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Govan, Lanarkshire

Historical Description

GOVAN, a parish, which, regarded ecclesiastically, is wholly in the Lower ward of the county of Lanark, and Upper ward of the county of Renfrew; including the village of Strathbungo, and the former quoad sacra district of Partick; and containing 7810 inhabitants, of whom 2474 are in the village of Govan, 2 miles (N. W.) from Glasgow. The name of this parish is generally supposed to have been derived from the two Saxon words god and win, "good wine", applied on account of the superior ale for which the place was celebrated, and which, after being kept for several years, approached in flavour to wine. Some, however, derive it from the Gaelic word gamham, pronounced gavan, and signifying "a ditch", used in reference to the river Clyde, which runs through the parish, and which in ancient times was a very narrow stream. The most remote historical information relating to Govan is connected with the removal of Constantine, King of Cornwall, into Scotland. That prince is said to have come from Ireland, after resigning his crown, among the followers of St. Columba, in the year 565, and to have founded a monastery here, of which he became the first abbot. He is supposed to have been martyred by the inhabitants of Cantyre, who thus resisted his attempts to convert them to Christianity, and afterwards to have been buried in his own monastery. Many of the estates of the parish were, in early times, successively made over as gifts to the Church. David I. gave the lands of Govan to the church of St. Kentigern, otherwise called St. Mungo, at Glasgow; and in 1136, when present at the consecration of the cathedral of that city, he bestowed a part of the estate of Partick, and subsequently another portion of the same lands, on the see. These grants, with many others, were confirmed by the bulls of several popes; and Bishop John, who filled the episcopal chair for thirty-two years, made Govan a prebend of Glasgow, the emoluments of which were increased by Herbert, Chancellor of Scotland, who presided as Bishop of Glasgow till 1164. The lands were consequently long held by tenants under the bishops and archbishops; but at the Reformation, Walter, commendator of Blantyre, was commissioned to feu the estates, that the tenants, becoming heritable possessors of their several properties, might be encouraged to improve them to the utmost. In 1595, the landholders united in procuring a charter from James VI. to confirm this privilege; and from that time the crown became lessor. Afterwards, the college of Glasgow obtained leases of the lands from the crown, and continued to hold them for upwards of a century, to the year 1825, when, in lieu of the leases, a grant was made to the establishment of an annuity of £800, for fourteen years, by George IV. The heritors still pay feu-duties to the crown, as coming in place of the archbishops. But the parish is not remarkable solely on account of its ecclesiastical history: as containing the Muir of Govan, it was in ancient times the scene of several important political and military transactions. In 1559, the lords who had confederated together in defence of the Protestant religion, after the treaty between the queen regent and the Protestants, at Leith, on July 24th, suspecting her integrity, resolved to have a meeting with "their kin and friends, upon Govan Muir, beside Glasgow", for the purpose of providing for exigencies. This meeting, however, the queen regent, by the exercise of no common address, contrived successfully to prevent. The moor is famed for the defeat of Queen Mary's army after her escape from Lochleven Castle.

The PARISH is about five miles long, and from two to three miles broad. The lands of Haggs, Titwood, and Shields belong to the county of Renfrew: the remainder of Govan is bounded on the north by the parishes of New Kilpatrick, Barony, and Glasgow; on the south by Cathcart, Eastwood, and the Abbey parish of Paisley; on the east by Barony, Gorbals, and Rutherglen; and on the west by Renfrew parish. The surface is diversified by gentle undulations and acclivities, the extensive and fertile plain in the centre of the parish being succeeded on each side by gradually rising grounds; the fields are defined by well-grown hedges, and the river Clyde, and the numerous beautiful villas in different directions, contribute to form an assemblage of very agreeable and interesting scenery. The Clyde, after being joined by the river Kelvin, runs through the centre of the parish, and though not many years ago it was a shallow stream, it is now a channel for ships of 700 tons' burthen, conveying stores from every part of the world into the harbour of Glasgow. In general the soil is of good quality, and produces fine crops of grain, as well as of the best potatoes and turnips. The five years' rotation is followed; and the ground is largely supplied with manure from Glasgow, to which it is chiefly indebted for its fertility: wheat and oats are the chief grain, and are grown in considerable quantities. Many improvements have been made, in former as well as more recent times, in the agricultural character of the district; and the celebrated moor, depicted in song as "the carpet of purple heath", now consists of a number of well-inclosed fields, bearing, year after year, as luxuriant crops as are any where to be met with. Similar changes have been effected in other parts, especially about Moss House and Heathery Hall. At White-Inch, the low ground along the north side of the Clyde has been lately enriched, and elevated about ten feet, by soil obtained from the deepening and widening of the river, in consequence of which the worth of the land has been nearly doubled. The annual value of real property in Govan is £30,070.

The SUBTERRANEOUS Contents of the parish are chiefly coal, with the strata peculiar to that formation. Several pits are regularly worked, in one of which, at Bellahoustown, on the south of the river, a portion of the layers consists of parrot or cannel coal, which sells at a high price for the purpose of being converted into gas. At Jordanhill and Cartnavel, about fifty fathoms beneath the surface, are sixteen beds of coal, some of them two feet thick, and part being, like the parrot coal, of the finest quality for the gas manufacture. Above the gas-coal, as well as at a lower depth, are numerous seams of ironstone, which vary in thickness from five to twelve inches, and are of excellent quality. The collieries of Govan, forming part of the well-known Glasgow coal-fields, have been long wrought; and it is supposed that, beneath the seven principal seams now open, lie others, which will afford a plentiful supply if at any time those at present being worked should be exhausted. The surface just above the coal is in general composed of diluvial matter, containing rolled stones, over which are deposits of sand, fine clay, and marine shells. The roots of a number of fossil trees were discovered a few years ago at Balgray, standing close to each other in their natural position: two feet only of the trunks were found attached to the roots.

