Parish of Kilbirnie

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: Kilbirnie
1834-45: Kilbirnie

Kilbirnie, a town and a parish in Cunninghame district, N Ayrshire. The town stands on the river Garnock, 200 feet above sea-level, and 9 furlongs NNW of Kilbirnie station on the Glasgow and South-Western railway, this being 2 ¾ miles NNE of Dalry Junction, 9 ½ N of Irvine, 12 ¾ SW of Paisley, and 19 ¾ SW of Glasgow. It chiefly consists of a long street running southward near the right bank of the river, with a shorter street striking off westward from its upper end; but it also includes a suburb, with rows of dwelling-houses and two public works, on the left bank of the river. In 1742 it contained only three houses, in 1792 not more than eighty; but, having risen to be one of the most prosperous small seats of population in Scotland, it offers now a thriving, cleanly, and cheerful appearance, and largely consists of new or recent houses, built of a light-coloured sandstone. Ranking as a free burgh of barony in virtue of rights conferred on Kilbirnie manor before the town itself had any existence, it conducts much business in connection with neighbouring mines and iron-works; is the seat of 2 flax-spinning, linen thread, and wincey factories, 5 fishing-net factories, 2 rope-works, and engineering works; and has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch of the Clydesdale Bank, 2 inns, a public library, a Good Templars' hall, a gas-light company, and a horse fair on the third Wednesday of May, o. s. The parish church, 3 furlongs S of the town, was anciently held by Kilwinning Abbey, and dedicated to St Brendan of Clonfert, an Irish missionary to the Western Isles about the year 545. Repaired in 1855, it comprises a plain pre-Reformation oblong nave, a square W tower, a SE aisle (1597), and the NE Crawfurd gallery (1654). The pulpit and this Crawfurd gallery exhibit ' some rich carved woodwork of the Renaissance period, a thing,' observes Dr Hill Burton, ' very rarely to be found in the churches of Scotland. Captain Thomas Crawfurd of Jordanhill, who captured Dumbarton Castle in 1571, and died in 1603, is buried in the churchyard. His monument is peculiar and attractive. There is a recumbent statue of the warrior himself, and of his wife, side by side, after the old Gothic fashion, which was becoming obsolete. The figures lie within a quadrangular piece of stonework like a sarcophagus, and they are seen through slits which admit a dim light, giving the statues a mysterious funereal tone.' The first Free church, built soon after the Disruption, was repaired and decorated in 1875; the second or West Free church, belonging till 1876 to the Reformed Presbyterians, was built in 1824. There are also Glengarnock U.P. church (1870) and St Bridget's Roman Catholic church (1862). Pop. (1851) 3399, (1861) 3245, (1871) 3313, (1881) 3404, of whom 1903 were females. Houses (1881) 681 inhabited, 14 vacant, 1 building.

The parish, containing also the greater part of Glengarnock village, is bounded N and NE by Lochwinnoch in Renfrewshire, E by Beith, SE, S, and W by Dalry, and NW by Largs. Its utmost length, from NNW to SSE, is 7 5/8 miles; its utmost breadth is 3 5/8 miles; and its area is 10,641 ½ acres, of which 306 ½ are water. The Maich, entering from Renfrewshire, flows 4 miles south-south-eastward along the Lochwinnoch border till it falls into Kilbirnie Loch (11 ¾ x 3 ½ furl.; 105 feet), a beautiful lake on the Beith boundary, well stored with pike, perch, and trout, and sending off Dubbs Burn north-north-eastward to Castle-Semple Loch. The Garnock, also rising among the Mistylaw Hills, at an altitude of 1600 feet above sea-level, winds 7½ miles south-south-eastward through the interior, then 1 7/8 mile south-south-westward along or near to the south-eastern boundary, till it passes off into Dalry. Pundeavon, Paduff, and Pitcon Burns run south-south-eastward to the Garnock, the last-named tracing most of the western boundary. The surface sinks in the extreme S to 93 feet above sea-level, and rises thence northward to 454 feet near Balgry, 1000 at High Blaeberry Craigs, 710 near Glengarnock Castle, 1083 at Burnt Hill, 1267 at Ladyland Moor, 1526 at Black Law, 1663 at Mistylaw, 1615 at High Corbie Knowe, and 1711 at the Hill of Stake, the three last culminating on the northern confines of the parish, and commanding one of the widest and most brilliant panoramic views in Scotland. Thus the south-eastern district is all low, and either flat or diversified with gentle rising-grounds; the central district rises somewhat rapidly north-westward, and offers a considerable variety of hill and dale; and the northern, occupying fully one-third of the entire area, is all upland, with irregular ranges of dusky hills, mossy, heathy, and sterile. The rocks in the lowlands belong to the Carboniferous formation; those of the uplands are eruptive, and chiefly consist of greenstone and porphyry. Sandstone, limestone, coal, and ironstone abound among the carboniferous rocks, and have all been largely worked. A vein of graphite or plumbago also exists there; and a vein of barytes, and some agates and other rare minerals, are found among the hills. The soil in the south-eastern district is a deep alluvial loam, a rich clayey loam, or a light red clay; in the central district is mostly light, dry, and fertile; and in the uplands is much of it moss of various depths, resting on light-coloured clay. Rather less than one-sixth of the entire area is in tillage; plantations cover nearly 100 acres; and the rest is either meadow, hill-pasture, or waste. On the hills are remains of several tumuli; and a pyramidal mound at Nether Mill measures 54 feet in length, 27 in breadth, and 17 in height. Formerly this parish was divided among the three baronies of Kilbirnie, Glengarnock, and Ladyland, of which the two last are noticed separately, whilst the first passed by marriage from the Barclays to the Craufurds in 1470, and from them to the Lindsays in 1661, thus coming to the fourth Earl of Glasgow in 1833. (See Crawford Priory and Garnock.) Kilbirnie Place, accidentally burned in 1757, consists of a rectangular 13th or 14th century tower, measuring 41 by 32 feet, with walls 7 feet in thickness, and of a still more ruinous three-storied addition of 1627; scarce a vestige remains of its gardens, orchard, and avenues. Five proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 7 of between £100 and £500, 16 of from £50 to £100, and 37 of from £20 to £50. Kilbirnie is in the presbytery of Irvine and synod of Glasgow and Ayr; the living is worth £263. Bridgend, Glengarnock, and Ladyland public schools, and Kilbirnie female industrial school, with respective accommodation for 211, 400, 312, and 116 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 172, 244, 218, and 92, and grants of £149, 12s., £213, 10s., £216, 2s., and £80, 10s. Valuation (1883) £19,504, 14s., plus £733 for railway. Pop. (1801) 959, (1841) 2631, (1851) 5484, (1861) 5265, (l871) 4953, (1881) 5243.—Ord. Sur., shs. 22, 30, 1865-66. See The Parish Church and Churchyard of Kilbirnie (Beith, 1850), and John S. Dobie's Church of Kilbirnie (Edinb. 1880).

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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