Ayrshire Towns and Parishes

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Newton-Upon-Ayr 1846

NEWTON-UPON-AYR, a burgh, market-town, and parish, in the district of Kyle, county of Ayr; containing 4482 inhabitants. This place derives its name from its being of more recent foundation than the county town, and from its position on the opposite bank of the river Ayr. The precise time of its erection is not distinctly known; but it appears to have obtained some importance at a comparatively early period; and an ancient castle of which the last remains have been removed within the present century, was for many ages the residence of the family of the Wallaces, of Craigie, whose descendant, Sir Thomas Wallace, the fifth baronet, built the mansion of Cragie House on the bank of the river. The inhabitants adhered to the fortunes of Robert Bruce, and distinguished themselves at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, for which important service that monarch, after he had secured the crown, granted them their present charter of incorporation. The town may be almost regarded as a suburb to Ayr, with which it is connected by a handsome bridge, and in the trade of which it participates. The more ancient part consists of one street of considerable length, in which the houses are irregularly built and of very indifferent appearance; but the more modern part of it, which has arisen within the last fifty years, comprises several streets regularly disposed, and containing some handsome houses; and a few pleasing villas have been recently erected.

The trade of the place partly consists in ship-building, and rope and sail making; and the chief manufacturing establishments are foundries for iron and brass, and forges for the manufacture of various kinds of smiths' work. Ship-building, which formerly afforded occupation to more than 200 men, had lately very materially declined, but has in some degree revived, and at present gives employment to about ninety men: a patentslip was constructed in the yard of Messrs. Cowan and Sloan in 1831, since which time numerous vessels of different sizes have been repaired, and some ships have been built, registering from fifty to more than 400 tons' burthen, for the ship-owners of Greenock, of which one was destined for the East India trade. The rope and sail making affords employment to ten persons, who are regularly engaged for the supply of the yard. Four foundries on a moderate scale occupy about sixty men and about fifteen boys, and, in connexion with the forges, are regularly employed in the manufacture of machinery of all kinds: five men, also, are engaged in some saltworks, which are carried on upon a limited scale. The Ayrshire needle-work, so well known, was introduced into this place sixty years since, and was long confined to the neighbourhood of Ayr: in this trade, altogether, 700 females are employed in working muslins for the Glasgow manufacturers, and about fifty or sixty of them are resident at Newton. These muslins, prepared in a variety of patterns, are in great demand in England and on the continent; and large quantities are exported by the merchants for the supply of the various markets. The trade of the port is almost limited to the export of coal, the whole produce of the collieries in the parish of St. Quivox being conveyed to this side of the river by a railroad: about 300 vessels annually arrive and depart in this trade, and the quantity shipped averages 40,000 tons.

The harbour has been recently improved at a considerable expense; and a lighthouse of stone, which was erected by the Coal Company on the north-east part of the harbour, and destroyed by the encroachment of the sea, was replaced in 1827 by one constructed of wood, and well adapted to its use. The fishery, which formerly was much more extensive than at present, is now confined to the taking of white-fish for the supply of the neighbourhood. Seven boats only, each requiring but four men, are now employed, the greater number of the persons once engaged in the fishery having become permanent residents of stations, which command a more easy and direct communication with Glasgow and other great towns. The market is little more than nominal, the chief business being transacted in the market of Ayr. Facility of communication with the several places in the vicinity is afforded by the bridge over the river, and by good roads which are common to both places; and the railway from Glasgow to Ayr has its terminal station at this place.

The town received its first charter of incorporation from Robert Bruce, who conferred upon forty-eight of the inhabitants the lands of the burgh, and granted them many privileges, in acknowledgment of their services at the battle of Bannockburn: this grant was confirmed by charter of James VI., in 1595 and in 1600. The lands appear to have been divided among the original number of burgesses for certain definite periods, which have been increased by successive arrangements from seven to 999 years; and to have since descended as a patrimonial inheritance to their sons, or, in failure of issue male, to have passed to such as have been elected burgesses when vacancies in the number have occurred. The government is vested in two bailies, a treasurer, and six councillors, elected annually by the burgesses. There are justices of the peace within the burgh and liberties, who possess both civil and criminal jurisdiction, though the exercise of the former is generally confined to the recovery of debts to small amount, and the latter to petty breaches of the peace. The freedom is inherited by birth, or acquired by purchase. By the act of William IV., the burgh is included within the parliamentary boundary of Ayr, with which and other places it unites in returning a member to the imperial parliament; the right of election, originally vested in the burgesses, has by the act been extended to the resident 10 householders, of whom the number is estimated at 100. The council-house is a neat plain building, surmounted with a spire, and is well adapted to the use of the corporation.

The parish is about one mile and a half in length and one mile in breadth; it is bounded on the south by the river Ayr, and on the west by the Frith of Clyde, and comprises 429 acres, of which 350 are arable, and the remainder meadow and pasture. With the exception of a rocky headland projecting into the frith at the north-eastern extremity, the coast is a level sandy beach; the surface of the interior is uniformly flat, and, from the want of wood, possesses little variety of character. The soil is generally sandy, but has been greatly improved by good management; and several tracts, previously unprofitable, have been reclaimed and rendered fertile. The crops are, grain of all kinds, potatoes, and turnips; the system of agriculture is in an advanced state, and the lands are inclosed with stone dykes, and hedges of thorn. The farms are in the possession of the burgesses, and the recent improvement of the lands has added much to the value of the freedom. Coal is found in the parish, and was formerly worked extensively, yielding to the proprietors more than 300 per annum; but since 1832 the mines have been exhausted, and the working of them has been discontinued. Freestone and sandstone are, however, quarried to some extent, producing an income of about 400. The rateable annual value of Newton is 3707.

t is in the presbytery of Ayr, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of thirteen delegates chosen by the burgesses: the minister's stipend is 178, being augmented to that sum by a grant from the government of 90, and subject to increase from seat-rents; there is a manse, and the glebe is valued at 15 per annum. The church, a neat substantial edifice, was erected by the corporation at an expense of 2000, in 1778, and was enlarged in 1832, affording accommodation to a congregation of more than 1000 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship.

The parochial school affords a liberal course of instruction; the master has a salary of 34 per annum, with the fees, and a dwelling-house erected in the year 1845. A parochial library, established in 1829, now comprises above 500 volumes; and a savings' bank has been for some years opened, for the parishes of Ayr, Newton, and St. Quivox. There are also two friendly societies, which have contributed to diminish the number of persons receiving parochial relief; and in the adjoining districts are many others, of whose members several live in this parish.

Among the ruins of the ancient castle of Newton were found an antique mathematical quadrant, and the barrel of a very ancient gun, about seven feet in length and of massive form: they are both preserved in the library of the Mechanics' Institution established at Ayr.


From: A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)








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