St Ninians

(St Ringans)

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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St Ninians or St Ringans, a large parish containing a post-town of the same name in the NE of the county of Stirling. It is bounded N by Perthshire, by portions of the parishes of Lecropt and Logie in Stirlingshire, by the parish of Stirling, and by Clackmannanshire, E by the parish of Airth, S by the parishes of Dunipace, Denny, and Kilsyth, W by the parish of Fintray, and WNW by the parish of Gargunnock. There is a small detached portion NE of the town of Stirling in the loop of the river Forth N and S of Queenshaugh. The boundary is largely natural. From the NW corner the line follows the N side of the Forth from the mouth of the West Carse Burn downwards to the junction with the Teith, and then the middle of the river downwards to the mouth of East Mains Burn, except for 1¼ mile N of the town of Stirling, where the parish of Stirling comes in, the whole distance traced by the Forth being 19½ miles following the windings of the river. On the E the line largely follows the courses of the East Mains, Darnbog, and Tor Burns; on the S those of Tor Burn and the river Carron, which forms the boundary for 6½ miles; and on the W those of Endrick Water and Burnfoot Burn. The greatest length of the parish, from the junction of the Darnbog and Tor Burns to form the Pow Burn on the E, to the junction of Burnfoot Burn with Endrick Water on the W, is 12¾ miles; the greatest breadth, from the junction of the rivers Forth and Teith on the N, to the junction of Buckie Burn with the river Carron on the S, is 7 miles; and the land area is 38, 012 acres. The height above sea-level rises from 26 feet near the Forth in the NE corner and 35 near the Forth at the NW corner, towards the S and W borders. The central portion of the parish is on an average from 200 to 300 feet high; and at Gillies Hill the height is 500 feet, at Great Hill W of Sauchie House 831, above Barr Wood SW of Auchenbowie House 503. The highest ground forming the eastern extremity of the Lennox Hills is, in the W and SW, at Scout Head (705 feet), Earl's Hill (1443), Hart Hill (1428), Cringate Law (1300)-including the moorlands of Touch Muir, Touchadam Muir, The Fell, and Cringate Muir-Cairnoch Hill (1354), Craigannet Hill (1171), Craigengelt Hill (1000), and Dundaff Hill (1157). The ground is divided into what is locally known as carse, dryfield, and moorland. The first-which occupies the southern and eastern districts-was, before the march of modern agricultural improvement began, a flat stretch of morass, but is now highly cultivated, and produces heavy crops. The part of it along the edge of the Forth has to be protected by strong embankments against the over flow of the river during floods. The dryfield-the most extensive of the three-is the higher ground behind the carse, with an undulating surface sloping chiefly to the N and E. It is highly cultivated, and has numerous hedgerows and plantations. The moorland, lying in the W and SW among the heights already mentioned, comprises about ¼ of the whole area. The northern part is heathy, but the southern abounds in excellent pasture, and there is some good and well-cultivated haughland along the river Carron. The soil of the carse is an alluvium 8 to 20 feet deep, and below this lie successively layers of moss, drift, and sand. The whole of it has been, within a comparatively recent period - certainly subsequent to the appearance of man-beneath the level of the sea, but there must have been a laud surface previous to the formation of the upper alluvial deposits, as the layer of moss beneath these contains bark and branches of hazel. At the time of the battle of Bannockburn the carse seems to have been an impassable morass. The underlying rocks are carboniferous, those to the E belonging to the Coal-measures, those in the centre to the Carboniferous Limestone series, while on the W throughout the moorland district are interbedded basalts. There are collieries at Auchenbowie, Bannockburn, Cowie, Greenyards, and Plean, and the other beds are quarried at different places. The drainage of a small portion of the parish in the extreme W goes to the great Clyde basin, being carried off by Endrick Water and Burnfoot Burn and the smaller streams flowing to it: the surplus rainfall elsewhere goes to the Forth. Along the N it is carried off by the river Forth itself, which receives in the NW corner the Baston and Touch Burns-the latter receiving the Craigbrock Burn-and elsewhere along the N a number of smaller streams. Flowing through the centre and NE of the parish is the Bannock Burn, which, rising at Earl's Hill, has a course of 14 miles north-eastward to the Forth, receiving near the middle of its length Sauchie Burn. Besides the streams already mentioned on the E and S borders, there are also in the SE Small Burn, uniting with some other streams to form Sauchinford Burn flowing to Tor Burn, and Plean Burn also flowing to Tor Burn; in the centre of the S side Auchenbowie Burn, which passes through the parish of Dunipace to the Carron; and in the SW Buckie Burn and Earl's Burn, both fowing to the Carron. On Touch Burn is a waterfall called Gilmour's Linn, and on the river Carron another called Auchentillin's Spout. Neither are of any great height. The only lake is Loch Coulter near the middle of the s side, which is separately noticed.

