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Old County of Wigtownshire

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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1834-45: Wigton

Wigtownshire, a maritime county in the SW extremity of Scotland, forms the W division of Galloway, and contains the most southerly land in Scotland. It is bounded on the N partly by the mouth of the Firth of Clyde, but chiefly by Ayrshire, E by Kirkcudbrightshire, S by the Irish Sca, and W by the Irish Channel. It lies between 54° 36' 45" and 55° 3' 40" N lat., and between 4° 15' 50" and 5° 7' 10" W long. The boundary, beginning at Galloway Burn on the E bank and near the entrance of Loch Ryan, passes tolerably due E in an irregular line along the courses of the Main Water and Cross Water of Luce and other smaller streams, past Lochs Maberry and Dornal, till it strikes the river Cree at Carrickburnfoot, whose course it follows at first eastwards and then southwards, so that the entire boundary with Kirkcudbrightshire is formed by the river Cree and its estuary Wigtown Bay. The S boundary, from Burrow Head, follows the huge curve of Luce Bay, which, opening with a width of 18 ½ miles, strikes inland for 16 ½ miles to within 6 ½ of the head of Loch Ryan, and covers an area of 160 square miles. From the Mull of Galloway, forming the western horn of Luce bay, the coast runs N to Corsewall Point, where it bends to the W for a short distance to Milleur Point, on the W of the entrance to Loch Ryan. Thence it follows the long narrow indentation of Loch Ryan, which stretches 10 miles S by E into the interior, until the point whence we began to trace the boundary is reached. But for the indentations of Luce bay and Loch Ryan the outline of the county would be proximately a square of about 29 miles on each side; but these two arms of the sea cut off from the main body a long narrow peninsula, tapering towards its S end, and connected with the rest of the shire by A narrow neck about 6 ½ miles broad. Its greatest length, from E to W, is about 30 ½ miles; its greatest breadth, from N to S, is 28 ½ miles; and its area is 512 1/3 square miles or 327,906 acres, of which 14, 330 are foreshore and 2828 ¼ water. Wigtownshire is the seventeenth among Scottish counties in point of size, and the twenty-second in point of population.

The coast, inclusive of the great and small inlets, has an extent of about 120 miles, for the most part bold and rocky, and in very many places pierced with caverns. There are but few recesses in which a large ship could safely ride at anchor or attempt to land a cargo, and not very many that afford fair landing-places for even small boats. Loch Ryan, indeed, may be regarded as one fine harbour, and two or three of the creeks of Wigtown Bay are decidedly hospitable; but most of Luce Bay. and the great majority of the small bays and other openings, are flanked or beset with rocky and fissured cliffs, often rising sheer from the water. The head of Luce Bay is, however, bounded by a stretch of sandy beach. The small bays are exceedingly numerous, and with the small headlands form a slightly waving or serrated coast-line. The chief headlands are Burrow Head, at the dividing point between Wigtown Bay and Luce Bay; the Mull of Galloway, the most southerly land in Scotland, at the dividing point between Luce Bay and the Irish Channel; and Corsewall Point in the extreme NW of the county at the meeting of the Irish Channel and the Firth of Clyde. The most important harbours are Stranraer at the head and Cairnryan on the E side of Loch Ryan; Carty on the river Cree, 2 ¼ miles SSE of Newton-Stewart; Wigtown, on the upper part of Wigtown Bay; Garlieston, near the middle of the W side of Wigtown Bay; Isle of Whithorn, 2 miles NNE of Burrow Head; PortWilliam, near the middle of the E side of Luce Bay; Port-Logan, on the Irish Channel, 7 ½ miles NNW of the Mull of Galloway; and Portpatrick, on the lrish Channel, 10 ½ miles NNW of Port-Logan.

