Ordnance Survey large scale Scottish town plans, 1847-1895

FORFAR (surveyed in 1860-1)


The market town of Forfar is located in the heart of the valley of Strathmore in Angus - hence its traditional role as the political and administrative centre of this rural region. The name of 'Forfar' is probably derived from the Gaelic word, Faithir, which means 'watching hill' or 'sentinel'. Certainly, the town's name embodies a sense of 'watchfulness', and the nearby Hill of Finhaven would have been the perfect location for a look-out post.


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.


Town Planning

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.


Religious Life

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.





Groome, Francis H. (ed.), 1894-5. The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland; a survey of Scottish topography, statistical, biographical, and historical, 2nd ed., (London: William Mackenzie)


Mackay, George, 2000. Scottish Place Names (New Lanark: Lomond)


Smith, Robert, 2001. The Making of Scotland: a comprehensive guide to the growth of its cities, towns and villages (Edinburgh: Canongate)


Wilson, Rev. John Marius (ed.), 1857. The Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland or Dictionary of Scottish Topography (Edinburgh: A. Fullarton & Co.)


Edina Website Online Statistical Accounts of Scotland - http://edina.ac.uk/statacc/