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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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Kilbarchan (formerly Kylberchan and Kelberchan, Gael. 'the cell of St Barchan'), a parish containing a town of the same name in the centre of Renfrewshire. It is bounded N by Houston parish, at the NE corner by Erskine, Inchinnan, and Renfrew, SE by Abbey-Paisley parish and Lochwinnoch, and W and NW by Kilmalcolm. The boundary largely follows the courses of streams, keeping on the N to the line of the Gryfe from the point of junction with Houston parish downwards to the confluence of the Gryfe and Black Cart; and on the SE side, except for about 1 mile, to that of the Black Cart, from the junction just mentioned upwards to Castle Semple Loch (a distance in a straight line of 6 ½, or, including windings, of 9, miles); while on the SW it follows the lines of Locher Water and Bride's Burn. The greatest length, from NE at the junction of the Gryfe and Black Cart to SW near Greenside, is 6¾ miles; the greatest breadth, from NW near Torr Hall to SE on the Black Cart, is 4 miles; and the area is 9098.411 acres, of which 92.609 are water. The height above sea-level varies from 18 feet at the NE corner to 620 at the SW and 550 on the NW, there being a very rapid rise near the centre of the parish. Almost the whole of the surface is under cultivation or woodland. On the E side of the town is an isolated eminence known as Barr Hill; and the rising-grounds to the W, though of inconsiderable height, command a fine view, extending from Ailsa Craig to Ben Lomond, from the Argyllshire and Perthshire Grampians to the northern Lowthers in the upper part of the valley of the Clyde; and even affording, in very favourable weather, a peep of Arthur's Seat at Edinburgh. The soil is mostly good, being on the lower ground alluvial, and elsewhere clay (S and SW) and gravel (N and NW). The underlying rocks are sandstone, basalt, volcanic ash, and limestone, with beds of coal and iron. The beds of economic value are all extensively worked, as is also a bed of a peculiar description of basalt, which has been found suitable for the construction of ovens. The volcanic rocks are pretty rich in various minerals. The drainage of the parish is effected by the Gryfe and Black Cart and their tributaries, of which the Locher, besides tracing part of the SW boundary, passes NE through the parish, and flows into the Gryfe. There are several small falls along its course. The old church of St Barchan, bishop and confessor, was in the village, and was one of those in Strathgryfe bestowed on Paisley by Walter Fitz-Allan, High Steward of Scotland; and Bishop Jocelin of Glasgow confirmed the church to the monks for their own use. St Barchan had at one time a feast, probably on the day of the annual fair. In 1401 King Robert III. confirmed an endowment granted by Thomas Crawfurd of Auchinames for the support of a chaplain to officiate at the Virgin Mary's altar in the parish church of Kilbarchan, and also in a chapel dedicated to St Catherine, which had been erected by Crawfurd in the churchyard, and of which some remains still exist. There was also a chapel dedicated to the Virgin a little to the E of the castle of Ranfurly, on the farm still called Prieston. The property called Kirklands was annexed to it, and the building itself remained in a ruined condition down to 1791. In the SW corner of the parish there was formerly a village called Kenmuir, with a chapel dedicated to St Bride. Both are alike gone; but the burn known as St Bride's Burn, and St Bride's Mill mark the old associations. Blackston on the Black Cart was the summer residence of the abbots of Paisley. Other antiquities and objects worthy of notice are the stone of Clochodrick, the Barr Hill, and the castle of Ranfurly. Clochodrick ('the stone of Roderick' - possibly some member of the Houston family, or, according to others, clach-na-druidh, 'the stone of the Druids') is on the bank of St Bride's Burn, on the SW border of the parish, 2 miles from the village, and is separately described. The name is at least 700 years old. The Barr Hill, or Bar of Kilbarchan, has on its top the remains of an old encampment, defended by a semicircular rampart of loose stones, and said to be Danish. Ranfurly Castle in the N of the parish, about 1 ½ mile N of the village, was at one time the seat of the Knoxes. From this family were descended John Knox the Reformer and Andrew Knox, who, on the restoration of Episcopacy in 1606, was appointed Bishop of the Isles, and in 1622 transferred to the see of Raphoe in lreland. From them the Irish Knoxes, Viscounts Northland and Barons Ranfurly, are sprung. The estate was alienated in 1665, when it passed into the possession of the Dundonald family, by whom it was sold to the family of Hamilton of Holmhead. Near the castle is an artificial mound, 330 feet in circumference near the base and 20 feet high. Another old baronial castle stood on the estate of Auchinames, but it was demolished in 1762. Auchinames belonged to a branch of the Crawfurds (already mentioned) from the 14th century to the 18th, when it was broken up and sold in portions. The leading family in the parish now is Napier of Milliken, directly descended from the Napiers of Merchiston, the first of whom flourished in the reign of Alexander III. The chief part of the estate belonged at one time to the Wallaces of Elderslie, and constituted a barony called Johnston; from the Wallaces it passed to the Houstons, who in turn sold it in 1733 to the ancestor of the present proprietor, who gave it his own name of Milliken, while the Houston family retained the old name and applied it to their estate of East Cochrane, the present Johnstone. Milliken House is a handsome Grecian building, erected in 1829 near the left bank of the Black Cart. Other mansions are Blackstone House, Glentyan House, Craigends, and Clippens. The parish is traversed by one of the main roads from Paisley to Greenock, and also by the Glasgow, Paisley, and Greenock section of the Glasgow and South-Western railway, which passes through it for a distance of 3 ½ miles. Houston (Crosslee) and Bridge of Weir stations on this branch, and Milliken Park and Johnstone stations on the Glasgow, Paisley, and Ayr section of the same railway, afford means of access; and the latter, though outside the parish, are the stations nearest the village.

