Parish of Old Monkland

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: Old or West Monkland
1834-45: Old or West Monkland

Monkland, Old, a parish of the Middle Ward, N Lanarkshire. It contains the towns of Baillieston, Coatbridge, and Whifflet and Rosehall, with two-thirds of Calder, seven-eighths of Coatdyke, and one-seventh of Tollcross, as also the villages of Bargeddie and Dykehead, Braehead, Broomhouse, Calderbank, Carmyle, Clyde Iron-works, Faskine, Mount Vernon, Swinton, West Maryston, etc. In shape resembling a rude triangle with northward apex, it is bounded NW by Shettleston, Cadder, and New Monkland, NE by New Monkland, and S by Bothwell, Blantyre, Cambuslang, and Rutherglen. Its utmost length, from E by N to W by S, is 9¼ miles; its utmost breadth is 45/8 miles; and its area is 172/3 square miles or 11, 281½ acres, of which 345¾ are water. From Monkland House, North Calder Water meanders 10 miles west-south-westward along all the Bothwell boundary, till at Daldowie it falls into the Clyde, which itself curves 4 miles westward along all the boundary with Blantyre, Cambuslang, and Rutherglen. Lochend Loch (3½ x 1½ furl.) communicates with Woodend Loch (½ x ¼ mile), and this again with Bishop Loch (1 x ¼ mile), which lies on the Cadder boundary, and is one of the principal reservoirs of the Forth and Clyde Canal. The banks of all three are tame, with little or no beauty; but their waters contain some large pike. The surface of the parish is generally flat or gently undulating. Along the Clyde, in the extreme SW, it sinks to 32 feet above sea-level; and thence it rises gradually to 207 feet near Mount Vernon House, 356 near Westerhouse, 321 at Shawhead, 345 near Gartsherrie House, and 360 at Castlespails. Whether the fertility of its superficies, or the wealth of its mineral treasures be considered, Old Monkland is one of the most important and wealthy parishes in Lanarkshire. To quote the writer of the Old Statistical Account:- 'A stranger is struck with the view of this parish. It has the appearance of an immense garden.' This account, penned nearly a century since, is still generally true, if we except the fact that improved culture has vastly increased the production of the soil, and that the rapid advance of population, the enormous progress of the mineral trade, and a perfect network of railways, have sadly marred those features of rural loveliness for which the district was formerly celebrated. Withal, there are few districts which combine so much of the attributes of country-life with the bustle and stir of manufactures; for the soil of Old Monkland is dotted at every little distance with the villas of the aristocracy of the western capital, with the blazing furnaces and tall chimneys of the iron and coal works, with belts of thriving plantation and clumps of old wood, with orchards, grassy holms, or waving grain, and with the homely farmsteading or lowly dwelling of the cottar. From the facilities of obtaining lime and manure, both by canal and railway, a soil-which is naturally fertile-has been improved to the highest degree; and the yearly value of the agricultural produce of the arable lands of the parish is superior to that of an equal extent of arable lands in most other parts of Scotland. The soil here, on the whole, is much more fertile than the soil above the coa1 measures in other parts of the country. The arable soil is of three kinds. That along the Calder and the Clyde is a strong clay, changed by cultivation into a good loam; that of the middle districts is a light sand, very fruitful in oats and potatoes; and that towards the N is mainly reclaimed bog or otherwise mossy. In the northern district, the coal crops out, and there are some 1500 acres of peat-moss. In Old, as in New, Monkland, flax used to be largely cultivated, some of the farmers having each as much as from 20 to 30 acres annually under that crop; but the system of agriculture now pursued on the best farms is a four-year rotation of potatoes or turnips, wheat, hay, and oats, with sometimes one year or two of pasture between the hay and the oats.

The parish, however, is chiefly remarkable for its working of coal and iron. In an account of it published before the beginning of the present century, one reads: 'This parish abounds with coal; and what a benefit it is for Glasgow and its environs to be so amply provided with this necessary article! There are computed to be a greater number of colliers here than in any other parish in Scotland.' The progress in the coal-trade, since the period alluded to, has been almost magical; and as scarce a year passes without new pits being sunk, while the old ones continue in vigorous operation, it would seem that scarcely any limits can be set to the vast aggregate production. The pits have a depth of from 30 to 100 fathoms; and the principal working seams, according to the New Statistical Account, are as follow: '1. The Upper coal; coarse, and seldom workable; its average distance above the Ell-coal from 14 to 16 fathoms. 2. The Ell or Mossdale coal; 3 to 4 feet thick, of inferior estimation in this parish, and generally too thin to work; but in places a thick coal, and of excellent quality. 3. The Pyotshaw, or Roughell; from 3 to 5 feet thick, and from 7 to 10 fathoms below the Ell-coal. 4. The Main coal. It often unites with the above, and forms one seam, as at Drumpellier in this parish. These two seams are thus sometimes in actual contact, and in other instances separated by a wide interval of 6 or 7 fathoms. 5. Humph coal; seldom thick enough to be workable in this parish, and generally interlaid with fragments of freestone, about 10 fathoms below the main coal. 6. Splint-coal; about 4 fathoms below the Humph, and of very superior quality. It varies from 2 to 5 feet in thickness, and is mostly used for smelting iron. This seam, when of any considerable thickness, is justly esteemed, when got by the proprietors here, a great prize. 7. Little coal; always below splint, the distance varying from 3 fathoms to 6 feet. It is from 3 to 3½ feet in thickness, and is a free, sulphury coal of inferior quality. 8. The Virtue-well or Sour-milk coal, from 2 to 4 feet thick, occurs from 26 to 28 fathoms below the splint. 9. The Kiltongue coal lies 22 fathoms below the Virtue-well, and, like it, is from 2 to 4 feet in thickness. 10. The Drumgray coal lies 6 fathoms below the Kiltongue, and perhaps from 60 to 100 fathoms above the first or upper band of limestone. It is seldom more than 18 or 20 inches thick. There are, besides these 10 seams, about 23 smaller seams between them, none of which are of workable thickness. The total thickness of the coal-measures above the line may be about 775 feet.' The same account adds: 'This large and important coalfield is much intersected with dikes, and a knowledge of these is a knowledge of the strata, and of the manner in which they are affected by them.'

