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Dunlop, Ayrshire

Historical Description

DUNLOP, a parish, chiefly in the district of Cunninghame, county of Ayr, and partly in the Upper ward of the county of Renfrew, 2½ miles (N. N. W.) from Stewarton; containing 1150 inhabitants. This place derives its name, signifying in the Gaelic language a "winding hill", from the situation of its ancient castle on the summit of a hill, whose base was surrounded by a small river. The parish is about seven miles in length, and two in average breadth, comprising 6554 acres, of which 5834 are arable, 130 woodland and plantations, and the remainder hill pasture, moss, and waste. Its surface is gently undulated, and though rather elevated, in no part attains a height of more than 150 feet above the level of the sea. The highest hills are those of Craignaught and Knockmead, towards the northeast, which command some pleasing and richly varied prospects over the adjacent country. From Bruckenheugh, about a mile to the south of the church, the view embraces the wooded district between this parish and the sea, the shores of the Firth of Clyde and their numerous bays and promontories, the lofty mountains of Arran, with Ailsa Craig and the hills of Ireland in the distance. There are many springs of excellent water, and the lands are intersected with various streams, the principal of which is the Lugton; it has its source in Loch Libo, in Renfrewshire, and after a course of about fifteen miles, in which it forms a boundary between this parish and that of Beith, flows into the river Garnock near Kilwinning. The Glassert burn runs through the centre of the parish (dividing it into two equal parts), and, receiving several streamlets in its course, falls into the Annack. Corsehill burn is also a small stream, separating the parish from that of Stewarton. The Lugton abounds with trout and pike; trout are also found in the other streams, and in the Glassert char used formerly to be taken in abundance, but they have now totally disappeared. Halket loch, covering about ten acres, has been drained within the last few years, and is now a luxuriant meadow.

The SOIL is generally of a clayey retentive quality, but fertile, and under proper management very productive; in the southern parts of the parish a rich loam is prevalent, and in the higher lands are some patches of moss. The principal crop is oats; barley and bear are raised for home consumption, with a few acres of wheat, and also small quantities of potatoes and turnips, for which, however, the soil is not well adapted. The system of agriculture is improving; the rotation plan of husbandry is adopted, and the draining of the lands, hitherto much neglected, is now becoming general. The dairy-farms are the chief objects of attention with the farmers, and the cheese produced has long been distinguished for its quality. It differs from other kinds mainly in its being made of unskimmed milk, a practice originally introduced here by Barbara Gilmour, from which circumstance all cheese made in a similar manner has obtained the distinctive appellation of Dunlop cheese. About 25,000 stone are annually produced in the parish, and find a ready sale in the various markets. Great attention is paid to the rearing of live-stock; the cattle are all of the Ayrshire or Cunninghame breed, and the sheep generally the Leicestershire: about 900 milch-cows are kept for the dairy. The annual value of real property in the parish is £8493. There are no natural woods; the plantations consist of larch, Scotch fir, ash, elm, beech, and plane, and on the larger properties they are well attended to, and are in a flourishing state. In this parish the substrata are, claystone passing into porphyry and amygdaloid, with occasional masses of greenstone and basalt; limestone, sandstone, and coal. The limestone, which abounds with petrified shells, has long been quarried at Laigh-Gameshill; it occurs in seams about sixteen feet in thickness, and being of excellent quality about 5000 bolls are annually raised, part of which is burnt on the spot. Limestone is also wrought in other parts of the parish, but to a comparatively small extent. The coal, of which a few cart-loads were removed, was found to be of so inferior a quality that it was not thought advisable to continue the working of it. The greenstone and freestone have been quarried in several places for building purposes, for making dykes for inclosing the lands, and also to furnish materials for the furrow-drains.

Dunlop House, a spacious and elegant mansion in the early English style, is beautifully situated on the bank of the Corsehill burn, in a deeply-sequestered spot, and embosomed in a richly-planted demesne. The village, which is pleasant, consists principally of one street, neatly built; a subscription library has been established, and there is also a library in connexion with a Sabbath school, which contains about 250 volumes. Part of the inhabitants of the village are employed in the various trades requisite for the supply of the parish, and many of them are engaged as cheese-factors for the neighbouring districts, which they supply not only with the produce of Dunlop, but with that of other places in the county of Ayr. Fairs for the sale of dairy stock and agricultural produce are held on the second Friday in May (O.S.) and the 12th of November, at both of which a considerable quantity of business is transacted. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Irvine, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Earl of Eglinton: the minister's stipend is £215, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum. Dunlop church, erected in 1836 to replace the ancient building, which had become too small for the increased population, is a neat and substantial edifice adapted for a congregation of about 830 persons. A new parochial school-house was built in 1840, consisting of a large and commodious schoolroom below, and a dwelling-house for the master above: the old school-house, which is yet standing beside the kirk gate, was built in 1641 by James, Viscount Clandeboyes, by whom, according to the inscription in front, it would appear to have been endowed; but nothing is known of the funds appropriated to that purpose.

At Chapel House, about half a mile from the village, were the ruins of an ancient chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which have been removed within the last few years. The castle of Dunlop, which was taken down to make room for the present modern mansion, was of great antiquity; but both the date and the original founder are unknown. Aiket Castle, about a mile southward of the church, was for many centuries prior to the year 1700 inhabited by a branch of the Cunninghame family: the original tower, which was four stories in height, and of which the ground-floor has a vaulted roof of stone, has been lowered to make it correspond with the additional buildings requisite for converting it into a dwelling-house. The learned John Major, the tutor of John Knox, and professor of theology in the university of Glasgow, was vicar of Dunlop; and James Hamilton, Viscount Clandeboyes, was born in the parish, of which his father was vicar. Lieutenant-General James Dunlop of Dunlop, father of the present proprietor, was eminently distinguished in his profession; the general's mother was the early friend and correspondent of the poet Burns.

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