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Montrose's Chequered History

MONTROSE is steeped in history and is thought to have its origins in the ninth century AD, although its present street plan is largely later mediaeval.

The best examples of this are the former market square, now a car park, next to the Town House and the High Street itself and the town was granted its Royal charter and burgh status by King David I in the 1100s.

Montrose is famed for the width of its main thoroughfare but it was originally two narrower streets. During a period of renovation in the 1700s the Town Council decreed that the row of houses along what is now the centre of the street be demolished.

Once this was done property owners down either side of the new, wider street were given permission to extend their buildings and most of them did so in the easiest way possible, by building gable ends - which gave rise to the Montrosians' nickname of Gable Enders.

Some of the most interesting examples of former town planning are the town's atmospheric closes which link the High Street to some of the minor streets which run parallel and are strongly evocative of the time smugglers crept through the town to hide their contraband from the Excise men.

Some of these closes are private and lead to some of the oldest houses in town, which were used as town houses by the local gentry from the late 1600s and early 1700s. A cursory investigation will establish which have public access.

Formerly one of Scotland's main ports, Montrose has seen its fair share of involvement in the country's turbulent history.

During the Wars of Independence against Edward I, in 1296 the English monarch visited the town with 30,000 of his men and stayed at Montrose castle for five days during which time he humiliated Scottish King John Balliol by publicly stripping him of his Royal insignia and status.

The following year the castle, which was manned by an English garrison, was burned to the ground by William Wallace.

In the 17th Century the site of the castle, now known as Castlestead, was also the birthplace of the famous James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose.

Graham signed the National Covenant against Charles I's reorganisation of the Kirk in Scotland, fighting in the ensuing Bishops' Wars, but later switched to the King's side only to be captured and executed in Edinburgh in 1650.

The final chapter of the ill-fated 1715 Jacobite rebellion was also played out in Montrose when King James VII and III, the Old Pretender, arrived in the town where he spent his final days in the country.

He sailed from Montrose to his final exile in France. The town was held for his son, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 30 years later and in February 1746 the largest naval battle of the war was fought in Montrose Harbour.

Since then Montrose has been more settled. Trade with the Baltic countries, whaling and flax spinning have all been major industries and now oil-related businesses and pharmaceuticals are the cornerstones of the economy.

The town has also long enjoyed a reputation as a favourite holiday destination and still welcomes visitors who enjoy the area's attractions in the atmosphere of a history stretching back more than a millennium.

 
 
 

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