Still more than to its coal, however, is the parish of Old Monkland, in recent times, indebted to its ironstone and iron-works; although it is proper to mention that the ore for the supply of the latter is, to a great extent, drawn from New Monkland. The introduction of the hot air blast (1828), the increasing demand for iron for railway and other purposes, but, above all, the abundant possession of the most valuable of all the iron metals-the blackband-which contains so much coal as nearly to burn itself-are the main causes which have contributed to the almost unparalleled advance of old Monkland in population and prosperity. To the burning of ironstone were added, in 1830 and the following years, works and machinery for the manufacture of malleable iron; and these have already risen to compare with the pig-ironworks, in the proportion of about 30 to 100 in the yearly value of their produce. Everywhere are heard the brattling of machinery, the sonorous stroke of mighty hammers, and the hissing and clanking of the steam-engine; and the flames which perpetually belch from the craters of its numerous furnaces, and for miles around light up the country on the darkest nights, have not inappropriately earned for Old Monkland the title of the 'Land of Fire.' Fortunes have here been realised in the iron trade with a rapidity only equalled by the sudden and princely gains of the adventurers who sailed with Pizarro to Peru. It is understood, for example, that the profits of a single establishment in this line during the year 1840, were nearly £60,000; while little more than twenty years before the co-partners of this company were earning their bread by the sweat of their brow, in following the agricultural vocation of their fathers. The principal iron-works in the parish, or immediately adjacent to it, are those of Gartsherrie, Dundyvan, Monkland, Calder, Clyde, Summerlee, Carnbroe, and Langloan. The ironstone strata in Old and New Monkland-the strata from which the Monkland furnaces have their supply-are described in the New Statistical as follows: '1. The Upper blackband. It lies about 24 fathoms above the Ell-coal, as indicated in the succession of strata given above. It is of very local occurrence, like all the ironstones, and has only been found worth working at Palacecraig. It is of inferior quality, and only about 18 inches thick. 2. The blackband, also called Mushet's blackband, from the name of its discoverer, Robert Mushet (1805). This is the great staple commodity for the supply of the iron-market, and when found to any extent is a certain source of wealth to the proprietor. Its average depth below the splint is about 15 or 16 fathoms; and it varies in thickness from 14 to 18 inches, and occupies an area of from 8 to 10 square miles. 3. Airdriehill blackband. In this property, which is in New Monkland, there is a band of ironstone, varying from 2 to 4 feet in thickness, lying about 3 feet below the blackband. It is found only in part of the lands of Airdriehill, and is by far the most local of all the ironstones.'

Several kinds of sandstone, and several varieties of trap, within the parish, are in great request for local building purposes, and have been largely quarried. The facilities of communication by road, railway, and canal, are remarkably great, having been multiplied and ramified in proportion to the large and rapidly increasing demands of the district for heavy traffic. The principal of them will be found described or indicated in our articles Caledonian Railway, Monkland Canal, and North British Railway; whilst fuller information as to the various industries is furnished under Baillieston, Coatbridge, Gartsherrie, Garturk, etc.

Giving off the quoad sacra parishes of Baillieston, Bargeddie, Coats, Gartsherrie, and Garturk, Old Monkland is in the presbytery of Hamilton and the synod of Glasgow and Ayr; the living is worth £500. The parish church, 1½ mile SSW of Coatbridge, was built in 1790 at a cost of only £500, and, as since enlarged, contains 902 sittings. A chapel of ease to it stands at Calderbank. The parish poorhouse accommodates 276 inmates; and 18 schools, with total accommodation for 6237 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 4917, and grants amounting to £4448, 13s. 9d. Valuation (1860) £195,857, (1881) £160,013, 11s. 8d., (1884) £167,683, 2s. 6d. Pop. (1801) 4006, (1831) 9580, (1841) 19,675, (1861) 29,543, (1871) 34,073, (1881) 37,323, of whom 20,202 were males, and 13,471 were in the ecclesiastical parish.—Ord. Sur., sh. 31, 1867. See Andrew Miller's Rise and Progress of Coatbridge and the Surrounding Neighbourhood (Glasg. 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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