There are a number of tumuli, and at that at Ghosts' Knowe, on the Buckie Burn, near the centre of the S side of the parish, a sepulchral chamber was opened in 1839, but the valuable find of implements, etc., was scattered by the ignorant workmen employed. The Roman road from Camelon northwards entered the parish about ¾ mile W of Carbrook House (Dunipace), and ran in a straight line north-westward to Snabhead, SW of Bannockburn House, where it turned NNW and ran parallel to the modern road through the town of St Ninians to Stirling and to the W of it. A few traces of it are still to be seen, as well as of some of the stations. The old pronunciation and often the spelling of the name was St Ringans, which is still in common local use, though it is now beginning to be superseded by St Ninians, which has been the spelling since the end of last century. There must have been a church here from a very early date, and the dedication was to St Ninian, who flourished in the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th centuries, and who converted the southern Picts to Christianity. (See Whithorn.) This church was probably near the well called St Ninian's Well, on the S side of Stirling. In the reign of David I. Robert, Bishop of St Andrews (1126-58), granted to the newly founded Cambuskenneth Abbey ` the church of Egglis St Ninians, with its chapels of Dunipace and Lithbert, and all its other chapels and oratories, and all other pertinents;' but whether this church was on the site of the early one or occupied the same position as the present church cannot now be determined. Another church at Kirk-o'-muir, 7½ miles SW of the present parish church, is said to have been one of the earliest churches in Scotland where the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was dispensed by the Reformers in Scotland. It figures in the Commissary's list as the church of a distinct parish apart from St Ninians, but no traces of the building are now to be seen, though the churchyard remains. There was also a chapel at Cambusbarron, and another dedicated to the Virgin Mary at Skeoch, ½ mile NE of Bannockburn. In the extreme SW of the parish are the ruins of a castle, once the stronghold of Sir John Graham, the companion of Wallace; and near it are the lands of Dundaff, from which the Duke of Montrose, who is sprung from an elder branch of the same family of Graham, takes his title of Viscount of Dundaff. There are also ruins of old castles at Sauchie and Carnock, which are separately noticed. Traversed by the great main road from Edinburgh to Stirling and the north, the parish has been the scene of many of the events connected with the national history of Scotland. To the SW of the town of St Ninians is the Bore-stone marking the place where Bruce's standard was planted during the battle of Bannockburn. The battle itself is separately noticed, as are also the battles of Sauchieburn and Stirling Bridge, the latter under Stirling. The town of St Ninians was the limit of the pursuit of the surprise party from Edinburgh which in 1571 attacked Stirling and attempted to carry off the Regent Lennox, who was slain in the skirmish that followed. The exact spot where the Regent fell was formerly pointed out at Newhouse between Stirling and the town of St Ninians; but, considering the whole circumstances, the place where he received his mortal wound was probably nearer Stirling. A heap of stones raised to mark the spot was removed when the road was widened in 1758. In 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stewart, on his march to the south, spent a night at Bannockburn House; and in January 1746, when on his return to the north, he made that house his headquarters. While lodging there he was shot at, and the mark made by the bullet is still shown in one of the rooms. On the morning of the 17th January he drew up his army on Plean Moor preparatory to their march to the battlefield of Falkirk; and -on the 1st of February, just as the retreat northward was begun before the approaching forces of the Duke of Cumberland, the parish church, which had been used by the Highland army as a powder magazine, was blown up, whether purposely or accidentally is not known. The steeple remained entire, and, as the new church was built at some distance from it the tower still stands a lonely witness to the rebellion of 1745. The parishioners here suffered so much from a case of intrusion in 1734, and from another in 1773, that they adopted towards the end of the century a very effective method of dealing with the patronage question by buying up the rights of the patron in 1788 at a cost of between £600 and £700, which they raised by voluntary contributions among themselves. In the immediate neighbourhood of Plean quoad sacra church is an asylum founded and endowed by the late Francis Simpson, Esq. of East Plean, for the residence and support of indigent old men, preference being given to those who have served in the army or navy. It has usually about 30 inmates. Distinguished natives of the parish are Dr Henry, the historian (1718-90), who was born at