Historical description of Stirlingshire, Scotland

STIRLINGSHIRE, a county, in the eastern part of Scotland, bounded on the north by Perthshire and Clackmannanshire; on the east by the county of Linlithgow; on the south-east by part of Lanarkshire; and on the south, and also on the west, by the county of Dumbarton. It lies between 55° 56' and 56° 16' (N. Lat.) and 3° 30' and 4° 14' (W. Long.), and is about forty-five miles in length and eighteen miles in extreme breadth, comprising an area of about 489 square miles, or 312,960 acres; 16,614 houses, of which 15,813 are inhabited; and containing a population of 82,057, of whom 41,004 are males and 41,053 females. The early history of this county is involved in much obscurity. At the time of the Roman invasion it became a station of importance, and Agricola is said to have erected some fortifications on the hill on which the castle of Stirling was afterwards built, as commanding the Roman road from Camelon to the north of Scotland. In confirmation of this opinion, are adduced the remains of Roman forts in several parts of the county, the traces of the wall of Antonine, and the discovery of coins, weapons, and various other relies of antiquity. After the departure of the Romans from Britain, the county was frequently the scene of hostilities between the sovereigns of the adjacent kingdoms. The battle in which Kenneth II. of Scotland obtained that victory over the Picts which put an end to their existence as a nation, and united both kingdoms under his dominion, is said to have taken place in a field near Stirling, thence called Cambuskenneth; and two upright stones, yet remaining, are thought to have been raised in commemoration of his success. In the ninth century, this portion of the country became the conquest of the Northumbrian Saxons; and it continued to be included in their territories till the time of Kenneth III., who not only recovered this part of his rightful dominions, but also made himself master of the extensive kingdom of Strath-y-Cluyd. Ever since that period Stirling has formed an integral portion of the kingdom of Scotland. The subsequent history of the county is so intimately blended with that of its castle, which in the reign of the Stuarts became a royal residence, and so closely identified with the general history of Scotland, that any further detail here would be superfluous.

The county is included chiefly in the synod of Perth and Stirling, and contains parts of several presbyteries, and twenty-one parishes. For civil purposes it is under the jurisdiction of a sheriff-depute, who appoints a sheriff-substitute. The general quarter-sessions and other courts are held at Stirling, and the ordinary and small-debt sheriff courts at Stirling and at Falkirk; the sheriff's small-debt circuit courts are held at Lennoxtown, Drymen, and Balfron. The only royal burgh is that of Stirling, the county town; besides which the shire contains the populous burgh of Falkirk, and the thriving and pleasant towns or villages of St. Ninian's, Airth, Balfron, Bannockburn, Caniclon, Carron, Denny, Drymen, Fintry, Grangemouth, Gargunnock, Killearn, Kilsyth, Kippen, Larbert, Lennoxtown, Milngavie, Laurieston, Polmont, and Strathblane. By the act of the 2nd of William IV., the county returns one member to the imperial parliament.

The SURFACE is diversified with mountains and hills, with valleys, and some fine tracts of fertile plain. It abounds in ornamental timber, and the scenery is picturesque, in many parts strikingly romantic. The most conspicuous of the mountains is the ridge called the Campsie Fells, extending from the east of the parish of Denny, through Kilsyth, Campsie, Strathblane, and Killearn, for nearly twenty miles towards the west. These hills have an elevation varying from 1300 to 1500 feet above the level of the sea, and from the highest of them, in the parish of Kilsyth, a most extensive and interesting prospect is obtained, embracing an area of some thousands of square miles. Towards Loch Lomond, on the west, which is more especially regarded as the Highland district of the county, rises the majestic mountain of Ben-Lomond, 3262 feet high. Many of the hills in the eastern and southern districts are covered with verdure to their summit, and have a pleasing aspect.

