Ayrshire Towns and Parishes

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Stewarton 1846

STEWARTON, a parish, in the district of Cunninghame, county of Ayr, 9 miles (N. E.) from Irvine; containing, with the late quoad sacra parish of New Church, and the burgh of Stewarton, 4656 inhabitants, of whom 1396 were included in the quoad sacra parish. This place derived its name from its ancient proprietor, James, High Steward of Scotland in the 13th century, and is supposed to have been subsequently the residence of some of the kings of the Stuart line. Among the charters granted to the proprietors of the lands is one by Robert III. to John Stuart, Earl of Buchan, son of the Regent, conferring upon him the lands of Stewarton, and others in Cunninghame, on the resignation of the Earl of Douglas. The lands afterwards became the property of the earls of Glasgow, who take their title of lords Boyle of Stewarton from this place, and of three members of the Cunninghame family, who were respectively baronets of Corsehill, Robertland, and Auchenharvie. They are now divided among numerous proprietors, of whom William Cunninghame, of Lainshaw, Esq., Alexander Kerr, Esq., of Robertland, Sir A. D. M. Cunninghame, of Corsehill, Bart., James S. Burns, Esq., and Col. Macalister, are the principal. Few events of any historical importance are recorded in connexion with the place. The castle of Robertland, the stronghold of the Cunninghames, was burnt by the Montgomeries, of Eglinton, in a feud between them and the Cunninghames, in 1586, in revenge of which, Hugh, the fourth earl of Eglinton, was afterwards waylaid and shot at the ford of Annock.

The parish, which is situated on the confines of Renfrewshire, is nearly ten miles in extreme length, and from three to four in extreme breadth; comprising about 13,000 acres, of which 2500 are arable, almost 7000 meadow and pasture, 200 woodland and plantations, and the remainder hill pasture, moss, and waste. The surface is beautifully diversified, rising by gentle acclivities from the south-west towards the north-east (where it terminates on the border of Renfrewshire) in hills of various elevation, commanding from their summits extensive and finely-varied prospects over the surrounding country. On the west are seen the isles of Jura, Arran, and Ailsa, with the coast of Ireland faintly in the distance; on the north, the mountain of BenLomond; and on the south, the hills of Kirkcudbright and Dumfries-shire. The principal river is the Annock, which has its source in a lake in the parish of Mearns, and, taking a south-western direction, flows in a beautifully winding course through this parish, and falls into the Irvine. There are several small streams tributary to the Annock, which intersect the lands in various directions: of these, the Swinsey, and the Corsehill and East burns, flowing into the Annock at the town of Stewarton; and the Glazart, which joins it about four miles to the south, are the chief. At the hamlet of Bloak is a mineral well, of which the properties are not perfectly known; it was discovered in 1810, and a small but handsome building has been erected over it by the proprietor of Lainshaw, who has appointed a person to take care of it. The soil is generally fertile; in some parts light and friable, and well adapted for green crops; in others, of deeper and stronger quality, producing wheat and other grain. The arable lands are under good cultivation; but the greater portion of the parish is in pasture. The crops are, oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, and turnips; the system of husbandry is in a highly improved state; the farm buildings and offices are substantial and well arranged, and the lands have been drained, and inclosed chiefly with hedges of thorn, kept in excellent order. Great attention is paid to the management of the dairy-farms, on all of which the cows are of the Ayrshire breed; and the produce, which is abundant and of fine quality, is sent chiefly to Glasgow, Paisley, and Kilmarnock, where it obtains a ready sale. The cattle are all of the Ayrshire breed, and about 3000 are annually reared in the pastures, which are luxuriantly rich; about 300 horses, principally for husbandry, are bred in the parish; and 700 sheep and 500 swine are fed, and sent to the markets.
There are few remains of the ancient woods. The plantations, which are chiefly on the lower lands, are comparatively of recent date, and consist of the various kinds of fir interspersed with forest-trees, for both of which the soil is well adapted, and which are under careful management and in a thriving condition. The principal substrata are, whinstone, freestone, and limestone. The freestone is of good quality for building, for which purpose it is occasionally quarried; the limestone, which lies near the surface, and is easily wrought, is burnt into lime on several of the lands. Coal is found in some places, and, being readily obtained, is used on the spot for burning lime; but no seams sufficiently thick to encourage the sinking of a pit have yet been discovered, though some attempts have been made to find them, at a considerable expense. The rateable annual value of the parish is 17,023. Lainshaw House, the seat of Mr. Cunninghame, is a spacious and handsome mansion, erected in 1828, and pleasantly situated on the banks of the Annock, in a demesne embellished with some ancient timber and with thriving plantations. Lochridge, built in 1637; Kennox, an ancient mansion with recent additions; Girgenti, a modern residence; Robertland, also a modern structure; and Williamshaw, partly ancient and partly modern, are all finely situated; and in the immediate vicinity of the town are several other substantial residences, of which some are in the cottage style.

