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Balfron, Stirlingshire

Historical Description

BALFRON, a parish, in the county of Stirling; containing 1970 inhabitants, of whom 1568 are in the village. It has been supposed by some that this place derived its name, which is said to signify "the town of sorrow" or "mourning", from a dreadful calamity experienced by the original inhabitants, who, having left their children in their tents, and departed to a spot at a short distance for the performance of religious rites, found upon returning that they had been all destroyed by wolves, with which the neighbourhood was infested. Others, however, interpret the name "the town of burns", and imagine that it arose from the situation of the original village, now fallen to decay, at the confluence of two small streams. The parish is eleven miles in length from east to west, and three miles in breadth, comprising 14,080 acres, of which 3320 are under cultivation, 105 in plantations, and the remainder waste. Its surface is diversified with pleasing eminences, on one of which, gently sloping to the south, stands the neatly-built and interesting village, enlivened by the stream of the Endrick, winding through a richly-wooded vale at its foot, and supplying to the lovers of angling an ample stock of trout of a peculiarly fine flavour. The lofty hills called the Lennox fells, rising 1500 feet above the level of the sea, form a singularly striking feature here, bounding the scenery in one direction; and the distant view embraces the Grampian range, presenting to great advantage the majestic Ben-Lomond, with many subordinate yet imposing elevations.

The farms in general are of small size, and the soil, which in some places is light and sandy, but more frequently wet and tilly, is cultivated with much skill. Dairy-farming is a favourite branch of husbandry, and the stock, consisting of the Ayrshire breed, has been very much improved, as has also the stock of sheep, in consequence of the liberal patronage of the Strath-Endrick Agricultural Club. The annual value of real property in the parish is £4704. Limestone is abundant; but it has not been wrought to any extent, through the want of coal for burning it into lime: coal is supposed to exist here, on account of the usual accompanying trap-rocks having been found; but all attempts to discover it have hitherto failed. The ancient mansion of Ballindalloch, in the parish, formerly belonged to the Glencairn family, celebrated in Scottish history, and of whom Alexander, the fifth Earl of Glencairn, was the friend, associate, and patron of John Knox. The population was once entirely rural, and the chief point of interest was the old village with its spreading oak-tree, where the church and burying-ground are situated; but about seventy years since, manufactures were introduced, and a new village quickly sprang up. In 1780 the manufacture of calicoes was commenced, and in 1789 cotton-spinning succeeded, when a mill was erected, known by the name of the Ballindalloch cotton-works, now employing upwards of 250 hands, chiefly females, and driven by a stream supplied by the Endrick, augmented in case of failure by the water of a large reservoir in Dundaff moor. There are between 300 and 400 hand-looms in the village, employing the larger part of the population in making light jaconets and lawns, and all kinds of fancy dresses and shawl patterns: these branches, however, have been for some time greatly depressed. Facility of communication is afforded by good roads that run to Stirling and Glasgow, from which towns Balfron is nearly equidistant, and with which latter the chief communication is carried on. A large cattle-fair is held at Balgair on the last Tuesday in March, and another in the last week in June.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Dumbarton, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Earl of Kinnoull: the minister's stipend is £158. 6. 8., above half of which is paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe of seventeen acres, valued at £25 per annum. Balfron church is a very plain structure, built in 1832, at a cost of £930; it contains 690 sittings, and is conveniently situated in the village, but being remote from the eastern quarter, the minister preaches there once every six weeks in summer, and once a quarter in winter. There are places of worship for the United Presbyterian Synod and United Original Seceders. The parochial school affords instruction in the ordinary branches; the master has a salary of £25, and £10 fees. The parish contains a library of 400 volumes in miscellaneous literature, and one of religious books, consisting of about 150 volumes. This place, with some others, asserts a claim to the honour of being the birthplace of Napier, the inventor of Logarithms.

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