The principal rivers are the Forth, the Carron, the Endrick, the Blane, the Kelvin, and the Bannockburn. Of these the Forth has its source in two streams near the mountain of Ben-Lomond, one of which, the less important, and called the Duchray water, rises in this county, bounds it for a short distance, and at Aberfoyle, in the county of Perth, unites with the other. The other rises close to Loch Katrine, and flows eastward through part of Perthshire. Receiving various streams in its progress, the Forth bounds the county for many miles, and enters it at Craigforth, where it is augmented by the waters of the Teith; it attains a considerable breadth at Stirling, where it becomes navigable, and thence gradually expands into the Firth of Forth. The Carron rises in the parish of Fintry; and after a rapid course, in which it turns several mills, and forms a romantic cataract called the Linn Spout, it affords a supply for the reservoir of the Carron iron-works, at Larbert, and falls into the Forth at Grangemouth. The Endrick has its source also in the parish of Fintry, and, taking a western direction through the vale to which it gives name, forms some interesting cascades: one of these, called the Loup of Fintry, has a fall of ninety feet. This river flows into Loch Lomond at a short distance from Buchanan House. The Blane, a small but pleasing stream, rises in the Lennox hills; it waters the parish of Strathblane, to which it gives name, and, after a course of about twelve miles, in which it forms a pleasing cascade of seventy feet, flows into the Endrick in the parish of Killearn. The Kelvin has its source in the parish of Kilsyth, and flowing in a south-western direction, forms a boundary for some miles between the county of Stirling and the counties of Dumbarton and Lanark; it falls into the Clyde at Partick, about two miles west of Glasgow. The Bannockburn, celebrated for the memorable battle between the Scots under Robert Bruce and the array of Edward II., rises in the parish of St. Ninian's, and, after a short course through a picturesque glen, falls into the Forth a few miles below Stirling. Numerous smaller streams, descending from the hills, also intersect the surface in various directions; they all abound with trout, and salmon are found in most of the rivers. There are not many lakes, and none of them are of any great extent except Loch Lomond, which ex-tends for nearly fourteen miles along the western boundary of the county.

Of the lands, about 200,000 acres are arable, 50,000 meadow and good pasture, and nearly 63,000 hill pasture, moorland, and waste. This is exclusive of the parish of Alva, which, though more than four miles distant from the nearest confines of Stirlingshire, and entirely surrounded by the counties of Clackmannan and Perth, has since the commencement of the seventeenth century been attached to this county. The soil is extremely various, but generally fertile. In the eastern portion of the county is a beautiful expanse of carse land in the highest state of cultivation, consisting of clayey loam, interspersed with tracts of light gravelly soil, and small patches of sand: on the banks of the Forth are more than 40,000 acres of this rich alluvial soil. In different parts are tracts of wet retentive clay; and the higher moorlands, of which there are some extensive breadths, are chiefly moss; but most of the hills afford excellent pasture for sheep. The principal crops are wheat, oats, barley, flax, peas, beans, potatoes, and turnips: vegetables of all kinds are raised in great abundance, and of good quality; and fruit-trees of every description thrive luxuriantly. Agriculture, though varying in different parts according to the varieties of the soil, is in a highly improved state; the lands are well drained, and inclosed chiefly with hedges of thorn and double trenches. On the carse lands the farms are generally about 100 acres in extent; but many of the hill-farms extend to 4000 acres. The farm-buildings are substantial and commodiously arranged, and every recent improvement in the construction of agricultural implements has been adopted. Few cattle are reared in the county, which is generally supplied from the Highlands. The cows on the dairy lands, to the management of which much attention is paid, are of the Ayrshire breed; and the horses for draught, chiefly of the Lanark or Clydesdale breed. The sheep, many thousands of which are pastured on the moorlands, are mostly the black-faced or Highland, with some of the Tweeddale description and other breeds.

