The family of Bute, who were hereditary keepers of the castle, continued to reside in it till 1685, when it w-as besieged and taken during the civil wars by the Marquess of Argyll, by whom it was burnt. The remains, which are inclosed within a circular wall defended by four round towers, are more remarkable for their great strength than for their style of architecture or their picturesque appearance. After its various devastations, the town gradually recovered its original importance, and became a place of considerable trade, and the chief mart for the exchange of their respective commodities between the Highlanders and the Lowlanders. It continued to increase in prosperity till the year 1700, when, on the erection of Campbelltown, to which place many of its inhabitants removed, it began to decay; and in 1760 nearly one half of the houses had been deserted, and suffered to fall into ruin. In this languishing state it remained till 1765 when, a custom-house being erected, it was made the principal port for the landing of colonial produce previously to its being shipped for Ireland. The subsequent establishment of the herring-fishery, and the introduction of the cotton-manufacture by an English company, greatly contributed to its prosperity; and it rapidly increased in extent and in the number of its population.
The TOWN is beautifully situated at the head of the bay of Rothesay in the Firth of Clyde, on the east side of the Island of Bute. Of the various streets the principal are Montague-street, High-street, Victoria-street, Princes-street, Battery-place, Argyll-street, and Bishop-street, from which smaller streets diverge in different directions. In general the houses are substantial, and well built of stone; and along the shores of the bay are handsome mansions and pleasant villas. The streets are lighted with gas, and the inhabitants amply supplied with water from wells in the town. The facilities for sea-bathing afforded by the beach, and the discovery of a sulphuretted spring of great efficacy, have rendered this a fashionable watering-place; and during the summer months the town is resorted to by numerous visiters, for whose accommodation there are lodging-houses and comfortable inns. The Rothesay Public Subscription Library, established in 1792, has a collection of 1500 volumes; the Rothesay Youths' Library, established in 1818, has 1200 volumes. Two public reading and news rooms, supported by subscription, are regularly supplied with journals and periodical publications. The Farmers' Society, instituted in 1825, has a library of works on agriculture; and in connexion with it a periodical called The Bute Record of Rural Affairs is published in the town.
The principal manufacture is that of cotton, for which there is a spinning-mill, driven by water from Loch Fadd, collected for the purpose in reservoirs: in this mill 355 persons are engaged, and two power-loom cotton-factories also afford employment to many persons. There are distilleries, tanneries, yards for ship and boat building, works for the making of nets, several cooperages, and various handicraft trades; and a considerable number of people are occupied in the West Highland and northern herring-fisheries, and in the curing of the fish, of which 20,000 barrels are annually cured. The trade of the port consists chiefly in the exportation of barley, potatoes, turnips, and other agricultural produce, herrings, white-fish, cloth, and leather; the imports are cotton, hides, grain, coal, lime, salt, barrel staves, and freestone. The number of vessels belonging to the port is fifty-eight, of the aggregate burthen of 3000 tons, and navigated by nearly 300 men; and a large number of boats, also, are employed in the fisheries. Rothesay harbour is safe, and accessible to vessels of 300 tons: the approach is facilitated by a lighthouse at the entrance of the bay, and is defended by a battery on the shore, mounted with several pieces of cannon. Five steam-boats ply between this place and Glasgow, varying from eighty to 100 tons' burthen each, and from fifty to seventy horse power: there are likewise two steam-boats employed between Rothesay and Greenock, plying several times a day, in connexion with the Glasgow railway.
By charter of Robert III., confirmed by charter of James VI. in 1594, the government of the burgh is vested in a provost, two bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and twelve councillors. There are no incorporated trades; and the only privileges of the burgesses arc, freedom to trade within the burgh; and exemption from one-half of the customs paid by strangers. The fees for admission are, for strangers, as merchant-burgesses £3. 3., and as artificers £2. 2.; and for the sons and sons-in-law of burgesses, one-half only of those sums. The magistrates have civil jurisdiction within the burgh fo any amount; their criminal decisions are limited to petty offences. As the county-town, the sheriff's and commissary's courts are held here. The magistrates of the burgh formerly had an admiralty jurisdiction extending over the whole coasts of the county of Bute; but since 1820 it has been discontinued. In the year 1846 an act was passed for regulating the municipal government and police of the burgh. The original town-hall, in the Watergate, becoming ruinous, another was erected in 1614, in Castle-street, almost contiguous; and in 1832 the present building, occupying the sites of both, was raised at an expense of £4000. It is a handsome structure in the castellated style, with an elegant tower in which are two illuminated dials; and contains the courts for the sheriff, magistrates of the burgh, and county justices of the peace, and a spacious hall for the transaction of the public business of the town and county, in which is a portrait of the late Marquess of Bute. The buildings comprise also the gaol for the county, which is under excellent regulations. Rothesay was formerly associated with Ayr, Campbelltown, Inverary, and Irvine, in returning a member to the imperial parliament; but since the Reform act, it has ceased to be a parliamentary burgh. The post-office has two, and in summer three, deliveries daily, from Greenock and Glasgow; and branches of the Royal, Western, and Clydesdale Banks have been established in the town. The market is on Wednesday, and fairs are held annually on the first Wednesday in May, the third Wednesday and the following day in July, and the last Wednesday in October. Facility of communication is afforded by roads kept in excellent repair by statute labour and contributions from the family of Bute and others, and which are consequently free of toll.
