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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Bonhill (Gael. bogh n'uill, ` foot of the rivulet '), a town and a parish of Dumbartonshire. The former stands on the left bank of the Leven, which here is crossed by an iron suspension-bridge (1836) of 438 feet span, leading to the town and station of Alexandria, that station being 3½ miles N of Dumbarton, 19¼ WNW of Glasgow, 1¾ S by E of Balloch pier on Loch Lomond, and 31½ WSW of Stirling. Like Alexandria hardly a century old, Bonhill consists of one long well-built street, and has a post and telegraph office, a branch of the Commercial Bank, a local savings' bank, a handsome Gothic parish church (1836; 1150 sittings) with a square clock-tower, a Free church (1844) of red freestone, with a spire, and a U.P. church (1830). A horsefair is held on the first Thursday of February. Pop. (1841) 2041, (1861) 2768, (1871) 2510, (1881) 2983.

The parish contains also the town of Alexandria and the villages and stations of Jamestown and Balloch, 1 mile N and 1½ N by W of Bonhill town. Bounded N by Loch Lomond, NE by Kilmaronock, SE by Dumbarton, SW by Cardross, and W and NW by Luss, it has an extreme length from E to W of 5 miles, a width from N to S of from 2 to 3¼ miles, and an area of 9191½ acres, of which 8l8½ are water. The foot of Loch Lomond (23 feet above sea-level) belongs, for 2 miles on the western and ¾ mile on the eastern shore, to Bonhill; and Smollett's Leven flows from it 3 miles southward through the parish, which it divides into two fairly equal halves. Along it lies the level Vale of Leven, from 6 to 11 furlongs wide, a pleasant valley still, though it had lost its Arcadian character so early even as 24 Aug. 1803, the day when Coleridge, Wordsworth, and his sister Dorothy drove up it from Dumbarton to Luss, and the last in her journal described it as ` of no extreme beauty, though prettily wooded; the hills on each side not very high, sloping backwardsfrom the bed of the vale, which is neither very narrow nor very wide; the prospect closed by Ben Lomond and other mountains. The vale, ' she continues, ` is populous, but looks as if it were not inhabited by cultivators of the earth; the houses are chiefly of stone, often in rows by the river side; they stand pleasantly, but have a tradish look, as if they might have been off-sets from Glasgow ' (Tour in Scotland, ed. by Princ. Shairp, 1874, p. 62). Right of this valley the surface rises westward to 901 feet on Auchindeinian Muir, 714 on Darleith Muir, 995 on Bromley Muir, and 940 on Overton Muir; left of it, eastward, to 297 feet near Over Balloch, 691 near Auchcarroch, and 843 on the Dumbarton border. The leading formations are Old Red sandstone in the W,and elsewhere Lower Silurian; the soil of the arable lands is mostly a fertile loam, resting on a clay subsoil. More than 300 acres are planted with larches and Scotch pines; but the two famous ash-trees have wholly or almost disappeared, that in the churchyard (girthing 26½ feet at 3 from the ground, and 113 high) having been blown down by the gale of 1 Nov. 1845, whilst the other at Bonhill Place (at 3 feet girthing 34) is represented only by the shell, 12 by 3 feet, of one side of the trunk (Trans. Highl. and Ag. Soc., 1880, p. 132). Bleaching was started on the banks of the Leven in 1728, and the first print-field 40 years afterwards, breaking up the valley's pastoral solitude, but greatly improving the rental; to-day there are 5 calico printing and Turkey-red dye works-at Dalmonach near Bonhill town, Leven Bank near Balloch, Alexandria, etc.,- together employing between 3000 and 4000 hands. The Lennox and Lindsay families were anciently connected with this parish, the former in the 15th century holding the whole of it, along with old Balloch Castle, only whose fosse remains; and the latter in the 17th owning the lands of Bonhill, which after the Restoration passed to Sir James Smollett, grandfather of the celebrated novelist, and founder of a house whose fortunes are traced in Irving's Account of the Family of Smollett of Bonhill (Dumb. 1859). At present the principal mansions, with the owners or occupiers, and the extent and annual value of their estates within the shire, are- Arden House, on the W shore of Loch Lomond, 31/8 miles NW of Balloch station (Jas. Lumsden, 1447 acres, £923); Cameron House, 1½ mile WNW of same (Patrick Smollett, 1733 ac., £3360); Lennoxbank, near same (Arch. Orr Ewing, M. P. for Dumbartonshire since 1868, 201 ac., £4340); modern Balloch Castle, on the E shore of Loch Lomond, 1 mile N of same (A. J. D. Brown, 893 ac., £1274); Westerton House, 2¼ miles NE of same (Jas. Hill Kippen, 733 ac., £868); Tullichewan Castle, 1 mile N by W of Alexandria (Jas. Campbell, 1112 ac., £1821); Bonhill Place, 1 mile S of same (Stewart Turnbull), and Darleith House, 3 miles N by W of Cardross (Wm. Anderson). In the presbytery of Dumbarton and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, Bonhill, as enlarged in 1650 by annexations from Luss and Kilmaronock, is divided into the quoad sacra parishes of Bonhill and Alexandria, the stipend of the former being £410. A cemetery, 5 acres in extent, was formed for the whole parish at Alexandria in 1881, at a cost of £2000. Besides 2 schools at Alexandria, there are 2 public schools, at Bonhill town and South Jamestown, which, with respective accommodation for 466 and 309 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 203 and 239 day, and 48 and 68 evening, scholars, with grants for the former of £215, 16s. and £295, 9s. 6d., for the latter of £18, 17s. and £3 4, 17s. Valuation (1865) £28,741; (1881) £42,362, 16s., including 2½ miles of the Dumbartonshire and 2 of the Forth and Clyde Junction sections of the North British. Pop. (1801) 2460, (1831) 3874, (1841) 6682, (1851) 7643, (1861) 8866, (1871) 9408, (1881) 12,531.—Ord. Sur., sh. 30,1866.

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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