"About 1683, the Kirktoun of Beith is said to have consisted of "five dwelling houses, besides the kirk and minister's manse". These buildings are still known as the "five feued houses", and now form the centre, or main street, of the town."
"Ayrshire Nights Entertainment: A Descriptive Guide to the History, Traditions, Antiquities of the County of Ayr" by John MacIntosh of Galston, Ayrshire, published in 1894, by John Menzies & Co. of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.
In 1868, there are several churches in the parish, not all of which have survived into the late 20th century. These included:
The High Church which was built between 1807 and 1810, replaced the earlier:
Auld Kirk, a 18th century structure, of which only a gable end converted into a mausoleum in a small kirkyard, remains.
A Free Church of Scotland church.
Two United Presbyterian churches.
A Evangelical Union chapel.
The Trinity Church on Main Street, was not built until 1882.
For more detail on the history of the parish church in Beith see the church history page.
An 1837 description of the parish, including a listing of the key personalities of the town, is given in this extract from Pigot's Directory for Ayrshire. The transcript was kindly provided by Keith Muirhead from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.
Beith parish is a largely rural area in the Garnock Valley in the north-east of the county bordering Renfrewshire. It includes the small town of Beith and the villages of Gateside and Barrmill.
Beith is a small town at the north of the parish. The town's time of greatest prosperity was the mid-18th century. During that time much of the town was engaged in cotton spinning, thread making and muslin weaving (using cotton imported from America, Egypt and India). The town also developed a brewery, a tobacco factory, distilleries and corn mills. The American Civil war and other factors reduced the cotton supplies and the town switched to several manufacturing industries including furniture-making, linen and leather.
In the early twentieth century, Beith was famous for its furniture. With many furniture factories within Beith, cabinet making was a popular trade up until the demise of the furniture making trade in the 1970s. The last furniture maker to close was the McIntosh factory (formerly known as Balfours).
The other major 20th century source of employment was at the British Steel ironworks at Glengarnock (formerly known as Colvilles). But it was closed in the late seventies as part of the reduction of the British iron and steel industry.
The population of Beith today is growing due to the town becoming a popular residence for those working in the greater Glasgow area. The major employment today is in defence industries and at the numerous whisky bonds which have opened in the local area.
Hugh McCallum has uploaded The Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald weekly articles "From The Herald Files" that look back 100, 50 and 25 years at his web site. The extracts also include articles relating to Kilbirnie, Beith and Dalry.
- The transcription of the section for Beith from the National Gazetteer (1868) provided by Colin Hinson.
Here are some figures showing the parish's population through time: