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West Kilbride, Ayrshire

Historical Description

KILBRIDE, WEST, a parish, in the district of Cunninghame, county of Ayr, 5½ miles (N. W. by W.) from Saltcoats; containing 1885 inhabitants. This place derives its name from the dedication of its church (anciently an appendage of the monastery of Kilwinning) to St. Bride, a virgin occupying a distinguished rank in the Scottish calendar. In 1263, it was the scene of a severe conflict with a party of Norwegians that had made a descent on the coast of Largs under Haco, who was here attacked and defeated by a body of Scottish forces commanded by Sir Robert Boyd, ancestor of the Kilmarnock family. As a reward for his conduct in this instance, Boyd obtained a grant of land in Cunninghame; and his services as the firm adherent of Bruce procured him the lands of Kilbride and Ardneil, in this parish. The PARISH is advantageously situated on a peninsular projection in the Firth of Clyde, below the Cumbray islands, the smaller of which, for all ecclesiastical purposes, is included within its limits. It is six miles in length and two and a half in average breadth, and comprises about 11,000 acres, of which 7500 are arable, and 3000 pasture and waste. The surface is diversified with hills forming part of the continued chain of the Renfrewshire range, and the highest of which within the parish, called Kame Hill, has an elevation of nearly 1000 feet above the level of the sea. There are also many hills of smaller elevation, partly cultivated, and some nearly to their summit; and others in detached situations, the chief of which are Law, Ardneil, and Tarbert. The coast is low, consisting of shelving rocks of sandstone, with the exception of the promontory of Portincross, which is precipitous, terminating in a point called Ardneil Bank, or Goldberrie Head. The sands of Southanan extend for two miles in the north of the parish. Immediately to the south of them, the coast for nearly a mile is formed of the promontory, a wall of rock rising to the height of 300 feet, and separated from the sea only by a narrow slip of verdant land. This majestic rampart, whose base is thickly studded with coppice wood interwoven with oak, ash, hazel, and hawthorn, has a romantic grandeur of appearance as seen from the water: three detached cliffs that rise above the general height have obtained the appellation of the Three Sisters. To the south of the promontory is the bay of Ardneil, of semicircular form, the shores of which, a fine compact sand, afford a delightful promenade, with every facility for bathing, for which this part of the coast is peculiarly adapted. The Gourock, Kilbride, Southanan, and Fairly burns, which have their rise in the eastern confines, flow in various directions through the parish into the Firth. The Southanan, in part of its course between banks richly wooded, forms a pleasingly picturesque cascade; the others are not distinguished by any particular features. Numerous springs are also found in different parts, affording an abundant supply of excellent water.

In the lower lands near the coast the soil is in some places a rich loam, in others sandy and gravelly; the higher parts are of very inferior quality, generally thin, cold, and spongy moor, with the exception of some portions around the bases of the hills, which are of loam mixed with calcareous earth. The crops are wheat, oats, barley, a small quantity of rye, beans, peas, potatoes, turnips, and carrots; but, as well from the nature of the soil, as from the situation of the parish in a wide manufacturing district, most of the farms are appropriated to the dairy. The milch-cows, which receive great care and attention from their owners, number about 600, and the other cattle, 800: about 2500 sheep, chiefly of the black-faced breed, are pastured on the moorlands and hills; and about 220 swine are kept. The chief produce of the dairy is cheese, of which large quantities are sent to the neighbouring markets, where it is sold under the appellation of Dunlop cheese. The system of agriculture is advanced, and the implements of husbandry generally of the most approved kind. The farm-buildings, which were formerly of a very inferior description, have in many instances been rebuilt in a substantial and commodious style, and on most of the farms threshing-mills have been erected; the lands are all inclosed with hedges and ditches in the lower parts of the parish, and in some of the higher parts with stone dykes. In this parish the woods are of small extent, not more than 150 acres, and of these about one-third is coppice wood; the remainder consists of oak, ash, plane, elm, and beech, with a little fir. On some of the lands are fine specimens of old timber; but they are comparatively few, and in general the proper management of plantations is little regarded, though a great quantity of land, which from its quality is incapable of cultivation, might, on account of its favourable situation, be advantageously appropriated to this use. The substrata are, sandstone of brown and red colour, whinstone porphyritic and basaltic, some slight veins of limestone, and a white sandstone intermixed with quartz. The annual value of real property in the parish is £9805.

