Buteshire, an insular county, engirt and intersected by the waters of the Firth of Clyde, and by them separated from Ayr and Argyll shires. It consists of the 7 islands of Bute, Arran, Big and Little Cumbrae, Holy Isle, Pladda, and Inchmarnock. Its greatest length, from the northern extremity of Bute to the southern extremity of Pladda, is 35½ miles; its greatest breadth, from the north-eastern extremity of Big Cumbrae to the western extremity of Inchmarnock, is 9¾ miles, or from the south-eastern extremity of Holy Isle to Drumadoon Point in the SW of Arran, 11⅓ miles; and its area is 139,482 acres, or 225 square miles. Its topography, hydrography, geognostic structure, history, and antiquities are noticed in our articles on its several islands. About one-third of the land is unprofitable, and a little more than one-sixth is under cultivation, great progress having been made in the course of the last half century, as shown by agricultural statistics. The farms are commonly held on leases of 19 years. The farm buildings in general are neat and comfortable; the arable lands are enclosed; and the condition of agriculture, by means of reclamation, draining, and the adoption of the best systems of husbandry, has been rapidly and highly improved.
The manufactures of Buteshire became a thing of the past with the collapse of the cotton-spinning, the weaving, and the shipbuilding of Rothesay. Fisheries of great extent are divided between the fishery districts of Rothesay and Campbeltown. General commerce is sufficiently extensive to give Rothesay the status of a head port; and extensive commerce, in the export of agricultural produce and in the import of miscellaneous small goods, is carried on by steamers plying from Greenock, Gourock, Wemyss Bay, Helensburgh, and Ardrossan to Rothesay, Millport, Brodick, and Lamlash. A great amount of local prosperity accrues also from a large influx of summer visitors to Bute, Arran, and Big Cumbrae. Good roads traverse most parts, whilst easy communication with the railway system of the Scottish mainland is afforded by the steamers above referred to. The only royal burgh is Rothesay; the police burghs are Rothesay and Millport; and the chief villages are Kamesburgh, Ascog, Brodick, and Lamlash. Mansions are Mountstuart, Brodick Castle, Kirkmichael, Kames Castle, Hillside House, Ascog, Wyndham, and The Garrison. Hotels are numerous at all the centres of population in the county, and in Bute there is, besides, a large new hydropathic establishment, its predecessor having been burned down in 1891. According to Miscellaneous Statistics of the United Kingdom, 138,972 acres, with a total gross estimated rental of £86,178, were divided among 736 landowners; one holding 102,210 acres (rental, £18,702), one 29,279 (£19,575), one 3632 (£622), one 1833 (£1979), one 671 (£185), etc.
The county is governed by a lord lieutenant, a vice-lieutenant, 6 deputy-lieutenants, a sheriff, a sheriff-substitute, and 28 magistrates. Sheriff courts are held at Rothesay every Tuesday and Thursday; sheriff small debt courts at Rothesay every Thursday, at Brodick four times a year, and at Millport twice a year; justice of peace small debt courts at Rothesay and Brodick on the first Monday of every month; and quarter sessions at Rothesay on the first Tuesday of March, May, and August, and the last Tuesday of October The police force in 1891, exclusive of that in Rothesay burgh, comprised 9 men; and the salary of the chief constable was £160. The only prison is at Rothesay. The county, which, prior to the Reform Act of 1832, returned a member to parliament alternately with Caithness, has since returned a member for itself. The constituency in 1891 was 3195. The County Council is composed of sixteen elected members and four representatives appointed by the Town Council of Rothesay, and the Standing Joint-Committee of the County is composed partly of the County Council and partly of the Commissioners of Supply, while the County Road Board is a committee of the County Council. The value of real property, assessed at £22,541 in 1815, was £53,567 in 1855, and £124,413 in 1891. Pop. (1801) 11,791, (1821) 13,797, (1841) 15,740, (1851) 16,608, (1861) 16,331, (1871) 16,977, (1881) 17,666, (1891) 18,404, of whom 8211 were males and 10,139 females; 3511 were Gaelic-speaking. Houses (1891), 4001 inhabited, 1373 vacant, and 9 building.
The registration county comprises 6 parishes, and had, in 1891, a population of 18,387. The island of Little Cumbrae was until 1891 in the parish of Ardrossan and the registration district of West Kilbride, Ayrshire, when the Boundary Commissioners, without disturbing the boundary between the counties of Bute arid Ayr, transferred it to the parish and registration district of Cumbrae, Buteshire. All the parishes are assessed for the poor. The number of registered poor, in the year ending 14 May 1891, was 262; of casual poor, 5. The receipts for the poor, in the same year, were £5340, 18s., and the expenditure was £4570.
The civil county is divided politically into 6 quoad civilia parishes, ecclesiastically into 8 quoad sacra parishes, part of another, and a chapelry. Cumbrae and part of West Kilbride are in the presbyteries of Greenock and Irvine and synod of Glasgow and Ayr; the other 7 are in the presbyteries of Dunoon and Kintyre and synod of Argyll, and in 1891 had 2247 communicants of the Church of Scotland. In 1890 the county had 21 schools (17 of them public), which, with accommodation for 3642 children, had 2640 on the registers, and 2207 in average attendance. See Jn. E. Reid’s History of the Count of Bute.
From Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, 1896