The PARISH, including North Bute recently made a distinct parish, comprehends the larger portion of the Isle of Bute, and is bounded on the north-east and north-west by the Kyles of Bute, which separates it from the county of Argyll; on the east by the Firth of Clyde; and on the west by the sea, which divides it from Arran. Inclusively of North Bute, it extends nearly ten miles in extreme length, and is about three miles in average breadth; thus comprising 20,530 acres, of which 6605 are arable, 3652 meadow and pasture, 724 woodland and plantations, and the remainder hill pasture, moor, and waste. Its surface, which is generally hilly, is intersected with two beautiful and fertile vales; one extending from Rothesay bay, on the east, to the bay of Scalpsie on the west; and the other, northward of the former, from Kames bay to the bay of Etterick. Kames hill, the highest of the hills, has an elevation of 875 feet above the level of the sea; the only others of any importance are Barone. and Common hills, respectively 530 and 430 feet high. They all command extensive and richly diversified prospects. There are no rivers; but several lakes are scattered over the surface, the largest of them being Loch Fadd, of which the western shore is richly wooded, and on which is a picturesque house called Kean's Cottage, built by the tragedian of that name. The coast, about thirty miles in circuit, is indented with several bays: the principal are, Rothesay and Kames bays on the east; and Scalpsie, St. Ninian's (opposite to which is the Island of Inch-Marnock), and the bay of Etterick, all three on the west. The shore is chiefly shelving rock, and gravelly.
The soil. on the more elevated lands is generally shallow, in some places light, and in others a stiff retentive clay alternated with moss; in the valleys, a rich alluvial loam of great fertility; and in other parts, moor and moss. On the shore of St. Ninian's bay is a valuable bed of rich marl. The crops are, grain of all kinds, potatoes, turnips, and the various grasses: the system of husbandry has been carried to great perfection under the auspices of the Bute family, and through the stimulus afforded by the Bute Farmers' Society, who hold regular meetings for the distribution of prizes. The lands have been drained and inclosed, and much of the waste brought into cultivation; the farm houses and offices are substantial and well arranged. Great attention is paid to the dairy, and the cheese made here is equal in quality to the best Dunlop, and brings an equal price in the market; the cows are chiefly of the Ayrshire breed, and considerable numbers of cattle and sheep are reared in the pastures. The plantations are mostly oak, ash, elm, beech, larch, and fir; and in the grounds of Kames Castle are some stately planes and chesnut-trees. The annual value of real property in the parish, including North Bute, is £ 13,823. Kames Castle, the seat of James Hamilton, Esq., consists of an ancient and lofty tower to which a handsome modern mansion has been added: it is finely situated at the head of the bay of that name, in grounds richly embellished. This description of the surface, soil, and scenery of the parish embraces North Bute.
For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Dunoon and synod of Argyll. The minister's stipend is £276. 1. 3., with an elegant manse, and a glebe valued at £30 per annum; patrons, the Stuart family. Marquesses of Bute. The parish church, a plain structure erected in 1796, is in good repair, and contains 955 sittings. A second church, to which a district called New Rothesay, comprising a population of 2457 persons, was assigned as a quoad sacra parish, under act of the General Assembly in 1834, was built in 1800 at a cost of £1300, raised by subscription; it is a neat structure with 830 sittings, and now again forms only a chapel of ease, the quoad sacra parish having been abolished. The Stuart family appoint the minister, who has a manse. A Gaelic chapel, now in connexion with the Free Church, was erected at an expense of £550, by subscription, and contains 600 sittings. An elegant church and manse for the northern district of the isle, were erected and endowed by the late Marquess of Bute in 1836; and a civil parish, by the designation of North Bute, has been assigned to it out of Rothesay. After the Disruption of the Church of Scotland, the congregation that seceded from the old parish church erected a place of worship in Castle-street, at a cost, with the school attached, of about £3000. The edifice was designed by Mr. A. Simpson, architect, cf Aberdeen, and forms a great ornament to the town; it has a handsome tower and spire, 140 feet high, and contains 1000 sittings. The Free Church congregation that left the New Rothesay church erected a place of worship with a tower and spire, in 1845, on the east side of the bay. This building was designed by Mr. Wilson, architect, of Glasgow; the height, and the estimated expense, are nearly the same as those of the other church, and the number of sittings is about 1 100. Thus there are three places of worship in connexion with the Free Church, in the parish, exclusively of one in North Bute. There are also places of worship for the United Presbyterian Synod, Reformed Presbyterians, and Independents; and an episcopal chapel.
The parochial school is conducted by a master and assistant: the master's salary is £38, with a house, and two spacious school-rooms partly built by the late marquess; the school is well attended, and the fees are considerable. There is a school of industry, with a free schoolroom and house built by subscription; and in the rural part of the parish is a school partly endowed by the Bute family. In North Bute are two schools, one of them partly endowed by the noble family just mentioned, and the other belonging to the Free Church. Several friendly societies, and a National-Security savings' bank in which are deposits to the amount of nearly £8000, have tended to keep down the number of applicants for parochial relief. Near Etterick, in North Bute, are the remains of a Druidical temple, in tolerable preservation; and in various parts are others in a less perfect state. Numerous ruins of hill fortresses are still left, though many have been removed for the use of the materials. There are vestiges of various ancient chapels or oratories; and of several tumuli, one has been opened and found to contain a great number of human bones. Among the distinguished persons identified with this place are, Robert III., King of Scotland, who died here in 1406; Robert Wallace, Bishop of the Isles, who died in 1669, and was interred in the church; and the celebrated John, Earl of Bute, prime minister to George III., who was also buried here. Matthew Stewart, professor of mathematics in the university of Edinburgh, son of Dr. Dugald Stewart, minister of this parish, and father of the late Professor Dugald Stewart, of Edinburgh, was born here in 1717. The place gives the title of Duke of Rothesay to the Prince of Wales, born on the 9th of November, 1841.