History and Description

Stirlingshire, Scotland - History and Description, 1868

"STIRLING, an inland county of Scotland, occupying the isthmus in the middle of Scotland between the rivers Forth-and Clyde, and at nearly mid-distance between the German and Atlantic oceans. It lies between 55° 56' and 56° 16' N. lat., and between 3° 35' and 4° 40' W. long., on the mutual borders of the Highlands in the W. and the Lowlands in the E. The figure of the county is singular, and has been likened to a fish or eel. Its length from E. to W. is 36 miles, but following the curvature of its form from Linlithgow-bridge on the E.S.E. to Loch Lomond, near Inversnaid in the W., 45 miles; and its greatest breadth from N. to S. is 18 miles, but its average breadth does not exceed 10 miles, and in the N., where it tapers, the distance across is under 5 miles. On the northern side are two small detached portions, consisting of the parish of Alva and part of the parish of Logie. It comprises 462 square miles, or 295,875 acres, of which nearly two-thirds are under cultivation, besides 15 square miles of lake and 40,000 acres of carse land near the Forth. Its boundaries are for the most part distinctly marked by watercourses or lakes, the principal boundary line on the N. and E. being the Forth, which separates it from the counties of Perth and Clackmannan, the Avon and one of its tributaries on the S.E. separating it from Linlithgowshire, the Kelvin on the S. from Lanarkshire, and Loch Lomond on the W. from Dumbartonshire, besides for 5½ miles the lake of Loch Katrine, and numerous small streams, tributaries of the rivers above named. This county is one of the most important in Scotland. Lying in the direct passage from the northern to the southern parts of the island, it has been the scene of many memorable transactions, and there are few counties in which more monuments of antiquity are to be met with. In the earliest times it was the seat of the Damnii, and was subsequently incorporated in the Roman province Vespasiana. In the lower division of the county are still some slight traces of the wall of Antoninus, built for the purpose of protecting the Roman conquests on the S., and along the same line remains of Roman forts, weapons, and coins have occasionally been met with. After the overthrow of the Pictish sovereignty, Stirlingshire, with all the country S. of the Forth, was overrun by the Saxons, and formed part of the Strathclyde and Northumbrian kingdoms; and at a later date it passed quietly under the government of the Scottish sovereigns. In the 12th century it was much benefited by David I., who established religious houses, particularly that at Cambus-Kenneth. Stirling Castle commanded the most important pass betwixt the northern and southern districts of the kingdom, adding greatly to the importance of the county. In 1297 Wallace defeated the English near Stirling, and in the following year was himself routed at Falkirk. In 1314 Robert Bruce gained a decisive victory over Edward at Bannockburn, in which above 30,000 English perished. In 1488 James III. was defeated by his rebellious nobles at Sauchieburn, near Stirling, and afterwards murdered at Beaton's Mill. In 1645 the Duke of Montrose defeated the Covenanters under Baillie at Kilsyth, and in 1745 the Royalists were defeated by the Pretender near Falkirk. The surface in the western part, adjacent to Loch Lomond, is extremely mountainous, including Ben Lomond, which attains an elevation of 3,195 feet above sea-level, and constitutes the watershed between the streams which flow eastward to the German Ocean, and those which flow westward to the Atlantic. Immediately E. of this Highland district the land becomes flatfish, or gently inclining towards the vale of the Endrick on the S. and the rivers Kelty and Forth on the N. In the centre of the county the land is again elevated into a series of hills, which under various names, as Campsie Fells, Kilsyth, Fintry, and Gargunnock hills, run from near the north-eastern border towards the S.W. through the middle of the county-those of greatest altitude ranging from 1,300 to 1,600 feet in height. From one of these eminences, called Kilsyth Hill, there is obtained a view embracing an extent of near 12,000 square miles. In a line parallel with these hills run the Lennox, Stirling, and Ochills, forming the eastern screen of the large central plain, and having their sides and summits clothed with a green sward, which affords excellent pasturage for sheep. All E. of these hills, the country, comprising nearly one-third of the whole county, consists of carse land, in many parts flat, and in others, presenting a succession of inclined planes gradually rising towards the S. from the vale of the Forth. In this quarter the country has experienced extensive improvements, and now comprises a rich