An article from

'The Topographical, Statistical, and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland'

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848


BEITH, a parish in the county of Ayr, district of Cunningham; with the exception of a small portion which belongs to Renfrewshire, on the border of which it is situated. It extends about 7 miles in length, from east to west; and its average breadth is about 4 miles. The land rises by a gradual ascent from south to north. On the northern boundary there is a small ridge of hills whose summits are elevated about 400 feet above the lowest ground in the parish, or 500 feet above the level of the sea. It is bounded on the north by Kilbirnie and Lochwinnoch parishes; on the east by Lochwinnoch and Neilston; on the south by Dunlop; and on the west by Dalry. The superficial area of the parish is 11,000 acres. The valued rent, of that part of the parish which lies in Ayrshire, is 6,115 14s. 2d. Scotch; and that of the portion in Renfrewshire, 163 6s. 8d. The amount of assessed property, in 1815, was 10,054. The real rent is believed to be in some places six times, and perhaps in others owing to their vicinity to the town of Beith, the richness of the soil, or the high cultivation of the lands even twelve times the valued rent. The subdivision of property is more remarkable in this and the neighbouring parishes than perhaps in any other part of Scotland. The small landholders generally reside upon their own property. Rents, in this parish, are paid chiefly from the dairy. The great road from Glasgow, by Paisley, to Irvine, Ayr, and Portpatrick, passes through the town of Beith; and the Ayrshire railway crosses between Kilbirnie and Lochwinnoch lochs. Great difficulty was experienced in carrying forward the line at this point owing to the soft nature of the soil. It is supported on pile-work. Population, in 1801, 3,103; in 1831, 5,052, besides 65 in that portion of the parish which is in Renfrewshire. Houses in Ayrshire 605; in Renfrewshire 9. About the time of the Revolution, or rather earlier, the kirk-town of Beith is said to have consisted of only five dwelling-houses and the minister's manse. In 1759, there were 700 examinable persons in the town of Beith. and upwards of 800 in the country-part of the parish. In 1758, the town contained nearly 1,500 examinable persons. Its present population is nearly 3,000. About the time of the union of the two kingdoms, a trade in linen cloth was introduced into this place, which became so considerable that the Beith markets were frequented by merchants from the neighbouring towns every week. About the year 1730, the linen business, which had greatly declined, was succeeded by a considerable trade in linen-yarn. The Beith merchants purchased the yarn made in the country around, and sold it to the Paisley and Glasgow manufacturers. This trade, when carried to its greatest extent, about the year 1700, is supposed to have amounted to 16,000 sterling yearly; and though it has long been upon the decline, linen yarn is still a considerable article of merchandise. From 1777 to 1789, the manufacture of silk gauze was carried on to a great extent in this place. There are three principal fairs annually, and a weekly market upon Friday. There is often a fine show of horses in the Beith markets, especially on St.Tennant's day, or August 30th, and on several Fridays in the beginning of spring. This town is 11 miles west of Paisley; 5 east of Dalry; and 4 south of Dunlop. The parish of Beith, anciently a vicarage, is in the presbytery of Irvine, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. The Earl of Eglinton is patron. The stipend is 251 5s. 11d., with a manse, and a glebe of the annual value of 130. Unappropriated teinds 447 18s. 9d. Theold glebe - upon which a part of the town nowstands - was exchanged in 1727, by contract betweenthe Earl of Eglinton, the presbytery of Irvine, and the incumbent, for a small farm near the town of Beith, consisting of 31 acres 3 roods. A new and handsome parish church was built in 1807; sittings 1,250. It would appear, that the old church was built soon after the Reformation. The third minister of Beith, after the Revolution, was Dr. William Leechman, principal of the University of Glasgow, in 1736; who, in 1744, was succeeded by Dr. John Wotherspoon, afterwards president of Princetown college, New Jersey. According to a survey made in 1835-0, there were 3,407 persons in this parish belonging to the Establishment, and 1,520 belonging to other denominations. A Relief church was founded here in 1784; sittings 849. Stipend 120, with manse, glebe, and some other emoluments. A United Secession congregation was established in 1759. Church rebuilt in 1816; sittings 498. Stipend 105, with manse and garden. The parochial schoolmaster has the minimum salary, with fees; and about 150 pupils. There are besides 8 private schools within the parish, attended by about 350 children. Before the Reformation, there were two chapels for public worship in this parish; one where the present church now stands, and the other upon the lands of Treehorn, one end of which remains entire. This chapel, with two acres of land adjoining to it, belonged to the monastery of Kilwinning, as appears from a charter under the great seal, dated 1594. - Kilbirnieloch, which lies at the west end of this parish, is something more than a mile long, and about half-a-mile broad. It contains trouts, pikes, perches, etc, and is frequented in hard winters by aquatic birds of various kinds. The writer of the first Statistical account of this parish suggested that a navigable canal might easily be carried across the country, from the Clyde below Paisley, to the sea at Irvine or Saltcoats, a distance of about 20 miles, through a narrow strath, running in that direction most of the way. In the middle of this strath stands the loch of Kilbirnie, about an equal distance from each end of the proposed canal, and it occupies also nearly the highest ground between them. A stream runs from the north end of this loch into the Clyde below Paisley; and the water of Garnock, running in an opposite direction, passes by the other end of it, and empties itself into the sea at Irvine. The fall, from the north end of Kilbirnie loch to Clyde, is calculated to be about 95 feet, and the declivity towards the sea cannot be much more. The whole of this strath lies between the Kilbirnie hills on the north, and the rising uplands of Beith and Lochwinnoch parishes on the south; and is thought to have been at one time covered with water, forming an extensive lake, of which Kilbirnie and Lochwinnoch lochs, at the two extremities, are the remains.





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