Parish of Holywood

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: Holywood
1834-45: Holywood

Holywood, a village and a parish of Nithsdale, W Dumfriesshire. The village stands 1½ mile S of Holywood station on the Glasgow and South-Western railway, this being 3½ miles NNW of Dumfries, under which there is a post office. The parish is bounded NW and N by Dunscore, NE and E by Kirkmahoe, SE by Dumfries, and S by Terregles and Kirkpatrick-Irongray in Kirkcudbrightshire. Its utmost length , from E to W, is 85/8 miles ; its breadth, from N to S, varies between ¼ mile and 2¾ miles ; and its area is 8939 ½ acres, of which 135 are water. The Nith sweeps 6 miles south-south-eastward along or close to all the boundary with Kirkmahoe and Dumfries ; and Cluden Water, its affluent, winds 65/8 miles east-south-eastward along the Kirkcudbrightshire border, itself being fed by Cairn Water and other burns. Along the Nith the surface declines to 28 feet above sea-level, and all the eastern half of the parish is low and flat, nowhere exceeding 100 feet ; but the western is hillier, attaining 759 feet in Steilston Hill, 786 in Killyleoch Hill, and 875 in Speddoch Hill. Silurian rocks prevail in the hills, limestone and red sandstone in the plain, and boulders of granite, trap, greywacke, and conglomerate abound in many places ; whilst, on some lands near the centre, blocks of lead-ore have been turned up by the plough. The soil adjacent to the Nith and to the Cluden is deep alluvium, entirely free from stones ; further back is dry, somewhat light, and mostly incumbent on coarse sand ; still further back is a deep strong loam ; and, on the hills, is loamy, but shallow and unsuited to the plough. About 300 acres are hill pasture, 360 moss, 120 meadow, and 500 under wood, all the rest of the land being in tillage. In the SE corner of the churchyard stood a Premonstratensian abbey, founded between 1121 and 1154 by John, Lord of Kirkconnel, a member of the Maxwell family. It held the churches and church-lands of Holywood, Dunscore, Penpont, Tynron, and Kirkconnel, whilst exercising jurisdiction over many lands in Nithsdale and East Galloway ; and, in 1618, with the property belonging to it, it was constituted a temporal barony in favour of John Murray of Lochmaben and his heirs. The choir of its cruciform church served as the parish church from the Reformation till 1779, when it was taken down to furnish materials for the present building. It is now represented by only two good bells in the present church's belfry. Joannes de Sacro Bosco, a monk here in 1221, became a member of the University of Paris, and was one of the greatest mathematicians of the Middle Ages. Abbot Dungal and his monks, in 1296, swore fealty to Edward I. of England ; and the last abbot, Thomas Campbell, gave aid to Queen Mary after her escape from Lochleven Castle, and incurred forfeiture in 1568. A hospital, with a chapel, near the abbey, was founded by Edward Bruce, the brother of King Robert Bruce ; and, having been demolished during the wars of the succession, in 1372 was rebuilt by Archibald Douglas, Lord of Galloway, and endowed with the Gallowegian lands of Crossmichael and Troqueer. An ancient Caledonian stone circle, ¼ mile to the W of the abbey's site, comprises eleven of its original twelve large stones (the 'TwelveApostles '), arranged in oval outline on a diameter of 240 feet. It is situated near the lower termination of an ancient oak grove, which seems to have extended 6 or 8 miles north-westward into Glencairn parish, and which, being looked on as sacred by the ancients, has bequeathed the name of Holywood to the parish. Another stone circle, comprising nine large stones, formerly lay on a small eminence within 200 yards of the Nith,.less than a mile to the E of the extant circle, but towards the end of last century was broken up and removed for building material. At Fourmerkland is a small tower, erected in 1590. Charles Irvine, who in last century received from Government £5000 for discovering the method of rendering salt water fresh, was a native, as also was Aglionby Ross Carson, LL.D. (1780-1850), for 25 years rector of Edinburgh High School ; and Bryce Johnstone, D.D. (1747-1805), who wrote a commentary on the Apocalypse, was minister of the parish from 1771 till his death. Mansions, noticed separately, are Broomrigg, Cowhill Tower, Dallawoodie, Gribton, Newtonairds, and Portrack ; and 23 proprietors hold each an annual value of more, 14 of less, than £50. Holywood is in the presbytery and synod of Dumfries ; the living is worth £249. The church was built in 1779, has a plain square tower, and contains 530 sittings. Three public schools-.Holywood, Speddoch, and Steilston-.with respective accommodation for 171, 32, and 43 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 106, 17, and 37, and grants of £86, 10s., £22, 1s. , and £39, 2s. Valuation (1860) £8662, (1883) £12, 883, 12s. 8d. Pop. (1801) 809, (1831) 1066, (1861) l115, (1871) 1069, (1881) 1078.-.Ord. Sur., sh. 9, 1863.

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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