Historical description of Lanarkshire, Scotland

LANARKSHIRE, an extensive inland county, in the south of SCOTLAND, bounded on the north by the counties of Dumbarton and Stirling; on the east, by the counties of Linlithgow, Edinburgh, and Peebles; on the south, by Dumfriesshire; and on the west, by the counties of Renfrew, Ayr, and Dumfries. It lies between 55° 14' 42" and 55° 56' 10" (N. Lat.) and 3° 22' 51" and 4° 22' 51" (W. Long.), and is about fifty-two miles in length, and thirty-three miles in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 926 square miles, or 592,640 acres; 85,326 houses, of which 3868 are uninhabited; and containing a population of 426,972, of whom 208,312 are males and 218,660 females. This county, called also Clydesdale, from the valley of the Clyde, which forms its central portion, was at the time of the Roman invasion inhabited by the Damnii, and under the Roman yoke formed part of the province of Valentia. After the departure of the Romans, the original inhabitants appear to have extended their ancient limits, which they called Ystrad Cluyd, in the British language, signifying "the warm vale;" and to have acquired the sovereignty over Liddesdale, Teviotdale, Dumfriesshire, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, part of Peebles, the western part of Stirling, and the greater part of Dumbartonshire. This ample territory formed a kind of independent kingdom, including nearly all that portion of Scotland to the south of the Forth. It was peopled with subordinate British tribes, among whom were the Selgova, Attacotti, &.c., who had frequent wars with the Picts and others, but resolutely maintained their independence till their power began to decline from the union of the Pictish and Saxon forces, and their metropolis of Dumbarton was taken, in the eighth century.

After the subjugation of the Picts by Kenneth II., every exercise of independent power gave way to the authority of the Scottish monarchs; and the various British tribes of Strath-Cluyd, by degrees, intermingled with the Saxons, Normans, Gaelie Scots, and Irish from Cantyre, by whom successive encroachments were made. The descendants of the Damnii alone, when they could no longer retain their independence, rather than yield to the power by which their territories were assailed, resolved to emigrate, and, crossing the Solway and the Mersey, found a retreat in the mountains of Wales. In the twelfth century, numerous Flemish families settled in the Strath of Cluyd, many of whom obtained grants of land from the Abbot of Kelso; and with the exception of a few brief intervals, the county progressively advanced in prosperity till after the death of Alexander III., when the wars which arose on the disputed succession to the Scottish throne, involved it, in common with other parts of the kingdom, in frequent calamities. It was here that the celebrated hero, Wallace, performed his first exploit, in expelling the English from the town of Lanark. In the reign of James I., a portion of Strath-Cluyd was separated from the county of Lanark, and formed into the county of Renfrew. James II., exasperated by the turbulent ambition of the Douglas family, marched into Lanarkshire, and destroyed Douglas Castle, and all the lands of Douglas, including Douglasdale and Avondale, with the lands of the first Lord Hamilton. During the war in the reign of Charles I., and the attempts to re-establish episcopacy during that of Charles II., this part of the country suffered materially; but, since the Revolution, it has continued to make steady progress in agricultural improvement, and in manufacturing and commercial prosperity.

In former times the county was included in the diocese of Glasgow; it is at present in the synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and comprises several presbyteries, and fifty parishes. For civil purposes, the county is divided into the Upper, Middle, and Lower wards, under the jurisdiction of three sheriffs-substitute, who reside respectively at Lanark, Hamilton, and Glasgow. It comprises the royal burghs of Glasgow, Rutherglen, and Lanark; the towns of Hamilton, Douglas, Biggar, Strathaven, Carnwath, Bothwell, Airdrie, and Lesmahagow; and numerous villages. Under the act of the 2nd of William IV., the county returns one member to the imperial parliament. The surface is greatly varied. In the Upper ward, which is the largest division of the county, it is principally mountainous, rising to the greatest height towards the confines of Dumfriesshire. The summit of one of the Lowther hills is 2450 feet above the level of the sea; the Culter Fell has nearly the same height; and the hill of Tinto, the loftiest on the northern boundary of the mountain district, has an elevation of 2236 feet. In the Middle ward the land may be averaged at only 300 feet above the level of the sea; but throughout that district the surface is every where diversified with undulations, leaving little level ground except in the valleys of the river Clyde. The principal river in the county is the Clyde, which has its source in numerous small rills issuing from the wastes and mountains that separate Lanarlvshire from the counties of Peebles and Dumfries. It takes a northern course, receiving various tributaries in its progress, and making a curve towards Biggar, after which, being augmented by other streams in its approach to Lanark, its course is obstructed by projecting rocks and precipices. Here it makes several picturesque and beautifully-romantic cascades, the principal of these celebrated falls being Bonnington, Corra, and Stonebyres. The Clyde afterwards flows in gentle meanderings through a fertile vale, pleasingly embellished with woodlands, plantations, orchards, seats, and numerous interesting features, to Glasgow, and, running thence to Greenock, after a total course of 100 miles disappears in the Firth of Clyde. Its tributaries connected with Lanarkshire are the Douglas water, the Mouss, the Nethan, the Avon or Aven, the Calder, the North Calder, the Kelvin, and inferior streams. There are numerous lakes in the county, but none of them are of sufficient extent or importance to require particular notice; they contain trout, pike, and perch.

