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Parish of Stewarton

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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1791-99: Stewarton
1834-45: Stewarton

Stewarton, a town and a parish of Cunninghame district, Ayrshire. The town, standing, 300 feet above sea-level, on the right bank of Annick Water, has a station upon the Glasgow, Barrhead, and Kilmarnock Joint railway, 5 3/8 miles N by W of Kilmarnock, and 18 3/8 SW by S of Glasgow. Annick Water, while passing alongside the town, makes a beautiful semicircular sweep of such scope as to measure nearly ¾ mile along the chord; and it is spanned by three bridges, respectively at the ends and in the middle of the sweep. One street, extending along the chord of the semicircle, and prolonged upon the margin of the stream, runs fully 1 mile from NE to SW, and carries along the Glasgow and Irvine highroad. Another street opens from the bridge at the middle of the semicircular sweep, cuts the former street at right angles, and carries along the Kilmarnock and Paisley road. Some minor thoroughfares belong to the body of the town, and considerable clusters of buildings form suburbs. Stewarton may vie with any town of its size in the West of Scotland for regularity, beauty, and general attractions. But though a place of considerable antiquity it was for centuries a mere obscure village; and not till the close of the 18th century did it decidedly assume the healthful, growing, and well-to-do appearance by which it has since been distinguished. Most of the houses of its operatives have gardens attached to them; and many of the houses of its middle or better classes are substantial or even handsome structures. The prosperity of Stewarton has arisen wholly from manufactures, chiefly in the department of woollen fabrics. The making of tartan and other woollen bonnets has long been carried on, the making of military forage caps forming in particular a staple manufacture. A score of firms are engaged in the trade, which, according to the latest statistics published, employs about 1800 knitters, 500 liners, and 200 finishers, and produces goods to the annual value of £90, 000. More than fifty years since a great impulse was given, and much increase to trade and population occasioned, by the introduction of carpet manufactures and worsted-mills. Dyeing and spindle-making are also carried on. Stewarton has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, branches of the Royal, Clydesdale, and Union Banks, a savings' bank, 18 insurance agencies, gas-works (1832), an hotel, a public library and reading-room (1810), etc. Thursday is market-day; and fairs are held on the Monday before the first Tuesday of May, the Wednesday before the last Thursday of October, and the Wednesdays of April and May before Glasgow `Skeir' Friday and Rutherglen `Beltan Fair.' The parish church, built in 1696, and greatly enlarged in 1825, contains 1300 sittings. The Free church was built in 1828 by a Secession congregation who had recently joined the Church of Scotland; and, standing conspicuously on a rising-ground nearly in the centre of the town, has a spire 80 feet high, and 800 sittings. The U.P. church, with 592 sittings, was erected in 1854; and there are also Congregational and Wesleyan chapels. The public school is a recent and handsome edifice. Prior to 1871, the town partly adopted the General Police and Improvement Act (Scot.) of 1862, and it is governed by a chief and two junior magistrates and six commissioners. Municipal voters (1885) 520. Pop. (1833) 2969, (1851) 3164, (1861) 3145, (1871) 3299, (1881) 3130 of whom 1414 were males and 1716 females. Houses (1881) 626 occupied, 49 vacant, 4 building.

The parish is bounded N by Dunlop, NE by Neilston and Mearns in Renfrewshire, E by Fenwick, S by Dreghorn, SW by Irvine and Kilwinning, and W by Kilwinning. Its utmost length, from NE to SW, is 8 7/8 miles; its breadth varies between 1 ¾ and 4 ½ miles; and its area is 21 1/3 square miles or 13, 667 2/3 acres, of which 41 1/3 are water. Annick Water flows through the parish from end to end, and receives the tribute of Glazert and other burns. In the extreme SW, where Annick Water passes off from Stewarton, the surface declines to 150 feet above sea-level; and thence it rises north-eastward to 363 feet near Lainshaw, 404 at High Cross, 428 at Little Cutstraw, 526 at Gallowberry, 772 at Glenouther Rig, and 802 at the Renfrewshire border. It is thus comparatively high at the NE end, but gradually descends south-westward in a beautiful diversity of gentle eminences, fine slopes, and pleasant flats. Not a few of its heights, even though of little altitude in themselves, command gorgeous panoramic views of much diversity and of great extent. Trap rocks predominate in the north-eastern district, and rocks of the Carboniferous formation in the SW. Sandstone, limestone, and coal are worked; but the last exists only in very thin strata, and is used principally for calcining the limestone. The soil, for the most part, is fertile, and derives great benefit from the grass-fallow. Nearly 2700 acres are in tillage; about 7300 are disposed in arable grass land; 1300 are natural pasture; 2000 are moor or moss; and the rest is woodland, gardens, or roads. Natives were David Dale (1739-1806), the New Lanark manufacturer; and Robert Watt, M.D. (1774-1819), the compiler of the Bibliotheca Britannica. The principal antiquities are remains of two castles, once the seats of the Cunninghams of Corsehill and the Cunninghams of Auchenharvie, both of them branches of the noble family of Kilmaurs. These are noticed separately, as also are the mansions of Kennox, Lainshaw, and Robertland. Four proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards. Stewarton is in the presbytery of Irvine and the synod of Glasgow and Ayr; the living is worth £400. The parish was anciently a vicarage under the monks of Kilwinning. On the lands of Lainshaw, at a place now called Chapel, and formerly called Chapelton, anciently stood a chapel dedicated to the Virgin. Two public schools, Kingsford and Stewarton, with respective accommodation for 93 and 538 children, had (1884) an average attendance of 63 and 495, and grants of £57, 2s. 6d. and £416, 18s. Valuation (1860) £19, 616, (1885) £27,508, plus £2081 for railway. Pop. (1801) 2657, (1841) 4656, (1861) 4449, (1871) 4478, (1881) 4309.—Ord. Sur., sh. 22, 1865.

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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