The population of the parish, which has very considerably increased of late years, from the growing prosperity of Glasgow, is largely employed in the cotton and iron manufactures, and a great number in mines and quarries. In the village of Govan are 340 hand-loom weavers; a dye-work employs 118 hands; and at a small distance from the village is a factory for throwing silk, erected in 1824, and which affords occupation to about 250 persons. Near Port-Eglinton is a carpet manufactory, established several years ago, in which 554 persons are engaged; and various large concerns are actively carried on in different parts, occupied in the cotton manufacture. In the neighbourhood of the collieries are iron-works, containing several blast-furnaces, which produce many hundred tons of pig-iron annually; and near these is a bar-iron manufactory belonging to the same proprietor, producing upwards of 400 tons weekly. Ship-building is carried on. There is a fishery for salmon on the Clyde, the rent of which was formerly £326; but it has fallen since 1812 to £60 per annum, in consequence, among other causes, of the erection of the numerous manufactories on the banks of the river. In the villages of Govan and Partick are post-offices, which communicate with Glasgow twice a day. Four great roads pass through the parish, one of which runs from Glasgow to Paisley; another leads to Kilmarnock and Ayr, a third to Port-Glasgow and Greenock through Renfrew, and the fourth to the West Highlands by the town of Dumbarton. The Glasgow and Johnstone canal also intersects the parish, and a branch of the Forth and Clyde canal touches its northern boundary. A boat, capable of conveying horses and carriages, plies upon the ferry that connects the two parts of the parish at the village of Govan: steam-boats, also, land and take in passengers here. The Pollock and Govan railway joins the mineral fields on the southeast of Glasgow with the city and the harbour, and the Greenock and Ayr railroad runs for about three miles through the parish of Govan.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes Govan is within the bounds of the presbytery of Glasgow, synod of Glasgow and Ayr. At the time of the Reformation, the temporal immunities of the church came into the possession of the college of Glasgow. The Regent Morton had offered the benefice to his uncle, Andrew Melville, principal of the college, on condition that he would not press his views of ecclesiastical polity; but this compromise being refused by Melville, the regent conveyed the temporalities to the college, devolving upon the principal the obligation of serving the cure; and since that time the university has held the patronage. The stipend of the minister is £315, with a good manse, standing near the church, and a glebe of seven acres, valued at £25 per annum. Govan church, situated at the west end of the village, and about 100 yards from the river Clyde, was built in 1826, and is a plain structure containing 1096 sittings: the design of the tower and spire was taken from the church of Stratford-upon-Avon, in England. The churchyard is raised several feet above the level of the adjacent ground, and is surrounded by a double row of venerable elms. There are places of worship belonging to the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Church, and Roman Catholics. The parochial school is situated in the village of Govan; the master receives the maximum salary, with £1. 13. 4. from Glasgow college, £1. 19. accruing from an ancient bequest by George Hutcheson of Lambhill, one of the founders of Hutcheson's Hospital, and £36 arising from a sum of £200 left by Mr. Abraham Hill in 1757. Mr. Hill was educated in the school as a poor orphan, and his gift was invested in ten acres of land, now producing the above sum, for which ten children are taught gratuitously. The master has also £18 fees, a good house, and an allowance in lieu of a garden. An infants' school was instituted at Partick, in 1837, on a very extensive scale; and other schools are supported in different parts of the parish. There is a good parochial library, under the management of the trustees of Mrs. Thom, its founder, and containing above 600 volumes; also a savings' bank, and several friendly societies. As already observed, the parish of Govan, ecclesiastically, is situated entirely in the Lower ward of Lanarkshire, and Upper ward of Renfrewshire, and contains only 7810 inhabitants. In a civil point of view, it is more extensive, and includes part of the suburbs of the city of Glasgow; thus regarded, it includes a suburban district attached quoad sacra to the parish of Gorbals, and altogether contains a population of more than 45,000.

The ruins of the once celebrated Hospital of Polmadie were, at the close of the last century, among the most interesting antiquities in the neighbourhood of Glasgow. This hospital was built at a very remote period, for the reception of persons of both sexes to be maintained for life; and was dedicated to St. John. The church and temporalities of Strathblane were early annexed to it, with part of the lands of Little Govan; and these possessions, with many important privileges, were confirmed to the establishment by Alexander III., Robert Bruce, and several others. In the year 1427, Bishop Cameron, with the consent of the chapter, erected the hospital, and the church of Strathblane, into a prebend, with a provision that the person collated to the office should support a vicar in the parish of Strathblane, and pay four choristers to sing in the cathedral. St. Ninian's Hospital, founded by Lady Lochow, in the fourteenth century, for the reception of persons afflicted with leprosy, occupied a piece of ground called St. Ninian's croft, where part of Hutchesontown (ecclesiastically in the parish of Gorbals) at present stands; and close to its site a number of human bones were not long since found, pointing out the locality as is supposed of the lepers' churchyard. On the south of the Clyde, opposite the ferry-house, is an ancient circular hill, thought to have been the sepulchre of some celebrated hero; and in another part of the parish is the picturesque ruin of Hagg's Castle, built in 1585, by an ancestor of Sir John Maxwell of Pollock. See Gorbals, Hutchesontown, &c.

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