PARISH OF STEWARTON
PRESBYTERY OF IRVINE, SYNOD OF GLASGOW AND AYR
THE REV. CHARLES BANNATYNE STEVEN, MINISTER.
1,- Topography and Natural History
Name and Boundaries.- The name is evidently formed from the surname Stewart, first used as a family distinction by Walter II., in 1204. The district of Cuninghame, with others in the county, being the property of the Crown, was from time to time vested in the hands of some powerful family, and Stewarton, among others, being created into a separate lordship. becoming the inheritance of James, High Steward, in 1283.In the account of the charters granted by Robert I,, II., and III., there is one by Robert III. to John Stewart Earl of Buchan, the Regent's son and Elizabeth de Douglas, his spouse, daughter to Archibald Earl of Douglas, of the lands of Stewarton, and Armsheugh and Dunlop, in Cuninghame, on the resignation of the Earl of Douglas.
This parish is situated in the district of Cuninghame, and is bounded by the parishes of Neilston and Mearns in Renfrewshire-on the North-east; Fenwick, on the east and south-east;Dreghorn, on the south; Irvine and Kilwinning, on the west; and Dunlop, on the north- west and north. It's greatest length is nearly ten miles from east to west; it's breadth from south to north varies from four to three miles; it contains twenty square miles.
Topographical Appearances.- The surface of the parish is beautifully diversified with fine sloping grounds and gentle eminencies, and gradually rises from the south-east to north -east, till it ends in the boundary line with Renfrewshire, where the lands are of some height, and diversified with hills; from several of which, many extensive views gratify the admirer of the wonders and beauties of nature. The eye comprehends, in one sweep of the horizon, Ben lomond, on the north; Jura, Arran, Ailsa, and faintly in the distance Ireland, on the west; the Mull of Galloway, the boundary hills of Kirkculbright, and Dumfries- shire on the south.North east winds prevail in the west of Scotland 104 days, North -west 40, south- east 47, and south - west 174. Westerly winds prevail during July and August, North -east during January, March, May, and June, north- west from November till March, the north - east less frequent during February, July September, and December, and the north west during September and October, than in other months.
Hydrography.- The parish possesses one mineral spring of little celebrity as yet, called Bloak Well, first discovered, nearly thirty years ago by pigeons resorting to it from the neighbouring parishes.A neat and handsome house is built over it by the proprietor, Mr Cuninghame of Lainshaw. This was done in 1833, when he appointed a keeper to take care of it.
The parish is watered throughout it's whole extent by streams of considerable size, the Annock, the Swinsey, and the Corsehill and East Burns, and the Glazart.. The whole of these streams, with the exception of the Glazart, unite with the Annock at the town of Stewarton. The Glazart joins the Annock at Water- meetings, four miles below. The Annoch flows from the White Loch, in Mearns parish, six miles east of Stewarton. Some of them run in not very deep channels.
Geology.- Whinstone is the mineral chiefly met with, and is found mostly above the town, and towards Renfrewshire on the north and east. Freestone adapted to building is abundant. Limestone abounds on the east of the town, and lies near the surface, which is level and easily wrought. it is raised and burned in common draw- kilns on the estate of Lochridge, and on the lands of Cutstraw, Corsehills, Clarkeland, and Lintbrae. Coal is found in very thin strata,and is used on the spot for burning limestone. Seams of coal have not yet been found so thick as to be wrought by itself, though attempts for that purpose have been made very lately, by three proprietors, which have been attended with considerable expenses to one of the contractors, and disappointment to the public. Peat for fuel is found in great abundance at each end of the parish.
Wood.- Though our forests have disappeared, the present numerous residing proprietors are endeavouring to restore them in the form of plantations , particularly in the lower part of the parish, Firs of every sort and forest timber have been planted, which appear to be most congenial to the soil and climate, and thereby the lands have a cheerful, sheltered, and improved aspect. There is one fine arbor-vitae, a fig tree, and a cedar of Lebanon in the garden of Lainshaw, each of long standing.
II.- CIVIL HISTORY.
Eminent Characters.- David Dale was the son of a grocer, and ,born in January 1739, in a two storey thatched- house at the Cross of Stewarton, which still remains in much the same state as when occupied by his father; he was educated only in the then common elementary branches. After learning weaving in Paisley, he left it for Hamilton, and afterwards removed to Glasgow, where he carried on business in the linen yarn trade for many years. He afterwards, with others, erected mills for spinning cotton at Lanark and Catrine. the directors of the Royal Bank employed him as their agent in Glasgow, of which city he was one of the magistrates, and where at the same time he officiated as a preacher of an Independent Church. His charity was extensive, and there are individuals living here who still partake of his bounty, though he died in March 1806, leaving it is said, L..100,000 and upwards. Mr Owen, the founder of Socialism, in his son - in -law, propagating doctrines which would have vexed the heart of his upright good old father - in -law.
