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Old County of Dunbartonshire

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: Dumbarton

Dumbartonshire, a County, partly Maritime, but chiefly inland, in the W of Scotland, comprising a main body and a detached district. The main body is bounded n by Perthshire, E by Stirlingshire, SE by Lanarkshire, S by the river Clyde and the upper Firth of Clyde, which divide it from Renfrewshire, and W by Argyllshire. Its eastern boundary, from Island Vow, above Inversnaid, to the mouth of Endrick Water, runs along the middle of loch Lomond; thence, to the mouth of Catter Burn, is traced by Endrick Water; and, in the extreme SE, for 3 miles above Maryhill, is traced by the river Kelvin. Its western boundary, except for 9¼ miles in the extreme N, is all formed by Loch Long. Its outline bears some resemblance to that of a crescent with the convexity towards the NE. Its length, from N to S, varies between 43/8 and 24¾ miles, its breadth, from E to W, between 1¼ and 18½ miles. The detached district, commencing 4¼ miles E by N of the nearest point of the main body, and 5 NNE of Glasgow, comprises the parishes of Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld; is bounded N and E by Stirlingshire, S and W by Lanarkshire; and measures 125/8 miles in maximum length from W by S to E by N, and 4 in maximum breadth. The area of the entire county is 270 square miles or 172,677 acres, of which 3814 are foreshore and 14,312½ water, whilst 19,030 belong to the detached district.

All the northern or Arrochar district of the county, lying partly around the head of Loch Lomond, partly between that lake and Loch Long, is a group of mountains, intersected by deep glens. Culminating in Ben Vorlich (3092 feet) and Ben Vane (3004), it displays all the most characteristic features of grand, romantic, beautiful Highland scenery. The central part from Finnart and the middle of Loch Lomond to the hillscreens of the Firth of Clyde, but including the peninsula of Roseneath, is a region varying between the highland and lowland, and exquisitely blends many a feature of sternness and wildness with many of the sweetest loveliness. The lofty hills of Arrochar and Luss, in particular, contrast most strikingly with the wide expause of the pellucid waves of the queen of lakes, farfamed Loch Lomond. 'Here savage grandeur, in all the towering superiority of uncultivated nature, is seen side by side with the very emblem of peace and tranquillity, an alpine lake, which the winds reach only by stealth.' The southern district, comprising the seaboard of the Clyde, the Vale of Leven, and the tract eastward of that vale to the extremity of the main body of the county, is generally lowland and rich almost to excess with gentle contour and tasteful ornamentation; yet even this is diversified-to some extent broadly occupied-with characters of abruptness and boldness, shown in the shoulders of the Cardross hills, in the mass of Dumbarton Rock, in the brows of Dumbuck and of basaltic ranges northward of it, and in the capriciously escarped, romantic acclivities of the Kilpatrick Hills, which, extending 5 ½ miles from E to W, and attaining a maximum altitude of 1313 feet in Duncomb and Fynloch, contain many rich close scenes, and command some of the finest and most extensive views in Scotland. The detached district is all lowland, and of tame appearance, nowhere exceeding 480 feet above sea-level, yet extends so near the roots of the Campsie Fells as to borrow effects of scenery similar to those which the tracts along the Clyde borrow from the Kilpatrick Hills. No region in Scotland can boast of finer scenery than the county of Dumbarton; and certainly none more varied, or oftener visited and admired by strangers. Considerably more than one-half of Loch Lomond, and fully two-thirds of the islands in it, belong to Dumbartonshire. Loch Sloy in Arrochar, Lochs Humphrey and Cochno in Old Kilpatrick, Fynloch in Dumbarton, Fannyside Loch in Cumbernauld, and several smaller lakes, have aggregately a considerable area. The river Clyde, from opposite Blythswood to the influx of the Leven, runs 8¼ miles along the southern border; and, like the Firth, onward to the south-western extremity of Roseneath, teems with the vast commercial traffic of Glasgow. The Leven, winding 7¼ miles southward from Loch Lomond to the Clyde, bisects the lowland district of the county's main body, and is notable at once for the purity of its waters, the richness of its vale, and the profusion of bleachfields and printworks on its banks. The Endrick, over all its run on the eastern boundary, is a beautiful stream. The Kelvin, though ditch-like where it approaches the main body's south-eastern border, yet at Killermont and Garscube exhibits much exquisite beauty. Allander Water drains most of New Kilpatrick to the Kelvin. The Falloch, Inveruglas, Douglas, Luss, Finlas, Fruin, and other brooks and torrents, with many fine cascades, drain most of the Highland tracts into Loch Lomond. The Kelvin traces most of the northern boundary of the detached district, but everywhere there retains its ditch-like character. The sluggish Luggie drains the western part of the detached district to the Kelvin, and some tiny streamlets drain the eastern part to the Carron. Many beautiful rivulets and burns are in the interior of the main body, running either to the principal rivers, or pursuing independent courses to the Clyde, Gare Loch, or Loch Long. The Forth and Clyde Canal traverses the N border of the detached district, and afterwards passes along the S border of the main body to the Clyde at Bowling Bay. Springs of excellent water are almost everywhere numerous and copious.

