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Glasserton, Wigtownshire

Historical Description

GLASSERTON, a parish, in the county of Wigtown, 1¾ mile (S. W.) from Whithorn; containing, with the village of Monrieth, 1253 inhabitants. The name of this place is thought to signify, in the Saxon language, "a bare hill"; and it is supposed that the term was adopted from the number of bare hills in the vicinity. Very little is known of the early history of the parish. It is said, however, that St. Ninian, here usually called St. Ringan, the founder of Whithorn Priory, and first bishop of Galloway, resided for a time in a cave on the shore, at Physgill, for the purpose of mortification or penance; and the cave, which is arched with stones, is still vulgarly called St. Ringan's cave. The present parish was formed by the union of the lands of Glasserton and Kirkmaiden. The walls of Kirkmaiden church are yet in existence, on the shore, near Monrieth; and it is clear that it was formerly a distinct parish; though when it was united with Glasserton cannot now be ascertained. The parish is about eight miles in length, varying in breadth from one to three miles, and containing 13,477 acres. It has the parish of Mochrum on the west, the parishes of Sorbie and Kirkinner on the north, Whithorn on the east, and the bay of Luce on the south. Its coast, which is bold and rugged, and broken by numerous headlands and green peaks, lies parallel with the north coast of the Isle of Man, the island being between sixteen and eighteen miles south of Glasserton. The general appearance of the country is unequal, the surface presenting a succession of heights and hollows. There is a small lake near Castle-Stewart House, in the north, in which eels, trout, pike, and perch are found: the loch of Dowalton forms a small part of the boundary of the parish.

The SOIL varies very considerably in different parts. On the lands in the north it is damp and poor, having a tenacious subsoil of till, which holds the moisture too near the surface; in the more southern parts it is a gravelly loam, frequently mixed with clay and moss. Between 7000 and 8000 acres are under cultivation; the waste extends over about 3000 acres, and from 200 to 300 are planted. The farmers have adopted a rotation of oats; potatoes or turnips; rye-grass and clover, with wheat and barley; and a crop of hay; after which the ground returns to pasture. Agriculture has been much improved within the last thirty or forty years. The practice of raising green crops has become quite general. Much moss and heath have been brought into cultivation; and the natural obstacles to good farming arising from the nature of the soil have been successfully treated by skill and perseverance. The proper application of manure, and the attention paid to divisions and inclosures, have also contributed to produce a highly-advanced state of husbandry, and have amply rewarded the labour of the cultivator. Dairy-farming is pursued in many parts in preference to breeding, on account of its greater profit; the cows are chiefly the Ayrshire. The sheep in most repute are the Leicesters and the Highland breed; a few, purchased at Falkirk, are fattened on turnips during the winter. The cattle are the black Galloways, for which the parish has always been famous. The annual value of real property in Glasserton is £8519. The subsoil of the lands is for the most part strong till and rock, clay, and gravel, presenting many impediments to agricultural improvement, which can only be successfully met by a highly-efficient system of husbandry: the strata are the greywacke rock, among which a piece of granite is occasionally found. In the parish are the mansions of Glasserton and Physgill, both of them handsome modern erections.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Wigtown, synod of Galloway, and the patronage is in the Crown: the stipend of the minister is £202, with a good manse, built in 1818, and a glebe of fifteen acres, valued at £20 per annum. Glasserton church is remarkable for the beauty of its situation, in Glasserton park, a tract of 150 acres thickly spread with ornamental plantations, among which, in different directions, a variety of single trees rise majestically, giving a bold relief to the picturesque scenery. The edifice was built in the early part of the eighteenth century, and was repaired, and enlarged by the erection of an aisle and a handsome tower, in 1836; now containing 400 sittings. There is a parochial school, the master of which has a salary of £34, and about £20 fees, with a good house, built in 1825. Another school is supported, the master of which has a salary of £15, and fees; the salary arises from the gratuities of two ladies, and the school and master's house stand on land granted by the Earl of Stair rent-free. The poor have the interest of two sums, one of £100, and the other of £60.

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