Underbank, a pleasing villa, erected near the site of the old mansion-house of the barony of Southanan, is finely situated in a richly-wooded demesne. Crosby has been repaired in good taste. Hunterston is beautifully situated at some distance, towards the sea, from the ancient mansion-house of the same name, which is now occupied by a tenant, and of which the square tower is still in good preservation. The village stands about a mile from the sea, in a small secluded vale watered by the Kilbride burn, which in its course gives motion to five different mills, two of them for grinding oats, one for bark, one for grinding charcoal, and one for dressing flax. There is a public library, supported by subscription; and a post-office has been established. Part of the inhabitants of the parish are occupied in weaving for the manufacturers of Glasgow and Paisley, in which more than 100 hand-looms are at work; and a portion of the females are engaged in sewing and embroidering muslins. A few lobsters are taken in the season, and sent to the Glasgow market, and herrings are occasionally taken in large quantities; the other fish are cod, whiting, mackerel, &c., but they are not in any great abundance. The streams that flow through the parish abound in trout of good quality. A small quay was constructed at Portincross some years since, at the expense of the proprietor; it is accessible at high water to vessels of forty or fifty tons. The Clyde steamers from Glasgow to Ardrossan and Ayr pass by the coast, and facility of intercourse with the neighbouring towns is maintained by good roads, of which the turn pike-roads to Greenock and Portpatrick run through the whole length of the parish, and a line from the village communicates with the road to Glasgow at the village of Dairy.

Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Irvine, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Earl of Eglinton: the minister's stipend is £202. 12., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £13. 12. per annum. Kilbride church, situated on a gentle eminence in the centre of the village, was rebuilt in 1732; subsequent additions have been made to it, and within the last few years an aisle has been erected by voluntary subscription. It is now adapted for a congregation of 800 persons. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church. The parochial school affords instruction to about 130 children; the master has a salary of £27. 17. 8., with £40 fees, and a house and garden. Three friendly societies tend to diminish the number of applications for parochial relief. Along the steep banks opposite the sea are several circular mounds, at unequal distances, called the Castle Hills; the area on the summit, about forty feet in diameter, is inclosed with walls of undressed stone. Their origin is uncertain; by some they are ascribed to the Danes, by others referred to a more remote period. Tumuli have been explored in various places, containing urns with calcined bones and ashes; and in forming the new line of road along the coast, some years since, four entire urns, rudely formed of coarse red clay, were dug out of a stratum of gravel. A silver brooch, of exquisitely delicate workmanship, and bearing an inscription in Runic characters, was found at Hunterston a few years ago. The walls of the ancient castle of Portincross are still tolerably entire, and form a singularly romantic object, standing on a ledge of rock projecting into the sea; it is supposed to have been a residence of the Scottish kings. One of the large ships of the Spanish armada sank near the promontory, in ten fathoms of water; and an iron cannon which, with others, was recovered from the wreck, is still remaining on the beach: the arms of Spain, and a crown engraved on it, may be faintly traced. On an eminence overlooking the village of Kilbride are the remains of a very stately tower called Law Castle, the walls of which are in perfect preservation. In the parish are also some remains of an ancient chapel, round which are some fine old trees, and which are not far distant from the ruin of Fairlie Castle in the parish of Largs. Dr. Robert Simson, professor of mathematics in the university of Glasgow, and the well-known translator of Euclid, had some property in the parish. General Robert Boyd, lieutenant-governor of Gibraltar during the siege of that fortress in 1782, was born here; and it is supposed that John Hunter, the celebrated surgeon, was remotely descended from the Hunterston family of this place.

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