John Blackwood , late kirk-officer, and another upright individual, deserves notice, as he at the same time was agent for the Union Bank of Paisley for several years at the end of last century. His character was so well established for accuracy and integrity, that no security was required of him by the bank; this was the recommendation of his relation and friend, Mr Dale, referred to above. John Blackwood died in 1830, the anniversary of the ninetieth year of his age
The next individual entitled to particular remark, is Dr. Robert Watt, compiler of the "Bibliotheca Britannica", a work in the opinion of Dr Dibdin, " the most extraordinary of the kind in the literature of Europe". His life is given in Chamber's Scottish Biographical Dictionary, and what follows may be looked on only as a supplement to it. He was born on 1st May 1774. The name of the farm in the parish records is Bonnyton, not Muir- head, now Girgenti, so named by it's present proprietor, John Cheape, representative of the Cheapes of Sauchie, Stirlingshire . the account of him inserted in the " Life " above alluded to, closes when his studies in the Latin and Greek languages commenced with the writer of this account in October or November 1792;and he was then about eighteen years old. It was only one hour's private attendance in the morning that he could spare, as he had his occupation of carpenter to attend to, through the rest of the day. Notwithstanding, such progress did he make in both languages, that he entered the Latin and Greek classes of Glasgow University in 1793, and obtained a prize in the Greek class from Profess Young. In 1794, he attended the Greek and Logic classes also at Glasgow; and in 1795- 96 the Moral and Natural philosophy classes at Edinburgh. During the summer 1796, he taught a private school in Kilmaurs parish, when he became an admirer of the late Rev. John Russell of Kilmarnock the " Rumble John " of Burns. He then resolved to study divinity, and in order to have two strings to his bow, also anatomy at Edinburgh which he did in 1796 - 97. An essay on Regeneration was prescribed, for which L. 10 were to be give and which he obtained. Professor Hunter, on delivery of the prize, was pleased to remark, "that it was not only the best essay, but the first time, under him that a student of the first year's standing, attempted and succeeded so well and so deservedly." In 1797- 98 he spent one year in Symington as parochial schoolmaster, and merely enrolled his name as a student of divinity in Edinburgh, when an essay on Prayer was announced by Professor Hunter, for which a prize of L. 8 was to be given and which he also obtained. During his residence at Symington, the Rev. Mr. Logan, minister of the parish, induced him, for reasons unnecessary to state here, to give up the study of divinity, and finish his medical studies, which he did in Glasgow in 1798 - 99 I have thought proper to be thus particular in the detail of the studies of one who was an honour and ornament to his country, and cut off early in life; he died in 1819. He was distantly related to the two persons above.
The writer may be allowed to mention another native of the parish, William Deans, late writer here , whose public spirit was such, that he in part accomplished, within the last thirty years, what Mr. Dale originally intended on the banks of his native Annock, before he carried his cotton- spinning to the Clyde. The agent of the superior here, when consulted on the subject, dissuaded the proprietor, on the ground not only of increasing the population, but above all pauperism, by the erection of public works. The wool and worsted mills at Rorbertland were erected by him and others.He was the originator, and for some time, a partner of the largest carpet- work in this place. The suburb originally called Templehouse, and now commonly called Darlington was feuded out by him. He was remarkable for his liberality,hospitality, and intelligence. At times he would amuse himself, after the dry labours of his profession, with composing essays on general subjects and verses, not a few of which did him the highest honour. It is in the knowledge of the writer, who was the channel of communication, that for a manuscript collection of poems, he was offered in 1810 a price by the late Mr. Constable, who would have taken chance of the sale of the volume. He died in the forty- ninth year of his age, 31st July 1828.
Among the eminent natives of the parish may be properly included, James Gilles, esq. M.D. long a successful medical practitioner in Bath, and one of his Majesty's physicians for Scotland. he died in 1826-7; also the Rev. John Brown of Clerkhill, Preacher, author of sermons and prayers, posthumous works in two volumes,not printed for publication, besides numerous manuscripts on theological and literary subjects; - he died in 1833, aged thirty - nine years. John Gilmour, son of James Gilmour of Clerkland, who died in 1828, at the age of eighteen, was the author of a volume of " Poetical Remains,"printed after his death
The people of this parish generally are intelligent, generous, hospitable, and upon the whole of a religious character.
