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Dalserf, Lanarkshire

Historical Description

DALSERF, a parish, in the Middle ward of the county of LANARK; including the villages of Millheugh, Larkhall, and Rosebank, and containing 3205 inhabitants, of whom 112 are in the village of Dalserf, 7 miles (S. E. by E.) from Hamilton. This place has been supposed to derive its name from the Gaelic Dal, signifying "a holm" or "flat field", and Sarf, "a serpent", making together the term "the field of serpents". The parish was anciently called Machanshire, but assumed the name of Dalserf, as is generally thought, about the time of the Reformation, through the removal of the church from the former site, at Chapelburn, to a new site on the banks of the Clyde. It was originally an appendage and chapelry to Cadzow, now Hamilton, parish, and during a long period was the property of the crown. The celebrated family of the Cumyns had for some time possession of it; but it reverted to the crown in the reign of Baliol, and in 1312 Robert Bruce made a grant of it to Sir Walter, son of Gilbert, ancestor of the Hamilton family, who have retained the principal estates in the parish to the present time. In the fourteenth century the district was made a barony, called the barony of Machane or Machanshire. The Hamiltons prominently appear in Scottish history; they warmly espoused the cause of Mary, Queen of Scots, and several of them were engaged in her wars, and afterwards suffered severely for the part they had taken in them.

The PARISH is six miles and a half in extreme length, and varies in breadth from two miles to four and a half, containing 7219 acres. It is bounded on the east and north-east by the river Clyde, and on the west and the south-west by the Avon and the Cander respectively. In the centre of the parish the surface is tolerably level; but on the east towards the Clyde, and on the west towards the Avon, the fall is considerable, and in many places somewhat abrupt: the slope towards the north is continuous, and far more gradual than the falls on the eastern and western sides. The view on the north and north-west is terminated by the Campsie hills and the mountains of Dumbartonshire and Argyllshire; the view on the south is bounded by Tinto, of which, with its circumjacent scenery, a very fine prospect may be had from the high lands in this parish. Large numbers of pheasants and woodcocks, and some black-cocks, are to be seen here; and at the close of autumn, many flocks of plovers from the moorlands visit the wheat-fields. The chief rivers are the Clyde and the Avon; the Cander, which is the next in size, falls into the Avon, and gives the name of the district of Cander to that part of the parish inclosed by it, where there are some superior farms. Numerous burns rise in the parish, and breaking forth from the high ridge on the western side of the river Clyde, dash in many places with great impetuosity over the abrupt sandstone rocks, making several beautiful cascades. After this they run on till they fall into the Clyde river. The ravines formed by these waterfalls, which are swollen in some parts of the year and frequently dry in others, are clothed with foliage, and stretching across the country obliquely to the two great rivers, diversify the scenery, and add considerably to the striking views on the Clyde. The river Avon, also, has clusters of verdant knolls and many clumps of rich plantation on its precipitous sides. The principal streams contain salmon, trout, salmon-fry, and par, which, however, bear at present no proportion to their former numbers, owing to the machinery erected on the banks of the Clyde, from which the residuum of chemical and dyeing operations runs into the waters; the drainage of lime manure from contiguous lands; and other causes.

The SOIL varies considerably throughout the parish. The low ground in the neighbourhood of the rivers is mostly rich alluvial deposit, consisting chiefly of sand and mud of great depth, resting upon a subsoil of sand and gravel. In the higher lands near the Glasgow and Carlisle road, and above the village of Dalserf, which stands about 120 feet above the level of the sea, the soil is a strong heavy clay, lying upon a compact tenacious subsoil of till. In some places are strips of sandy earth; and in others, especially near the Avon, the grounds are chiefly loam. The southern part contains a few acres of moss; but, with this exception, the whole parish is cultivated. The chief crops are wheat and oats, the soil in general not being considered suited to green crops, though in some parts very good potatoes, turnips, carrots, and beet-root are produced. Great attention is paid to dairy-farming; the cows are chiefly of the Ayrshire breed, and about 500 are kept. Much competition exists in the improvement of every description of live stock, for which premiums have been awarded to some of the farmers by the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland. The cultivation of orchards also forms an important part of the rural occupations, the parish being situated in about the centre of the great range of fruit plantations in Clydesdale. A few acres of fruit-trees are cultivated on the banks of the Avon; but the chief plantations are near the Clyde, among the acclivities overlooking the river, which are too abrupt and rugged to admit the approach of the plough. Apples, pears, and plums of every kind grow luxuriantly, the plum range, however, only extending a distance of three or four miles along the river. The annual value of real property in the parish is £7704. The rocks consist of sandstone and freestone, of the latter of which several excellent quarries are wrought. Large quantities of coal, also, are obtained in every direction, the district forming a part of the great coal basin stretching from near Glasgow in the north, for a distance of about thirty miles, to the water of Douglas in the south. The produce of the collieries, some years ago, was about 16,000 tons annually, but it is now much more considerable.

The chief mansions are Dalserf, Millburn, and Broomhill, all of which are respectable structures, standing in the midst of beautiful scenery. The villages are considerable, and together contain about two-thirds of the population of the parish. Some of the inhabitants are engaged in the manufacture of cotton, the weaving of which is superintended by agents employed by Glasgow firms; and many females are occupied in the manufacture of lace, for the houses at Hamilton. Among the roads that intersect the parish are, one from Glasgow to Carlisle, another from Glasgow to Lanark, and a third from Edinburgh to Ayr, which crosses the river Clyde at Garion Bridge. For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Hamilton, synod of Glasgow and Ayr. The stipend averages about £264, and the Duke of Hamilton is patron: there is an old manse, with a glebe worth £37. 10. per annum. Dalserf church, which is beautifully though somewhat inconveniently situated on the bank of the Clyde, was built in 1655, and repaired in 1721; it contains 550 sittings. There are two parochial schools, one of which is in the village of Dalserf, and the other at Larkhall; the classics, mathematics, French, with all the usual branches of education, are taught, and the master of the Dalserf school has a salary of £34, with a house and garden. A good subscription library has been established at Larkhall, and another at Dalserf with 120 volumes. The chief relics of antiquity are two tumuli, in one of which, situated at Dalpatrick, some workmen a few years ago found a stone coffin, about two feet and a half long and a foot and a half wide, in which was deposited an urn containing a human jaw with the teeth, and other bones. Another urn was also found, of very superior materials and construction, near which was a lamp of baked clay. The remains of mounds with fortifications, and cairns, may still be faintly traced; and some years ago an earthen pot was dug up at Millheugh, containing coins of Elizabeth, James I., and Charles I. There are several chalybeate springs, and one or two springs impregnated with sulphur.

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