The interior is divided into three great districts. The peninsula, or rather double peninsula, W of Loch Ryan and Luce Bay., is known as the Rhinns of Galloway; the district which forms the broad-based triangular peninsula between Luce Bay and Wigtown Bay is called the Machers; while the rest of the county, N of the Machers and E of Loch Rvan, bears the loose general name of the Moors. The physical aspect of Wigtownshire is not strikingly varied, and presents few imposing landscapes. The surface, though partly low and level, offers in most parts the appearance of a continuous sea of knolls, and hills, and hillocks; but probably it aggregately rises less above sea-level than any other equally large district in Scotland. A considerable area of low level ground, bearing marks of having at a comparatively recent period been submerged by the sea, lies along the lower reach of the river Cree and the upper part of Wigtown Bay; and the isthmus between the head of Loch Ryan and Luce Bay bears similar traces. The heights, as the county recedes northwards, become bolder and of a more decidedly hilly character than near the coast; and along the Ayrshire border the loftiest average is reached on the skirts of the broad range of the southern highlands, which extends across Scotland to the coast of Berwickshire. Heathy hills, high mosses, and bleak fells thus occupy a large portion of the Moors. The Rhinns district is traversed -from N to S by a watershed, which sends its drainage off on both sides. The Machers has mostly, like the Moors, a southern exposure, and both these districts send their waters chiefly to Wigtown and Luce Bays.

The chief heights in the Rhinns are, from N to S, Tor of Craigoch (409 feet), in Kirkcolm parish; Craighead of Lochnaw (484) and several points of 500 feet, in Leswalt; Broad Moor (500), a summit near Craigenlee (592), and Cairn Pat or Piat (593), the highest point of the Rhinns, in Portpatrick; Barmore Hill (463), in Stoneykirk; Barncorkrie Moor (507), West Muntloch (525), and Dunman (522), in Kirkmaiden. The Mull of Galloway, the most southerly point in Scotland, rises 228 feet above sea-level. In the Moors the chief heights are Cairnarzean Fell (735 feet), Cairnscarrow (761), Braid Fell (769), Brockloch Fell (769), and Mid Moile (844), in Inch parish; Bucht Fell (607), Balmurrie Fell (807), Quarter Fell (834), Stab Hill (725), Murdonochee (900), and Miltonish (970), in New Luce; Knock Fell (513) and Craig Fell (538), in Old Luce; Barskeoch Fell (579), Culvennan Fell (702), Eldrig Fell (742), Urrall Fell (604), and Craigairie Fell (1000), in Kirkcowan; Glassoch Fell (493) and an unnamed point near Loch Ochiltree (604), in Penninghame. In the Machers the chief heights are Craigeach Fell (426 feet), the Doon of May (457), Mochrum Fell (646), Bennan Hill (500), and East Bar (450), in Mochrum parish; Carleton Fell (475) and the Fell of Barhullion (450), in Glasserton.

The streams of Wigtownshire are very numerous, but for the most part of short course and unimportant size. The chief is the Cree, which for 21 ½ miles forms the boundary between Kirkcudbright and Wigtown shires, just before it enters Wigtown Bay at Creetown. It is navigable up to Carty, but receives no noteworthy tributary from Wigtownshire. The Bladenoch, issuing from Loch Maherry on the Ayrshire border, has a course of about 23 miles S, SSE, and E to Wigtown Bay. It receives the Tarf Water, the Black Burn, and the Malzie Water on the right. The Luce Water is formed by the junction, at New Luce village, of the Main Water of Luce and the Cross Water of Luce. Its entire course within the county is about 15 miles. All these rivers contain salmon and trout. There are numerous other smaller streams that are frequented by anglers for the sake of trout-fishing. Among these may be mentioned the Black Burn, Bishop Burn, Comrie, Colinty, Cragoch, Cruise, Donnan, Glenburn, Kirklachie, Langabeastie, Moneypool, Penwhirn, Piltanton, Polnure, Pullaryon, and Sole Burns. The lakes are also numerous but small. In the Rhinns are Loch Connal in Kirkcolm parish and Soulseat, and Castle-Kennedy in Inch. In the Moors are Lochs Maberry and Dornal on the Ayrshire boundary; Loch Ochiltree, and Loch Cree on the Cree, in Penninghame; and Loch Ronald in Kirkcowan. In the Machers are Castle Loch, the four lochs of Mochrum, Eldrig Loch, and White Loch, in Mochrum. Other small lochs in various parts of the county are Lochs Derry, Heron, Barwhapple, Dernaglar, Clugston, Whitefield, and Black Loch. Dowalton Loch, at one time the second largest lake in the shire, was drained in 1862. At Logan there is an artificial fishpond, built among the rocks on the shore, in which cod and other sea-fish are kept. Springs and wells of reputed miraculous or medicinal qualities are met with all over the county.

