Renfrewshire, Scotland


RENFREWSHIRE, a county, in the west of Scotland, bounded on the north and north-east by the Firth of Clyde and the river Clyde, which separate it from Dumbartonshire; on the east by the county of Lanark; on the south by Ayrshire; and on the west also by the firth, which divides it from the county of Argyll. A part, however, of Renfrew parish, and therefore of the county, lies on the north side of the river Clyde. The county is situate between 55° 40' 40" and 55° 58' 10' (N. Lat.) and 4° 15' and 4° 52' 30" (W. Lon.), and is about 31 miles in length, and 13 miles in extreme breadth; comprising an area of 241 square miles, or 154,240 acres; 25,786 houses, of which 24,664 are inhabited; and containing a population of 155,072, of whom 72,859 are males, and 82,213 females. This portion of the country was originally inhabited by the Damnii, a British tribe that occupied the extensive territories which formed the kingdom of Strad-y-Cluyd; and on the Roman invasion, it became a part of the province of Valentia. After the departure of the Romans, the Damnii retained possession of their ancient territories against frequent incursions of the Picts, till the union of the Scottish and Pictish kingdoms under Kenneth II.; after which, their descendants in process of time became identified with the Scots. In the reign of David I., Walter, son of Alan, retiring from North Wales, settled in this district; and, having rendered great assistance to that monarch in quelling an insurrection of the islanders, was appointed steward of Scotland, and received a grant of the lands of Paisley and other estates. This grant was confirmed to him by Malcolm IV., who made the stewardship of Scotland hereditary in his family; he adopted the name of Stewart, or Stuart, and was ancestor of the Stuarts, kings of Scotland. At that time this part of the country was in a very uncivilised state; but Walter settled many of his military attendants on his lands, and, by founding the abbey of Paisley, contributed much to the refinement and prosperity of the district. A considerable number of the inhabitants fought under David I. at the battle of the Standard in 1138. In 1164 Somerled, with a detachment of forces belonging to the Sea Kings, sailed from the north, and, entering the Clyde, landed at Renfrew; but the invaders were bravely repulsed, and Somerled and his son were slain in the conflict.

The district of Renfrew anciently formed part of the county of Lanark; but in 1404, Robert III. erected the lands of Renfrew, with the other estates of the Stuart family, into a principality, which became hereditary in the eldest sons of the Scottish kings; and the barony of Renfrew was separated from the shire of Lanark, and constituted an independent county. Prior to the abolition of episcopacy, the county was included in the archdiocese of Glasgow; it is at present in the synod of Glasgow and Ayr, is subdivided into presbyteries, and contains twenty parishes, with parts of others. For civil purposes it is divided into the upper and lower ward; the sheriff court for the former is held at Paisley, and for the latter at Greenock. The quarter-sessions are held at Renfrew, which is the shire town, and the only royal burgh; the county contains the market-towns also of Paisley, Greenock, and Port-Glasgow, the populous villages of Johnstone, Barrhead, Gourock, Eaglesham, Kilbarchan, Lochwinnoch, and Pollockshaws, and numerous smaller villages and hamlets. Under the act of the 2nd of William IV. the county returns one member to the imperial parliament; Paisley and Greenock return one member each, and Renfrew and Port-Glasgow form part of a district of parliamentary burghs.

Transcribed from Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851
View the full transcript

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Parishes and places

The towns and parishes have now been moved to a separate page.