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Colvend and Southwick, Kirkcudbrightshire

Historical Description

COLVEND and SOUTHWICK, a parish, in the stewartry of KIRKCUDBRIGHT; containing 1495 inhabitants, of whom 875 are in Colvend, 18 miles (E.) from Dumfries. The former of these places is supposed to have derived its name from John de Culwen, its proprietor in the fifteenth century; and the latter from the position of its ancient church, now in ruins, with reference to a small river that flows through the parish into Solway Firth. After the dilapidation of the church of Southwick, that parish was annexed to Colvend, with which it has been united from the time of the Reformation. In old records Southwick is spelled Siddick, The united parish extends about eight miles from north-east to south-west, and is partly bounded on the south-east by the Solway Firth; the breadth of the parish is nearly four miles, and the river Urr forms its south-western limit. The surface is extremely irregular, and is so broken into detached portions by intervening masses of rock and impenetrable copses of furze and briars, as to render it impracticable to ascertain, with any degree of correctness, the probable number of acres under cultivation. In some parts the ground rises into hills of moderate height, and in other parts into mountainous elevation, forming towards the north a chain of heights skirting the lofty and conspicuous mountain of Criffel. For nearly two miles along the eastern coast the surface is tolerably level, and divided into several fields of good arable land. The coast is bold and rocky, and in many places presents lofty and precipitous cliffs, which overhang the Firth, and from which, at low water, the sea retires, leaving a broad tract of level sands: in the crevices of these rocks is found abundance of samphire, and considerable quantities of it are collected with great hazard. The Firth is about nine leagues in breadth at this place; the river Urr is navigable for eight miles from it, for vessels of not more than eighty tons, and the Southwick burn, which is not navigable, joins the Firth on the boundary of the parish. A salmon-fishery is carried on upon a small scale, and during the season smelts are also found; cod is taken with lines during the winter, and in the year 1834 flounders were taken in such numbers that cart-loads were distributed throughout the neighbouring parishes.

In general the SOIL is a thin light loam, and, though warm and fertile, better adapted for pasture than for tillage; the chief crops are oats and barley, with potatoes, turnips, and clover. The system of agriculture is improved, and much of the previously unprofitable waste land has been reclaimed. The cattle are principally of the Galloway breed; the sheep are the black-faced, and about a thousand of that kind are pastured on the hills. The annual value of real property in the parish is £6006. On the estates of Fairgirth and Barnhourie are considerable tracts of ancient wood; and the plantations, of more modern date, are also extensive, and consist chiefly of oak and Scotch fir, both which are in a thriving state. The prevailing rocks are granite, of which there are quarries; stone of good quality for millstones is also raised, and there are evident indications of copper and iron, but no attempt has yet been made to work either of the veins. At the mouth of the river Urr small vessels are built, and there is a landing-place for unloading cargoes of lime and other articles, and for shipping the agricultural produce to Liverpool, Glasgow, and other ports.

Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery and synod of Dumfries. The minister's stipend is £234. 14. 6., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum; joint patrons, the Crown and the Duke of Buccleuch. The church is a plain structure, erected in 1771, and inadequate to the population. Parochial schools are supported at Colvend and Southwick, the masters of which have each a salary of £26. 13.; the former receives fees averaging £15, and the latter has a house and garden, with fees amounting to £36. There are numerous caverns on the shore, and in one of them, about 120 yards in length, is a well twenty-two feet deep, into which a piper is supposed to have fallen while attempting to explore the interior of the cavern. Near it is a detached portion of rock, formed naturally into an arch forty feet in height, called the Needle's Eye. In one of the clefts of the rocks is a strong chalybeate spring. At Auchenskeoch, in Southwick, are the remains of a large castellated building of which the history is unknown. In the Colvend portion of the united parish, at the mouth of the river Urr, are vestiges of what appears to have been a place of defence, called the Castlehill of Barclay, with a ditch round it on the side next the land, and on the other a precipice descending into the sea: and about a mile up the river, at a place called the Moat of the Mark, are the remains of a vitrified fort, where some fine specimens of vitrified granite are sometimes dug up.

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