Introduction to the Old and New Statistical Accounts

The 'Old' or 'First' Statistical Account of Scotland was undertaken in the 18th century under the direction of Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster (1754-1835), MP for Caithness. Known as 'Agricultural Sir John', he conceived a plan to ask parish ministers of the Church of Scotland all over Scotland to reply to a set of planned questions dealing with subjects such as the geography, climate, natural resources, and social customs of each parish. He defined his aim in 1790 as 'to elucidate the Natural History and Political State of Scotland'. The returns from the parishes were published as they were received back from different parts of Scotland in a series of twenty-one volumes between 1791 and 1799.

The 'New' or 'Second' Statistical Account was suggested to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1832 by the Committee of the Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy. Broadly, the 'New' Statistical Account followed the structure of the 'Old', but it also differed in that it included maps of the counties, and while the parish reports in the 'Old' were mostly prepared by the parish ministers, the 'New' Statistical Account also included contributions from other local figures such as schoolmasters and doctors. It was mostly written in the 1830s and published in fifty-two quarterly parts from 1834, culminating in being issued in 15 vol. in 1845. When it was published, the Committee presented it as 'in great measure, the Statistical Account of a new country'.

Together, the Statistical Accounts provide vitally important reference sources for a critical half century spanning the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. They are locally created and factually based; the two Accounts allow comparisons to be made parish by parish at a time of rapid and significant change; and they offer a unique reference and research source for the study of local and national life in Scotland in this period.
Source: The Statistical Account of Scotland website:

The Statistical Accounts Questionaire drawn up to elucidate the natural history and political state of Scotland:

1. What is the ancient and modern name of the Parish?

2. What is the origin and etymology of the name?

3. In what County is it situate?

4. In what Presbytery and Synod?

5. What is the extent and form of the Parish?

6. What its length and breadth?

7. By what Parishes is it bounded?

8. What is the general appearance of the country? is it flat, or hilly, rocky, or mountainous?

9. What is the nature of the soil? is it fertile or barren, deep or shallow?

10. What is the nature of the air? is it moist or dry, unhealthy or otherwise?

11. What are the most prevalent distempers?

12. Are there any mineral springs? and in what diseases are they serviceable?

13. Are there any considerable lakes or rivers in the Parish?

14. What fish, etc.?

15. Are the rivers navigable? or might they be rendered useful in navigation?

16. Are there any navigable canals in the Parish?

17-26. What is the extent of sea coast?

27. Are there any remarkable mountains, and what are their heights?

28. Are the hills covered with heath green, or rocky?

29. Are there any volcanic appearances?

30. Are there any figured stones, etc?

31. Are there any fossil marine bodies, etc?

32. Are there any marble, free-stone, or other stones?

33. Are there any mines?

34. Is any part of the Parish subject to inundations?

35. Hath there been any remarkable mischief by lightning, etc?

36. Are there any remarkable echoes?

37. Have any remarkable phenomena been observed in the air?

39. What quadrupeds or birds that migrate?

40. Is the Parish remarkable for breeding any cattle of peculiar quality?

41. What was the ancient state of the population of the parish so far as it can now be traced?

42. What is now the amount of its population?

43. What may be the number of males?

44. Of females?

45. How many reside in towns?

46. How many in villages?

47. In the country?

48. What is the annual average of births?

49. What of deaths?

50. Of marriages?

51. Of souls under 10 years of age?

52. From 10 to 20?

53. From 20 to 50?

54. From 50 to 70?

55. From 70 to 100?

56. Above 100?

57. Are there any instances of long lives well authenticated?

58. What may be the number of farmers and their families?

59. Of manufacturers?

60. Of handycraftsmen?

61. Of apprentices?

62. Of seamen?

63. Of fishermen?

64. Of ferrymen?

65. Miners?

66. Of household servants, male and female?

67. Of labouring servants, male and female?

68. Students of colleges and universities?

69. Merchants, citizens, or tradesmen?

70. Artists?

71. Jews?

72. What is the number of negroes?

73. Gipsies?

74. Foreigners?

75. Persons born in England, Ireland, or the British Colonies?

76. Persons born in other districts or parishes in Scotland?

77. Of the nobility and their families?

78. Of the gentry?

79. Of the clergy?

80. Of lawyers and writers or attornies?

81. Of physicians, surgeons, apothecaries?

82. Of the Church of Scotland?

83. How many seceders?

84. Of Episcopalians?

85. Of Roman Catholics?

86. Is the population of the Parish materially different from what it was 5, 10, or 25 years ago, and to what causes is the alteration attributed?

