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Galston, Ayrshire

Historical Description

GALSTON, a parish, in the district of Kyle, county of Ayr, 5 miles (E. by S.) from Kilmarnock; containing, with the village of Greenholme, 4334 inhabitants. This parish, which is fancifully supposed to have derived its name from the temporary settlement of a number of Gauls, is thirteen miles in length, and from one to five miles broad; comprising 14,577 acres, of which more than one-half are arable, 1000 woodland and plantations, and the remainder pasture and waste. It is bounded on the north by the river Irvine; on the east by the river Avon, dividing it from the parish of Avondale, in Lanarkshire; and on the west by the river Cessnock, which separates it from the parishes of Riccarton and Craigie. The surface is diversified with hills, the chief of which are Distinethorn and Molmont hill, the former having an elevation of 1100, and the latter of 1000, feet above the level of the sea; the scenery is pleasingly varied, and in some parts enriched with wood and flourishing plantations. There were formerly several lakes in the parish; but in the agricultural improvements that have taken place, they have been all drained and brought into cultivation, with the exception of Loch Gait, which, however, is little more than an inconsiderable tract of marsh. The soil is various: in the higher lands, a loam intermixed with sand, and sometimes with moss; and along the banks of the Irvine, a rich loam: in other parts, a variety of clay is most prevalent. The crops are, grain of different kinds, potatoes, and turnips. The system of agriculture is advanced, and much previously unproductive land has been rendered fertile by the practice of furrow-draining, which, by the liberal encouragement afforded by the proprietors, has been carried on to a very great extent. The dairy-farms are extensive and well managed, and about 210 tons of cheese are annually produced; the cows are usually of the Ayrshire breed. Considerable numbers of black-cattle are reared; the sheep are of the black-faced kind, and much attention is paid to the improvement of live stock generally. The farm-buildings are substantial and commodious, and those of more recent erection are of superior order; the lands are inclosed, and the fences well kept up. The annual value of real property in the parish is £10,448.

In this parish the woods are of oak, elm, ash, and other forest-trees; and the plantations, larch and fir, intermixed with oak, ash, and elm. The substrata are red sandstone, alternated with whinstone, coal, limestone, and ironstone: the general dip of the strata throughout is north-west. In the channel of a small burn running into the Irvine, are some beautiful pebbles peculiar to this place, called Galston pebbles; and on Molmont hill are found numerous nodules of agate and chalcedony. Coal, of which there are three seams six feet in thickness, and one of three feet, and limestone, are both worked, but not to any great extent beyond what is requisite for the neighbourhood; and paving-stone and roofing-slate are quarried. There is a large work for the manufacture of draining tiles on the estate of the Duke of Portland, and another on that of Mr. Brown, for the supply of the different farms; the clay is found in abundance, and is of good quality. Lanfine is a handsome mansion surrounded with extensive grounds and thriving plantations; Holms, in the ancient English style, is a modern mansion of elegant design; and Cessnock, an ancient house belonging to the Duke of Portland, is an interesting structure. The village is pleasantly situated; many of the inhabitants are engaged in weaving for the manufacturers of Glasgow and Paisley, and a few have introduced the weaving of fancy silks. There are four corn-mills, a mill for flax, a paper-mill, and a saw-mill. Four fairs are held annually in the village, of which those of any importance are on the third Thursday in April and the first in December. A post has been established here, which has a regular delivery; and facility of communication is afforded with Kilmarnock and the neighbouring towns by roads kept in excellent repair: the turnpike-road from Glasgow to London passes within the limits of the parish. Great facility of intercourse is also afforded by the Glasgow, Dumfries, and Carlisle railway, which has a station called the Galston station.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Ayr, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Duke of Portland: the minister's stipend is £178. 16., with a manse and glebe, each valued at £15 per annum. Galston church, situated in the centre of the village, is a neat and substantial edifice with a handsome spire, erected in 1808, and adapted for a congregation of 1028 persons. There are places of worship for the Free Church and United Presbyterian Synod. The parochial school is well conducted; the master has a salary of £34, with £55 fees, and a house and garden. There are two other schools, the masters of which receive an annual payment of £5. 12. from the heritors. The late Mr. Charles Blair, of Longhouse, bequeathed £4000 for the foundation and endowment of a free school in the parish, when the bequest, by the accumulation of interest, should produce £200 per annum: this has been accomplished, and the school has been in operation some years. John Brown, Esq., of Waterhaughs, also bequeathed £1000, the interest of which is appropriated to the clothing and education of children of the poor. In the parish are the remains of a very extensive Roman camp, the ramparts of which, though in some places greatly obliterated by the plough, still mark out an area nearly 300 yards in length, and 120 yards in breadth. On this spot was found, in 1831, a silver coin with the legend Cæsar Augustus Divi F. Pater Patriæ; and to the east, in the parish of Avondale, several others have been discovered, with the inscription Divus Antoninus. Near the site of the camp was the scene of an encounter between William Wallace, who with fifty of his men lay concealed here, and Fenwick, an English officer, with a force of 200, whom the Scottish hero signally defeated. Other coins, bearing the inscriptions Alexander, David, and Edward, have been found. On the bank of the Avon, and nearly surrounded by the river, are the remains of some earthworks called Main Castle, most probably connected with the Roman camp.

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