Parish of Neilston

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: Neilston
1834-45: Neilston

Neilston, a town and a parish in the Upper Ward of Renfrewshire. The town lies 430 feet above sea-level, on the rivulet Levern, 2 miles SW of Barrhead, 5½ S of Paisley, and 10 SW of Glasgow. Occupying the brow of a gentle eminence, amid a delightful landscape, it presents an old-fashioned yet neat and compact appearance, and has a post office under Glasgow, a branch of the Clydesdale Bank, gas-works, and a station on the Glasgow, Barrhead, and Kilmarnock Joint railway. The parish church, dating from about the middle of the 15th century, retains a beautiful specimen of Gothic architecture in its N window, and has a spire, a clock, and 940 sittings. In a vault beneath it are buried William Mure, D.C.L. (1799-1860), Liberal-Conservative M.P. for Renfrewshire 1846-55, and author of a Critical History of the Language and Literature of Ancient Greece; his son, Lieut. -Col. William Mure (1830-80), Liberal M. P. for Renfrewshire 1874-80; and other members of the Caldwell family. A Free church was built in 1873; and St Thomas Roman Catholic church, with 350 sittings, in 186l. Pop. (1836) 2506, (1861) 2357, (1871) 2125, (1881) 2920, of whom 609 were in Crofthead suburb. Houses (l881) 579 inhabited, 10 vacant, 5 building.

The parish, containing also six-sevenths of Barrhead town, is bounded N by Abbey-Paisley, S by Mearns, S by Stewarton, Dunlop, and Beith, and W by Lochwinnoch and Abbey-Paisley. Its utmost length, from NE to SW, is 63/8 miles; its breadth varies between 17/8 and 4½ miles; and its area is 20 square miles or 12, 862 acres, of which 381 are water. On the Mearns boundary are seven sheets of water-Long Loch, Harelaw Dam, Walton Dam, Glanderston Dam, Balgray Reservoir, Ryat Linn Reservoir, and Waulkmill Glen Reservoir; two more lie on the northern and north-western border; and in the interior are five-Commore Dam, Craighall Dam, Snypes Dam, Kirkton Dam, and Loch Libo (3½ x 1 furl.; 395 feet). This last, by the side of the railway, 2½ miles SW of the town, by Dr Fleming was pronounced superior, in picturesque scenery, to Rydal Water in Cumberland. 'Loch Libo,' he says, 'presents a scene of unparalleled beauty. Its lofty hills, on both sides, are wooded with fine old trees to the water's edge. Its oblong or oval figure pleases the eye; while its smooth and glassy surface is disturbed only by the heron and wild-duck, swimming and fishing upon it. Standing at the turn of the road, as you ascend northward, and looking W when the sun, in a fine summer evening, is pouring its rays upon it, the effect is enchanting.' The artificial collections of water, in the form of reservoirs or dams, for economical purposes, are all of great volume, and springs of the purest water abound. One of them, issuing from the solid rock, at a place called Aboon-the-brae, is so copious as to discharge 42 imperial gallons every minute. By Levern Water the drainage is mainly carried north-north-eastward, by Lugton Water partly south-south-westward. The surface is exceedingly irregular and uneven. At the north-eastern border it sinks to 120 feet above sea-level, thence rising to 725 feet at the Fereneze Hills, 848 at Corkindale Law or Lochliboside Hill, 854 at Neilston Pad, 734 at Howcraigs Hill, and 863 near Long Loch. Of these Corkindale Law commands one of the widest and most magnificent views in Scotland. On one side are seen Dumbarton Castle, the vale of the Leven, Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond, and a vast sweep of the Grampians; on another the vale of the Clyde from Bowling Bay to Hamilton, the Kilpatrick and Campsie Hills, the city of Glasgow, a summit or two of the Ochils, the Lomonds of Fife, the Bathgate Hills, the Pentlands, Tinto, and the Lowthers; on another the hills of Kyle, of upper Nithsdale, and of Kirkcudbrightshire, and sometimes, in the far distance, the tops of the Cumberland mountains; and on another the great plain of Ayrshire, Brown-Carrick Hill, the flanks of Loch Ryan, the mountains of Mourne in Ireland, the whole sweep of sea from Donaghadee to the Cumbraes, with Ailsa Craig in the centre, and the lofty mountain masses of Arran on the W side. The predominant rock is trap; but both at the eastern and western extremities of the parish, rocks of the coal formation, including limestone and ironstone, abound. Rare or curious minerals are sufficiently plentiful to draw the attention of mineralogical collectors. The soil of the flat eastern district is of a dry loamy nature, occasionally mixed with gravel, and generally resting on clay or till; that of the middle district is the débris of trap rock, irretentive of water, and well fitted for dairy pasture; whilst that of the western district is largely moorish or mossy. Twothirds of the entire area are regularly or occasionally in tillage; fully 500 acres are under wood; and the rest is either pastoral or waste. The appliances of manufacture, in the form of printfields, bleachfields, and cotton spinning-mills, are great and many, serving, along with the mansions, villas, towns, and villages, to give much of the lower part of the parish a character intermediate between the urban and the rural. The printing of calicoes and the bleaching of cloth were commenced here in 1773; the spinning of cotton was introduced in 1780; and so rapid was the progress of these departments of industry, as well as of others related to them, that Sir John Sinclair, in connection with the making up of the Old Statistical Account in 1792, selected Neilston as one of three parishes to show to the French Chamber of Commerce the status which manufactures had reached in the best rural districts of Scotland. The manufacturing prosperity so soon attained in Neilston has been continued till the present day, receiving stimulus from the formation of the Glasgow, Barrhead, and Kilmarnock railway, and keeping up a rivalry, proportionably to its population, with-the prosperity of Paisley and Glasgow. The lands of Neilston, Crookston, Darnley, and others in Renfrewshire belonged in the 12th century to the family of Croc, from whom they passed in the succeeding century to a branch of the illustrious house of Stewart by marriage with the heiress, Marion Croc. This branch became Earls and Dukes of Lennox; and one of its members was Henry Lord Darnley, husband of Queen Mary, and father of James VI. of Scotland. In process of time the estate of Neilston passed from them, and was divided amongst a number of proprietors. In the New Statistical Account, Crawfurd is represented as saying, in his History of Ren-frewshire, that, 'passing from the house of Stewart, the lordship of Neilston came by marriage into that of Cunningham of Craigends; 'whereas Crawfurd makes that statement with regard merely to a portion called Arthurlee, which had belonged to a branch of the Darnley family, and which now belongs to various proprietors. The transmission of the estates since Crawfurd's time is given by his continuator, Robertson. None of the castles of the ancient proprietors remain; but mansions belonging to some of the present landowners, as well as villas belonging to other gentlemen, are numerous and elegant. Seventeen proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 33 of between £100 and £500, 56 of from £50 to £100, and 115 of from £20 to £50. Giving off the quoad sacra parish of Barrhead, Neilston is in the presbytery of Paisley and the synod of Glasgow and Ayr; the living is worth £470. The Rev. Alexander Fleming, D.D. (1770-1845), a leading spirit of the Church Extension Scheme, was minister from 1804; and his Life (1883) contains much of interest relating to Neilston. Eight schools, with total accommodation for 2073 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 1597, and grants amounting to £1318, 3s. 1d. Valuation (1860) £33, 893, (1884) £53,672, 11s. Pop. (1801) 3796, (1831) 8046, (1861) 11,013, (1871) 11,136, (1881) 11,359, of whom 4631 were in the ecclesiastical parish.—Ord. Sur., shs. 22, 30, 1865-66.

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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