The climate is exceedingly various. Some parts of the county, such as the seaboard of the Clyde and the Vale of Leven, are comparatively genial, while other parts, as the pastoral lands of Arrochar and the plateaux of the Kilpatrick Hills, are comparatively severe. Even small tracts only a few miles distant from one another are so strongly affected by the configuration of the surface as to differ widely in regard to heat, moisture, and the winds. Nowhere in Scotland do heights and hollows act more powerfully on climate, the former in the way of attracting or cooling, the latter in ventilating or warming. Even in places so near and like one another as Keppoch, Camus Eskan, Ardincaple, and Bellretiro, the aggregate rain-fall, as ascertained by gauges all of one construction, was respectively 43.15,45.5,50.57, and 52.5. The climate, on the whole, however, is good. There is more moisture, indeed, than in many other parts of Scotland, but the excess is not so much in the quantity that falls as in the length of time it takes to fall; and whatever disadvantage arises from a corresponding excess of cloudiness, seems to be well counterbalanced by the prevalence of the genial W wind during no less than about nine months in the year. Sharp E winds blow in spring, but, even in their sharpest moods, they are not so keen as in the eastern counties, and are much less accompanied with frosty fogs.

The formation consists of mica slate in the N, with dykes of whinstone and greenstone; Lower Silurian towards the S; and Old Red sandstone along the Clyde estuary, where trap rocks of various kinds form Dumbarton Castle Rock and Dumbuck Hill, besides the main bulk of the Kilpatrick Hills. Mica slate, always stratified, often laminated, and generally comprising much mica, much quartz, and very little felspar, forms the greater part of the highest and most striking uplands of the N. The quartz of the mica slate is sometimes so extremely abundant as to render the rock more properly quartzose than micaceous. The mica slate likewise passes occasionally into talc slate, and both the mica slate and the talc slate, between Tarbet and Luss, are intersected by beds of greenstone, felspar, and porphyry. Clay slate is also plentiful in the N, lies generally on the mica slate, is frequently traversed by veins of quartz, abounds with iron pyrites, and is quarried as a roofing slate at Luss and Camstradden. A kind of limestone slate, or a laminated rock strongly charged with lime, occurs in the same tracts as the clay slate. Greywacke, chiefly amorphous, seldom slaty, and often abounding with quartz, commences a little S of Camstradden slate quarry, and forms a large portion of the parishes of Row and Cardross. A bluish-black limestone is frequently associated with the greywacke. Old Red sandstone extends from the lower part of Loch Lomond, through the western part of Bonhill, and through Cardross and Row, to the SW of Roseneath. A yellow sandstone of quite different lithological character from the Old Red sandstone, easily chiseled, but hardening by exposure, occurs at some parts of the seaboard of the Clyde, and extends at intervals and fitfully to Netherton-Garscube. Carboniferous limestone, coal, shale, and small beds of ironstone lie above the sandstones in the eastern wing of the main body of the county, and throughout the detached district; but they aggregately yield a very poor produce compared with that of other Scottish regions of the coal formation, Dumbartonshire's mineral output for 1878 being 210,520 tons of coal and 3000 of fireclay.

