Newton Stewart

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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Newton-Stewart, a town in Penninghame parish, E Wigtownshire, on the right bank of the river Cree, which here is spanned by a five-arch granite bridge, erected in 1813, at a cost of £6000, in place of an earlier bridge of 1745, and leading to the suburb of Creebridge in Minnigaff parish, Kirkcudbrightshire. Its station on the Portpatrick railway is 23 ½ miles E by N of Stranraer, 7 N by W of Wigtown, and 49 ¾ W by S of Dumfries. Owing its origin to a ford across the river, Newton-Stewart derives its name from William Stewart, the second Earl of Galloway's third son, who here built several houses, and in 1677 obtained a charter from Charles II., erecting it into a burgh of barony; but the earliest feu-contract is dated 1701. The idle - those who hung loose upon society - were the first to flock to the incipient town. The advantages of the feus invited to it peasants who had accumulated a few pounds. Smuggling did something to promote its advancement. A decent inn or two, a few shops, and some workrooms for ordinary artisans, were soon called for by its being a convenient stage between Creetown and Glenluce, and a suitable depôt and resort for an extensive tract of circumjacent country, so that by 1792 the population had risen to 900. About 1778 Sir William Douglas, the founder of Castle-Douglas, purchased the estate of Castle-Stewart, and, changing the name of the village to Newton-Douglas, obtained for it under this name a second charter, erecting it into a burgh of barony, and commenced vigorous efforts to make it a seat of important manufacture. A company, with him at its head, erected, at an expense of upwards of £20,000, a large factory for spinning cotton, and connected it with the introduction and support of cotton-weaving. A Mr Tannahill, under Sir William Douglas's patronage, commenced a small manufacture of coarse carpets; and a tannery of long standing received now stimulating encouragement, and was managed with judgment and success. These and other circumstances concurred to promise that the village would, under its new lord, rapidly rise to be a place of no small consequence; but they promised incomparably more than they performed. The new name of Newton-Douglas soon fell into disuse, and gave place to the former name of Newton-Stewart. The carpet factory proved an utter failure. The cotton-factory worked well for a few years, declined, was abandoned, stood for years unoccupied, and, in 1826, was purchased by Lord Garlies for a twentieth part of the original cost, and converted into a quarry for the building of cottages and farmhouses. Even the weaving of cotton for the manufacturers of Glasgow, though it had formed a ready resource for the town's weavers, went rapidly into decline, insomuch that the number of hand-looms, during the ten years following 1828, decreased from 311 to 100. Of former industries, tanning and currying alone continues to prosper; and the purchase of wool for the Lancashire markets, partly on commission and partly on personal risk, is at present the staple trade; whilst Erskine's patent cartridge-loaders have more than a local repute. Some commerce is carried on through the small harbour of Carty (a creek of Wigtown), a little below the town, principally in the exportation of rural produce, and in the importation of lime, sandstone, coals, and general merchandise. A weekly market is held on Friday, a cattle market on the second Friday of every month, and a lamb fair on the Wednesday in August before Moniaive.

Newton-Stewart, unlike most other modern towns, was not founded on any regular plan; and, in consequence, long bore the appearance of a straggling village - builders raising their houses high or low, small or great, on a line with others or in recesses or projections, as caprice, accident, or convenience suggested. Irregularity has been so far corrected that the place now consists chiefly of a long principal street, with the townhouse in the centre. At the close of last century all the houses were thatched, and most of them had only one story; but now more than half of them are slated and two-storied. Of late years, too, a number of fine villas have been built above the town, many respectable families having been attracted to the place by its excellent schools. The general building material is trap throughout the body of the walls, and either granite or sandstone in the lintels and other conspicuous parts. The town-hall is a plain oblong building, with a cupolaroofed clock-tower. Penninghame parish church, a handsome Gothic edifice of 1840, with- a graceful spire, was built from designs by William Burn at a cost of £5000, and contains 1200 sittings; in 1881 a mission hall was added behind it at a cost of £500. Princes Street Free church till 1 876 was Reformed Presbyterian; that of Creebridge dates from Disruption times. In 1878 was built a fine new U.P. church, in 1876 the new Roman Catholic church of Our Lady and St Ninian; and at Challoch, 2 miles NW of the town, is All Saints' Episcopal church (1872), a beautiful specimen of Early English, with organ, stained glass, three bells, etc. The Ewart Institute, erected in 1864 at a cost of £5000 from funds bequeathed by James and John Ewart, merchants, is a handsome edifice, with a schoolroom at either end, and the principal's house and boarding-school in the middle. Containing five class-rooms, with accommodation for 310 scholars, and rooms and dormitories for 20 boarders it is divided into a middle-class or high school, con' ducted by a principal, two masters, a lady superintendent, and assistants; and a free school, conducted by a master and a mistress. With a recent bequest of £10,000, a new town-hall was commenced in 1884. It is to be called the M`Millan Hall, after the testator, and will, when completed, prove a great convenience and ornament to Newton-Stewart. Other institutions are the Douglas Academy, the Galloway Girls' Industrial Home, a mechanies' institute, etc. In 1875 a monument, 57 feet high, was erected at a cost of £1000 to Randolph, ninth Earl of Galloway (1800-73).

Newton-Stewart has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, branches of the British Linen, Clydesdale, and National Banks, offices or agencies of 15 insurance companies, 4 hotels, waterworks (1882), 2 gas companies, a handsome police station (1870), and a Saturday Conservative newspaper, the Galloway Gazette (1870). The town is governed by a senior and 2 junior magistrates, a treasurer, and 6 councillors, who also serve as police commissioners under the General Police and Improvement (Scotland) Act of 1862. The municipal voters within the police burgh, which excludes the Creebridge suburb, numbered 462 in 1884, when the annual value of real property amounted to £7932, whilst the revenue, including assessments, was £506. Pop. (1841) 2432, (1851) 2599, (1861) 2535, (1871) 2873, (1881) 3070, of whom 1708 were females, and 425 were in Creebridge. Houses (1881) 608 inhabited, 17 vacant, 2 building.—Ord. Sur., sh. 4, 1857.

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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