and varied tract, exhibiting a constant alternation of fields in the highest state of tillage, meadows, plantations, pleasure grounds, gardens, and orchards. The Forth, which is the principal river, traverses a large part of the county; it takes its rise from a spring near the summit of Ben Lomond, and flows by a winding course of 20 miles, through the links of Stirling to the estuary called the Firth of Forth. In its course it receives the waters of the Avon, Carron, Pow, Bannockburn, Touch, Allan, Devon, and other small streams. The Carron, which is the largest of these tributaries, has its source near the centre of the county, and is navigable for vessels of large burden for about two miles above its junction with the Forth. The other rivers are the Finglen, or Kelvin, which runs to the Clyde, and the Blane and Carrock waters, tributaries of the Endrick, which last has a fall of 91 feet before it falls into Loch Lomond. Besides these waters, the county enjoys the advantage of the Forth and Clyde canal and the Union Navigation. The lakes, exclusive of Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine, which only touch the boundary, are lochs Airthrey, Arklet, Black, Coulter, Craig-End, and Ellrig. Almost every variety of soil to be met with in Scotland occurs in Stirlingshire, but the lands are provincially classified into carse, dryfield, hill, moor, and moss. Of these the carse or alluvial lands are the most common and the most fertile, embracing thousands of acres on the banks of the Forth, and stretching from Buchlyvie to the eastern limits of the county. This soil is composed of argillaceous earth, inter-seamed with beds of shells, marl, and clay, having in some places a depth of more than 20 feet, and lying generally from 12 to 25 feet above sea-level at high water. The dryfield comprehends the lower or arable declivities of the hills, and the greater part of the valleys in the central and western districts, and is in general of a light and gravelly description, with some patches of rich loam interspersed. The hill division is chiefly a light sandy soil intermixed with till, and in places peat earth, and is wholly in pasture. The moorland comprises the heathy tracts now chiefly confined to the parish of Buchanan, on the borders of the Highlands, but formerly occupying about one-fourth of the county. The moss, which has also been largely reclaimed, prevails now chiefly in Slamannan, where it rests upon a fine clay, and affords good pasture for sheep. Agriculture is in a highly improved condition, but from the variety of soils the system pursued cannot be uniform, nor its produce equally abundant in different parts. On the fertile lands of the eastern district large crops of wheat, beans, barley, turnips, and potatoes are raised, and the culture of clover and artificial grasses has been generally adopted; but on the poor and thin soils of the Highlands in the W. bear and oats are chiefly grown. The ranges of moor in the upland districts are exclusively devoted to the feeding of numerous flocks of sheep and highland cattle, the former being of the Linton, Cheviot, and old black faced varieties. The size of the farms in the Lowlands varies from 25 to 300 acres, but in the Highlands often exceeds 4,000 acres. The greater part of the surface was anciently covered with forests and mosses, but the woods and plantations now comprise only about 23,000 acres, and the mosses have generally been drained and brought under tillage. The geological formation of the underlying strata may be grouped into three classes: the metamorphic rocks in the Highland district of the W., comprising chiefly micaceous schist, chlorite, and mica slate; the carboniferous formation, including the coal measures of the S. and S.E., with the Old Red sandstone in the N.W.; and the igneous formation of the central district, comprising the trap and basaltic rocks which protrude through the superincumbent coal and limestone, and form the broad mass of the Lennox hills. Stirlingshire excels in the quantity and variety of its mineral productions, the most abundant of which are coal, ironstone, limestone, freestone, and sandstone, all occurring in the same districts comprised by the great coal-field which extends from Kintyre to Fifeshire. The principal coal pits are in the southern base of the Lennox hills, and in the vicinity of the Forth and Clyde canal, by means of which, and the Union canal, vast quantities of coal are exported to London, Edinburgh, and other places on the eastern coast. Veins of silver were discovered and wrought in the last century, but the working of them has long since been discontinued, also copper, lead, arsenic, and cobalt have been raised at different periods, but not to any considerable amount. A bed of slate, occurring between the seams of coal and the upper stratum