Landowners. - The number of landowners, mostly resident, is eighty - three. They are as follows.
Parochial Registers. - The register of baptism and marriages have been preserved since 1693, though, the first were not regularly kept till 1747, nor the second till 1794. The burials have been regularly recorded since May 1745. There is no distinction of the sexes of children under twelve years. The minutes of session from 1757 to 1776, and from 1810 to the present time, are in good preservation. The minutes of heritors have been regularly kept since February 1774. Very few of the Dissenters register; and great are the inconveniences often felt from this omission.
Historical Notices. - Godfridus de Ross, Miles,son and heir of Sir Godfrede de Ross Knight, confirms the land in Stewarton, which the abbacy of Pasley got from Sir James Ross in 1281. The representative of the family of Ross now the Earl of Glasgow, has inter alia the title of Lord Boyle of Stewarton, and at this date, January 1842,has now only about twelve acres in the parish, formerly called Crivochmill, but now commonly called Scrogmill where was till late, a meal - mill, now converted to a wool - spinning mill.
The ruins, nearly levelled by the hand of time, of the Castle of Robertland formerly stronghold of the Cuninghames, Baronets of Robertland, are situated behind the modern mansion of Alexander Kerr, esq. of Robertland. this stronghold, it is say, was destroyed by fire in a feud between the Montgomeries of Eglinton and the Cuninghames; in revenge for which, one of the Cuninghames shot the chief of the Eglintons, while riding home, near to Bridgend, at the east end of the town of Stewarton, where a path is still shown, called the " Weeping Path," along which he rode,until he came to the ford of the Annock, at Bridgend, where he fell dead off his horse. This took place on the 12th April 1586. in the person of Hugh, forth Earl of Eglinton.
Antiquities. - The only antiquities worth mentioning, are the remains of two castles, once the seats of the Cuninghames of Corsehill and Auchenharvie, branches of the Cuninghames, Lords of Kilmaurs, by far the most powerful family in the district. The first - named has been lately celebrated by Gabriel; Alexander, esq. Advocate, the author or " My grandfather's Farm," who is a native of this parish, and now resides in London. The critics of the day were pleased to ascribe the poem to Miss Mitford. About thirty years ago, while Mr Deans of Peacock- bank was rooting out some tress in a small plantation, on Carnduff Brae, on his property, he discovered three urns containing human bones. The urns were covered with a great quantity of stones, forming,, it is conjectured, one of those cairns, in which the ancient inhabitants of this country buried their dead.
Modern Buildings. - The most worthy of notices are those of Mr. Cuninghame of Lainshaw, Mr, Kerr of Robertland, Col. S. M'Alister of Kennox, and Captain Cheape of Girgenti, This last is built in rather an uncommon style.
There is now only one village, and it is called Bloak, where there are about twelve families. Hard by, is the Mineral Well before noticed.
IV. - INDUSTRY.
Agriculture and Rural Economy.- Owing to the humidity of the climate, and the little sunshine in the summer, little wheat is raised in the parish, except by Mr. Cuninghame of Lainshaw, who cultivates it to a considerable extent. Green cropping is carried on to some extent, especially in potatoes. The culture of turnip, which is found to be of advantage for the dairy stock, increasing yearly. A great part of the lands, especially in the upper part of the parish, being loose and friable, is well suited for raising green crops, particular potatoes for seed. There are few parishes in Scotland better adapted for dairy husbandry than this. Draining has been, for several years past, very common, and is now become general. generally two - thirds or three - fourths of the farms are kept in grass, and the remainder cropped with two or three white crops, mostly oats, laid down in grass, which is cut for rye grass - hay, the year following the grain crop, and then allowed to remain in grass for five or eight years; The soil is so good that, if allowed to lie in grass for any length of time, it becomes richer,or " in better heart ", as the farmers term it, and does not grow wild, like poor soils. Were the land better cleaned, and sown down with good grass, it would graze more cattle and materially benefit the dairy. There is a considerable want of shelter in the upper part of the parish, which, if judiciously planted in belts and clumps, would benefit the soil considerably, and increase it's productiveness. The farms have been suitably subdivided and well enclosed since the beginning of the century. The quantity of land under cultivation and otherwise is understood to be nearly as follows.
Rent of Land. - Arable land rents from L1 to L3, 10s. per acre; average L.2. The rent of grazing a milch cow is about L. 4, 10s, or L. 5 in many instances, one scotch acre grazes one cow . Glenouther or Hairshaw moor extending too 600 hundred acres, is now common between two heritors. 600 or more acres of the same kind lie contiguous in the parishes of Mearns and Fenwick, where sportsmen from neighbouring quarters congregate on the 12th August. From it's elevated situation, it might be greatly improved by draining, and were it properly sheltered, it would be good moor pasture, and in some instances might be profitably cropped. higher lands in the neighbouring parish of Mearns yield good pasture, and also often cropped.