87. What is the proportion between the annual births and the whole population?

88. What is the proportion between the annual marriages and the whole population?

89. Between the annual deaths and the whole population?

90. Between the batchelors and the married men?

91. How many children doth each marriage produce?

92. What may be the cause of depopulation?

93. Are there any destructive epidemical distempers?

94. Have any died for want?

95. Have any murders or suicides been committed?

96. Have any emigrated from the Parish?

97. Have any been banished from it?

98. Have any been obliged to leave the Parish for want of employment?

99. Are there any uninhabited houses?

100. What may be the number of inhabited houses, and the number of persons at an average to each inhabited house?

101. What kind of vegetables, plants, and trees does the Parish produce?

102. What kinds of animals?

103. What at an average is supposed to be the number of sheep, cattle, and horse in the district?

104. Is there any map of the Parish, and has the number of acres in it been ascertained?

105. How many acres at an average may be employed in raising corn roots, etc.?

106. What number of acres to each sort respectively?

107. Does the Parish supply itself with provisions?

108. Does it in general export or import articles of provision?

109. How many acres are employed in raising hemp and flax?

110. How many in sown or artificial grasses?

111. How many in pasture?

112. When do they in general sow and reap their different crops?
BR> 113. What quantity of ground may lie waste or in common?

114. What quantity of ground in woods, forests, marshes, lakes, and rivers?

115. Is there any chalk, marl, fuller's earth, potter's earth, oker (ocre), etc?

116. Are there any bitumen, naptha, or other substances of that nature?

117. Has the parish any advantages or disadvantages?

118. What language is principally spoken in it?

119. From what language do the names of places in the parish seem to be derived?

120. What are the most remarkable of such derivations?

121. What may the land rent of the parish be?

122. What the rent of houses, fishing's, etc.?

123. What is the value of the living including the glebe, and who is the patron?

124. Who is the Minister of the parish?

125. How long has he been settled in it?

126. What are the names of his predecessors as far back as they can now be traced?

127. Is the Minister married, a widower, or single?

128. ---?

129. When were the Church, or the manse, built or repaired?

130. What are the number of Heritors or possessors of landed property in the parish?

131. How many of them reside in it?

132. What is the number of poor in the parish receiving alms?

133. What is the annual amount of the contributions for their relief and of other funds?

134. What were the ancient and what are the present prices of provisions, etc.?

135. What is generally a day's wages for labourers in husbandry and other work, and what per day for carpenters, bricklayers, masons, taylors, etc.?

136. What is the fuel commonly made use of? is it coal, wood, heath, peat, furze, or whins? What are the prices paid on the spot, and whence is the fuel procured?

137. What at an average may be the expense of a common labourer? and are the wages he receives sufficient to enable him to bring up a family?

138. What are the usual wages of male and female servants in the different branches of husbandry?

139. What are the wages of domestic servants?

140. How many ploughs are there in the parish, and of what kind?

141. How many carts and wagons?

142. How many carriages, and of what sort?

143. Are there any villages in the parish, and how are they situated?

144. Are there any crosses or obelisks in the parish?

145. Are there any remains of monasteries or religious houses?

136. Are there any Roman, Saxon, Danish, or Picttish castles, camps, altars, roads, forts, or other remains of antiquity, and what traditions or historical accounts are there of them?