Geology.—There is little variety in the geological formations of Wigtownshire. If we except a narrow strip of ground on the W shore of Loch Ryan, which is occupied by Carboniferous and Permian rocks, the rest of the county is composed of Silurian strata. Both the lower and upper divisions of the Silurian system are represented; the latter occupying the promontory of Burrow Head and extending along the shore in the direction of the Isle of Whithorn. Magnificent sections of the members of this system are exposed on the rocky coastline facing the Irish Channel, where the innumerable flexures of the strata may be studied to advantage. The prevalent strike of the strata throughout the county is NE and SW, and owing to constant folding certain subdivisions of the system are made to cover a great breadth of country. From the memoirs published by the Geological Survey, it would appear that the Lower Silurian rocks are divisible into certain groups in which there are two zones of black shale, the lower occupying the horizon of the Moffat series, the upper occupying the position of the Lead Hills black shales. These are separated by a considerable thickness of massive grits, greywackes, flagstones, and shales. The lower zone is exposed in Clanyard Bay, N of the Mull of Galloway, in Drumbreddan Bay, and again near Money Head, while the upper zone is admirably seen on the cliff about 2 miles S of Portpatrick. Some of the bands in these black shale zones are crowded with graptolites, and similar fossils occur in the Cairn Ryan slates, where they were discovered long ago by Mr Carrick Moore. One of the prominent subdivisions of the Lower Silurian formation in this county consists of a series of massive grey and reddish grits, which cover a belt of ground about 8 miles broad from Mochrum Loch to the high grounds N of Glenluce.

The Upper Silurian rocks, occurring on the shore between the Isle of Whithorn and Burrow Head, consist of brown crusted greywackes, flags, and cleaved shales, with which are associated numerous thin bands of dark shale yielding Graptolithus Flemingii, G. priodon, Cyrtograptus Murchisoni, with fragments of Ceratiocaris and Orthoeeratites.

The Silurian strata are pierced by various igneous masses of small extent; all the large granite areas in Galloway being included in the county of Kirkcudbright. A few miles to the N of the Mull of Galloway at Laggantulloch Head there is a mass of granite covering an area of about 2 square miles. A mass of diorite, consisting of triclinic felspar, hornblende, with quartz and iron pyrites, occurs on the hills about 3 miles N of Kirkcowan, while another patch is to be found near Glenluce. Dykes of the same rock are also met with near the shore to the E of Mochrum Loch. There are numerous intrusive dykes of different varieties of quartzfelsite scattered throughout the county; the most interesting being certain talcose felstones or mica traps occurring at Innerwell Point and on Culvennan Fell.

The narrow band of Carboniferous strata has been traced for a distance of about 8 miles along the W side of Loch Ryan, where they form a fringe about ¼ mile in breadth between the Permian and Silurian rocks. From the fact that they are covered unconformably by the Permian strata, and from the nature of the organic remains and the characters of the beds, they have been provisionally classed with the Calciferous Sandstone series by the officers of the Geological Survey. The strata consist of red, grey, and mottled sandstones with purple clays. All the fossils with one exception consist of plant remains, comprising Stigmaria, Calamites, Alethopteris lonehitidis, etc.