The land area of the county is 154,541½ acres, but was formerly over-estimated at 167,040 acres; and, by a competent agricultural authority, who so over-estimated it, was classified into 6050 acres of deep black loam, 30,970 of clay on a subsoil of till, 25,220 of gravel or gravelly loam, 3750 of green hilly pasture, 99,400 of mountain and moor, 720 of bog, and 930 of isles in Loch Lomond. The rivalry of proprietors in the lowland districts, the demand for markets of Glasgow and Greenock, the great increase of general local trade, and the new facilities of communication by steamboats and railways, have powerfully stimulated agricultural improvement. Draining, fencing, reclamation, skilful manuring, ameliorated courses of rotation, and the use of better implements, have all been brought largely into play, with the result of greatly enhancing the value of land and increasing the amount of produce. In 1870 the percentage of the cultivated area was 24.9, in 1881 26.8, viz., 5.8 under corn crops, 28 under green crops, 7.7 under clover, etc., and 10.4 under permanent pasture. A great extension of sheep-farming, begun in the early part of the present century, went on vigorously and rapidly in the upland districts; and was accompanied there by the practice of moor-burning, which occasioned such a change on the face of the hills, that tracts formerly brown and heathy are now covered with pasture. The growth of copsewood on lands unfit for tillage or pasture has long been much practised; and, besides being ornamental to the landscape, yields a considerable revenue. In 1872 there were 8388 acres under wood. The cattle, in the upland districts, are of the Highland breeds; in the lowland districts, generally either crosses between these and the Ayrshire, or, on dairy farms or for dairy purposes, pure Ayrshire. The sheep, on the hill districts, are mostly the blackfaced; on the low grounds, are generally the Cheviot, with some mixture of English breeds. The native horses are small animals, of intermediate character between the ordinary cart-horse and Highland pony; and with few exceptions are scarcely ever used in field labour. Clydesdale horses, either purchased in the Lanarkshire markets or bred from good stallions, are in common use on the arable farms. Swine, mostly for home use, are kept by almost all the farmers, and by many cottagers. Herds of fallow deer are on Inchmurrin and Inchlonaig in Loch Lomond; and red deer once abounded in the mountain districts, but were long ago exterminated. Bee-keeping is largely carried on, especially at Clynder. Manufactures struck root in Dumbartonshire in the year 1728, and were greatly stimulated and extended by the formation of good roads, the deepening of the Clyde, the opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal, the introduction of steam navigation, and the opening of successively the Dumbartonshire, the Vale of Leven, the Forth and Clyde, the Dumbarton and Helensburgh, and the Strathendrick railways. They have also derived increase, from demands and facilities for shipbuilding, from the growing increase of summer tourists to Loch Lomond and Loch Long, and from summer residence of multitudes of Glasgow citizens at Helensburgh, Garelochhead, Roseneath, Kilcreggan, Cove, Arrochar, and other places; and they now figure so largely and vigorously as to compete in value with the arts of agriculture. Most of the low tracts of the county, even such as possess no coal within their own limits, have followed Glasgow and tried to rival it in some of its departments of manufacture. The Vale of Leven, in particular, is crowded with bleachfields, printfields, dye-works, and cotton-works, giving employment to thousands. Cotton-printing, cotton-spinning, paper - making, iron-working, shipbuilding, the making of chemicals, and the distilling of whisky are all more or less prominent. The salmon and herring fisheries are also highly important and lucrative. The Forth and Clyde Canal, besides serving for water conveyance, concentrates some trade around its W end at Bowling Bay. The deepening of the Clyde, in addition to its greatly improving the navigation and stimulating commerce, produced the incidental advantage of adding to the county about 600 acres of rich land-the spaces behind the stone walls, formed for confining the tidal current, having rapidly filled up with a fine alluvial deposit, which soon became available first for meadow and next for the plough. The steamboat communication is very ample, including lines up and down Loch Lomond, and connecting all the chief places on the Clyde and on the sea-lochs with Greenock and Glasgow. The railways comprise a continuous line from Helensburgh east-south-eastward through Dumbarton to the south-eastern boundary at the Kelvin, and various other lines and branch lines, which are all linked by junctions into the general railway system of Scotland. The only royal burgh is Dumbarton. The other towns are Helensburgh, Kirkintilloch, Alexandria, Bonhill, Renton, and Cumbernauld. The chief villages are Arrochar, Balloch, Bowling Bay, Cardross, Clydebank, Condorrat, Cove, Dalmnir. Dalholm, Dumbuck, Duntocher, Faiflcy, Gairlochhead, Garscadden, Garscubc, Hardgate, Jamestown, Kilcrcggan, Knightswood, Little Mill, Luss, Milton, Netherton, New Kilpatrick, Old Kilpatrick, Roseneath, Smithston Rows, Waterside, with parts of Yoker and Lenzie. The principal seats are Arden House, Ardincaple, Ardmore, Ardoch, Auchendennan, Auchentorlie, Auchentoshan, Balloch Castle, Balvie, Baremman, Barnhill, Bloomhill, Bonhill Place, Boturich Castle, Cameron House, Camus Eskan, Clober House, Cockno House, Cowden Hill, Craigrownie, Cumbernauld House, Darleith, Dumbuck House, Edinbarnet, Finnart, Garscadden, Garscube, Gartshae House, Glenarbuck, Helenslee, Keppoch, Killermont, Kilmahew, Kilmardinny, Knoxland, Lennoxbank, Roseneath Castle, Rossdhu, Strathleven, Stuckgowan, Tillechewan Castle, Westerton House, and Woodhead. According to -Miscellaneous Statistics of the United Kingdom (1879), 153,736 acres, with a total gross estimated rental of £325,407, were divided among 2346 landowners, one holding 67,041 acres (rental £12,943), two together 15,979 (£8794), eight 20,221 (£29,970), twelve 17,515 (£24,745), eighteen 12,152 (£15,336), sixty-three 14,737 (£67,632), etc. The places of worship within the civil county, in 1881, were 17 quoad civilia parish churches, 9 quoad sacra parish churches, 3 chapels of ease, 21 Free churches, 11 U- P. churches, 1 United Original Secession church, 1 Independent chapel, 2 Baptist chapels, 1 Methodist chapel, 1 Evangelical Union chapel, 3 Episcopal churches, and 5 Roman Catholic churches. In Sept. 1880 the county had 50 schools (39 of them public), which, with total accommodation for 11,695 children, had 9729 on the registers and 7171 in average attendance, the certificated, assistant, and pupil teachers numbering 96,8, and 87.

