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Beith

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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Beith (Gael. ` birch tree '), a market town of Cunninghame, near the N border of Ayrshire, and a parish partly also in Renfrewshire. The town stands high, at 343 feet above sea-level, 1 mile SE of Beith station on the Glasgow and South-Western, this being 4¾ miles NNE of Dalry Junction, 10¾ SW of Paisley, and 17¾ WSW of Glasgow; whilst by a branch to it from the Barrhead line it is 5¼ miles W by N of Lugton Junction, 19 WSW of Glasgow, and 15¼ NNW of Kilmarnock. Gas-lit, and well supplied with water, it is a clean and healthy-looking place, possessing a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, branches of the Clydesdale, Union, and Commercial banks, 12 insurance agencies, 2 hotels, a public library, and a town-house (1817), used as a news room and for the local courts. The parish church (rebuilt 1807-10, at a cost of £2790) is a handsome edifice with a tower and 1250 sittings; and other places of worship are a Free church (c. 1846), an Evangelical Union church, and two U.P. churches-Head Street (1784; 849 sittings) and Mitchell Street (1816; 428 sittings). Friday is market-day; and fairs are held on the first Friday (old style) of January, February, and November, and on the 30 Aug. (if not a Saturday), this last being the Feast of St Inan or 'Tenant,' a Scottish confessor said to have flourished here in 839. A sheriff small debt court sits on the first Thursday of February, May, August, and November, and a district small debt court for Beith, Dalry, and Kilbirnie, on the first Monday of every month. Beith at the Revolution was merely a tiny hamlet, but rose to a considerable village with 700 examinable inhabitants in 1759, and nearly 1500 in 1788, this growth being due to the introduction of a trade in woollen cloth about 1707, and about 1730 in linen yarn, whose yearly sales amounted thirty years later to £16,000. The manufacture of silk gauze was extensively carried on from 1777 to 1789; and at present there are a linen-thread factory, a silk printing and dyeing establishment, 7 tanning and currying yards, a flax-scutching mill, and 2 large cabinet and chair works, many also of the inhabitants being employed in cotton and woollen weaving for Glasgow and Paisley houses. An Industrial Church of Scotland school and 3 public schools (the Academy, Greenhills, and New Street), with respective accommodation for 129,400,90, and 146 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 112, 329, 107, and 127, and grants of £70, 8s., £277, 14s. 4d., £90, 12s., and £62, 8s. 4d. Pop. (1851) 4012, (1861) 3420, (1871) 3707, (1881) 3921. The parish contains, too, the villages of Gateside, 1 mile E by S of the town; Barrmill, with a station, 2 miles SE; and Burnhouse, 3½ miles SE. Bounded NE by Lochwinnoch and Neilston in Renfrewshire, SE by Dunlop, SW by Kilwinning and Dalry, NW by Kilbirnie and Lochwinnoch, it has an extreme length from N by E to S by W of 61/8 miles, an extreme breadth from E to W of 5¾ miles, and an area of 11,232¼ acres, of which 10½ are water, and 543¾ (to the NE) are in Renfrewshire. Lugton Water traces all the south-eastern boundary, and through the interior flow Dusk Water and Powgreen Burn, all three running south-south-westward or south-westward to the Garnock, in whose low-lying strath, 1 mile to the W of the town, and just beyond the western border, is Kilbirnie Loch (11¾ x 3½ furl.). The surface there is only some 90 feet above sea-level, but has a general north-eastward rise, attaining 475 feet at Blaelochhead, 689 at Lowes or Lochs Hill, 675 at Cuff Hill, and 659 at Brownmuir-heights that command a wide view southward and south-westward to Carrick, Ailsa Craig, and Arran, north-westward to Cowal's serrated ridges, and northward to Ben Lomond; but the parish itself presents no scenery other than the simply beautiful, due to a varied contour and to a fine well-cultivated soil. One colliery and two clayband ironstone mines were active here in 1879, the rocks being partly eruptive, in part belonging to the Limestone Carboniferous series- Trap and sandstone are quarried; and an excellent limestone, containing from 90 to 95 per cent. of pure carbonate, and composed almost wholly of fossil shells, is worked both for manure and as a building stone, its hardness and compactness giving it the properties of coarse marble. The flora is rich, especially in rare phanerogams. Cheese is the staple rural product, and, possessing the qualities of the best Dunlop, commands the highest price in the Glasgow market. On Cuff Hill are a rocking stone of trap, weighing 11 tons 7 cwt., and a cairn, 165 feet long, 58½ wide and 12 high (Procs. Soc. Ants. Scot., 1876, pp. 272-283); other antiquities being the Court-hill of the Abbots of Kilwinning and the ruins of Hessilhead and Giffen Castles-the last, till its fall in 1838, a square tower 40 feet high. Both were seats of cadet branches of the Eglinton line of Montgomerie; and Hessilhead is the traditional birthplace of Alexander Montgomery, author of The Cherrie and the Slae (1597). Glennie, in his Arthurian -Localities (1869), refers the 'battle in the Wood of Beit at close of day,' mentioned by Taliessin, to this parish, among whose ministers were Dr Wm. Leechman (1706-85), a Principal of Glasgow University, and Dr Jn. Witherspoon (1722-94), a president of Princetown College in New Jersey. Caldwell, 4¾ miles E by N of the town, has for 500 years been the seat of the Mures, and was rebuilt in last century by Robert Adam; the late Col. Wm. Mure, M.P. (1830-80), held 1544 acres in Renfrew and Ayr shires of an annual value of £7245. Two other proprietors, W. Ralston Patrick of Trearne House (2 miles E by S of Beith) and Rt. Wm. Cochran Patrick of Woodside (1 mile N), hold respectively 2506 and 1544 acres, of £5248 and £2030 yearly value; and, in all, 8 landowners hold each £500 and upwards per annum, 28 between £100 and £500,33 from £50 to £100, and 81 from £20 to £50. Beith is in the presbytery of Irvine and synod of Glasgow and Ayr; its minister's income is £498. Valuation (1880) £31,667,3s. 6d., of which £633 was in Renfrewshire, and £4574 for railways. Pop. (1755) 2064, (1801) 3103, (1831) 5177, (1851) 6425, (1861) 5775, (1871) 6233, (1881) 6555, of whom 41 were in Renfrewshire.-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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