Enclosing with stone and lime cost L. 1 10s, per rood. Few dry - stone fences are used here Hedge fences are very common, at 10d. per fall; drain cutting, 3d. a fall, twenty- six inches deep; cutting and filling up with tile or stone, 4 1/2 d . per fall. Average of masons' wages in summer, 18s. to 20s. ; in winter, 14s. to 16s,. Carpenters' wages in summer, 13 s. to 16s,. ; in winter, 13s. A good milch cow's price L 10. L. 12, L,15, up to L.20. A good horse for the plough, L, 35, L40 ; for the saddle, L,25, L.30, L.35, L,. 40; for the saddle, L25, L, 30, L, 35.
Breed and Quantity of Live -Stock. - Milch cows of the Ayr-shire breed form the chief class of the cattle. The account of the stock, as described below, was taken several years ago. The stock, milch cows and sheep, have greatly increased since, owing to the ready sale and comparatively high prices obtained for dairy produce.
Husbandry. The land being in the natural possession of considerably more than the majority of the heritors, the farm- buildings and enclosures, as already stated, are good. Leases vary as to endurance, according to the pleasure of the parties.
Improvements. - By far the best system of cultivation practised here, was introduced and is still carried on by Mr. Cuninghame of Lainshaw, the largest heritor, whose property extends to 2600 acres and upwards. he retains in his own hands nearly 300 acres under the best management, equal to the best cultivated spots in England. This gentle is well known as a writer on the subject of our Saviour's personal Reign, Sacred Chronology, &c.
Manufactures.- These are about 300 weavers employed in cotton and silk fabrics, and not a few in customary work , such as shirtings, sheetings, tablecloths, towelling, blankets, druggets, &c.&c. The manufacture most famed is that of bonnets, and it is of a very long standing, Almost the whole regimental and naval bonnets and caps are made here, as well as those worn by the people in the country at large. upwards of fifty families, besides a very great number of boys and girls are thus employed. Their deacon was styled, "Priceps Pileorum Artifex Scoriae." Steel clockwork is peculiar to this place, and is in great demand, not only in Britain but in America. There is a large manufacture of spindles for cotton and woollen mills. There have been introduced mills for carding wool and tow, and also for wauking of fulling of bonnets, besides machinery for spinning wool and worsted. It is supposed that these works and the carpet - works,of which there are only two at present, might be still further extended. The most of the trade's people here have gardens attached to their houses, in which they cultivate vegetables, fruits, and flowers; which circumstances lately gave rise to a Horticultural and Florist's Society. they generally rent small pieces of ground for the purpose of growing as many potatoes as serve their families during the year. These habits are very conductive to health, and yield both recreation and profit. A tile and brick - work was erected in the spring of 1839 by Mr. Deans, on his property of Peacock- bank, which affords employment to a number of people, and considerable facility to the farmers in the neighbourhood, in draining and improving their farms. It is the centre of the parish, and the quantity of tile made in one year is supposed to exceed 500,000.
V.- PAROCHIAL ECONOMY,
Town and Means of Communication - The town of Stewarton is situated in the centre of the parish, on the banks of the Annock,about six miles north from Kilmarnock, and eight north east from Irvine. About 150 years ago it consisted of a few houses near the church, which gradually extended to the cross; and now it is three- quarters of a mile in length, with several streets intersecting one another. There are not a few handsome buildings, and a town - house. The land around is fertile. Tradesmen and labourers of most every description get employment, and abundance of every kind of provisions is supplied.The roads are kept in the best possible order. Caravans go daily to Kilmarnock; twice - a- week to paisley, distant fifteen miles; also twice a-a-week to Glasgow, distant eighteen miles. the weekly market is held on Thursday, but now little attend. The post from Kilmarnock arrives in the morning, daily and returns in the evening. There are stated fairs. A Justice of the Peace Court is held here once a month. A Baron- bailie is a appointed by the superior; he has officials under him; and there is a jail to confine delinquents. As yet there is no police. Gas was introduced in 1832, at an expense of about L. 1200. A printing press for bills, &c. has been in operation since 1835.