There are strata of whinstone and granite, of which the hills are mainly composed, and freestone of various colours, of which some valuable quarries are extensively wrought at Torwood, in the eastern part of the county. In the parish of Killearn are quarries of millstone grit, which is much in request. In the parishes of Campsie, Fintry, and Strathblane, are found fine specimens of basalt, of which there are several extensive rocks displaying ranges of some hundreds of columns, in different directions. Limestone, ironstone, and coal abound in the eastern districts, the last in such quantity as not only to supply the home demand, but also, by means of the Forth and Clyde canal, to furnish Edinburgh with that article at a very moderate price. The principal coal-mines are in the Lennox hills, and there are mines likewise in the immediate vicinity of the canal. Copper and lead ore, and cobalt, have been raised, but not in considerable quantities; and some veins of silver were wrought towards the close of the last century. There are numerous coppices of natural wood in the county, and at Torwood and Callendar some remains of the ancient Caledonian forest. The timber is chiefly oak, beech, birch, and hazel; some of the oaks are of very large growth, and all the trees thrive well in the soil. On the whole there are about 1350 acres of natural wood. Extensive plantations, also, have been formed, which are in a flourishing condition; they consist of oak, ash, elm, beech, pine, larch, and spruce and Scotch firs. In this county the seats are Airth Castle, Airthrey Castle, Alva, Buchanan House, Callendar, Craigforth, Culcreuch, Dunmore Park, Gargunnock, Glorat, Kerse, Kincaid, Kinnaird, Leckie, Lennox Castle, Westquarter, and numerous others.

The principal manufacture is that of cast and malleable iron goods, for which there is a most extensive and ably conducted establishment on the banks of the river Carton, which is noticed under the head of Carron, where these celebrated works are situated. There are ironworks likewise at Falkirk, in which about 700 persons are employed. The nail-manufacture is also carried on in several of the villages. The woollen-manufacture is extensive; the chief articles are carpets, coarse woollen cloths, and tartans. There are manufactories for cotton goods, and paper; copperas and alum works; distilleries; and other establishments. Facility of communication is afforded by good roads throughout the county; by the Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Scottish Central, and the Slamannan railways; by the Forth and Clyde canal, and the Union canal. Much commerce is carried on at the port of Grangemouth, on the Firth of Forth, with Norway, Sweden, and the Baltic, in timber, hemp, tallow, iron, flax, and grain. Ship-building is pursued here to a considerable extent; and the number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in a late year was 179, of the aggregate burthen of 26,561 tons. A number of vessels, varying from thirty-five to fifty tons, also belong to the port of Stirling. There are steam-packets for passengers, luggage-steamers, and other facilities of intercourse. The total annual value of real property in the county, as assessed to the income-tax, is £279,705, of which £181,147 are returned for lands, £63,559 for houses, £16,578 for mines, £16,199 for iron-works, £1203 for fisheries, and the remainder for quarries.

Among the monuments of antiquity are several Roman camps; and a conical building supposed to have been of Roman origin, though from its form it acquired the appellation of Arthur's Oven, remained in a very perfect state till about the middle of the eighteenth century, when it was removed. Portions of the wall of Antonine are to be seen in various parts, and also traces of Roman roads, of which one of the most perfect leads to Camelon, supposed to have been the principal station of the Romans in this part of Britain. In the county are numerous Pictish forts, several Druidical remains, and various ruins of ancient castles, of which Castlecary, said to have been originally a Roman fortress, and those of Torwood, Colzium, and Rough Castle, are among the principal. The castle of Stirling, also of great antiquity, and which in the time of the Stuarts was made a royal residence, is still preserved as a royal garrison. There are remains of the ancient abbey of Cambuskenneth, founded by David I., and of several other religious houses founded by succeeding kings of Scotland, among which are the convent of Dominican Friars established by Alexander II., and the Franciscan monastery by James IV. Numerous cairns and tumuli are to be seen; and remains of Roman pottery, coins, and other relics of antiquity, have been discovered at various times.

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