KILMAURS, a burgh of barony and a parish, in the district of Cunninghame, county of Ayr; containing, with the villages of Knockentiber, Kirkton, Milton, and Crosshouse, 2617 inhabitants, of whom 1035 are in the burgh, 2 miles (N. N. W.) from Kilmarnock. This place, of which the name is obviously derived from the dedication of its church, was granted in the twelfth century to the ancestor of the Glencairn family, who came from England in the reign of Malcolm IV., and assumed the surname of Cunninghame from the name of the manor. The family obtained additional lands from Robert Bruce; and about the beginning of the fifteenth century, Sir William Cunninghame having enlarged his possessions by marriage, his descendant, Alexander, was created Earl of Glencairn by James II. William, the ninth earl, for his zealous attachment to the royal cause during the usurpation of Cromwell, was made chancellor of Scotland, and died in 1664. After the death of John, the twentyfifth earl, without issue, in 1796, the title became extinct; and the lands are now divided among several proprietors.
   The town is pleasantly situated on the north bank of the rivulet Kilmaurs, and consists of one main street of considerable length, and of another intersecting it nearly at right angles. At a distant period, this place was celebrated for the manufacture of cutlery; and the clasp knives, or whittles, made here were in great repute; but the only manufactures at present carried on are those of cotton goods and shoes, in which most of the inhabitants are employed. The weekly market has fallen into disuse; but fairs, chiefly for cattle, are held in June and at Martinmas. A branch office, under the post-office at Kilmarnock, has been established; and facility of communication is maintained by the turnpikeroad from Stewarton to Kilmarnock, and by good statute roads which intersect the parish. The town was erected into a burgh of barony by charter of James V., granted to the Earl of Glencairn in 1527; and the government is vested in two bailies, and a council of burgesses, who derive their qualification from the tenure of certain lands leased to them in free burgage by charter of Cuthbert, Earl of Glencairn, and his son, Lord Kilmaurs. The magistrates have all the jurisdiction of royal burghs, both in civil and criminal cases, but hold no regular courts, the number of causes in both not exceeding two or three in a year. There are no exclusive privileges enjoyed by the burgesses; and the only patronage is that of a vote in the appointment of the parochial schoolmaster. The town-hall, situated in the centre of the main street, is a neat but small structure, ornamented with a steeple; it contains the necessary arrangements for transacting the public business of the burgh.
   The parish, which is situated on the confines of the district of Kyle, is partly bounded on the south by the river Irvine, which separates it from the parish of Dundonald, and on the west by the Garrier burn, which divides it from the parish of Dreghorn. It is nearly six miles in length, and two miles and three-quarters in extreme breadth, comprising an area of almost 6000 acres, of which not far from the whole is arable and pasture in about equal portions. The surface is generally undulated, rising in some places into hills of moderate elevation, of which the summits are richly wooded, and command interesting views over the surrounding country, which is in a high state of cultivation. The river Kilmaurs, which has its source in the adjoining parish of Fenwick, divides this parish into two nearly equal parts: at some distance to the south of the town, it assumes the name of Carmel; and in its course westward, after receiving the waters of the Garrier burn, it flows into the Irvine. The soil is exuberantly fertile, producing abundant crops of wheat, beans, barley, oats, and potatoes; and the system of husbandry has been brought to great perfection. The lands have been drained and inclosed; the farm-buildings are substantial and commodious, and all the more recent improvements in agricultural implements have been extensively adopted. The pastures are luxuriantly rich; the cattle reared in the parish are of the best possible breeds, with cows of the Ayrshire on the dairy-farms, which are under excellent management. Large quantities of butter and cheese of good quality are produced, the latter of the Dunlop kind; and both obtain a ready sale in the markets. The rateable annual value of the parish is returned at £12,970.
   The plantations, though not extensive, are in a very flourishing state, and, from their situation generally upon the hills and rising grounds, add much to the beauty of the scenery. The main substratum is coal, of which there are several mines in operation in the parish and in the immediate vicinity; the principal of these is at Gatehead, where a considerable number of persons are regularly employed. The chief seats in the parish are, Kilmaurs House, an ancient mansion, formerly the seat of the Cunninghame family; Thornton House; Carmel-Bank; and Craig; all modern mansions beautifully situated. There are some small hamlets, of which the principal are, Crosshouse, containing a population of 255 inhabitants, and Gatehead, in which are about 167, chiefly employed in the collieries. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Irvine and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. The minister's stipend is £261, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum; patroness, Lady Mary Montgomerie. The church, a very ancient structure, was originally founded in 1403, by Sir William Cunninghame, who endowed it with lands for the support of a provost, seven prebendaries, and two choristers, which establishment was dissolved at the Reformation. The structure was repaired in 1804, and contains 550 sittings. In the aisle, which was the sepulchral chapel of the Glencairn family, is a beautiful monument to the memory of William, the ninth earl, chancellor of Scotland; but it has been much defaced. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Secession; and a missionary, who was supported by subscription, till lately officiated at Gatehead and Crosshouse. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £25. 13., with a house and garden, and the fees average £33 per annum. Among the monuments of antiquity are the remains of some tumuli, whereof one, near Carmel-Bank, of which the fosse may still be traced, is supposed to have been a place for distributing justice. The ruins of Busby Castle, an ancient seat of the Barclay family, are now the property of the Duke of Portland.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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