147. Have there been any medals, coins, arms, or other pieces of antiquity dug up in the parish?

148. Are there any burrows or tumuli?

149. Have there been any battles fought in the parish?

150. Has the parish given birth or burial to any distinguished for learning, etc.?

151. Are the people remarkable for strength, size, complexion, or any other personal or mental qualities?

152. What is the general size of the people?

153. What is the greatest height which any individual in the parish has attained?

154. Are the people disposed to industry? What manufactures are carried on in the parish?

155. Are the people fond of a sea?faring life, and of the army and navy?

156. We are inland.

157. Are the people economical or luxurious? Is property changing often, and at what prices?

158. We are inland.

159. Do the people on the whole enjoy in reasonable degree the comforts and advantages of society? and are they contented with their situation?

160. Are there any means by which their condition can be meliorated?


1. What is the state of the roads and bridges in the parish? how were they made and kept up? Are there turnpikes, etc.?

2. What is in general the rent of the best arable, and the best pasture, or meadow grounds per acre? What the rent of inferior?

3. What in general is the size and the average rent of the farms in the parish, and is the number of farms increasing or diminishing?

4. Is the parish in general enclosed, and are the people convinced of the advantages of enclosures?

5. What was the situation of the parish in '82 and '83?

6. Are there any curious or important facts tending to prove any great alterations in the manners customs, dress, style of living, etc., of the inhabitants of the parish now and 20 or 50 years ago?

7. Is there lime-stone found in your parish, and is it employed much in agriculture as a manure? and what is the price?

8. Is your parish a sheep country?

9. Of what kind are your enclosures?

10. Is fallow generally practised? and is it carried over every arable field of the farm at stated intervals?

11. Do your farmers leave out their arable fields in grass without sowing artificial grasses in them?

12. Do the farmers pay their rents chiefly by raising coin, or in what other way?

13. Do the gentlemen set examples of good farming to their tenantry?

14 (a). Do the gentlemen or others exert themselves in mending the breed of horses?

14 (b). Have you convenient situations upon which to establish branches of manufacture, and to accommodate the manufacturers with houses?

15. Has agriculture increased in a more rapid proportion for the last four years?

16. Do your farmers despise all theory and books upon farming?

17. Have they any idea that farming may be improved by having it taught systematically at a University and accompanied with experiments?

18. What is the dress of your people?

19. Are your people literate or illiterate?

20. Do you think that the reduced state of the parochial schools will in time destroy this literary feature of character in our commons?

21. Are newspapers read among your people? 22. Is the reading of them attended with advantage?

23. What is the intellectual character of your people?

24. What is the moral and religious character of your people?

25. What is the civil character of your people?

26. Have you any conventicles in your parish?

27. Does the religious toleration granted answer in your district the full ends of good government and public utility?

28. Is secession increasing or diminishing?

29. Have your people any holy-days for recreation or merry-making?

30. How many Holy days besides the Sabbath have you for religious services?

31. What sports have your people?

32. Are your farmers becoming curious after improvements in their farming utensils?

33. Are work people sufficiently numerous?

34. Are you subject to fogs in your climate?

35. Are you often shut up or inaccessible by snow?

36. Are your weights and measures very various, and is this of bad consequence?

37. Do your farmers suffer much from late harvests?

38. Is the spoken language of the common people in your district changing sensibly of late, either in the use of words or in the pronunciation?

39. Is your accent particularly offensive to the ear of strangers, or are they pleased with it or easily reconciled to it?

40. Are there any among the common people who live without regular habits of industry and without visible means of livelihood?

41. Are the rents of the land paid in money or in grain, etc.?

42. Does the rise of rent promote additional industry and call forth mental exertion?

43. Has the water erected in the neighbourhood (none in the parish) for spinning cotton, flax, etc., deprived your women of their wonted earnings by spinning, and what remedy has been applied for this inconvenience?

44. Is your corn manufactured by wind-mills, water-mills, or in what other way?

45. Are your people improving in the cleanliness of their houses and persons?

46. Is intemperance from spirituous liquors frequent among them?

47. Is winter provender plentiful?

48. Are your people regular in their observance of the Sabbath, and in their attendance on public worship?

49. Are they fond of long services?

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