Ecclesiastical State. - For the convenience of the whole parish, a parish church could not be better situate. It was widened on the north side in 1825, and now accommodates 1300sitteres, including two aisles belonging to Mr. Cuninghame of Lainshaw, the patron, and Sir A.D.M. Cuninghame of Corsehill, Bart, which contain nearly 300 sitters. It is any thing but neat and comfortable though kept in repair, and well lighted with gas. the glebe consists of four acres Scotch,and is worth about L.12 a year. the stipend, was augmented in 1835, and is eighteen chalders, half meal, half barley, with L.15 for communion elements. Average amount for the last five years, L 280, The unexhausted teinds amount to L. 291 at least, as stated in the third report of the Commissioners for Religious Instruction. The congregation here of the Associate Synod of original Seceders lately united itself with the Church of Scotland, and has built a new church containing accommodation for 800 sitters. It has a handsome spire, 80 feet in height ;which as it is situated near the centre of the town, on rising ground, forms an object of attraction and ornament to the town. A missionary has in the mean time been appointed by the Presbytery of Irvine, but has not been ordained to the charge, in consequence of a process raising before the Court of Session against the Presbytery for making a quoad sacra division of the parish, and for allowing the minister of this congregation a seat and a vote in the Presbytery. The United Secession congregation pay their minister L.100 a year; besides he has a house and a small garden. this church was built in 1775, and holds 510 sitters. A congregational church has been in existence since February 1827, and holds about 400 sitters. The two last named Congregations support their own poor, besides contributing liberally to other religious purposes. The number of individuals belonging to the respective places of worship will be seen from the following abstract laid before the Commissioners for Religious Instruction, in November 1836;
Communicants. - Relief, 4; Reformed Presbytery, 5; Papists, 13; Church of England, 2; Methodists, 2; United Secession Church, 213; Original Burghers, now of the Establishment, 76; Congregationalists, 48.
It is proper to add, that a number of individuals from the surrounding parishes attend the four congregations named above.
The church belonging to the Associate congregation was taken possession of by a great majority of it's members, when they joined the Church of Scotland; but upon a summons of declarator on March 1841, at the instance of a very few members of the said congregation, who would not unite with the Church of Scotland. the majority were induced, rather than run the risk of a law suit, to give up the church. It is now therefore unoccupied, It was built in 1828.
The foundation - stone of John Knox's Church, built by the late members of the Associate congregation, was laid by Mr Collins of Glasgow, 10th September 1841,
The four congregations here have each libraries superintended by their respective ministers.
Education. - There is but one parochial school in, the parish, The schoolmaster, elected on the 3d January 1788, has had an assistant since may 1837. Besides the ordinary branches, Latin, Greek, French, geography, mathematics theoretical and practical,&c. are taught. his salary is the maximum, with the legal allowance for a garden. The wages are, for reading English per quarter, 2s.6d., for do and writing 3s, ; for do and arithmetic, Latin, &c. &c. 5s. The sum of the fees received does not amount to L.30; all given to the assistant, who teaches gratis ten poor children recommended by a majority of the session, on account of a mortification of L. 5 per annum. left by the late Mr. William Smith of Cutstraw. There are at present four private schools in town, and three in the country part of the parish. There is no library belonging to any schools.
Library. - There is a library, commenced in 1810. consisting of a excellent collection and selection of books on all subjects,besides some of the leading periodicals of the day. There is also a reading room in town, not attached to the library.
Friendly Societies.- There are a number of these in town. They give liberally to the sick and indigent, and are understood to prosper, There is also a savings bank.
Bank. - Branches of the Union Bank of Glasgow, since the beginning of 1836, and of Messrs. Hunter and Co of Ayr. since 1841, have been established here.
Poor and Parochial Funds. - That spirit of independence, which formerly characterizied the people of Scotland, is rapidly disappearing among the lower classes, and ideas generally prevail, that the wealthy are bound to support the poorer classes, from whatever cause the poverty may arise. For some years prior to 1839, the collections at the church averaged L. 100, and the assessment on the heritors above L.200, a year.
Inns. - The number of inns in town is 3; of taverns, 17
Fuel.- Coals form the fuel the chief article of fuel, and are expensive. They are brought from Kilmaurs, Kilmarnock, or Irvine pits,and cost 7s for four loads, weighing 16cwt. The nearest pit is five miles distant.
Near the farm - house of Low Chapelton, above a mile below Stewarton, on the right bank of the Annock, there appears to have once been a chapel, the ruins of which were lately dug up, when the proprietor was engaged in planting trees. There are now no records remaining of the place of worship. There are several farms in the neighbourhood called chapelton, which are understood to have derived their name from this place.
Of the three founders of the Maitland Club of Glasgow in 1828, only one survives, ( John Kerr,esq. writer, Glasgow, ) and he is a native of this parish.
Drawn up April 18ao
Revised January 1842.
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