From: The Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge, New Series, 1842, London.

The picturesque ruins of the Abbey of Sweet-heart lie in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, upon the left bank of the Nith, about seven miles south of Dumfries. They consist of the church and part of the chapterhouse, the only remains of the once magnificent and extensive building founded by Devorgille, one of the co-heiresses of Alan, the last of the ancient lords of Galloway, wife of John Balliol, lord of Barnard Castle, and mother of John Balliol, king of Scotland, in the early part of the thirteenth century. Her husband died in 1269, when she caused his heart to be embalmed, and preserved in a highly ornamented box of ivory bound with enamelled silver, which was set within the wall of the church near the high altar, from which circumstance the abbey obtained its name of Dolce-Cor, or Sweet-heart. 

The foundation was of the Cistertian order, and was liberally endowed with ten churches, the barony of Lochpatrick, and divers lands and other possessions, amounting in the whole to a revenue of 682/-. The first abbot was Henry, who died on his journey to Citeaux; his successor, Eric, was among the free barons who swore fealty to Edward I., on his undertaking the arbitration between the claims of Balliol and Bruce for the crown of Scotland. The number of the brethren is not exactly known, but in 1548 a charter appointing Robert, Master of Maxwell, and his heirs, to be hereditary baillies of the abbey, to take the said abbey under their protection, for which they were to receive lands, mill, and fishings, feued at 117 merks 8 shillings and 8 pennies Scots, has the signatures of the abbot and thirteen monks. The last abbot was Gilbert Brown, who sat in parliament when the Confession of Faith was adopted on August 17, 1560. He was an active controversialist on the Catholic side, and, as Dr. M'Crie says in his 'Life of Melville,' " a busy trafficker for Rome and Spain ;" he had consequently the distinction of being specially named by the Commissioners of the Assembly when, in their list of grievances submitted to the king in 1596, they stated the " Jesuits and other excommunicated persons were entertained within the country; "orders were issued for his apprehension on this charge, but it was not till 1605 that he was taken, nor then without difficulty, as Calderwood states that the people attempted to rescue him. He was, however, treated with considerable indulgence, and after an imprisonment of some length in Blackness and Edinburgh castles, was allowed to leave the kingdom for France, where he died, at Paris, in 1612.

After the Reformation the abbey remained in the hands of the crown from 1587, when the Annexation Act passed, till 1624, at which time it was granted to Sir Robert Spotswood. From this family it passed by purchase to Mr. Copeland, during whose possession much of the building was destroyed by the tenantry for the sake of the stone, though contrary, it is said, to the stipulations contained in the leases granted by him. Greatly, however, to the credit of the neighbouring gentry, in order to preserve the venerable relics from total destruction, they raised a sum of money by subscription, with which, through the minister of the parish, they purchased its preservation, since which time the ruins, and even the outer wall, have been carefully respected.

The abbey stood in an enclosure, now called the Precinct, of upwards of twenty acres. It was surrounded by a wall, part of which yet remains, built-of granite, the stones of which arc of immense size, some, even near the top, weighing a ton each. The church was a beautiful lofty pile, in the light ornamented Gothic style, of a cruciform structure. Its length is two hundred and twelve feet; the breadth at the transepts is one hundred and fifteen feet, and of the nave and chancel sixty-six feet. The tower, which had a sort of gable roof or story, is ninety-two feet high. “In the roof of the south transept is an escutcheon charged with two pastoral staves in saltire, over them a heart, and beneath them three mullets of five points, two and one, said to be the arms of the abbey. Over the escutcheon is an inscription: Mr. Thomson, the architect, who measured this and other similar buildings in 1821, procured a ladder in order to examine this inscription more closely; he made a tracing of the projecting letters, which are in old English, and found the words to be “Choose time of need," spelt thus, "Chus Tim o' Nid." Grose, who was not able to read the motto himself, took it on report to be "Christus Maritus Meus."

Lord Kames, who often visited New Abbey, was the first who published an account of a very singular ash tree which grew from some seed dropped on one of the abbey walls. Considering its situation, the sapling had grown to a considerable size, and in the course of time put forth a runner, which, after descending the wall, entered the ground, and supplied the parent tree with nourishment, like a root formed in the usual manner. Such a phenomenon is of rare occurrence; and though the original no longer exists with the feeder that rendered it so curious, its place has been supplied by roots, which may hereafter have similar action.

The parish in which New Abbey is situated was anciently named Kirkindar, but has since adopted the name of its great ornament, and is now called the parish of New Abbey. It extends along the Nith to the Solway Frith; the parish is extensive, and the lower part is fertile and well cultivated, while the upper and by far the larger portion consists chiefly of rocky hills, mosses, and muirs. The air is considered fine and healthy, and the place is much visited in summer for the benefits to be derived there-from, and from the use of goat's whey and sea-bathing. The parish kirk, built in 1731, stands on the south side of the abbey church, and is formed out of part of the ruins; "near it is a small gate," says Grose, "leading into the abbey, on which is a bell: this is of a curious style of architecture; on it are several defaced carvings in basso-relievo, with two escutcheons of arms. The burial-ground lies to the east of the abbey church; in it are some ancient tombstones; on one a cross, with a large and broad sword on the sinister side of it." In the parish, which has a population of about twelve hundred, besides the parochial school, there are two other schools with small endowments. The valley or bottom in which New Abbey is situated declines gradually to the shore of the Solway, and is watered by the Glen burn, called also New Abbey Pow, a stream or inlet of the sea, which is navigable for coal and lime boats or other vessels of sixty or seventy tons burthen. When the weather Is favourable, the view from the abbey is varied and extensive, embracing a large portion of the coast of England. Loch Kindar, with its little island and ancient ruin, which is seen from the tower of the abbey, is still a fine lake for trout.

At some little distance from the abbey there yet remain some ruins of what was once the private residence of the abbots of Sweet-heart, when they withdrew for business or pleasure from their official duties in the abbey. It is called the Abbot's Tower; and as it stands on a height, was probably considered more healthy than the wooded bottom occupied by the abbey and village beneath.