Between the belt of Carboniferous strata just referred to and the W shore of Loch Ryan there is a strip of Permian strata about 9 miles in length and about 1 mile in breadth, consisting throughout of coarse breccia with thin seams of sandstone. Lithologically the rock closely resembles the Permian breccias of Ayrshire. It presents a tumultuous appearance, the blocks being angular or sub-angular, and measuring, in many cases, a foot across. From the nature of the included blocks it is evident that they have been derived from the denudation of the Silurian strata. On the Geological Survey map a basalt dyke is marked as penetrating this breccia, from which it may be inferred that it belongs to the later series of Tertiary dykes so common in the W of Scotland.

In the W portion of the county the general trend of the ice-marking is S and SSW, and the same direction is observable in the undulating ground between Stranraer and Whithorn. Along the banks of the Cree, however, the ice-markings run more or less parallel with the valley. These markings were evidently produced by the great ice-sheet which radiated from the tract of high ground on the borders of Kirkcudbrightshire and Ayrshire. A remarkable feature connected with the boulder-clay in this county is the arrangement of this deposit in oval-shaped mounds or `drums,' usually coinciding in trend with that of the ice-markings. The peculiar appearance presented by these ridges is admirably seen on both sides of the Wigtownshire railway, between Newton-Stewart and Glenluce, and again between Wigtown and Whithorn. In this county there are certain sections where the boulder-clay yields broken fragments of shells, as for example at Port Logan and in Clanyard Bay on the W shore of the Mull of Galloway. In the tough laminated clays used as brick clays at Clashmahew near Stranraer, organic remains have been met with, but these brick clays do not occur at much higher levels than 60 feet. Shelly boulder-clay has also been noted in the course of the Geological Survey of the district at various localities on the shores of Loch Ryan. There can be little doubt that this deposit is more recent than the typical lower boulder-clay of inland districts, which is invariably unfossiliferous. The numerous boulders scattered over the low grounds of Wigtownshire is another characteristic feature of the glaciation of this county. Conspicuous amongst these erratics are the blocks of grey granite derived from the great mass of Cairnsmore of Fleet, and the mass lying between the Kells and Merrick ranges.

Along the shores of Loch Ryan and Luce Bay, and again along the estuary of the Cree, there are strips of flat land representing the 25-feet and 50-feet beaches. Sometimes these are partly overgrown, and more frequently the lower raised beach is obscured by great accumulations of blown sand. The largest development of sand dunes occurs in Luce Bay, between Balgreggan and the mouth of Piltanton Burn.

Economic Minerals.—Galena has been worked at the Knockibae mines, N of New Luce, and a vein of copper pyrites has been explored at Wauk Mill, near Kirkcowan. At Tonderghie, S of Whithorn, there is a vein of barytes associated with iron and copper pyrites. At Cairn Ryan the grey shales and flaggy bands have been extensively wrought for roofing slates, and also for pavement stones. The grey shales, yielding graptolites at Grennan, N of the Mull of Galloway, have also been quarried for roofing-slates. Excellent building stone is obtained from the Carboniferous sandstones on the W side of Loch Ryan, and from the greywacke bands and massive grits of the Silurian formation. The more flaggy bands in the grit series supply excellent lintels. The harder bands in the Silurian rocks are extensively used for road metal. The stratified clays have been used for the manufacture of bricks. Another noteworthy feature is the great development of peat mosses in the low grounds of the county, which have yielded an abundant supply of fuel. The extent of these peat mosses is somewhat remarkable, as may be seen by referring to the published survey maps of that region. (See Geological Survey Maps, 1, 2, 3, 4, and the explanations accompanying these sheets.)

