the early-eighteenth century and stands on the High Street, is considered one of the finest examples of a Georgian town house. Before the erection of Annan Academy in Ednam Street, in 1820, it served as the Academy and included amongst its pupils, and later teaching staff, the Scottish essayist and historian, Thomas Carlyle.
The nineteenth century appears to have been a particularly fruitful time for Annan. The expansion of the port, which included the creation of an artificial embankment at the cost of £3,000 and two jetties, coincided with the creation of profitable new trading links and a healthy increase in shipbuilding and engineering. Whisky distilling also featured at this time; in 1830 a local exciseman, George Donald, opened the Annandale distillery. Other areas of industry included the gas works, cotton and grain mills, weaving, and the curing of ham and bacon for the Liverpool and London markets. At the time of this survey, a weekly market was held every Thursday.
Farming, fishing, and industries generated by the port, largely occupied the people living in the surrounding area. Crops were grown and sheep and cattle were raised. Interestingly, the Statistical Account (1845) noted that a significant move towards the rearing of hogs had taken place in recent years, providing ‘no small profit for the country’. The Statistical Account also records the existence of two thriving fisheries, both of which were located on the coast: one to the west of Annan and the other to the east of Seafield.
Located at the east-end of town, Annan parish church, which was built around 1790, is an impressive Georgian structure complete with clock tower and steeple. It does not appear to have been the only place of worship in Annan; the Statistical Account (1845) records the existence of ‘two Dissenting meeting-houses in the town’, one of which belonged to the Associate Synod and the other to the Relief Church. Whilst the former appears to have been long established, the latter was a recent arrival. There is also mention of an independent preacher who, at the time of the Account, appears to have had no chapel from which to preach.
At a time when literacy levels in certain parts of Scotland were still fairly low, the Statistical Account (1845) records that every person of ‘sound mind’, and over the age of fifteen, in the parish of Annan could read. There appears to have been one parish schoolmaster in the burgh who had responsibility for teaching an average of 80 pupils. The long established Academy was also present, as was a recently erected infant school.
Located in the centre of Annan at the time of survey were branch offices of the British Linen Company’s Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Commercial Bank of Scotland, a penny savings’ bank and several other commercial businesses.
Culture and Society
The people of Annan appear to have been quite well catered for by a subscription library, several benevolent and religious societies and, in 1857, by the appearance of a local newspaper, The Annandale Observer.