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Bertham-Shotts, Lanarkshire

Historical Description

BERTHAM-SHOTTS, or SHOTTS, a parish, in the Middle ward of the county of Lanark; including the villages of Harthill, Omoa-New-Town, Sallysburgh, and Shotts-Iron-Works; and containing 3861 inhabitants, of whom 751 are in the village of Shotts-Iron-Works, 5 miles (E. by S.) from Holytown. This place is generally supposed to have derived its name from a famous robber called Bartram de Shotts, who in ancient times signalized himself by his depredations, and was eventually killed near the site of the present church. The whole of this extensive parish, except Blair-mucks and Murdostown, belonged to the Hamilton family from the year 1378 to the year 1630, when the Marquess of Hamilton disposed of the larger part of the barony. Not far from the mansion of Murdostown stood the abbey of St. Bertram; but no portion of this ancient establishment is now to be seen. The parish, which was formerly part of that of Bothwell, is nearly a parallelogram in form, and is ten miles long and eight broad, containing 25,434 acres. It is bounded on the north by the North Calder, which separates it from East Monkland and Torphichen; and on the south by the South Calder, which divides it from the parish of Cambusnethan. The surface is in general tolerably level, but in the middle quarter it is diversified by elevations, among which are the Hirst, the Tilling, and the Cant hills. The climate is more than ordinarily salubrious, which induced the celebrated Dr. Cullen, who commenced practice in the parish, to say, that Bertram-Shotts was the Montpelier of Scotland. The rivers connected with the district are the North and the South Calder, with a few small burns not of sufficient importance to demand notice. There is a loch called the Lily, in which common trout and an excellent species of red char are found.

The SOIL is for the most part clayey; on the banks of the rivers a loamy soil prevails. Nearly two-thirds of the land are arable; and the rest, with the exception of a small proportion of wood and common, is unsheltered moor, annually covered with the blossom of the heather-bell. About 1000 acres are in wood, consisting of Scotch fir, spruce, and larch, all of which thrive well; formerly the Scotch fir was the only kind attended to. The cows are in great repute for the superiority of the stock, the improvement of which has been promoted by the establishment of an agricultural society; and the horses, which are of the Clydesdale breed, are famed for their strength and symmetry. Every kind of farming-stock has been greatly improved within the last thirty or forty years; and much waste land has been reclaimed by means of draining and digging, for which two prizes were some time since awarded to two gentlemen in the parish by the Highland Society of Scotland. The state of the farm-houses is generally below that of buildings of this class in parishes where agricultural improvement has made much progress, but they are far better than formerly, and are undergoing a gradual change, several of them now being equal to almost any in Scotland. The annual value of real property in the parish is £19,910. The parish forms a portion of the great coalfield of Lanarkshire, and its carboniferous and mineralogical productions are extensive and various, the two grand general divisions of its subterraneous contents being the igneous and the sedimentary rocks. The northern half of the land consists almost entirely of the trap, or common greenstone; the other half is the coalbed, which consists of the splint coal, the parrot or cannel coal, the smithy coal, and the Shotts-Iron-Works first and second coal. In some parts is a very fine iron-stone, above the coal, and in others, a considerable quantity of limestone, lying at a great depth beneath the coal, with a succession of 147 different strata between them. There is an abundant supply of fire-clay of various kinds in the carboniferous division of the parish, lying over the coal, and large quantities of it are used for making bricks for blast and air furnaces; one of the strata has been wrought for a considerable period, and is several feet in thickness, though the portion which is worked, in the middle of the stratum, is not more than about three feet deep.

The parish contains two iron-works, one of which, in the south-eastern quarter, designated Shotts-Works, is not only adapted for the smelting of iron-ore, for which there are three furnaces, but has connected with it an extensive foundry, and a large establishment where steam-engines of a superior kind for both land and water are constructed. At the other establishment, called the Omoa Iron-Works, situated in the south-west part of the parish, three furnaces are also in effective operation. These works, which together employ about 1400 or 1500 persons, have contributed to a large increase in the population; and by the circulation of several hundreds of pounds weekly in the form of wages, great changes and improvements have taken place in the general appearance of the neighbourhood, particularly through the formation of roads and the cultivation of the land. Among the principal residences are, Murdostown House, belonging to Sir T. Inglis Cochrane; Easter Moffat, a handsome modern edifice in the Elizabethan style; Shotts House; Craighead House, belonging to D. C. R. C. Buchanan, Esq.; and Fortissat. Sub-post-offices have been established at the villages of Sallysburgh and Shotts-Works. There are annual fairs, chiefly for the sale of horses and cattle, on the third Tuesday in June and November (O. S.), both of ancient date, being held by a warrant granted by James II. in 1685 to the Duke of Hamilton. The parish is intersected in the centre by the south road from Edinburgh to Glasgow, the most ancient road between those two cities.

For ecclesiastical purposes, Shotts is within the bounds of the presbytery of Hamilton, synod of Glasgow and Ayr. The patronage belongs to the Duke of Hamilton, and the minister's stipend is £267. 11., with a substantial and commodious manse built in 1838, and a glebe of nearly forty-four acres, in which are two seams of coal. The church, the position of which is central, occupies an elevated site; it was built in 1820, and has 1200 free sittings. There is a place of worship belonging to the United Original Seceders. The parochial school affords instruction in the classics, with the usual branches of education; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., about £28 fees, and a house. Belonging to the Shotts iron-works is also a school. Another, called Murdostown school, has an endowment of £19 per annum, assigned by Sir Thomas Inglis; Harthill school was endowed by the late James Wilson, Esq., with £500, and another is supported by Mrs. Robert Haldane. There are two circulating libraries, in one of which, at the Shotts works, the collection of books is very superior; and the poor have the benefit of a bequest of £500, left by Thomas Mitchell, a native of the place. Gavin Hamilton, the historical painter; John Miller, professor of law in the University of Glasgow, well known to the literary world by several learned publications, and who was buried at Blantyre, not far from Shotts; and Dr. Matthew Baillie, physician to George III., and brother of Joanna Baillie the authoress, were all natives of the parish. The Rev. James Baillie, father of Dr. Matthew Baillie, was minister of Shotts.

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