Soil.—The soil of the low]flat lands near the Cree and at the head of Wigtown Bay is all alluvial; and the Carse of Baldoon, which includes the larger part of these lands, is a strong clay, not unlike the rich soil of the carses on the Forth. The valley between Loch Ryan and Luce Bay has a deposit of sea-sand, interspersed with tracts of reclaimed shallow flow moss; and the low belt on the W side of Loch Ryan is also sandy. The soil of most of the Machers and much of the Moors is a dry hazel-coloured loam, often inclined to gravel, and generally incumbent upon rock. The Rhinns have a diversified and excellent soil, to a large extent arable. The central and northern districts of the Moors have extensive tracts covered with a soil of peat earth; and the large and deep `flows' (as these peat mosses are called) - some from 8 to 10 miles long - while they chill the air with humid exhalations, prevent vegetation, and are quite useless for grazing purposes.

Climate.—The climate corresponds with the position of the county, the configuration of its surface, and the character of its shores. Rain falls often, and in large aggregate quantity, yet seldom without intermission during an entire day. The south-westerly winds usually bring rain; yet, except where artificial drainage has been neglected, it rarely injures the fruits of the soil. Snow seldom lies long; and frost is not often severe or protracted. The prevailing winds are from the S and the SW, and the severest storms of wind and the heaviest falls of rain and snow are from some point between the SW and the SE. A heavy gale sometimes blows from the NW, but generally subsides in the evening of the same day; and hence has arisen a local proverb that `an honest man and the north-west wind go to sleep together.' The climate on the whole is favourable to health and longevity.

Wigtownshire is almost exclusively an agricultural and grazing county, its manufactures, commerce, and mining being but of little importance. According to the returns of 1881, 6323 of the entire population were engaged in agricultural, and 4960 in industrial, pursuits. Commerce employed 760, other occupations 3068, leaving 23, 343 unoccupied and unproductive. Agriculture seems to have attained a considerable degree of excellence in this district in comparatively early times; and under the Baliols, before the 14th century, was flourishing. In the succeeding troublous times, however, the art relapsed, and for four centuries made but slow and feeble progress. In the first half of the 18th century improvements began, at first under Marshal Lord Stair, who devoted his retirement after 1728 to the encouragement of enlightened agriculture on his lands in Wigtownshire and in West Lothian. His example was gradually followed. In 1760 considerable improvements were introduced on the Earl of Selkirk's estate of Baldoon; and the Earl of Galloway also soon entered the same field. A better rotation of crops, the use of modern implements, the enclosing of fields, and other improvements took good effect; and these, seconded by the efforts of intelligent agriculturists and of the Agricultural Society of Dumfriesshire, brought about a considerable advance in farming by the beginning of the present century. At present the best districts offer as fine specimens of high-farming as are to be seen anywhere in the country; and the farmers of the other regions are only hindered by the difficulties of the soil from giving to the general face of the country as cultivated an aspect as that of more favoured localities. The farms are mostly of a medium size, and are usually let on leases of nineteen y ears. According to the returns of 1881, there were in this county 30 farms of 1000 acres and upwards, 64 from 500 to 1000, 423 from 100 to 500, 237 from 10 to 100, and 27 below 10. In 1884 there were 147, 202 acres under crops, bare fallow, or pasture. The following table exhibits the acreage under the chief crops in various years:—

  1855 1874 1880 1882 1884
Wheat, . . . . 7,343 4,969 2,106 2,191 1,194
Barley or Bere, . . 1,589 1,304 2,612 2,346 1,021
Oats, . . . . 34,602 31,431 33,515 34,063 35,579
Rye, . . . . 150 100 106 118 124
Beans, . . . . 1,089 408 378 590 318
Potatoes, . . . 3,843 2,116 2,710 2,615 2,227
Turnips and Swedes, . 15,289 16,093 15,227 16,076 16,238
Cabbages, Rape, etc., . 44 75 61 154 74
Other Green Crops, . .. 247 162 168 182
Grass Bare Fallow,. . 845 614 487 470 372
Grass in Rotation,. 61,658 45,574 59,622 62,993 67,652
Permanent Pasture, .. 39,760 28,339 24,480 21,894

In 1884, 6 acres were under orchard, 73 in nursery grounds, and 8009 in coppice and plantations, excluding garden shrubberies.

