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Carnwath, Lanarkshire

Historical Description

CARNWATH, a parish, in the Upper ward of the county of LANARK; including the villages of Braehead, Forth, Newbigging, and Wilsontown, and containing 3550 inhabitants, of whom 766 are in the village of Carnwath, 26 miles (S. W.) from Edinburgh. This place is supposed to have derived its name from an ancient cairn, situated to the west of the present village, and near a ford (wath in Saxon) across the burn now called Carnwath, which stream, previously to the construction of the bridges, was passable only here. The castle of Cowthalley, in the parish, was for many years the baronial residence of the Sommervilles, one of the most opulent and powerful families of the country in the twelfth centnry, and of whom William, the first baron, was the firm adherent of Robert Bruce during the disputed succession to the crown. It was burnt in one of those inroads of the English which so frequently occurred; but at what time, or by whom, it was rebuilt, is not distinctly recorded. This castle was often the temporary residence of James VI., while pursuing the diversion of hunting, for which the neighbourhood was peculiarly favourable. The foundations only can now be traced, from which it appears to have been a fortress of considerable extent, surrounded by a deep fosse, and accessible by a drawbridge on the western side.

The PARISH is about twelve miles in length, from north to south, and about eight miles in breadth, comprising an area of about 31,750 acres, of which about one-third are in cultivation, upwards of 20,000 acres uncultivated, about 500 acres in wood, and ninety undivided common. Its surface is varied, consisting partly of level and partly of rising grounds, the former having an elevation of 600 feet above the sea, and the latter of 1200 at the highest point; but there are no mountains or detached hills in any part. The principal rivers are the Clyde and the Medwin, which form part of the southern boundary. There are numerous springs of excellent water, affording an abundant supply; and also some possessing mineral properties, which have not attracted much notice. The only lake of any consideration is Whiteloch, to the west of the village: it covers about thirty acres of ground, and is of great depth in some parts; the shores on the south and west are richly wooded, and the surrounding scenery is diversified. In one part of the parish the soil is a strong wet clay; in another, a deep rich loam; and in other parts, light and gravelly, intermixed with portions of moss. The chief crops are barley, oats, potatoes, and turnips, with a little wheat; the rotation system of husbandry is practised, and bone-dust has been extensively introduced as manure, and with much success. Great attention is paid to the management of the dairy, on most of the farms, under the encouragement of the Highland Society of the district; the cheese made is mostly of the Dunlop kind, and the greater part is sent to Edinburgh. The cattle are of the Ayrshire breed; there are but comparatively few sheep, and these are of almost every variety. The annual value of real property in the parish is £14,207.

The SUBSTRATA are principally coal, ironstone, and limestone, all of which are extensively wrought. The coal and limestone are found in superincumbent strata, on the lands north of the rivulet of Dippool; the limestone occurs at a depth of nearly thirty feet from the surface, in seams about six feet thick, and the coal, under it, in seams of about eighteen inches, wrought for burning the lime. On the other side of the Cleugh burn is a very extensive coal-field, reaching to the northern boundary of the parish, and containing an inexhaustible mine: this mine, till within the last fifty or sixty years, was only partially explored; but on the establishment of a company here for the manufacture of iron, a steam-engine was erected for drawing off the water, and mining operations were conducted on a very extended scale. To the west of this district, at Climpy, is another field of coal, which has also been worked by the company. The ironstone is found in strata of various thickness and quality; in some parts occurring in the form of tessellated pavement, and in others in small detached masses.

The village of Carnwath, in the southern part of the parish, is neatly built, and contains several regular streets, with some handsome houses of recent erection, most of the old houses have been much improved in appearance, and the whole has an air of great cheerfulness and comfort. It is inhabited chiefly by persons employed in weaving for the manufacturers of Glasgow and Paisley. A public library is supported by subscription. A weekly market is held, mostly for the sale of meal and barley; and there are fairs in July, for cows and horses, and for hiring servants; in the middle of August, for lambs and young horses; and in October, and also in February, principally for the hiring of farm-servants. On the day after the August fair, a foot-race and various other sports are celebrated. Great facility of intercourse is afforded by the Caledonian railway.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Lanark, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Lockhart family: the minister's stipend is £250. 17. 6., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum. Carnwath church, erected in 1798, and thoroughly repaired in 1833, is a plain neat edifice, adapted for a congregation of about 1100 persons, but almost inaccessible to a great portion of the population. Chapels in connexion with the Established Church have been built at Wilsontown and Climpy, but the latter is fast falling into a state of dilapidation. There is a place of worship for New Light Burghers on the road to Wilsontown, and the parish also contains a place of worship in connexion with the Free Church. The parochial school is well conducted; the master has a salary of £34, with £34 fees, and a house and garden. The ancient cairn from which the parish takes its name is of elliptical form, and on the summit is an opening, from which was a descent by a flight of steps to the bottom. It is surrounded by a deep fosse and high mound, and is supposed to have been formed as a place of security in time of war, and for concealment of treasure. The late Sir N. M. Lockhart planted it with hard-wood trees. Among the few other remains of antiquity in the parish is the beautiful aisle of the old church, which was founded in 1386, and was endowed and made a collegiate church for a principal and six prebendaries in 1424 by Lord Sommerville, who also connected with it a provision for the maintenance of eight poor aged men. The aisle is in good preservation, and displays some interesting details in the decorated English style. It has been the sepulchral chapel of the Sommerville and Dalziel families, and of the Earls of Carnwath, and is now the burying-place of the family of Lockhart. - See WILSONTOWN, &c.

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