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Kilsyth

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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Kilsyth, a town and a parish on the southern border of Stirlingshire. The town, standing within 5 furlongs of the N bank of the Kelvin and of the Forth and Clyde Canal, by road is 1¾ mile N of Croy station, 4 miles WNW of Cumbernauld, 12 W by S of Falkirk, 15 SSW of Stirling, 12½ NE of Glasgow, and 35 W by N of Edinburgh; whilst by rail it is 4 ½ miles ENE of Kirkintilloch, and 9 miles ENE of Maryhill, as terminus of the Kelvin Valley branch of the North British, formed in 1876-78, which branch, under an Act of 1882 is to be continued east-north-eastward into connection with the Denny branch of the Caledonian. Overhung to the y by the Kilsyth Hills, and threaded by Garrel Burn, it occupies a small rising-ground 180 feet above sea-level; and, viewed from the neighbouring heights or from the canal, presents a bleak and dingy appearance, with straggling, irregular streets. An older village, called Monaebrugh, was situated on a different part of the banks of Garrel Burn; but the present place was founded in 1665, and took its name of Kilsyth from the proprietor's title. For some time it derived considerable consequence from being a stage on the great thoroughfare from Glasgow to Stirling, and from Glasgow, by way of Falkirk, to Edinburgh; and, after the cessation of that traffic, it continued to maintain itself by connection with the cotton manufacturers of Glasgow, acquiring, about 1845, a factory of its own. Kilsyth has a post office under Glasgow, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, branches of the National and Royal Banks, a National Security savings' bank (1829), 7 insurance agencies, 3 hotels, a town hall, assembly rooms, a cemetery, gasworks, a good water supply, a new drainage system, effected at a cost of £2250, fairs on the second Friday in April and the third Friday in November, and sheriff small-debt courts on the fourth Thursday of March, June, September, and December. The parish church, at the W end of the town, is an elegant structure of 1816, containing 860 sittings. Other places of worship are a recent and handsome Free church, a U.P. church (1768; 559 sittings), Independent and Wesleyan chapels, and St Patrick's Roman Catholic church (1866; 450 sittings). The Burgh Academy, at Craigend, is an Italian edifice of 1875-76, built at a cost of £4800. A burgh of barony since 1826, and also a police burgh, Kilsyth is governed by a provost, a senior and a junior bailie, and 6 councillors. Burgh valuation (1883) £14, 324, 9s. 3d. Pop. (1851) 3949, (1861) 4692, (1871) 4895, (1881) 5405, of whom 2682 were females. Houses (1881) 1143 inhabited, 155 vacant.

The battle of Kilsyth was fought on 15 Aug. 1645, between the army of Montrose and the Covenanters under Baillie. The scene of action was the tract around the hollow which now contains the reservoir of the Forth and Clyde Canal-a field so broken and irregular, that, did not tradition and history concur in identifying it, few persons could believe it to have been the arena of any military operation. Montrose and his men took up their ground to their own liking, to abide the onset of forces specially deputed against them by the Scottish council. When Baillie arrived to make the attack, he found his authority all but superseded by a committee, headed by Argyll, and shorn of power to exert subordinating influence on the portion of the army placed specially under his control. Montrose's army consisted of only 4400 foot, with 500 horse, while that of his antagonist amounted to 6000 foot and 1000 horse; but Montrose had the high advantages of having chosen his ground, of possessing the supreme command, and of having arranged his troops in the best possible manner for confronting his opponents. The weather being very hot, Montrose bade his followers doff their outer garments-a circumstance which gave rise to a tradition that they fought naked; and, making a general assault, he almost instantly-aided or rather led by the impetuosity of his Highlanders-threw his antagonists, reserve and all, into such confusion, that prodigies of valour, on the part of their nominal commander, utterly failed to rally even a portion of them and incite them to withstand the foe. A total rout taking place, Montrose's forces cut down or captured almost the whole of the infantry, and even coolly massacred many of the unarmed inhabitants of the country. Though Baillie's cavalry, for the most part, escaped death from the conqueror, very many of them met it in fleeing from his pursuit across the then dangerous morass of Dullatur Bog. Incredible as it may seem, only 7 or 8 in Montrose's army were slain. ' It belongs not to me, ' says the Rev. Robert Rennie, in the Old Statistical Account, ' to give any detail of that engagement, suffice it to say, that every little hill and valley bears the name, or records the deeds of that day; so that the situation of each army can be distinctly traced. Such as the Bullet and Baggage Knowe, the Drum Burn, the Slaughter Howe or hollow, Kill-e-many Butts, etc., etc. In the Bullet Knowe and neighbourhood, bullets are found every year; and in some places so thick, that you may lift three or four without moving a step. In the Slaughter Howe, and a variety of other places, bones and skeletons maybe dug up everywhere; and in every little bog or marsh for 3 miles, especially in the Dullatur Bog, they have been discovered in almost every ditch. The places where the bodies lie in any number may be easily known; as the grass is always of a more luxuriant growth in summer, and of a yellowish tinge in spring and harvest. ' Kilsyth is remarkable as the scene o two religious revivals which occurred respectively in the years 1742 and 1839, and excited great interest throughout the country. Narratives of them were written and published by the Rev. Mr Robe and the Rev. Mr Burns, the incumbents at their respective dates. Kilsyth Castle, ½ mile N of the town, was the seat from the first half of the 15th century of a junior branch of the Livingstones of Callendar, and, strengthened and garrisoned against Oliver Cromwell in 1650, is now a ruin. In 1661 Sir James Livingstone was created Viscount Kilsyth and Baron Campsie, but his second son, William, third Viscount Kilsyth, engaged in the rebellion of 1715, and suffered attainder in the following year. The family burying. vault in the old churchyard measures 16 feet each way; and, in 1795, was found by some Glasgow students to contain an embalmed body of the last Viscount's first wife and infant son in a state of complete preservation. It was afterwards so closed with flat stones as to be rendered inaccessible.

