KILWINNING, a manufacturing town and parish, in the district of Cunninghame, county of Ayr; containing, with the villages of Dalgarvan, Doura, and Fergushill, 5251 inhabitants, of whom 2971 are in the town, 3 miles (N. N. W.) from Irvine, and 3 (N. E. by E.) from Saltcoats. This place, which is of great antiquity, derives its name from the dedication of its original church to St. Winnin, who came from Ireland in 715, to convert the inhabitants of this part of the country to Christianity. In 1140, a monastery was founded in honour of this saint by Hugh de Moreville, lord high constable of Scotland, for monks of the Tyronensian order, whom he introduced into it from the abbey of Kelso. This monastery, which was amply endowed by the founder, and enriched with large grants of land from several of the Scottish monarchs, continued to flourish till the Dissolution, when its revenues, notwithstanding previous alienations, amounted to £880. 3. 4., exclusive of numerous payments in kind. In 1296, the abbot of Kilwinning swore fealty to Edward I. of England; in 1513, the abbot of the monastery accompanied James IV. to the battle of Flodden Field, where he was killed fighting by the side of his sovereign. Of the other abbots none are distinguished in history, with the exception of Gavin Hamilton, the last, the zealous adherent of Mary, Queen of Scots, whom he attended at the battle of Langside, and for whom he afterwards appeared at York, as one of her commissioners to treat with Elizabeth of England. The site of the monastery, and the lands appertaining to it, were, after the Reformation, granted by the crown to Alexander Cunningham, son of the Earl of Glencairn, who was appointed commendator, and, during his tenure, alienated a portion of the lands. In 1592, the remainder of the lands belonging to the monastery were erected into a temporal lordship, in favour of William Melville, who subsequently transferred the lordship to Hugh, fifth earl of Eglinton, whose descendants are the present proprietors. Of that once stately and venerable structure, which was almost demolished at the Reformation, the gable of the south transept, portions of the walls, with a few of the finelypointed arches, and an ancient gateway, are the only remains. A part of the abbey church, a spacious cruciform structure, was repaired, and appropriated as the parochial church till the year 1775, when it was taken down, and the present church erected on its site. The tower of the abbey church, a square massive structure 103 feet high, and which had been repaired by the Earl of Eglinton in 1789, remained till the year 1814, when it fell from natural decay; and in the year following, a similar tower, of nearly equal dimensions, was erected on the site.
   The introduction of freemasonry into Scotland appears to have originated in the building of the monastery of Kilwinning, for which purpose several of those masons and artificers of Rome whom the pope had incorporated for the promotion of ecclesiastical architecture, and invested with peculiar privileges, were brought over from the continent. The architect who superintended the erection of the monastery, the masons who accompanied him, and such of the workmen of the neighbourhood as were qualified to assist them, were formed into a society, of which the architect was elected mastermason. Similar societies were gradually instituted in various parts of the country, subordinate to that of Kilwinning, which, as the oldest of the kind, retained an acknowledged pre-eminence, and of which the master-mason was chosen as grand master over all the others. After his return from England, James I. of Scotland patronized the lodge of Kilwinning, and presided as grand master of the order for some time; subsequently delegating the election of a grand master, generally a man of high rank, to the brethren of the various lodges. James II., however, conferred the office of grand master on William Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, and Baron of Roslin, and made the office hereditary in his family; and his successors, barons of Roslin, held their courts or grand lodges at this place. In 1736, Lord Roslin assembled thirty-two of these lodges at Edinburgh, to whom he resigned all his hereditary rights as grand master; and the grand lodge of Scotland, consisting of representatives from all the other lodges of the kingdom, has since that period been established there.
   The town is pleasantly situated on an acclivity, rising gently from the west bank of the river Garnock, and consists of one narrow street nearly a mile in length, from which diverge some lanes, and of some ranges of detached houses. The houses are indifferently built, and of antique appearance, with the exception of a few of modern erection; but the environs abound with a variety of beautiful scenery, in which the pleasure-grounds of Eglinton Castle form a conspicuous and interesting feature. A society for the practice of archery, which has existed in the town since the year 1488, holds annual meetings in July, which are numerously attended by persons from all parts of the country. The chief prize is a silver arrow, which is given by the society to the successful competitor, who becomes captain for the following year, and presides as master of the ceremonies at a ball given on the occasion. The principal trade is the weaving of silk, woollen, and cotton goods, in which about 400 looms are employed; there are three factories for carding and spinning cotton-wool; and an extensive tannery has been established for more than half a century. Many of the inhabitants, also, are engaged in the mines and collieries in the immediate vicinity; and in the town are several shops, well supplied with various articles of merchandise. The post-office has a daily delivery; a branch of the Commercial Bank of Scotland has been opened; and fairs for horses and cattle are held in the town on the 1st of February and the first Wednesday in November. Facility of communication is maintained by excellent roads, which intersect the parish in different directions, and of which eleven miles are turnpike; the Glasgow and Ayr railway, also, passes the western extremity of the town, where it has an intermediate station, and where it meets the branch line to Ardrossan. A branch from the main line to Kilmarnock also runs through the parish, within a mile of the town; and a railroad from the collieries of Doura and Fergushill was some years since laid down, which joins the Ardrossan branch of the Glasgow and Ayr railway about two miles from the harbour.
