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Avondale, Lanarkshire

Historical Description

AVONDALE, a parish, in the Middle ward of the county of Lanark; containing, with the market-town of Strathaven, 6180 inhabitants. The proper name of this parish, which, from its including the market-town, has been called sometimes Strathaven, and by contraction Straven, is Avondale, an appellation derived from its position on the river Avon, by which it is divided into two nearly equal parts. The barony of Avondale was anciently the property of the Baird family, and subsequently belonged to the Earl of Douglas, on whose forfeiture in 1455 it was granted by James III. to Andrew Stewart, whom he created Lord Avondale, and who exchanged it for the barony of Ochiltree with Sir James Hamilton, in whose family it has ever since remained. The place has derived some historical celebrity from the defeat of the troops under General Claverhouse, at Drumclog, by a congregation of Covenanters who had assembled there for public worship on Sunday, the 1st of June, 1679, and, anticipating an attack by the former, who were stationed at Strathaven, had provided themselves with arras for their defence. On the approach of Claverhouse with his dragoons, the armed part of the congregation went forward to meet him, and taking post on soft level ground, having before them a rivulet, over which the general had to pass, and of which the bank was from its softness impassable to the cavalry, defeated his forces with considerable loss, the general himself escaping with difficulty. In 1820, the place was disturbed by a few rioters (old men and boys) under the command of James Wilson, who, upon false intelligence that a rebellion against the government had broken out in Glasgow, marched thither to join the insurgents; but they were instantly dispersed, and their leader, who was made prisoner, was brought to the scaffold, and suffered the penalty of his folly. The parish comprises about 32,000 acres, of which 15,000 are arable, and the remainder, with the exception of some tracts of moss and marsh land, formerly more extensive, is in pasture. Its surface is generally level, rising gently from the banks of the river towards the south and west, and partially intersected with ridges and small hills, the highest of which, situated towards the borders of Ayrshire, scarcely attain an elevation of more than 900 feet above the sea. Of these the most prominent are Kype's rigg, and Hawkwood and Dungivel hills, with the picturesque but smaller eminences of Floors hills and Kirkhill. The Avon, which rises on the confines of Ayrshire, in its course through the parish receives numerous tributary streams, the chief being the Cadder and Pomilion on the north, and the Givel, the Lochan, and the Kype on the south: the waters of the Kype, about a mile south of the town, are precipitated from a height of nearly fifty feet, forming an interesting fall. In all these streams trout is abundant. Salmon were formerly found in the Avon, even at its source; but latterly their progress upward has been intercepted. The scenery of the parish, though destitute of ornamental wood, is pleasiugly varied, and in many parts picturesque.

The soil is generally fertile. The crops comprise oats and barley, with some wheat; potatoes are also raised in great quantities, and are sold for seed; but though the soil is extremely favourable for turnips, they are not much cultivated. There are numerous dairy-farms, and the pastures throughout the parish are luxuriant; great numbers of cows, principally of the Ayrshire breed, are pastured here, and there are at present not less than 2000 acres of undivided common. The Clydesdale breed of horses is reared here in considerable numbers. Many improvements have been made in draining; and the whole of Strathaven moss, comprising above 200 acres of unprofitable land, has been reclaimed, affording more valuable crops than any other portion of the parish. The parish is capable of very great improvement: by judicious draining, and inclosing with hedge-rows and belts of planting, not only would its aspect be improved, but in twenty years the rental might be doubled. A tile-work has been built at Drumelog within the last few years. The annual value of real property in the parish is £24,785. Whinstone abounds, as does also ironstone; and limestone is found in several parts, and burnt for agricultural purposes: coal is also found in the neighbourhood of the limekilns, in considerable quantity, and of a quality sufficient for burning the lime, but not adapted to household use. The moors abound with grouse and other game, and the Duke of Hamilton has an extensive tract of pasture land for sheep, which is kept for grouse shooting; partridges are also numerous in the lower lands, and plovers and wild ducks are every where abundant. Besides the two turnpike-roads leading westward towards Ayr and Muirkirk, there are parish roads with the necessary bridges, to the extent of sixty miles, all in good repair: the bridges, however, are in general too narrow.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Hamilton, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Duke of Hamilton. The minister's stipend is £305. 2. 6., with a manse, and the glebe is valued at £24 per annum. There is also an assistant minister, appointed by his grace, to whom a stipend of 500 marks is paid, according to the will of the late "good Duchess Anne"; he visits the sick, and catechises the parishioners. The church, erected in 1772, is a plain edifice with an unfinished spire, adapted for a congregation of 800 persons. Under the auspices of the present minister, an additional church has been erected for 900 persons, at an expense of £1400, to which a district called East Strathaven has been assigned, and which is supplied by a minister appointed by the congregation. There are places of worship for the United Presbyterian Synod. The parochial school affords an efficient education; the master's salary is £34. 4. 4., with £36 from fees, and a good house and garden. There is also a parochial school for East Strathaven. Some remains of a Roman road may be traced on the south side of the river Avon, passing by the farm of Walesley; and on the lands of Gennerhill, small coins and Roman sandals have been discovered. Roman coins have also been found on the lands of Torfoot, near Loudoun hill, supposed to have been in the line of the Romans, in their route through the Caledonian forest, towards the western coast.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis