An article from

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

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848

Kilwinning Parish

KILWINNING, a parish in the district of Cunningham, Ayrshire. It is bounded on the north by Dairy ; on the east by Stewarton ; on the south by Irvine and Stevenstone; and on the west by Ardrossan. Its greatest length is about 7 miles; its greatest breadth about 5 miles; and its superficial area 17½ square miles. Along the east and north-east, the surface is hilly; and thence to the south, south-west, and west, it slopes gently down in knolly or waving curves. Many of its heights and hillocks are crowned with plantation, and are agreeable features in a lovely landscape. The southern extremity is beautified by the mansion and part of the pleasure-grounds of ECLIVTON-CASTLE : see that article. Three mosses, the largest upwards of 200 acres in extent, and from 12 to 16 feet in depth, occupy separate localities, and furnish supplies of excellent peats. Almost all the rest of the parish is fully enclosed, richly cultivated, and sedulously devoted either to the plough, or more specially to the dairy. The soil, over nearly one-half of the whole surface, is a stiff clay; and over the other half it is a light sandy loam. The climate is exceedingly moist, rains being both frequent and severe, yet it seems not unhealthy, —several persons having lived considerably beyond the age of 80, and one to that of 104, during 40 years preceding the date of the Old Statistical Account. Coal abounds, and is mined in several pits, and exported. Limestone, prime in quality, and plentiful in quantity, occurs in almost every district. Freestone is wrought in several quarries, and is in request beyond local limits as a building material. A chalybeate spring wells up in the vicinity of the town, and has been thought an antidote to nervous complaints. A small lake, called Ash-en-yard or Ashgrove-loch, situated at the south-western extremity, abounds in excellent pikes and perches. Garnock and Lug-ton-waters intersect the parish, the former south-eastward, and the latter south-westward, making a confluence about a mile below Eglinton-castle; and are well-stored with different sorts of very tine trouts, and with salmon. But the GARNOCK [which see] often does damage by its inundations. Dusk water, which also traverses the parish, issues from a lochlet in the extreme north corner of the parish of Beith, flows ¾ of a mile eastward, and l¼ mile southward, and then, over a remaining course of 7¼ miles, runs south-westward to the Garnock, 1¾ above the town of Kilwinning. All the streams furnish an opulent amount of water-power for driving machinery; and they have aggregately on their banks a considerable number of small mills. The parish is cut from north to south by the Glasgow and Ayr railway, and by two turnpikes, and from north-east to south-west by the turnpike from Glasgow to Saltcoats. Population, in 1801, 2,700; in 1831, 3,772. Houses 541. Assessed property, in 1815, £13,786. —Kilwinning is in the presbytery of Irvine, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patron, the Earl of Eglinton. Stipend £266 12s. ; glebe £14 10s. Unappropriated teinds £781 17s. 10d. The parish-church was built in 1771. Sittings 1.030. A parochial missionary, a licentiate of the Establishment, assists in pastoral superintendence, and in preaching, and receives upwards of £40 salary, from the Earl of Eglinton, the minister, and evening collections. In the town are two dissenting places of worship. The United Secession congregation was established in 1825. Their meeting-house is a plain oblong building, occupied for worship only in the upper part; let in the lower flat as a dwelling-house; and built in 1824 at a cost of nearly £300. Sittings 250. Stipend not less than £80. The Original Seceder congregation was established in 1758. Their present chapel was built in 1825, at a cost of more than £600. Sittings between 500 and 600. Stipend £128, with a house and garden. According to a survey made by the parish-minister in 183o, the population then was 4,111; of whom 2,561 were churchmen, 708 were dissenters, and 842 were persons unconnected with any religious body, —the last class including all persons who were not communicants in some church, except the members of families whose heads were communicants.' There are 7 schools, conducted by 7 teachers, and attended by a maximum of 390 scholars —Six of the schools are non-parochial; and 2 of that number afford tuition in the classics. Parochial schoolmaster's salary £37, with fees, and £20 other emoluments. -The parish was anciently a vicarage of the monastery of the town, and derived its name from St. Winning, a Scottish saint of the 8th century. Near the manse is a fountain still called Winning's well; and on the 1st of February is hold a fair, called Winning's-day fair. Soon after the erection of the abbey, Kilwinning was known, in all the circumjacent country, under the name of Saig-town, thought by some to be a corruption of Saints'-town; and by this name it still is, or very recently was, well known to the inhabitants. Before the Reformation the church of the abbey served as the parish-church ; and even when the abbey itself was demolished, the church was allowed to stand, and continued to be used till the erection of the present edifice.

The abbey of Kilwinning was founded in 1140, for a colony of Tyronensian monks from Kelso, by Hugh de Morville, lord of Cunningham, and Lord High Constable of Scotland, and dedicated, like a church which preceded it, to St. Winning. Robert I., Hugh de Morville, John de Meneleth, the lord of Arran, Sir AVilliam Cunningham of Kilmaurs, Sir John Maxwell of Maxwell, and other opulent and powerful personages, endowed it with very extensive possessions. Besides granges and other property, the abbey claimed the proprietorship of the tithes and pertinents of 20 parish-churches, —13 of them in Cunningham, 2 in Arran, 2 in Argyleshire, and 2 in Dumbartonshire. "According to the traditionary account of the entire revenue of the monastery," says the statist in the Old Account, "it is asserted that its present annual amount would be at least £20,000 sterling." From Robert II. the monks obtained a charter, erecting all the lands of the barony of Kilwinning into a free regality, with ample jurisdiction; and they received ratifications of this charter from Robert III. and James IV. The monks appear to have been unusually expert in the chicanery of priestcraft, and to have enthralled the judgments and superstitious feelings of men in the dark ages of their influence, fully more than most of their contemporaries. They made so juggling a use of some pretended relics as, on the credulous faith of their virtues, to draw many offerings; and they, at the same time, made such an exhibition to the public eye of shallow austerities, as to win for themselves the credit of being superhuman in character. James IV., when passing their place in 1.307, made an offering of 14 shillings to their relics. Hoveden, thoroughly gulled with their base legends, gravely relates, that a fountain in the vicinity of their monastery ran blood for eight days and nights, in the year 1184. The last abbot was Gavin Hamilton, of the family of Rosslock, a hot opponent of John Knox, and a zealous partizan of Queen Mary. In 1538, he succeeded James Bethune, archbishop of Glasgow, as abbot; and in 1571, was killed in a skirmish in the Canongate of Edinburgh. According to tradition, the buildings of the abbey, when entire, covered several acres, and were stately and magnificent. In 1560, Alexander, Earl of Glencairn, one of the most active and distinguished promoters of the Reformation, acting by order of the States-general of Scotland, almost destroyed them, leaving only the church and a steeple, and so totally demolished what was strictly monastic, that all traces of even the foundations of the walls have long ago utterly disappeared. In 1603— after the abbey had been under the commendatorship, first of the family of Glencairn, and nextofthe family of Raith—its lands and titles, and various pertinents, were erected into a temporal lordship in favour of Hugh, Earl of Eglinton. Towards the close of lust century, the ruins which remained were repaired, at very considerable expense, by the Earl of Eglinton of the period ; and, from a drawing of them, made in 1789, they are exhibited in Grose's Antiquities.  

 

 

 

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