of limestone, furnishes the Campsie chemical works with materials for the manufacture of alum and copperas, and at Ballagan some thin strata of alabaster and rich specimens of antimony have been found. The staple manufacture of this county is iron goods, both cast and malleable, the chief seat of which is at Carron, near Falkirk. Other manufactures are the making of carpenters' nails at St. Ninian's, paper at Denny, leather at Falkirk and St. Ninian's; cotton, woollen, tartan, and worsted goods at Stirling, St. Ninian's, Ballindalloch, Dunipace, Fintry, and Alva; calico printing and chemical works at Campsie, Denny, East Kilpatrick, and Strathblane, and carpets at Bannockburn; while at Lillyburn, Milton, and other towns are distilleries, tanneries, and breweries. The old valued rent of the county was £9,042, and the new valuation for 1861 £302,087, exclusive of canals and railways. The assessment on lands and houses is at the rate of 2½d. in each £100 of real rental. The population in 1851 was 86,237, inhabiting 11,312 houses and in 1861 it had increased to 91,926, inhabiting 12,196 houses. The number of separate families in 1861 was 20,305, and the children from five to fifteen attending school 14,669. The county contains 22 complete parishes, and portions of 4 others. The burghs and chief towns are Stirling, the capital, a royal and parliamentary burgh, with a population in 1861 of 13,846; Falkirk, a parliamentary burgh, with a population of 9,029; Kilsyth, a burgh of barony, and six other towns with a population over 2,000, viz:, Balfour, Drymen, and Lennoxtown, where small debt courts are held; and Alva, Bannockburn, and Denny, besides about 100 villages and hamlets. It returns one member to parliament for the county, the parliamentary constituency in 1860 being 1,639. Stirling and Falkirk are also specially represented, the former being joined with Culross, Queensferry, Dunfermline, and Inverkeithing in returning one member; and the latter with Linlithgow, Lanark, Airdrie, and Hamilton in returning one member. The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant, vice-lieutenant, 21 deputy-lieutenants, a sheriff, and two substitutes. The commissary court is held at Stirling every Tuesday and Friday. The sheriff small debt courts twice a week, alternately at Stirling and Falkirk during session; also on fixed days at Drymen, Lennoxtown, and Balfron. The general quarter sessions are held at Stirling on the first Tuesdays in March, June, and August, and, on the last Tuesday in October. Nineteen parishes are returned as assessed, and five as unassessed, for the poor. For ecclesiastical purposes it comprises, besides the 22 civil parishes, one quoad sacra parish and eight chapelries, belonging to the presbyteries of Stirling, Linlithgow, Dumbarton, Glasgow, and Dunblane, and in the synods of Perth, Glasgow, and Lothian. The number of clergy are 25, with average stipends of £240, and the number of Established churches 31, with 21 Free churches, 19 United Presbyterian churches, 2 Episcopalian chapels, and four Roman Catholic chapels, besides places of worship belonging to the Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, and other dissenting congregations. There are about 106 public day schools, 70 private day schools, and 17 evening schools for adults, within the county. The county is traversed by numerous good roads, and the North British, the Caledonian, and the Forth and Clyde railways unite here. The principal seats are Buchanan House, of the Duke of Montrose, who has large estates in this county, and has bestowed much attention to the rearing of plantations; Dunmore Park, of the Earl of Dunmore; Kerse House, of the Earl of Zetland; Airthrey, of Lord Abercrombie; Stenhouse, of Bruce, Bart.; Duntreath and Colzium, of Edmonstone, Bart.; Stirling Park, of Hay, Bart.; Touch-House, of Stewart, Bart.; besides mansions of the private gentry. The antiquities are numerous, and some of those attributed to the Romans of high interest, as Antonine's wall, the great causeway from the W. of England to the Grampians, the two stations at Castle Cary and Roughcastle; the ruin resembling a great tun called Arthur's Oven, attributed to the Romanized Britons; Arthur's Lift cromlech, with the cairns near it; British strengths and tumuli at Dunipace; also the baronial castles of Almond, Airth, Baldernock, Dunmore, Duntreath, Inversnaid, Mugdock, Powfonts, and Stirling, which last is probably the most interesting, as the others are so demolished and transmuted as to convey but an inadequate impression of their original construction. The ecclesiastical antiquities are Cambus-Kenneth Abbey, Emmanuel nunnery at Muiravonside, the Dominican and Franciscan friaries of Stirling, and the chapel royal in Stirling Castle."

Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)