Besides the post-town of the same name the parish contains the village of Linwood and part of the village of Bridge of Weir. The town of Kilbarchan is near the centre of the parish, 1 mile NW of Milliken Park railway station, 1 ½ W of Johnstone, 5 miles W by S of Paisley, and 12 W by S of Glasgow. It occupies a rising-ground sloping gently S towards Kilbarchan Burn, and is sheltered on three sides by well wooded eminences rising to a height of nearly 200 feet. It became a burgh of barony previous to 1710, but had no trade till 1739, when a linen factory was established, and three years afterwards another was established for the manufacture of lawns, cambrics, etc. for the Dublin market. There are now about 1000 looms at work, employed in the manufacture of silk and cotton fabrics and Paisley shawls. In the centre of the town is a steeple erected in 1755, with a schoolhouse of later date. In a niche in the steeple there was placed in 1822 a statue of Habbie Simpson, piper of Kilbarchan, who died about the beginning of the 17th century, and on whom Robert Sempill of Beltrees wrote a well-known poem. He is also mentioned in the song of Maggie Lauder. The public hall was originally a chartist meeting-house of small size, but it was in 1872 acquired by the Good Templar Lodge of the place, and was then considerably enlarged and improved. It is now used for miscellaneous public meetings. The parish church is in the form of a St George's cross. It was built in 1724, and has 620 sittings. The U.P. church was originally built in 1786, but underwent extensive repair and alteration in 1872 at a cost of over £1000. It contains 906 sittings. There is a post office under Johnstone, with money order and savings' bank departments, a gas company (1846), two public libraries, a branch of the Clydesdale Bank, an agricultural society, a curlers' society, a masonic lodge (St Barchan's), dating from 1784, and several friendly societies. There used to be a fair on Lillia's day, the 3d Tuesday of July; and there is a horse fair still on St Barchan's day, the first Tuesday of December, both o. s. Robert Allan (1774-1841), author of a number of songs and poetical pieces of some merit, was a native of and a weaver in Kilbarchan. Population of the town (1740) about 200, (1791) 1584, (1831) 2333, (1861) 2530, (1871) 2678, (1881) 2548, of whom 1385 were females. Houses (1881) 601 inhabited, 14 vacant, 2 building.

Since 1880 giving off the quoad sacra parish of Linwood, Kilbarchan is in the presbytery of Paisley and synod of Glasgow and Ayr; the living is worth £405. Churches, other than those already mentioned, are noticed under Linwood and Bridge of Weir. The school board has under its management Kilbarchan public, Kilbarchan female public, Linwood public, and Linwood Roman Catholic schools. These, with accommodation for respectively 300, 177, 225, and 100 pupils, had in 1881 an average attendance of 254, 143, 174, and 121, and grants of £285, 3s. 9d., £125, 2s. 6d., £160, 11s., and £85, 5s. Besides the industries formerly mentioned there is a print work on the Locher, and a number of quarries and coal and iron pits. The principal landowner is Sir Robert J. M. Napier, Bart. of Milliken, who owns about one-fourth of the landed property. Seven proprietors besides have an annual value of £500 or upwards, 20 hold between £500 and £100, and there are a number of smaller amount. Valuation (1860) £26, 361, (1883) £43, 469, 15s. 10d. Pop. of civil parish, including villages, (1755) 1485, (1774) 2305, (1801) 3151, (1831) 4806, (1861) 6348, (1871) 6093, (1881) 6868; of ecclesiastical parish (1881) 4363.—Ord. Sur., sh. 30, 1866. See also Crawford's History of Renfrewshire (1710), Hamilton's Description of the Sheriffdom of Lanark and Renfrew (Maitland Club, 1831), Orig. Paroch. Scotiœ, vol. i. (Ban. Club, 1851).

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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