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New Cumnock, Ayrshire

Historical Description

CUMNOCK, NEW, a parish, in the district of KYLE, county of AYR, 6 miles (S. E. by S.) from Old Cumnock; containing, with the villages of Castle, Pathhead, Mansfield, and Afton-Bridgend, 2382 inhabitants. This parish, which was separated from that of Cumnock in the year 1650, is situated at the south-east extremity of the county. It is about twelve miles in length from east to west, and nine in breadth from north to south, and comprises about 75,000 acres, whereof 15,000 are arable, 300 woodland and plantations, and the remainder, of which about 3000 acres might be reclaimed and brought into cultivation, is a very elevated tract of moss. The surface is in general hilly, and towards the south mountainous, but is varied with the two fine valleys of the Nith and the Afton. Of these, the former extends through nearly the whole length of the parish, having a mean elevation of about 500 feet above the sea; and the latter valley, which is about fifty feet higher, intersects the parish from north to south. The highest of the mountains, called Blackcraig, has an elevation of 1600 feet; the Knipe, a little to the south, has an elevation of 1260 feet, and the Corsancone is 870 feet above the level of the river Nith. From all these heights extensive views are obtained of the surrounding districts, and the prospect from the Corsancone is singularly rich and beautiful. The river Nith rises in the south-west of the parish, and after a course of about twelve miles, flows by the base of Corsancone Hill, into the Dumfriesshire parish of Kirkconnell. The river Afton rises near the southern boundary of the parish, and after a course of about eight miles, falls into the Nith near the village. The surface is further diversified by three lakes, little more than half a mile in circumference; they are of no great depth, but abound with perch and pike, and are frequented by varieties of aquatic fowl.

In some parts the soil is of a light gravelly quality, and in others a tenacious clay; but by judicious management and a liberal use of lime, it has been much improved, and a tolerable quantity of unproductive land has been brought into profitable cultivation. The crops are oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, and turnips. Surface-draining is rapidly growing into practice, and all the more recent improvements in husbandry, and in implements of agriculture, have been adopted. Considerable care is bestowed on the management of live stock. About 3500 cows are pastured on the various farms, nearly half of which number are milch-cows, and the value of cheese and butter annually produced is estimated at above £7000. More than 20,000 sheep are fed on the mountain pastures. There is very little wood in the parish; the plantations are chiefly larch and spruce fir, for which the soil appears to be very favourable, and some larches planted on the banks of the Afton have attained a very stately growth. The annual value of real property in the parish is £14,117. The SUBSTRATA are carboniferous limestone, coal, sandstone, and ironstone, and the hills of transition rock and greywacke. The limestone is found in abundance in many parts, occurring in beds of great thickness: it is of excellent quality, and the lime is much used for cement, from its property of acquiring hardness under water; there are several kilns on improved principles, for burning the limestone, and the produce annually is averaged at 200,000 bushels. The coal is likewise very abundant, and of good quality; the quantity annually raised is about 10,000 tons. In the coalfield at Craigman, plumbago is found in irregular masses, embedded in basalt, and has been wrought for a long time. The sandstone is generally of a yellowish-white tint, but of coarse texture, and contains various fossil impressions; the ironstone occurs in detached masses and veins in several parts of the coal formation, but has not yet been worked. The villages are chiefly inhabited by persons employed in agriculture and in the mines and quarries; there is a post-office under that of Old Cumnock, and a library which has a collection of more than a thousand volumes is supported by subscription. A fair for cattle is held on the Thursday before Whitsunday, and considerable business is transacted at it.

For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is in the presbytery of Ayr, synod of Ayr and Glasgow, and in the patronage of the Marquesses of Bute. The minister's stipend is about £212, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £24 per annum. The church, which is situated between the villages of New Cumnock and Afton-Bridgend, is an elegant and substantial structure in the later English style, erected in 1834 by the heritors, and adapted for 1000 persons. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and Reformed Presbyterians. The parochial school affords education to about 100 scholars; the master has a salary of £34, with £50 fees, and a house and garden. On the summit of a knoll are some traces of the ancient castle of Blackbog, of which all the masonry has been removed to furnish materials for building, but of which the fosse may be still distinctly seen. This castle was at one time the residence of the Dunbars of Mochrum, and was frequently visited by Sir William Wallace. On the lands of Sir John Cathcart are also the ruins of an ancient baronial castle, near the source of the river Nith. Upon the farm of Whitehill, an earthen jar was dug up a few years since, containing a great number of small silver coins of Edward I. of England and Alexander of Scotland; they were all in excellent preservation, and about the size of a groat. On the farm of Polquhaise, a tumulus was lately removed, in which a sarcophagus of large stones was found, containing fragments of human bones and a small quantity of black earth.

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