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Douglas, Lanarkshire

Historical Description

DOUGLAS, a market-town and parish, in the Upper ward of the county of Lanark; including the village of Uddington, and containing 2467 inhabitants, of whom 1313 are in the town of Douglas, 5 miles (S. S. E.) from Crawfordjohn, and 40½ (S. W. by S.) from Edinburgh. This place derives its name from the ancient and renowned family of Douglas, to whose ancestor Theobald, by birth a Fleming, Arnold, abbot of Kelso, gave a large tract of land about the middle of the twelfth century. William, son of Theobald, appears as a witness to various charters granted towards the close of the same century; and in 1289 his descendant, William Douglas, was one of the Scottish barons who signed an address to Edward I. of England, on behalf of their countrymen. During the protracted warfare between England and Scotland in the reign of that monarch, Douglas Castle, which was strongly fortified, and commanded the entrance to the western counties, was an object of continual dispute between the contending parties. It frequently fell into the hands of the English, from whom it was as frequently retaken by its original proprietors. On one occasion it was taken from Sir John De Walton, its occupier for the English, by Sir James Douglas, who, having assembled a strong retinue of his friends, entered the town on Palm-Sunday, while part of the garrison were at church, and attacking them as they came out, put them to the sword, and immediately advancing to the castle, made himself master of the place. The castle, exposed to repeated assaults, was of very precarious tenure, and, from the difficulty of maintaining possession, was distinguished by the appellation of the Castle of Danger. It was often destroyed, and more than once by fire; but it was always restored in greater splendour. On the death of the Duke of Douglas without issue in the year 176O, arose the famous law plea known by the name of the Douglas Cause, which was at length decided by the house of peers in favour of Archibald, son of Sir John Stewart of Grandtully, by Lady Jane Douglas, the duke's sister. Thus the estates of the family were vested in the duke's nephew; and in 1790 the title was revived by the elevation of that gentleman to the peerage, by the title of Baron Douglas of Douglas.

The PARISH is situated near the south-western extremity of the county, and is about twelve miles in length, and from four to seven miles in breadth, comprising 35,318 acres, of which about 5000 are arable, 28,000 pasture, 2000 wood, and 400 waste land and moss. The Douglas river intersects the parish, flowing through a valley that increases in breadth as it approaches the river Clyde, into which the Douglas discharges itself, after receiving in its course numerous tributary streams. On both sides of the valley the ground rises to a considerable elevation, forming in some parts a succession of hills that terminate towards the west in the Cairntable mountain, whose summit is 1650 feet above the level of the sea, and at the base of which the Douglas has its source. The heights on each side of the river are embellished with ornamental plantations; and in various parts of the parish are extensive woods of ancient and luxuriant growth, especially near Douglas Castle, in the grounds of which are some ash and plane trees of large dimensions. The soil is generally fertile in the vale; in other parts lighter and gravelly, and in some a stiff clay: the moors afford fine sheep-walks, and in many places consist of rich black loam. The grain crops are oats, barley, and bear, with occasionally wheat, the cultivation of which has been introduced with success, but on a very small scale; and turnips and potatoes, for which the soil is favourable, are raised in large quantities. The pastures are extensive and rich, and numbers of sheep are reared, to the improvement of which much attention is paid; the average number exceeds 25,000, chiefly of the black-faced breed, which has been brought to great perfection. There are numerous dairy-farms, producing cheese and butter of superior quality; the cows are the Ayrshire, numbering about 500, and about the same number of black-cattle are fed. In this parish are some quarries of freestone of excellent quality for building; it is of a fine white colour, and is much admired. Limestone is also prevalent, and is quarried for agricultural and other purposes: coal is very abundant, and numerous mines have been opened, affording supplies of fuel to the places situated to the south and east, and giving employment to a great number of the population. Ironstone is found in several parts of the parish, though not worked; and in others its prevalence may be inferred from the property of many of the springs, which are strongly impregnated with iron. Great advances have been made in draining and inclosing the lands, and the annual value of real property in the parish is now £11,013.

