AUCHINLECK, a parish, in the district of KYLE, county of AYR, 1½ mile (N. W.) from Old Cumnock; containing 1659 inhabitants, of whom about 600 are in the village. This place, the Celtic name of which is descriptive of its abounding with stone, is supposed to be of considerable antiquity. But little of its history is known prior to the commencement of the sixteenth century, when the manor, which belonged to a family of the same name, becoming forfeited to the crown, was granted by James IV. to Thomas Boswell, a branch of an ancient family in the county of Fife, ancestor of the biographer of Dr. Johnson, and who was killed at the battle of Flodden-field. The parish is about seventeen miles in length, from east to west, and not more than two miles in average breadth, comprising about 19,000 acres, of which 5000 are arable, 300 woodland and plantations, and 13,000 natural pasture and waste. Its surface is generally elevated, and towards the east the hills rise to a height of upwards of 1000 feet. A moss several miles in length called Aird's Moss, nearly in the centre of the parish, gives it a barren appearance. The vale of Glenmore, also, of considerable extent, and in a state of nature, presents features of wild aspect; but the more western portion of the parish, being wholly in cultivation, has an air of cheerfulness and fertility. The river Ayr forms for a small space a boundary between this parish and that of Muirkirk, and pursues its course into the parish of Sorn; while the Lugar, another river, separates Auchinleck for about five miles from Cumnock, and for about two miles from the parish of Ochiltree, and flows into the river Ayr about a mile below this place, near the town of Mauchline.
The SOIL is various, generally a stiff retentive clay, but by draining and good management has in many parts been rendered productive. Some progress has been made in furrow-draining, and a portion of the mossy land has been reclaimed and bronght into cultivation. The chief crops are oats, potatoes, beans, and turnips, and there are a few acres of bear, barley, and wheat. The principal reliance of the farmers is on the dairy. A large number of milch-cows, mostly of the Ayrshire breed, are kept, and a great many young cattle are reared; the milk is chiefly made into cheese of the Dunlop kind, and sent to the markets of Glasgow and other towns. A considerable number of sheep are also fed, of the black-faced breed. The woods contain many fine specimens of stately timber of ancient growth, and the plantations are in general thriving and ornamental. The annual value of real property in the parish is £7497. The substrata are limestone, coal, ironstone, sandstone, and freestone of various sorts. The limestone and coal have been long extensively wrought, and of the former there are two large quarries, one on the lands of Auchinleck, producing annually about 50,000 bushels of excellent quality, and one belonging to the proprietor of Dalblair, yielding also a fair quantity. Near these is an inferior kind of coal, used for burning the lime. Coal-pits have also been opened on the lands of Mr. Alexander of Ballochmyle, on which, as well as on the Auchinleck property, steam-engines have been erected; the seams of coal vary in thickness, and in the depth at which they are found from the surface, and the average annual produce is about 8500 tons. Ironstone likewise abounds in the parish. Freestone, much esteemed for millstones, is quarried on the banks of the Lugar; and at Wallacetown is found a stone which is fire-proof. The present house of Auchinleck is a handsome mansion in the Grecian style, erected by Lord Auchinleck, and is situated in a diversified demesne, comprehending much beautiful scenery, richly wooded.
The village stands on the road from Glasgow to Carlisle, by Kilmarnock, and has a station on the Glasgow, Dumfries, and Carlisle railway. Many of the inhabitants are employed in weaving for the manufacturers of Paisley and Glasgow; the principal articles are light silks and muslins. Some females are also employed in flowering muslins in a variety of patterns, for which this neighbourhood is celebrated. The manufacture of snuff-boxes is carried on to a considerable extent; it was introduced into this place from Cumnock, and the workmen here manufacture card and needle cases, and ornamental boxes of various descriptions. The wood used for this purpose is plane-tree, and many of the specimens are painted in devices, tartan plaiding, and other patterns, and, being well varnished, have a very handsome appearance. They are quite equal in point of workmanship to those made at Laurencekirk, though sold at an inferior price. About sixty dozens are sometimes finished weekly, and sent off, chiefly to the London market, but the demand for them is very fluctuating: the principal manufactory is now at Mauchline. A fair for lambs is held on the last Tuesday in August, and is numerously attended. For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is in the presbytery of Ayr, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of Sir James Boswell, Bart.; the minister's stipend is £161. 1. 11., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum. The old church is an ancient edifice, to which an aisle was added by Lord Auchinleck in 1754; and underneath it is the burying-place of the Auchinleck family, hewn out of the solid rock. A new church has been erected, near the site of the former; it is a substantial and handsome edifice, adapted for a congregation of 800 persons. There is a place of worship for the United Original Seceders. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4½., with £10 fees, and a house and garden. In the grounds of Auchinleck House are some remains of the ancient castle, in a greatly dilapidated condition; and in the upper part of the parish, near the junction of the Gelt and Glenmore streams, are slight remains of the castle of Kyle, the history of which is involved in great uncertainty. On the banks of the Ayr, near the confines of the parish of Muirkirk, are the vestiges of some old ironworks, said to have been established by Lord Cathcart. William Murdoch, of the firm of Boulton and Watt, of Soho, near Birmingham, and who first applied gas for the illumination of buildings, was a native of this parish.
Online maps of Auchinleck are available from a number of sites:
- Bing (Current Ordnance Survey maps).
- Google Streetview.
- National Library of Scotland. (Old maps)
- old-maps.co.uk (Old Ordnance Survey maps to buy).
- Streetmap.co.uk (Current Ordnance Survey maps).
- A Vision of Britain through Time. (Old maps)