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Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire

Historical Description

KILBARCHAN, a parish, in the Upper ward of the county of Renfrew; containing, with the village of Linwood and part of Bridge-of-Weir, 5595 inhabitants, of whom 2382 are in the village of Kilbarchan, 5 miles (W. by S.) from Paisley. This place is of considerable antiquity, and derives its name, either from the founder of its ancient church, or from the situation of the church in a vale bounded by hills, of which the Celtic terms Kil, Bar, Chan, are said to be minutely descriptive. The parish is unconnected with any event of historical importance. It is situated nearly in the centre of the county, and is rather more than seven miles in length from east to west, and about two miles in average breadth. Kilbarchan is bounded on the north by the river Gryfe, separating it from the parish of Houston and Kilallan; on the east, by the parish of Renfrew; on the north-east, by Inchinnan; on the south-east, by the Abbey parish of Paisley: on the north-west, by the parish of Kilmalcolm; and on the south-west by the parish of Lochwinnoch. Its surface is agreeably varied; in the eastern portion, between the rivers Gryfe and Black Cart, generally level; and towards the west and north-west, rising into considerable eminences. The scenery is enriched with thriving plantations, and enlivened with numerous gentlemen's seats and pleasing villas. The Barr hill, extending for nearly a mile to the east of the church, commands some beautiful prospects, that suddenly burst upon the view after an extensive ride through a fine avenue obscured by the thick foliage in which it is embosomed. The Locher, a tributary of the Gryfe, forms various cascades in its progress through the lands, flowing, in several parts of its course, between rocky banks of precipitous elevation, crowned with overhanging plantations of hazel, birch, and mountain-ash.

Of this parish the entire number of acres has been estimated at 9216; the soil in the lower portions is a peat-moss, alternated with a rich loam, and in the upper lands of a gravelly nature. The system of agriculture has been considerably improved, and large portions of unproductive land have been brought into cultivation, by clearing the surface from moss. The cattle are mostly of the Ayrshire breed; the dairy-farms are well managed, and the produce finds a ready market in the neighbouring towns. The horses are principally of the Clydesdale breed. The farm-buildings of later erection are substantial, and in general roofed with slate; the lands are inclosed with fences of stone in the upper, and with hedges of thorn in the lower parts. Coal is abundant; it has long been wrought, and the produce of the mines is considerable. Limestone of tolerable quality is quarried both for building, and for burning into lime, for which latter purpose part of the coal found here is used. Freestone and greenstone are also quarried; the former is of excellent quality, and the latter is employed for the roads. The annual value of real property in the parish is £17,394. There are numerous handsome houses belonging to resident proprietors, one of the principal of which is Milliken House, a modern mansion, finely seated in an ample demesne tastefully disposed in pleasure-grounds, and embellished with thriving plantations. Glentyan House is a spacious mansion of modern style, situated above the village of Kilbarchan, in grounds commanding some pleasing views: this house, which was built at the commencement of the present century, contains a valuable collection of paintings. Blackstone House is a substantial and well-built mansion, erected about the middle of the last century, on the site of a country-seat of the abbots of Paisley. Craigends is of ancient foundation, with modern additions and improvements, and is beautifully situated on the right bank of the river Gryfe. Clippens House is a handsome villa, erected about twenty or thirty years since, by the late Peter Cochrane, Esq., M.D.

The village is built of freestone from the quarries of Barr hill, and consists of several well-formed streets. There are two public libraries supported by subscription, and a masonic lodge; and the Kilbarchan Agricultural Society hold their annual meetings here, for the distribution of premiums for the most approved specimens of live stock, and for the general improvement of agriculture. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in the weaving of silk and cotton for the manufacturers of Paisley and Glasgow, in which from 600 to 700 looms are sometimes engaged; and a considerable number of females are occupied in tambour-work, and embroidering the finer muslins. The cotton-mill lately belonging to Messrs. Findlay and Co., at Bridge-of-Weir (which see), is an extensive structure, 120 feet in length, thirty-two feet in breadth, and six stories in height, and contains 7000 spindles: in the mill at Barbush, belonging to Messrs. Napier, there are 13,000 spindles at work. In the village of Linwood, of which an account is given under its own head, the cotton manufacture is also carried on to a very considerable extent. On the river Locher, a print and bleach field was established more than half a century ago, but the water of that stream not being sufficient for the purpose, the establishment became considerably reduced: an active company are now engaged at these works as printers. Part of the village of Bridge-of-Weir is within the parish of Houston and Kilallan, on the opposite bank of the river Gryfe, over which is a substantial bridge of stone, connecting the two portions of that village. Communication is maintained by good turnpike-roads; by the Glasgow, Paisley, and Greenock railway, which intersects the eastern extremity of the parish; and the Glasgow, Paisley, and Ayr railway, which passes on the south of the parish. The canal from Johnstone to Glasgow, on which boats ply daily, also affords great facility for the conveyance of goods. A fair is held on the second Tuesday in December, which is a great market for horses; and a cattle-show takes place in the last week in July.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Paisley, synod of Glasgow and Ayr: the minister's stipend is about £294, with a manse, and a glebe worth £32 per annum; patron. Sir William Milliken Napier, Bart. The church was built in 1724, and has been lately repaired; it is a neat structure containing 620 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Church, and Scottish Baptists. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £34, with an allowance of £10 in lieu of house and garden, and the fees average £15. 10. per annum. A school is also supported in the village of Linwood, by the proprietors of the cotton factories, for the accommodation of the children of their workmen. About half a mile from Bridge-of-Weir are some remains of the castle of Ranfurly, the ancient seat of the Knox family, from whom descended the celebrated reformer, John Knox. There are also remains of several chapels; and on the farm of Clochoderick (Clach-na-Druid) is a large stone twenty-two feet in length, seventeen feet in breadth, and twelve feet high, supposed to be a Druidical relic, and from which the farm appears to have derived its name. On the Barr hill are the remains of a camp thought to be of Danish origin; and near it are some rocks of greenstone, among which is a recess called Wallace's Seat. Ranfurly Castle gives the titles of Earl and Baron to the family of Knox.

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