Douglas Castle, the seat of Lord Douglas, is beautifully situated in grounds that were very much improved by a late proprietor. The castle, which was partly rebuilt after being destroyed by an accidental fire, has not, though a splendid seat in its present state, been completed according to the original plan designed by Mr. Adam. One wing only has been finished; and from the dimensions of this, which contains more than fifty apartments, some of them magnificent, the whole would have formed one of the most extensive residences in the kingdom. The scene of Castle-Dangerous, the last novel of Sir Walter Scott, was laid here. The other gentlemen's seats in the parish are Carmacoup, Spring Hill, and Crossburn House, an elegant villa, the grounds of which are tastefully disposed. The town or village is of great antiquity, and at one time was of some importance. As the head of the barony, it had a charter of incorporation giving to its magistrates many privileges, among which was the power of jurisdiction in capital offences; and to the east of the town is an eminence called Gallow Hill, formerly the place for the execution of criminals. The streets are narrow, and most of the houses are of ancient date, and apparently built for defence against the frequent incursions of an enemy; the walls are massive, and the windows few and small, presenting a forbidding and gloomy appearance. Several houses of a more airy construction have of late years been built. There is a subscription library, which at present contains more than 1000 volumes, and is rapidly increasing. A cottonfactory was established here in 1792 by a company from Glasgow, which after a few years declined; but many of the inhabitants are still employed in weaving cotton for the manufacturers of that city, with handlooms in their own dwellings. The market is held on Friday, and there are seven fairs, which are well attended. In 1847 an act of parliament was passed, authorizing the Caledonian railway company to make a branch from their Clydesdale junction line to the Douglas mineral field. The road from Edinburgh to Ayr, and that from Glasgow to London, both pass through the parish, and the former through the town. In respect of trade, the town is at present little more than a village for the residence of persons employed in weaving, and other mechanical occupations.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Lanark, synod of Glasgow and Ayr: patron. Lord Douglas. The stipend of the incumbent is about £250; the manse is a handsome residence, built in 1828, and pleasantly situated in grounds well laid out, and the glebe, which is extensive, comprises some valuable land. Of the ancient church, which appears to have been a very stately and elegant structure, little more remains than the sepulchral chapel of the Douglas family, with a small spire. The chapel contains many monuments, which, though much mutilated and defaced by Cromwell's soldiers, still display features of exquisite sculpture. Among them is the monument of Sir James Douglas, the firm adherent and friend of Robert Bruce, who fell in combat in Spain, and whose remains were conveyed by his companions in arms for interment in the church of his native place. It is of dark-coloured stone, and bears the recumbent figure of a knight armed cap-à-pie, with the legs crossed, in reference to his having been on a crusade to the Holy Land. There is also a monument to Archibald Douglas, Duke of Touraine, which appears to have been of elaborate workmanship; and in a niche is a table-monument to James Douglas, Duke of Touraine, with two recumbent figures, and ornamented with ten figures in basso-relievo beneath. The present church, a comparatively modern building, is not sufficiently spacious for the accommodation of the parishioners: underneath it is a vault in which are deposited the remains of numerous members of the Douglas family, for which the ancient sepulchral chapel afforded no room. The parochial school is well attended; the master has the maximum salary, with an excellent dwelling-house and garden, and the fees amount to about £60. Near the base of Cairntable mountain are the remains of a fortified post, probably occupied by the Douglases during their repeated attempts to surprise the English garrisons that so frequently held possession of Douglas Castle; and within a mile of the castle are the remains of a stronghold called Tothorl Castle, supposed to have been thrown up by Sir Richard de Thirlwall, who was lieutenant-governor of Douglas under Sir Robert de Clifford. Within the castle-grounds is a mound designated Boncastle, near which has been found an urn, with a great number of human bones, a ring of pure gold of great weight, the head of a spear, and various other relics of antiquity. There are also several cairns in the parish. Among the natives of this place most distinguished for literary attainments, was Dr. John Black, author of the Life of Tasso and other works.

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