The SOIL, varying in different parts of the county, is in many places exuberantly fertile, and even in the higher lands is light, dry, and productive. In some of the uplands are tracts of spongy moor; in others, pastures richer than are found in some of the lower lands. The soil of the Middle ward generally, both in the arable and meadow lands, is luxuriant, but a very considerable portion of it is moss: this district abounds with orchards, gardens, and plantations, and is in the highest state of cultivation, constituting the chief agricultural district and the greater portion of the vale of the Clyde. The crops of all kinds are abundant, the system of husbandry being in the most advanced state; the lands have been well drained and inclosed; the farm-buildings are substantial and commodious, and all the more recent improvements in the implements of agriculture have been adopted. The cattle are usually of the Ayrshire breed and particular attention is paid to the rearing of cows for the dairy, of which a large number are pastured; the sheep, of which 120,000 are fed on the hills, are of the black-faced breed, with a few other varieties. In this county the substrata are freestone, limestone, and whinstone, of which last the hills generally consist. Under the freestone are seams of coal, which prevail throughout Clydesdale, and are extensively wrought; ironstone is largely worked, and there are quarries of limestone both for agricultural and building purposes. Near the southern extremity of the county are extensive mines of lead. A vein of copper-ore was discovered in the same part of Lanarkshire, but it has not been wrought with any profitable success; antimony has also been found in the immediate neighbourhood. The ancient forests have long since disappeared; but there are numerous coppices, and some flourishing plantations, together occupying nearly 10,000 acres, the greater portion of which has been formed within the last thirty or forty years. The seats are Hamilton Palace, Douglas and Bothwell Castles, Carstairs House, Bonnington House, Corehouse, Stonebyres, Lee House, Mauldslie Castle, Milton-Lockhart, Dalziel House, Cambusnethan Priory, Allanton House, Airdrie House, Newton House, Monkland House, Castlemilk, and numerous other elegant mansions.

The principal manufactures are the cotton, the linen, the woollen, the lace, and the iron manufactures. Of these, the cotton manufacture is by far the most extensive: the principal seat of it is Glasgow, where there are numerous mills, and it gives employment also to great numbers of people throughout the county, who work for the Glasgow houses, at their own dwellings; there are likewise large cotton-mills at Blantyre and New Lanark. The linen and woollen manufactures, though vastly inferior in extent to that of cotton, still afford occupation to a considerable number. A manufacture of lace forms the most flourishing trade of Hamilton. The Clyde and other iron-works are very important, and embrace every department of the iron manufacture; large chemical and other works are carried on, and the lead-works at the village of Leadhills are also extensive. The annual value of real property in the county is £1,834,999, of which £902,992 are returned for houses, £341,122 for lands, £140,213 for railways, £129,827 for iron-works, £66,098 for canals, £58,303 for mines, £9193 for quarries, and the remainder for other kinds of real property not comprised in the foregoing. Facility of communication is afforded by good roads in almost every direction, the most important of them being the great road to England by Carlisle, a new line between Edinburgh and Ayr intersecting the county from Cambusnethan to Strathaven, and new lines of road from Glasgow to Dumfries by Lanark, and from Edinburgh by Biggar and Chesterhall. But the chief means of intercourse are those presented by the lines of the Caledonian, and the Edinburgh and Glasgow, railway companies. There are several remains of Roman roads, of which that from Carlisle to the wall of Antoninus is the most conspicuous; and near Cleghorn House, and on Lanark moor, are vestiges of Roman camps, of which the former is 600 yards in length and 420 in breadth, and the other, of less dimensions, is still more distinct. Roman vases, coins, and other relics have been found in the vicinity. There are also remains of British camps, numerous ruins of ancient castles, cairns, tumuli, Druidical circles, and remains of abbeys, priories, and other religious establishments.

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