Parish of Sorn


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: Sorn
1834-45: Sorn

Sorn, a village and a parish in the NE of Kyle district, Ayrshire. The village stands on the right bank of the river Ayr, 2 1/8 miles ENE of Catrine, and 4¾ E of Mauchline, under which it has a post office. Pop. (1861) 363, (1871) 393, (1881) 354. The parish, containing also the town of Catrine, was disjoined from Mauchline in 1692, and bore for some time the name of Dalgain. It is bounded N by Galston, NE by Avondale in Lanarkshire, E by Muirkirk, S by Auchinleck, and W by Mauchline. Its utmost length, from E to W, is 6¾ miles; its utmost breadth, from N to S, is 6½ miles; and its area is 30 1/6 square miles or 19, 314 acres, of which 116½ are water, and 11 lie detached. The river Ayr, flowing between steep, bold, copse-clad banks, has here a west-by-southerly course of 9¾ miles-for the first 3¾ furlongs along the Muirkirk, and for the last 7½ along the Mauchline, boundary. Cleugh Burn runs 4 miles south-westward to the Ayr between Sorn Castle and the parish church, and makes several romantic waterfalls; whilst Cesssnock Water, rising on Auchmannoch Muir, runs 4 7/8 miles south-westward, till it passes off into Mauchline on its way to the river lrvine. The surface sinks in the extreme SW to 297 feet above sea-level; and thence it rises to 657 feet at Roundshaw, 694 at Airds Moss, 557 near Sorn Mains, 887 at Burn o' need Rigg, 964 at Auchmannoch Muir, 961 at Tincornhill, 1342 at Blackside, and 1340 at Auchinlongford Hill. Of these, Blackside commands a magnificent view over Ayr and Lanark shires, and parts, it is said, of 14 other counties. Coal, ironstone, and limestone have all -been worked; sandstone is plentiful; and fine specimens of calc-tuff are found in the Cleugh Burn glen. The soil of the haughs is a gravelly loam; on many of the arable slopes and braes is a reddish clay; and, on the skirts and shoulders of the hills, is a mossy earth or moss itself, sometimes incumbent on clay. Nearly one-sixth of the entire area is regularly in tillage; rather more than 600 acres are under wood; and the rest of the parish is meadow, coarse hill pasture, or moss. Sorn Castle, 1 3/8 mile NE of Catrine, is charmingly situated on a lofty and well-wooded rocky terrace overlooking the river Ayr. The building is of very high but unknown antiquity. About the year 1406 it became, along with the manor of Sorn and other lands in Kyle, the property of Andrew Hamilton, third son of Sir David Hamilton of Cadzow, ancestor of the Duke of Hamilton; and, in subsequent times, it passed by marriage to the Earls of Winton, and by purchase to the Earls of Loudoun. Margaret Dalrymple, Dowager-Countess of Loudoun (1678-1777), lived and died in it, attended by servants nearly as old as herself. Under the persecutions of Charles II., the castle was taken possession of as a fortalice of the royal forces, and made the seat of a garrison for overawing the Covenanters.* Purchased by his family towards the close of last century, it now is the seat of James Somervell, Esq. (b. 1845; suc. 1881), who holds 6245 acres in the shire, valued at £3787 per annum. Catrine House, noticed separately, has memories of Dugald Stewart and his father. The ` prophet,' Alexander Peden (1626-86), was born and died in the parish. Exhausted with his prolonged toils and sufferings in traversing the kingdom as a proscribed minister, and believing death to be near, he returned to his brother's house in Sorn to die; but he was there in the immediate vicinity of the garrison posted in Sorn Castle, so lived chiefly in an artificial cave,-uniformly protected, as he had been in a hundred places before, from the peering searches of the blood-thirsty soldiery. He was visited on his death-bed by the celebrated James Renwick. (See Cumnock.) Another native was Joseph Train (1779-1852), poet and antiquary. Ten proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, and 8 of between £100 and £500. In 1871 the quoad sacra parish of Catrine was disjoined from Sorn, which itself is a parish in the presbytery of Ayr and the synod of Glasgow and Ayr. The living is worth £310. The parish church, ¼ mile W by N of Sorn village, was built in 1658, and, as enlarged in 1826, contains 611 sittings. Three public schools- Catrine, Sorn, and Woodside-with respective accommodation for 315, 208, and 207 children, had (1884) an average attendance of 276, 136, and 116, and grants of £223, 4s., £119, 17s., and £112, 14s. Valuation (1860) £13,140, (1885) £21,105, plus £986 for railway. Pop. (1801) 2606, (1831) 4253, (1861) 4042, (1871) 4032, (1881) 4255, of whom 1617 were in Sorn ecclesiastical parish.—Ord. Sur., shs. 14, 22, 15, 23, 1863-65.

* Sir William Hamilton, whose daughter and heiress married George Lord Seton, and carried the property to the Earls of winton. was one of the senators of the College of Justice. and lord-treasurer to James v. On the eve of the daughter's marriage. the king set out to honour the bridal with his presence; but he had to traverse a long and dreary tract of moor, moss, and miry clay, where there was neither road nor bridge; and, when about half-way from Glasgow. he rode his horse into a quagniire. and was with difficulty extricated from his perilous seat on the saddle. Far from a house. exposed to the bleak wind of a cold day. and environed on all sides by a cheerless moor, he was compelled to take a cold refreshment by the side of a well. and at length declared that ' were he to play a trick on the devil, he would send him to a bridal at Sorn in the middle of winter.' The well at which he sat is still called the Kings Well ; and the quagmire into which his horse went is known as the Kings Stable.

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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