The county is governed (1882) by a lord-lieutenant, a vice-lieutenant, 22 deputy-lieutenants, a sheriff, a sheriff-substitute, and 109 magistrates. The sheriff court for the county, and the commissary court are held at Dumbarton on every Tuesday and Friday during session; sheriff's small debt courts are held at Dumbarton on every Tuesday during session and occasionally during vacation; at Kirkintilloch, on the first Thursdays of March, June, September, and December; and quarter sessions are held at Dumbarton on the first Tuesdays of March, May, and August, and the last Tuesday of October. The county gaol is at Dumbarton, and has been noticed in our account of that town- The committals for crime, in the annual average of 1841-45, were 77; of 1846-50,127; of 1851-55,141; of 1856-60,87; of 1861-65,77; of 1865-70,89; of 187175,50; of 1876-80,57- The police force of the county, in 1881, excluding 9 men for Dumbarton, comprised 43 men; and the salary of the chief constable was £250. The number of persons tried at the instance of the police, in 1880, was 785; convicted, 731; committed for trial, 45; not dealt with, 35. Exclusive of Dumbarton, the county returns a member to parliament (Liberal 1837-41, Lib.-Con. 1841-68, Con. 1868-81), its constituency numbering 3009 in 1882. The annual value of real property, assessed at £71,587 in 1815, was £147,079 in 1843, £272,138 in 1875, and £384,627 in 1882, or, including railways, etc-, £458,761,13s. Pop. (1801) 20,710, (1811) 24,169, (1821) 27,317, (1831) 33,211, (1841) 44,296, (1851) 45,103, (1861) 52,034, (1871) 58,857, (1881) 75,327, of whom 37,311 were males, and 38,016 females- Houses (1881) 14,259 inhabited, 1238 vacant, 191 building.

