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Coylton, Ayrshire

Historical Description

COYLTON, a parish, in the county of AYR, 5 miles (S. E.) from Ayr; containing, with the villages of Craighall, Gadgirth-holm and Bankfoot, Joppa, and Knockshaggle-holm, 1484 inhabitants. This place, the name of which is of uncertain derivation, was augmented about the beginning of the eighteenth century by the quoad sacra annexation of a portion of land, lying on the north and cast sides of the river Coyl, and then included in the parish of Ochiltree. It measures twelve miles in extreme length, and nearly two in average breadth, and comprises 11,515 acres, of which more than 8000 are cultivated, nearly 800 in wood, consisting chiefly of forest-trees, and the remainder in pasture. The river Ayr flows for nearly four miles along its north-west boundary, separating it from Tarbolton and St. Quivox; and from this stream the surface rises south-eastward, in a series of undulations, to the heights called the Craigs of Coyl, attaining an elevation of 750 feet above the level of the sea. After this, the land advances to a loftier ridge, forming the boundary line in this direction, and commanding, from an elevation of 1100 feet, an extensive and richly diversified prospect on all sides. The scenery is much improved by the lochs of Martnaham, Fergus, and Snipe, which are partly in the parish. Of these, the first-mentioned, partly in the parish of Dalrymple, is a mile and a half long and about a furlong broad, abounding in pike, perch, and eels, and much frequented by wild-ducks, geese, widgeoo, teal, and other water-fowl. Loch Fergus, a fine piece of water extending over about twenty-five acres, contains a well-wooded island, said to have been in ancient times the seat of a monastery; and is supposed by some to have taken its name from King Fergus, who defeated Coilus, king of the Britons, in the adjacent fields. There is also a lake called Loch End, covering about three acres; and in most of the lakes fish of the usual kinds are found, as well as in the rivers, which are also well stocked with yellow trout. The river Coyl, which rises in the parish, displays a beautiful cascade in the vicinity of Sundrum Castle, where the river is about twenty-five feet wide; the fall is about thirteen feet in depth, and on the swelling of the stream is greatly increased in its picturesque effect.

The SOIL in general is a retentive clay, producing chiefly oats, but wheat and barley are also grown, and beans, potatoes, turnips, and the various grasses. The husbandry of the parish is not so much advanced as that of many other parts, but improvements are in progress, especially furrow-draining, and subsoil ploughing is practised to a limited extent. The dairy is much regarded; and what is called Dunlop cheese is made in large quantities, frequently of excellent quality, and, with the butter, milk, and other dairy produce, is relied on for the payment of nearly half the rent. The cattle are mostly of the pure Ayrshire breed, but a few of the West Highland or Galloway are kept on the higher grounds; the sheep were formerly the black-faced, but these, for several years, have been crossed with the Cheviots, and the latter stock now generally prevails. The annual value of real property in Coylton is £8144. The working of the subterraneous contents of the parish occupies a considerable portion of the manual labour of the district. Coal, limestone, ironstone, plumbago, clay-slate, basalt, several varieties of freestone, and fire-clay are all found here; and several of them are wrought to some extent. Three coal-mines, a limestone-quarry, and three quarries of sandstone are in operation; and black-lead obtained from this part supplied an article of traffic for many years, but its quality not allowing a competition with the Cumberland and foreign lead, the mine has been abandoned. Clay-slate, celebrated for sharpening iron instruments, was also once extensively quarried; but the material being found in abundance, and of superior quality, in the adjoining parish of Stair, the works have been discontinued. The value of the mineral produce is averaged at £6000 annually. The plantations are chiefly in the lower part of the parish, and, being in a thriving condition, especially in the vicinity of the rivers, add greatly to the agreeable character of the scenery; they are mostly of larch and Scotch fir, but oak, beech, ash, elm, birch, and several other kinds are plentiful.

The mansion of Sundrum, pleasantly situated on the bank of the Coyl, and commanding extensive views, is partly ancient and partly modern; the old walls are in some portions twelve feet thick, and have castellated summits. Gadgirth House, another seat, is a plain oblong modern structure, on the bank of the Ayr river; it occupies the site of Gadgirth Castle, once a place of note, and the residence of the family of Chalmers, who, being friendly to the Reformation, warmly patronized the celebrated John Knox, and allowed him to preach in the castle. The great road from Ayr to Dumfries, through Nithsdale, traverses the centre of the parish. Coylton is ecclesiastically in the presbytery of Ayr, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Crown; the minister's stipend is £254. 8. 4., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £12 per annum. The old church, the ruin of which is still partly standing, belonged in ancient times to the bishopric of Glasgow; the present edifice, which is small but handsome, was built in 1836, and is a cruciform structure, with a square tower sixty feet high, containing a good bell. The parochial school affords instruction in the ordinary branches, the classics, and mathematics; the master has a salary of £30, with a house, and £20 fees. A few years since, several silver coins of the reigns of Elizabeth, James VI., and Charles I., were dug up. The Rev. John Black, LL.D., author of the Life of Tasso, and who died in the year 1825, was minister of Coylton for fifteen years; he was a native of the parish of Douglas, in the county of Lanark.

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