Forfar was proclaimed a royal burgh by King David I of Scotland during the twelfth century, this charter being restated by Charles II in 1665. Forfar Loch is situated to the west of the town, and it is here that King Malcolm's queen, Margaret, is believed to have established a chapel. The now ruined castle, which appears on the town's crest, is claimed to have held sessions of the Scottish Parliament during the twelfth century, at which titles were awarded to the Scottish nobles. Traditionally a farming and market town, Forfar's population in the census of 1831 was 7,949, increasing to 11,009 in 1851.
The handsome county buildings in Forfar during the mid-nineteenth century were located in Castle Street (in the middle of the High Street), and built at a cost of £5000 - about £315,000 in today's terms. Just to the north of the town stands the 'new' prison, which was built in 1843. During the eighteenth century Forfar contained many thatched houses, which were dirty and malodorous. However, these buildings were replaced by well-built houses during the early nineteenth century.
Trade and Industry
Although Forfar was not as industrial as Dundee or Arbroath, it did boast a weaving, linen and jute industry during the nineteenth century that provided employment for weavers. A more unusual industry was that of high quality shoe-making, as well as gloves and clothing. In addition to the many banks and insurance offices in Forfar, the town council also provided a number of jobs in the regional administrative sector. A weekly market was held each Saturday, while rural fairs also took place on regular dates throughout the farming year.
At the time of this survey, the parish of Forfar was the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Angus and Mearns, with the parish church itself being built in 1791. Wilson's Imperial Gazeteer of Scotland of 1857 records the wide range of religious beliefs that existed in Forfar during the middle of the nineteenth century. He records that the town possessed two Free churches, a United Presbyterian church, a chapel of ease called St James, an Episcopalian Church and a Roman Catholic chapel.
Culture and Society
In addition to its subscription library and mechanics' reading-room, Forfar boasted a number of societies, including a horticultural club, a deaf and dumb association and a curling club. It also set up a fund, called 'Strang's Mortification', to support the poor within the burgh. There also existed incorporated trades' organisations for the town's weavers and shoe-makers. Turning to food produce, the local item that Forfar is probably most well-known for giving to the world is the 'Forfar bridie' (the local equivalent of the Cornish pasty). These very tasty meat pies became famous throughout the world when the famous writer, J.M. Barrie (who hailed from the nearby town of Kirriemuir), included them in his story, Sentimental Tommy.