The parish of Kilsyth, containing also the villages of Banton and Low Banton, comprises two ancient baronies, East and West, but consisted of only the East Barony, then called Monaebrugh, till 1649, when it acquired the West Barony by annexation from Campsie. It is bounded NW by Fintry, N by St Ninians, E by Denny, S by Cumbernauld and Kirkintilloch in Dumbartonshire (detached), and W by Campsie. Its utmost length, from E to W, is 67/8 miles; its utmost breadth, from N to S, is 4½ miles; and its area is 13, 248 ½ acres, of which 127½ are water. The Carron winds 35/8 miles eastward along all the northern boundary; the Kelvin, rising in the south-eastern corner, flows 5¼ miles west-south-westward, with sluggish current in a deep artificial channel, along or close to most of the southern border, and within a brief distance of the Forth and Clyde Canal; several short but impetuous burns rise in the interior, and run northward to the Carron; and Garvald or Garrel Burn, issuing from a reservoir near the western border, curves 5½ miles south-south-eastward to the Kelvin, which elsewhere is joined by two or three lesser streams. Most of the burns form frequent waterfalls; and those that run to the Kelvin are remarkable for the extent to which they have been utilised for water-power. The surface declines in the NE along the Carron to 670, in the SW along the Kelvin to 150, feet above sea-level; and between these points it rises to 404 feet near Riskend, 1393 at Laird's Hill, 1484 at Tomtain, and 1129 at Cock Hill. The southern district of the parish, comprising nearly one-half of the entire area, contains the watershed or summit level (156 feet) of the strath of the Forth and Clyde Canal; and for some little distance from the southern boundary is almost a dead flat, but rises presently into an undulating, broken, rough ascent, which is everywhere so well cultivated as, though very bare of trees, to present a pleasing appearance. A narrow belt of meadow land extends along the Carron; and all the rest of the parish is that part of the long range of the Lennox Hills, which, consisting of wild pastoral heights, and connected westward with the Campsie Fells, eastward with the Denny Hills, bears the distinctive name of the Kilsyth Hills, is picturesquely intersected with short deep glens, and commands, from its loftiest summits, magnificent views from sea to sea, and over parts of fourteen counties. Eruptive rocks predominate in the hills, and carboniferous in the plain. Limestone and a beautiful light-coloured sandstone are quarried; and ironstone and coal, the latter of various qualities and much intersected by trap dykes, are both very plentiful, and have long been mined. At Riskend and Haugh two specially rich seams of coal and ironstone were opened up in the summer of 1883, which will furnish employment to between 200 and 300 additional hands. A vein of copper ore was wrought during part of last century; and specimens of yellow and red jasper, suitable for gems, were brought into notice in 1791. The soil of the SE corner is thin and sandy or gravelly; on the flat lands along the Kelvin, is a deep rich loam; on the slopes and arable braes to the N of the plain, is clayey or stiffly argillaceous, incumbent on retentive strata; and in the upland tracts, is mostly sandy, gravelly, or stony. Of the entire area, 10,901 acres are arable, 2050 are pasture, and 170 are under wood. Antiquities are remains of two Roman and of two Caledonian forts, the ruins of Kilsyth and Colzium Castles, a seat of ancient feudal courts still called the Court Hill, and a retreat of the Covenanters in 1669, known as the Covenanters' Cave. Among distinguished natives have been Sir William Livingstone, vice-chamberlain of Scotland (d. 1627); the Rev. John Livingstone (1603-72), one of the founders of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Sir Archibald Edmonstone (1795-1871), author of A Journey to the Oases of Upper Egypt; and the Rev. Dr R. Rennie, minister of the parish from 1789 till 1820, author of several essays on peat moss. Colzium House is the chief mansion; and 6 proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 14 of between £100 and £500, 35 of from £50 to £100, and 55 of from £20 to £50. In the presbytery of Glasgow and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, this parish since 1880 has been divided ecclesiastically into Kilsyth proper and the quoad sacra parish of Banton, the former a living worth £464. Four public schools-Academy, Banton, Chapel Green, Kilsyth-and a Roman Catholic school, with respective accommodation for 600, 173, 88, 201, and 172 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 497, 157, 53, 149, and 169, and grants of £432, 11s. 6d., £165, 0.s. 6d., £41, 7s. 6d., £110, 2s., and £126, 13s. 6d. Landward valuation (1860) £14,050, (1883) £16,049, 6s. 9d. Pop. (1801) 1762, (1831) 4297, (1861) 6112, (1871) 6313, (1881) 6840, of whom 793 were in Banton quoad sacra parish.—Ord. Sur., sh. 3l, 1867.

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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