Seagate castle, Irvine
Maryborough salt pan houses
weavers' cottages in Crosshill


Culzean coach house
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Old Statistical Account


[Transcribed from the original by David Courtney McClure.]

[Vol. IX, pages 377–381]

(County of Ayr, Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, Presbytery of Irvine.)

By the Rev. Mr Thomas Maxwell.

Name, Extent, Surface, etc

The origin of its name is uncertain.  But it is said to have taken its rise from some of the Stewart race of Scottish kings having a residence in it, and the remains of those houses are still to be seen near the town.  It is above 10 miles in length, and in some places about 4 in breadth.  from many places in this parish, there are extensive views of the Western Ocean, the island of Arran, and Craig of Ailsa.  The appearance of the country is flat; But there is a dradual descent from the head of the parish to the sea.  There are no mountains, but small hills in different places, and some of them are called Law hills, either because that in old times courts of justice were held upon them, or from the low or flame raised on them, as a signal of the approach [378] of an enemy. [1]   The air is rather moist, and in some seasons of the year there are heavy rains for a continued time, owing probably to the nearness of the Western ocean, and Arran hills.

Minerals, Agriculture, Soil, etc

There are some freestone, and several lime quarries. But there is no coal wrought in the parish, which is a great loss to the inhabitants, who are at a considerable distance from it.  Several attempts have been made for it in different parts of the parish, but they have hitherto proved ineffectual.  This parish and neighbourhood is remarkable for large good milk cows, of which several persons have form 10 to 20.  They make fine sweet milk cheese, for which there is a great demand, and which gives a very high price.  A tenant of Sir William Cunningham of Livingston, who was then proprietor of Robertland estate in this parish, got a premium several years at Edinburgh for the best cheese in Scotland.  This estate is now the property of Sir John Hunter Blair.  About 30 years ago there were few or no inclosures in the parish, but now it is mostly inclosed and subdivided, and pays from 20s to 30s the acre, and some of it more, which must make the real rent very great, especially as the ground is mostly arable.  The valued rent is about £7000 Scots, and I suppose the real rent may be about £7000 Sterling.  But as many of the small heritors have their farms in their own hands, it is difficult, for this and some other reasons, to be exactly ascertained.  The soil is various in different parts of the parish.  At the head of it which borders with the Mearns moor, it is not so good, but in the lower part it is mostly a strong clay soil.  There are upwards of 90 ploughs employed.  The method of improving land here is the [379] same as in Kilmarnock and other neighbouring parishes, mentioned in former volumes, and not insisted on here, with a view to avoid repetition.  There are extensive belts of plantations in different parts of the parish.

Heritors, Town, Schools, Poor, etc

There are 8 larger, and above 100 smaller heritors, who are called portioners, and who mostly reside in the parish.  Mr Cunningham of Lainshaw is patron.  The roof of the church was taken off in 1772, and the walls heightened; it is now well seated, and holds a great number.  The manse was built so far back as 1642, and though it has got some small repairs at different times, is still in a bad condition.  The town of Stewartown may vie with any of its size in the west od Scotland, for beauty, regularity, and cleanness.  It consists of one long and broad street, with a cross one.  It has increased some hundreds, since the present minister was settled, and a great number of new houses have lately been built in it.  The water of Annoch, which takes its rise in the Mearns moor, runs past this town in the form of a semicircle, and empties itself into the sea a little below Irvine.  There are 3 bridges over this water, at equal distances from one another, between the head of the town and the foot of it.  There are 2 tolls in the parish, one on the road to Kilmarnock, the other on the road to Irvine, but none on the road to Glasgow, which was made more than 30 years ago.  There are 2 schools in the country part of the parish, and 3 in the town, in some of which, (besides English), Latin, Greek, French, and book–keeping, are taught.  The salary of the parish schoolmaster is only £100 Scots, out of which he gives 20 merks yearly to the 2 country schools.  But it is expected, as the parish is so numerous and wealthy, it will soon be augmented.  The number of weekly pensioners is 6.  They get 1s.  And there are 20 quarterly, who get [380] according to their necessities.  The yearly collection amounts to £40.  None of the poor in the parish are allowed to beg out of it.  But as the road from Glasgow to Ayr, Irvine, etc, passes through this town, the inhabitants are oppressed with great numbers of strolling poor from Glasgow and the other neighbouring towns.


According to Dr Webster's report, the population then amounted to 2819.  There are belonging to the Church about 2300 souls.  Besides there are some Burghers and Antiburgher Seceders, and a few old Cameronians; but all these sects live in good harmony with the minister and people of the Established Church.  The precise number of the whole cannot be exactly ascertained.  There is 1 surgeon and 1 writer in the town, also from 100 to 130 weavers; but the chief trade in this place, and has been, it is said, for above 100 years, is bonnet making, which employs a great number of hands.  They make also what are called French or Quebec caps.  Besides supplying the country and the Highlands with these articles, large quantities are exported, which turn out to good account; so that it is said they draw £50 weekly in return.  The births, deaths, and marriages, as entered in the parish register, for six years, are as follows:




























35 [2]



Miscellaneous Observations

The people are mostly of the usual size, and some considerably above it.  They are in general a sobe intelligent people, hospitable to strangers, and charitable to the poor, of which several instances could be mentioned.  There have been some instances of longevity in the parish.  A man died some years ago, who was about 103, a lady above 97, and a worthy heritor and elder died lately, who was above 90.  This is a post–town, and has been so for a long time past.  There is a regular arrival and dispatch at and from this every day, for all towns in Britain, and letters come safely here, without having any other post–office written on them.  David Dale, Esq., late one of the magistrates, of Glasgow, was born and educated in this place.  He is well known in the commercial world for the many manufactures he has introduced, and carries on with success.  His piety, humility, and acts of charity, are worthy of imitation.


[1]           Hence it is said, that Loudon in Ayrshire, the Lowmond hills in Fife, and Ben–Lomond in Dumbartonshire, derive their names.

[2]           Beef, mutton, and all other kinds of provision, (except meal), are as dear here as any where in Scotland, and servant's wages are at an extravagant [381] rate, which makes it very difficult for those whose income is stated, and not advanced, to keep a family.  Mutton is from 4½d to 6d the pound.  Beef from 6s to 6s 6d the stone.  Cheese from 7s to 7s 6d the stone.  Butter from 9d to 11d the pound, and other things in proportion.





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