The town of Stewarton is situated on the banks of the river Annock, nearly in the centre of the parish; and, since the establishment of its manufactures, has greatly increased in population and extent, now containing nearly 3000 inhabitants. It is more than three quarters of a mile in length, consisting of several well-formed streets intersecting each other at right angles; the houses are well built, and to each of them is attached a portion of ground for the cultivation of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, which gives to the town the appearance of a pleasing rural village. The streets are lighted with gas from works established in 1832, at a cost of 1200; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. A public library, which was founded in 1810, and has a large collection of volumes in the various departments of literature, is supported by subscription; and there is a public news-room, well supplied with journals and periodical publications. A horticultural and florists' society, also, has been recently formed. The environs of the town, which are pleasant, and abound with picturesque scenery, are studded, as already observed, with handsome houses and villas occupied by the proprietors of the several manufacturing establishments. The manufacture of regimental bonnets and caps for the army and navy, and also of bonnets for the country people in general, has long been established here, and affords constant employment to 500 persons; and in the cotton and silk manufacture, of more recent introduction, about 300 persons are employed. Mills for carding and spinning cotton and woollen yarn and tow, and fulling-mills, have been erected on a large scale; the articles are, shirtings, sheetings, towelling, table-linen, blankets, druggets, and other fabrics. There are also two carpet-manufactories, in one of which 150, and in the other about forty, persons are employed. The making of steel clock-work is peculiar to this place, and the produce is in great demand both at home and for the American market. A very extensive manufacture of bricks, and of tiles for roofing and for draining, is carried on in the vicinity of the town; the quantity of tiles alone produced annually is estimated at 500,000. All the handicraft trades necessary for the repair of the machinery in the several factories, and for the wants of the neighbourhood, are pursued extensively; and there are numerous shops in the town, amply stored with various kinds of merchandise. Branches of the Union Bank of Glasgow, and that of Messrs. Hunter at Ayr, have been opened here, and also a savings' bank; the post-office has a tolerable delivery, and there are numerous good inns. The market is weekly, on Thursday; and fairs for horses, cattle, and dairy-stock, are held on the first Monday in May, the last Thursdays in June and December, and the first Friday in November. The May and June fairs are also for hiring servants. Facility of communication is maintained by the turnpike-roads to Glasgow, Paisley, and Kilmarnock, which pass through the town; by other roads kept in good repair by statute labour, which intersect the parish in various directions; and by bridges over the several streams. The burgh is governed by a baron-bailie appointed by the superior of the barony, Mr. Cunninghame, of Lainshaw, but whose jurisdiction extends only over the markets and fairs; there are no incorporate trades; and the police is wholly under the superintendence of the magistrates of the county, who hold justice-of-peace courts for petty offences. A commodious court-house for the trial of prisoners, and a lock-up house for their temporary confinement, have been erected in the town, and are both the property of Mr. Cunninghame. The suburbs are chiefly on the lands of Sir A. D. M. Cunninghame, of Corsehill.

The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Irvine and synod of Glasgow and Ayr: the minister's stipend is 280. 19. 2., with a manse, and a glebe valued at 12 per annum; patron, Mr. Cunninghame. The church, originally built in 1696, and repaired and enlarged in 1825, is a handsome edifice centrically situated, and containing 1400 sittings. A second church in connexion with the Establishment was erected in 1828, and a quoad sacra district was till lately annexed to it; it is a neat structure with a spire eighty feet high, and contains 800 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Secession, and the Congregational Union. The parochial school is attended by about thirty children: the master has a salary of 34. 4. 4., with a house, an allowance of 2. 2. in lieu of garden, and the school fees, averaging 30; he also receives 5 per annum, from a bequest by Mr. Smith for the gratuitous instruction of poor children. There are some remains of the ancient castles of Corsehill and Auchenharvie. On the braes of Carnduff, the property of Mr. Deans, of Peacock Bank, have been found three urns containing human bones. About a mile from the town, on the farm of Chapelton, were recently dug up the foundations of an ancient chapel, of which, however, no authentic records have been preserved. Among the most eminent persons connected with this place was Dr. Robert Watt, compiler of the Bibliotheca Britannica, a work of celebrity; he was born on the farm now called Girgenti, in the year 1774, and died in 1819.
Stewarton and Wishawton

From: A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)








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