The live stock falls entirely under the description already given under Kirkcudbrightshire, and the authority there referred to. The following table shows the number of the various kinds of stock in different years:—

  1878. 1880. 1882. 1884.
Horses,. . . . 5,792 5,585 5,595 5,800
Cattle,. . . . 40,401 40,144 40,068 43,881
Sheep,. . . . 131,030 126,967 125,146 118,990
Pigs, . . . . 9,491 7,412 10,386 10,323

Wigtownshire is not a very well wooded county, although a good deal has been done in the way of planting since the time of Marshal Stair, already alluded to. It is said that he and his father planted annually, for a considerable number of years, as many as 20, 000 trees. The policies of many of the private mansions are finely adorned with timber. The grounds of Castle-Kennedy in particular may be mentioned in this connection.

Manufactures and Trade.—The absence of coal effectually restrains the manufactures of the county, so that no really important manufacturing industry has been established in it. There are isolated establishments, as for instance, the distillery at Bladenoch, and the woollen mills in Kirkcowan parish, but these do little more than supply part of the local demand. The commerce consists almost wholly in the exchange of the produce of the soil, cattle, and sheep, for manufactured and other articles for home consumption. At one time timber was imported from America, and timber and iron from the Baltic, but these trades have now dwindled, although some timber is still imported from Norway. At one time a large transit trade was maintained through the county between the north of Ireland on the one side, and the south of Scotland and north of England on the other. The passage of large herds of Irish cattle and of much British merchandise, together with the presence of numerous travellers, conferred a considerable local benefit, which, however, has now almost entirely been diverted by the development of steam navigation. Stranraer, however, has some little shipping trade; and there is a daily steamer passenger and goods service between this port and Larne and Belfast. The various smaller ports carry on a more or less brisk coasting trade. The extension of railways into the county has also tended in some degree to bring back a proportion of the former transit trade. There are three lines of rail in Wigtownshire. The Portpatrick railway, opened in 1861, and leaving the Glasgow and South-Western system at Dumfries, enters the county at Newton-Stewart, and runs westwards to Stranraer, and thence SW to Portpatrick. The Wigtownshire stations are Newton-Stewart, Kirkcowan, Glenluce, Dunragit, Castle-Kennedy, Stranraer Harbour, Stranraer, Colfin, and Portpatrick. The Wigtownshire railway, branching from the Portpatrick line at Newton-Stewart, was authorised in 1872, and opened as far as Garlieston in 1875, and was thence continued S to Whithorn in 1877, a total distance of 19 ¼ miles. It has stations at Newton-Stewart, Wigtown, Kirkinner, Whauphill, Sorbie, Millisle, Garlieston, and Whithorn. Coaches run in connection with this line between Whauphill and Port William. The third line is the southern part of the Girvan and Portpatrick Railway, opened in 1876, which enters the county from Ayrshire at the N of the parish of New Luce, and thence runs nearly due S to join the Portpatrick railway at East Challoch near Dunragit. It has Wigtownshire stations at Glenwhilly and New Luce. The roads of the county are numerous, convenient, and good. For many years the only practicable road for wheeled vehicles was the old military road, constructed in the latter half of last century, which led from Newton-Stewart to Portpatrick. A newer and more level road now connects these points. Other main routes are the road from Glasgow to Stranraer, along the E side of Loch Ryan; the road running southwards from Newton-Stewart to Wigtown and Whithorn; and the road north-westward from Whithorn to Stranraer, by the shore of Luce Bay and through Glen Luce.

