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The City and Royal Burgh of Elgin

by Alastair Campbell, Libraries and Museums Manager, The Moray Council.


Elgin is the administrative and commercial centre of Moray. Traces of Elgin's long history can still be found in the layout and buildings of the town today.

Although the name Helgyn on the town's seal may imply Norse links, recorded history only begins with King David I who referred to "my burgh of Elgin" in 1150. It was David I who built the castle on Ladyhill and who hunted in the surrounding countryside which was rich in game.

Elgin Cathedral, the Lantern of the North, was founded in 1224 as the seat of the Diocese of Moray and was burned by the notorious Wolf of Badenoch in 1390, its magnificent ruins remaining a magnet for visitors.

Edward I, the "Hammer of the Scots" visited Elgin in 1296 and described it as "a good town". The layout of the medieval town can still be seen from the top of Ladyhill which is now dominated by the column erected to the 5th Duke of Gordon in 1839.

Elgin's importance as a commercial town, in an area which was "fertile, well watered and with genial climate"; remained and by the early eighteenth century it was a prosperous burgh with many fine buildings. Daniel Defoe described Elgin as "a very agreeable place to live in", a quality which has
remained.

Several restored eighteenth century buildings are to be found in the High Street as are the Little Cross of 1733 and the Muckle Cross near the centre of the now pedestrianised High Street.

Between 1820 and 1840 Elgin was transformed, with many fine new buildings identifying it as a city well worth visiting. Dr Grays Hospital, Anderson's Institute, the neo classical St Giles Church built between 1825 and 1828, and the Elgin Museum of 1842 reflect Elgin's status. At the same time the old restrictive gateways or ports to the town were removed with only the Pans Port near Elgin Cathedral now remaining.

It was the coming of the railway in the mid 19th century that had a significant effect on Elgin. The size of the burgh doubled and effective communication links were opened up, thereby further strengthening its commercial and administrative importance.

Elgin today is a city steeped in history, ruined castle on a hill, classical town centre, award winning museum, restored 18th century town houses and wynds, beautiful cathedral with the nearby Bishops House, and the Cooper Park gifted to the town by George Cooper in 1903. Here is Elgin's superb new library, opened in 1996, beside the Cooper Park pond, Grant Lodge built as the town house of the Seafield family in 1751 and now housing the Grant Lodge Local Heritage Centre with its archival and local collections on Moray, and at its east end Elgin Cathedral, a must for all visitors. And beyond the Cathedral, Johnstons of Elgin Visitor Centre.

Its unique heritage marks out Elgin as a place for the discerning tourist.

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