Old County of Bute and Arran


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: Bute

Buteshire, an insular county, engirt and intersected by the waters of the Firth of Clyde, and by them separated from Ayr and Argyll shires. It consists of the 7 islands of Bute, Arran, Big and Little Cumbrae, Holy Isle, Pladda, and Inchmarnock. Its greatest length, from the northern extremity of Bute to the southern extremity of Pladda, is 35½ miles; its greatest breadth, from the north-eastern extremity of Big Cumbrae to the western extremity of Inchmarnock, is 9¾ miles, or from the south-eastern extremity of Holy Isle to Drumadoon Point in the SW of Arran, is 11 miles; and its area is 143,997 acres, or 225 square miles. Its topography, hydrography, geognostic structure, history, and antiquities are noticed in our articles on its several islands. About one-third of the land is unprofitable, and a little more than one-sixth is under cultivation, great progress having been made in the course of the last half century, as shown by the agricultural statistics in our Introduction. The farms are commonly held on leases of 19 years. The farm buildings, in general, are neat and comfortable; the arable lands are enclosed; and the condition of agriculture, by means of reclamation, draining, and the adoption of the best systems of husbandry, has been rapidly and highly improved. The manufactures of Buteshire became a thing of the past with the collapse of the cotton-spinning, the weaving, and the shipbuilding of Rothesay. Fisheries of great extent are divided between the fishery districts of Rothesay and Campbeltown. General commerce is sufficiently extensive to give Rothesay the status of a head port; and extensive commerce, in the export of agricultural produce and in the import of miscellaneous small goods, is carried on by steamers plying from Greenock, Wemyss Bay, and Ardrossan to Rothesay, Millport, Brodick, and Lamlash. A great amount of local prosperity accrues also from large influx of summer visitors to Bute, Arran, and Big Cumbrae. Good roads traverse most parts, and are free from tolls, whilst easy communication with the railway system of the Scottish mainland is afforded by the steamers to Wemyss Bay and Ardrossan. The only royal burgh is Rothesay; the police burghs are Rothesay and Millport; and the chief villages are Kamesburgh, Ascog, Brodick, and Lamlash. Mansions are Mountstuart, Brodick Castle, Kirkmichael, Kames Castle, Hillside House, Ascog, Wyndham, and The Garrison. According to Miscellaneous Statistics of the United Kingdom (1879), 138,972 acres, with a total gross estimated rental of £86,178, were divided among 736 landowners; one holding 102,210 acres(rental, £18,702), one 29,279 (£19,575), one 3632 (£622), one 1833 (£1979), one 671 (£185), etc. The county is governed (1881) by a lord lieutenant, a vice-lieutenant, 12 deputy-lieutenants, a sheriff, a sheriff-substitute, and 28 magistrates. Sheriff courts are held at Rothesay every Tuesday and Thursday; sheriff small debt courts at Rothesay every Thursday, at Brodick four times a year, and at Millport twice a year; justice of peace small debt courts at Rothesay and Brodick on the first Monday of every month; and quarter sessions at Rothesay on the first Tuesday of March, May, and August, and the last Tuesday of October. The police force in l880, exclusive of that in Rothesay burgh, comprised 8 men; and the salary of the chief constable was £140. The number of persons tried at the instance of the police in 1879, exclusive of those in Rothesay, was 75; of those convicted, 70; of those committed for trial, 5; and of those not dealt with, 43. The only prison is at Rothesay. The committals for crime, in the annual average of 1841-60, were 14; of 1861-65,49; of 1864-68, 67; of 1869-73,62; of 1870-79,58. The county, which, prior to the Reform Act of 1832, returned a member to parliament alternately with Caithness, has since returned a member for itself-always a Conservative, except during 1865-68. The constituency in 1881 was 1364. The value of real property, assessed at £22,541 in 1815, was £53,567 in 1855, and £115,991 in 1881. Pop. (1801) 11,791, (1821) 13,797, (1841) 15,740 (1851) 16,608, (1861) 16,331, (1871) 16,977, (1881) 17,666, of whom 9557 were females, and 3637 Gaelic-speaking. Houses (1881), 3865 inhabited, 647 vacant, and 19 building. The registration county gives off part of West Kilbride parish to Ayrshire, comprises 6 entire parishes, and had, in 1881, a population of 17,643. All the parishes are assessed for the poor. The number of registered poor, in the year ending 14 May 1880, was 432; of dependants on these, 180; of casual poor, 93; of dependants on these, 108. The receipts for the poor, in the same year, were £5340,18s., and the expenditure was £4862,13s. 3½d. The percentage of illegitimate births was 8.1 in 1877,5.4 in 1878,5.8 in 1879, and 6.4 in 1881. The civil county is divided politically into 6 quoad civilia parishes and part of another, ecclesiastically into 8 quoad sacra parishes, part of another, and a chapelry. Cumbrae and part of West Kilbride are in the presbyteries of Greenock and Irvine and synod of Glasgow and Ayr; the other 8 are in the presbyteries of Dunoon and Kintyre and synod of Argyll, and in 1878 had 1581 communicants of the Church of Scotland. In Sept. 1880 the county had 21 schools (17 of them public), which, with accommodation for 3217 children, had 2058 on the registers, and 1673 in average attendance. See Jn. E. Reid's History of the County of Bute (Glas. 1864).

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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