Muirton; Sir George Harvey, P.R.S.A. (1805-76); and Dr Robert Buchanan, Free Church leader (1802-75); and Miss Hamilton (1758-1816), author of the Cottagers of Glenburnic, resided at Crook while composing that work. The parish is traversed by main roads from Stirling to Airth, Edinburgh by Falkirk, Denny, Glasgow, and Balfron; and there are also a large number of good district roads. A reach of the Scottish Central railway (North British and Caledonian jointly) from Edinburgh and Glasgow, which passes across the SE and centre for 5¼ miles, has a station at Bannockburn, 33½ miles NW of Edinburgh, 27 NE of Glasgow, and 2½ SSE of Stirling; and access is also readily obtained from Stirling station. In the E end of the parish the South Alloa (Caledonian) branch of the Scottish Central has a course of 2½ miles before it passes into Airth parish close to Dunmore pottery. A reach of the Forth and Clyde railway passes for 5 miles along the northern border from Stirling westward. The industries other than farming are noticed in connection with the villages. An important annual market for cattle and horses is held at Bannockburn on the third Tuesday of June. The principal mansions, most of which are separately noticed, are Auchenbowie House, Bannockburn House, Carnock House, Craigforth, Gartur, Laurelhill, Easter and Wester Livilands, Plean House, Polmaise, Sauchie House, Seton Lodge, and Touch House. St Ninians is in the presbytery of Stirling and synod of Perth and Stirling, and the living is worth £400 a year. The parish church at the town was built in 1750, and contains 1500 sittings; and there are quoad sacra churches at Bannockburn and Plean, the former dating from 1838 and the latter from 1839. There are also Free and U.P. churches at Bannockburn and the town of St Ninians, and a Free church at Cambusbarron. The first Relief congregation, that at the town, was formed after the forcible induction of a parish minister in 1773, and that at Bannockburn in 1797. Under the school board are Bannockburn, Cambusbarron, East Plean, Fallin, Milton, Muirland, and West Plean public schools, which, with accommodation for 270, 270, 150, 60, 150, 40, and 100 pupils respectively, had in 1884 attendances of 203, 145, 112, 20, 91, 20, and 52, and grants of £187, 17s. 6d., £122, 7s., £100, 3s., £32, 11s., £73, 2s. 11d., £35, 18s., and £35, 11s. At Bannockburn there is also the endowed Wilson Academy, founded and endowed in 1848 by Sir James Wilson, and further endowed by his sister in 1849 and 1859. It is proposed under the Educational Endowment Act to hand over the building to the school board along with one-third of the revenue, to devote about three-eighths of the revenue to the assistance of technical education in Stirling, and the rest of the income to the foundation of six bursaries to enable children of merit resident in the village of Bannockburn to attend Stirling High School. The principal proprietors are the Duke of Montrose, the Earl of Dunmore, Sir James R. Gibson-Maitland of Sauchie, and Colonel John Murray of Touchadam and Polmaise, and there are over 120 other proprietors, but some of their holdings are very small. Valuation (1860) £41, 980, (1885) £55,167. Pop. of parish (1801) 6849, (1831) 9552, (1861) 8946, (1871) 10, 146, (1881) 10, 423, of whom 5141 were males and 5282 were females, while 6105 were in the ecclesiastical parish. Houses (1881) 2125 inhabited, 251 uninhabited, and 12 being built. The population of the landward portion of the parish in 1881 was 5029, of whom 2552 were males and 2477 females.—Ord. Sur., shs. 39, 31, 1869-67.

Besides the post-town of the same name, the parish contains also the post-towns of Bannockburn and Cambusbarron and the villages or hamlets of Auchenbowie, Belfield, Chartershall, Muirton, Newhouse, Plean, Torbrex, and Whins of Melton, most of which are separately noticed. The Town of St Ninians stands in the N of the parish, close to the S side of Stirling. Up to 1724 it was simply the Kirkton, but has since then been known as St Ringans or St Ninians. Although nominally 1¼ mile S of Stirling, it is in reality a straggling appendage to that town, with which it is connected by the villages of Newhouse and Belfield, and within the parliamentary boundaries of which it is included. It consists mainly of one long narrow street along the great south road from Stirling, just to the N of the point where it forks into the roads leading to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The houses are curious and old-fashioned, and many of them bear rude sculpturings of dates, initials, and sometimes of the tools of the tradesmen to whom they originally belonged. St Ninians has a share in the woollen industries connected with Stirling, Bannockburn, and Cambusbarron, and has besides a manufacture of nails and screw-bolts of its own as well as tan-works of considerable size. Pop. of town (1861) 1334, (1881) 1647, of whom 788 were males and 859 females. Houses in the same year 371 occupied and 64 unoccupied.

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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