The royal burghs in the county are Wigtown, Stranraer, and Whithorn; the burghs of barony are Newton-Stewart, Glenluce, and Portpatrick; the chief villages are Aird, Bladenoch, Cairnryan, Drumore, Eldrig, Garlieston, Innermessan, Isle of Whithorn, Kirkcolm or Stewarton, Kirkcowan, Kirkinner, Lochans, Marchfarm, Merton, Monreith, Myreton, New Luce, PortLogan, Port-William, Sandhead, Slohabert, Sorbie, and Stoneykirk. The chief seats are Galloway House (Earl of Galloway), Culhorn House (Earl of Stair), Ardwell, Barnbarroch, Castlewigg, Corsewall House, Craighlaw House, Craigenveoch, Dunragit, Dunskey, Freugh, Genoch, Glasserton House, Glengyre, Isle of Whithorn Castle, Lochinch Castle, Lochnaw House, Lochryan House, Logan House, Monreith House, Penninghame House, Park-Place, Physgill, Tonderghie, and Tor House, most of which have been separately noticed. According to the Miscellaneous Statistics of the United Kingdom for 1879, 309,087 acres, with a gross estimated rental of £239, 589, were divided among 1820 proprietors, 1 holding 79,174 acres (rental, £40,425); 3 holding 80, 628 (£36,837); 3 holding 46,129 (£36,304); 8 holding 53, 915 (£42,614), etc. The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant, a vice-lieutenant, 18 deputy-lieutenants, a sheriff (who is also sheriff of Kirkcudbrightshire and Dumfriesshire), a sheriff-substitute, and about 60 justices of the peace. Sheriff and other courts are held at Wigtown and Stranraer as detailed in the articles on these towns; the quarter-sessions also meets at stated intervals at Glenluce. The police force of the county numbered, in 1884-85, 22 men, with a chief constable receiving a salary of £175. The county returns one member to parliament; and its constituency in 1885 was 1694. Wigtown (constituency 219), Stranraer (788), and Whithorn (230) unite with New Galloway (60) in returning a member to parliament - the group is known as the Wigtown burghs. The value of property in Wigtownshire has been subject to some fluctuation. In the time of Charles II. lands were offered to whoever would pay the public burdens on them. With agricultural improvements and settled government, however, the value has risen pretty steadily. Valued rent in 1674, £5634; 1815, £143, 425; 1856 (exclusive of royal burghs), £155,850; 1876, £222, 866; 1884-85 (landward), £223, 846; railways, £11, 963; (in burghs), £30,391; railways, £1455. Wigtownshire ranks twenty-first among Scottish counties in point of density of population, having 79 inhabitants to the square mile - the average for the entire country being 125. Pop. (1801) 22,918, (1811) 26, 891, (1821) 33, 240, (1831) 36,258, (1841) 39,195, (1851) 43,389, (1861) 42,095, (1871) 38,830, and (1881) 38,611, of whom 20, 468 were females, and only 28 Gaelic-speaking, though there is a strong Celtic element in the population, and Celtic names are common. Houses (1881) occupied 7440, vacant 386, building 56.

The civil county includes the 17 parishes of Glasserton, Inch, Kirkcolm, Kirkcowan, Kirkinner, Kirkmaiden, Leswalt, Mochrum, New Luce, Old Luce, Penninghame, Portpatrick, Sorbie, Stoneykirk, Stranraer, Whithorn, and Wigtown. For administrative purposes the county is divided into the Lower District, embracing the Machers and the Moors; and the Upper District, containing the Rhinns. In this sense the Rhinns are held to include the parishes of Old and New Luce, Inch, and Stranraer, besides the 5 parishes in the peninsula proper. All the parishes are assessed for the poor; and, together with Ballantrae in Ayrshire, form Wigtownshire poor-law combination, with a poorhouse at Stranraer. The Kirkcudbright and Wigtown Rifle Volunteers have their headquarters at Newton-Stewart; the Ayr, Wigtown, and Kirkcudbright Artillery Volunteers in Ayrshire. The registration county gives part of Penninghaine to Kirkcudbrightshire; and in 1881 its population was 38, 448.

The civil county is divided among nineteen quoad sacra parishes and part of another, viz., those already mentioned, with Bargrennan, Lochryan, and Sheuchan. Eleven of these are in the presbytery of Stranraer, the remainder in that of Wigtown, and all in the synod of Galloway. In 1883 there were 55 schools (49 of them public), with aggregate accommodation for 7554 children, 6262 on the registers, and an average attendance of 4537.

