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Houston and Killallan, Renfrewshire

Historical Description

HOUSTON and KILLALLAN, a parish, in the Upper ward of the county of Renfrew; including the village of Crosslee and part of the late quoad sacra district of Bridge-of-Weir, and containing 2818 inhabitants, of whom 623 are in the village of Houston, 14 miles (S. W.) from Glasgow. This place consists of two parishes which were united in the year 1760, when the population of both of them was scarcely more than one-third of the present number. The principal resident proprietor is W. M. Fleming, Esq., whose ancestor, Peter Fleming, held the estate of Barochan, in this parish, and being celebrated for his skill in falconry, received from James IV. the hood of his favourite hawk, richly studded with gems, as a reward for his dexterity: this hood, though many of the jewels have been lost, and among them a ruby of great value, is still preserved in the house at Barochan, the residence of his descendant. Houston parish is supposed to have derived its name from Hugo de Padvinan, who obtained a grant of the barony of Kelpeter from Baldwin, sheriff of Lanark, and who substituted his own name for that by which the barony had been previously called. The name of the other parish is thought to be a corruption of Killfillan, an appellation said to have been obtained from Fillanus, its tutelary saint.

The united parish is about six miles in length and three in breadth. It is bounded on the north and east by the parish of Erskine; on the south by the river Gryfe, which separates it from the parish of Kilbarchan; and on the west by the parish of Kilmalcolm. The river Gryfe has its source in the upland moors and high hills between Kilmalcolm and Largs, the latter place situated on the coast of the Firth of Clyde; and, augmented by numerous streams that meet near Duchal, it enters the parish, and pursues a rapid course towards the low lands at Fulwood, in its progress to which it is precipitated over several rocky heights. Thence it winds its way into the Clyde, first receiving the river Black Cart at Walkinshaw, and the White Cart near the bridge of Inchinnan. The surface is irregular, and in many parts beautifully diversified. In the lands of Houston is an extensive wood, consisting chiefly of oak, ash, birch, and plane trees, many of which are of venerable growth: there is a similar wood of natural growth, with extensive and thriving plantations, at Barochan. The high grounds in the district of Killallan, likewise, are largely planted with oak, ash, beech, and Scotch fir; and the mosses have been covered with trees which appear to be thriving well. Agriculture forms but a secondary pursuit in the parish, and comparatively only a small portion of land is in cultivation; the greater number of the inhabitants being employed in the various manufactures that have been established. Improvements have been made in draining the grounds, and many of the mosses have been reclaimed, and produce abundant crops; the farm-buildings are substantial and commodious, and are all roofed with slate. The scarcity of common manure has led to the introduction of a compost of moss prepared with oil, which, under proper management, has been found to answer well. The substratum is chiefly clay, covered in some parts with moss six feet in depth. In the higher districts, granite of good quality is prevalent; and in the lower parts, sandstone and limestone are quarried. Coal exists in abundance, and mines have been opened for the supply of the extensive works in the parish, and for fuel in the neighbouring places. Barochan, the patrimonial seat of Mr. Fleming, is of considerable antiquity, and has recently undergone great improvements; it is beautifully situated, and embellished with ornamental plantations, forming a conspicuous feature in the landscape. A subscription library has been established in the village of Houston. Fairs are held in May, chiefly for milchcows, young cattle, &c., of the Highland breed. The annual value of real property in the parish is £11,293.

The chief manufacture is that of cotton, for which several extensive mills have been erected, mostly on the banks of the river Gryfe. Among these are the New mills, near Bridge-of-Weir, in the district of Killallan, erected in 1792, and at present conducted by Messrs. Findlay: they contain 6240 mule spindles; are driven by a water-wheel thirteen feet in diameter, with power equal to that of twelve horses; and afford employment to nearly 100 persons. The mill at Gryfe grove, erected in 1822, contains nearly 1000 mule spindles, and 600 for water-twist, with the requisite machinery, set in motion by a cast-iron water-wheel of twelve feet diameter, and giving occupation to about forty persons: adjoining is a mill erected by the same proprietor, for carding wool. A mill has also been erected by Mr. Shanks, in which are 1400 spindles, driven likewise by an iron water-wheel twelve feet in diameter. Gryfe mill, to the east of the Bridge-of-Weir mill, and belonging to Messrs. John Freeland and Co., was built in 1793, and contains 18,000 spindles; it is set in motion by a water-wheel nineteen feet in diameter, and employs nearly 300 persons. Crosslee mill, conducted by Messrs. Stevenson and Sons, is driven by a wheel of cast-iron, twenty-six feet in diameter, and equivalent to seventy-horse power; it affords constant employment to 300 people. Houston cotton-mills, situated on the burn of that name, and built in 1793, is driven by a wheel of eighteen-horse power, about thirty feet in diameter, and employs 140 persons; attached to this mill is a steam-engine, by which the machinery is set in motion when the water of the stream is insufficient for that purpose. Houston bleachfield, on the same rivulet, belonging to Messrs. Carlisle, is an extensive establishment, chiefly employed for the manufacturers of Glasgow and Paisley: about 4000 pounds of cotton-yarn, 60,000 pounds of linen yarn and thread, and 12,000 pounds of raw silk, are annually bleached in this establishment, in which fifty persons are engaged. The Glasgow, Paisley, and Greenock railway, opened throughout in 1841, skirts the eastern extremity of the parish, where a station is fixed. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Paisley, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of Alexander Spiers, Esq. The minister's stipend is £264, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £13. 10. per annum. Houston and Killallan church, erected in 1775, is conveniently situated; it is in good repair, and is adapted for a congregation of 800 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship, and there is a Roman Catholic chapel. The parochial schoolmaster has a salary of £34, with £24 fees, and a house and garden.

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