The registration county takes in a part of New Kilpatrick parish from Stirlingshire, and had, in 1881, a population of 78,176. All the parishes are assessed for the poor, and 9 of them, with 3 in Stirlingshire and 1 in Perthshire, are included in Dumbarton poor law combination- The number of registered poor, during the year ending 14 May 1880, was 1313; of dependants on these, 881; of casual poor, 899; of dependants on these, 773. The receipts for the poor in the same year were £14,408; and the expenditure was £13,790. The number of pauper lunatics was 148, and the expenditure on their account was £1163, 3s. 6d. The percentage of illegitimate births was 6.7 in 1871, 5.9 in 1876, 5.4 in 1879, and 4.8 in 1880.

The territory now forming Dumbartonshire belonged anciently to the Caledonian Damnonii or Attacotti; was included by the Romans in their province of Vespasiana; and, exclusive of its detached district, was long a main part of the ancient district of Lennox or Levenax. That district included a large part of what is now Stirlingshire, and portions of what are now Perthshire and Renfrewshire. It was constituted a county by William the Lyon, and underwent curtailments after some period in the 13th century, reducing it to the limits of the present main body of Dumbartonshire. The county then changed its name from Lennox to Dumbartonshire; and, in the time of Robert I., had annexed to it its present detached district. It was the scene of many contests between Caledonians and Romans, between Cumbrians and Saxons, between Scots and Picts, between Highland clan and Highland clan, between the caterans and the Lowlanders, between different parties in the several civil wars of Scotland; and made a great figure, especially in the affairs of Antoninus' Wall and those of the Cumbrian or Strathclyde kingdom, in the events of the wars of the succession, and the turmoils of the cateran forays in the time of Rob Roy. Some of the salient points in its history are touched in the account of Dumbarton Castle, and in the article on Lennox. Several cairns and a cromlech still extant, several rude stone coffins, and fire-hollowed canoes found imbedded in the mud of the river close to the castle a few years ago, are memorials of its Caledonian period. A number of old rude forts or entrenchments, particularly in its Highland districts, are memorials of Caledonian, Pictish, and Scandinavian warfare within its limits. Vestiges of Antoninus' Wall, and relics found on the site of that wall along all the N border of its detached district, and along the SE border of its main body onward to the wall's western end at Chapelhill in the vicinity of Old Kilpatrick village, and an ancient bridge and a sudatorium at Duntocher, are memorials of the Romans. Several objects in Dumbarton Castle, and particularly historical records in connection with the castle, are memorials of the civil wars; a mound in the E end of Cardross parish, not far from Dumbarton town, indicates the last residence or death-place of Robert Bruce; numerous old castles, some scarcely traceable, some existing as ruins, some incorporated with modern buildings, as at Faslane, Balloch, Ardincaple, Dunglass, and Kirkintilloch, are relics of the several periods of the baronial times; and other objects in various parts, particularly in Glenfruin, are memorials of sanguinary conflicts among the clans. See Joseph Irving's History of Dumbartonshire, Civil, Ecclesiastical, and Territorial (Dumb. 1860); his Book of Dumbartonshire (3 vols. 1879); and William Fraser's Chiefs of Colquhoun and their Country (2 vols., Edinb., 1869).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available.

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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