History.—The history of this county has already been rapidly sketched in the article on Galloway, and various points in it are also touched upon under Kirkcudbright. To these articles the reader is referred for further information. Attempts to erect western Galloway into a shrievalty seem to have been made as early as the 12th century; and in the 13th century, at the death of Alexander III., while the Baliols were lords of Galloway, it was certainly a sheriffdom. In 1341 David II. formed the county into an earldom, and conferred it upon Sir Malcolm Fleming, with a regality jurisdiction which greatly curtailed the power of the sheriff; and in 1372 this earldom, with its accompanying powers, passed into the hands of the Douglases, who were then lords of Galloway. In 1451 Andrew Agnew was confirmed as Sheriff of Wigtownshire, and for 230 years his descendants held that office without interruption. In 1681, however, it was virtually transferred to Graham of Claverhouse, for the purpose of crushing the Covenanters; but the Revolution again restored it to the family of Agnew, who held it until the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions in 1747, when £4000 was paid as componsation for its surrender. The first sheriffdepute under the new régime was Alexander Boswell of Auchinleck, who afterwards rose to the bench with the title of Lord Auchinleck. Jurisdictions of regality also existed prior to 1747 over the lands respectively of the Prior of Whithorn, the Abbot of Glenluce, the Abbot of Soulseat, and the Bishop of Galloway; which passed into the hands respectively of the Earl of Galloway, Dalrymple of Stair, Agnew of Lochnaw, and the Earl of Cassillis. In 1747 compensations of £166 and £450 were paid for the two first, while nothing was paid for the others. A baronial jurisdiction over the lands of Inch, held by Dalrymple, was also abolished without compensation. Several other baronial jurisdictions had become extinct or merged in larger jurisdictions before the general abolition.

Antiquities.—Allusion has already been made under Galloway to the two towns of the Novantæ-Leucopibia and Rerigonium - which existed in this district. The early races have left a considerable number of traces of their existence in local names, as well as in the shape of sepulchral cairns, tumuli, and mounds. Standing-stones occur in several localities, as at Torhouse and Drumtroddan; and traces of forts are frequent, as for instance on the summit of Cairnpiat. Mote-hills of different dates are still extant; and many of the caves, especially in the parishes of Inch, Portpatrick, Kirkmaiden, and Glasserton, are popularly associated with early events and men in the history of the county. The chief trace of the Roman appearance in the district in 80 A.D.is the camp at Rispain near Whithorn. The Deil's Dyke, a great defensive work of the Romanised Caledonians, extended from Loch Ryan to the upper part of the Solway Firth, and has left some vestiges in the county. Castles, fortalices, and other fortifications of various dates - from that of the Romanised Caledonians to the close of the feudal period - were very numerous; and their remains are still found in all stages of decay, though many, like Wigtown Castle, have completely vanished. Among those that still linger may be mentioned Auchness, Baldoon, Carscreugh, Claynurd, Corsewall, Crosswell, Cruggleton, Dornal, Dunskey, Eggerness, Feather, Galdenoch, Garthland, Kennedy, Killessar, Lochmaberry, Lochnaw, Long, Mochrum, Myrtoun, Physgill, Sorbie, Stewart, and Synniness. Several of these are separately noticed. The castles on the sea-coast have mostly crumbled very much into decay. Different accounts of their origin are given, some authorities being of opinion that they were defences against the Scandinavian descents, others holding that they were erected by the Scandinavian rovers themselves. The chief monastic institutions in the county in Roman Catholic times were Whithorn Priory, Glenluce Abbey, Soulseat Abbey, and Wigtown Priory. There are several ruined chapels of interest in the shire, as for example those of Kirkmadrine in Sorbie, and at Kirkmaiden.

In addition to the authorities under Galloway and Kirkcudbrightshire, see W. M `Ilwraith's The Visitor's Guide to Wigtownshire (2d ed., Dumfries, 1877).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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