   The parish, which is of very irregular form, is about seven miles in length and five in extreme breadth, and comprises nearly 12,000 acres, of which from 3000 to 4000 are arable, and the remainder woodland, pasture, and moor, the proportions whereof cannot be well ascertained. The surface rises in graceful undulations from the south-east to the north-west, without attaining any great degree of elevation; and is intersected by the beautiful valleys of the Garnock and the Lugton, of which the former is richly cultivated, and the latter thickly wooded. The high lands command an extensive and beautifully-diversified prospect, embracing the vale of Garnock, the woods of Mountgreenan and Eglinton, the towns of Saltcoats, Stevenston, and Irvine, with the bay of Ayr, the rock of Ailsa, the Mull of Cantyre, and the mountains of Arran. The river Garnock, which has its source among the hills of Kilbirnie, flows in a copious stream southward through the parish, and, after passing the town, pursues a remarkably sinuous course towards the south-west, and falls into the sea near the mouth of the Irvine. The Lugton issues from Loch Libo, in Renfrewshire, and, taking a southwestern course, runs through the demesne of Mountgreenan and the pleasure-grounds of Eglinton into the river Garnock, about two miles from its influx into the sea. The Caaf, a small tributary of the Garnock, after forming for a short distance a boundary between this parish and that of Dalry, flows through a narrow wooded dell at Craigh-Head mill, where it forms a beautifully-picturesque cascade. The only lake is that of Ashgrove, about a mile and a half to the north-west of the town, and partly in the parish of Stevenston; it contains pike and perch, but is neither of great extent nor distinguished by any peculiar features. Salmon and salmon-trout are still found in the Garnock, on which the fisheries were formerly lucrative, yielding a considerable rent to the proprietors; but, from stake-fishing at the mouth of the river, and from various other causes, they have been for many years comparatively unproductive.
   The soil on the higher grounds, and in the central parts of the parish, is generally a clay of no great depth; on the lands sloping towards the rivers, a richer loam; and in other parts, light and sandy, but of great fertility. The chief crops are oats and potatoes, with a moderate proportion of wheat, and the usual grasses; the system of husbandry has been gradually improving, and a due rotation of crops is invariably observed. Much progress has been made in surface-draining; the lands have been inclosed with hedges of thorn, which are kept in good repair; and the farm-buildings, though of inferior order, are generally adapted to the size of the farms, which vary from fifty to eighty acres. Great attention is paid to the improvement of live stock. The sheep are mostly of the black-faced breed, with some few of the Leicestershire and South-Down kind; the cattle are usually of the Ayrshire, and the horses of the Clydesdale, breed. There are very considerable remains of ancient wood, particularly in Eglinton Park, where many fine specimens of stately timber are found: among these are numerous beeches of venerable growth, of which kind of tree the planting has for some years been discontinued. The plantations, which are very extensive, and in a thriving state, consist of ash, elm, oak, larch, and Scotch fir, and contribute greatly to enrich the scenery. The substrata of the parish are principally of the coal formation, with bands of ironstone, limestone, and sandstone; and clay for making bricks and draining-tiles is also found. The coal, which occurs in several varieties, and of good quality, is wrought at Doura, Fergushill, Redstone, and Eglinton. The mines afford employment to about 250 men; and of the produce, exclusively of what is sold for the supply of the neighbourhood, 50,000 tons are annually sent by the railroad to the harbour of Ardrossan, whence they are shipped for Ireland and the Mediterranean. There are two quarries of limestone, and a quarry of excellent freestone, in constant operation, and which together employ a considerable number of men. The rateable annual value of the parish is £15,261.
   Eglinton Castle, the seat of the earls of Eglinton, descendants of Roger de Montgomerie, a near relative of William the Conqueror, whom he accompanied to England, is a splendid castellated mansion, erected about the year 1798, by Hugh, the twelfth earl, and beautifully situated in an extensive park, about a mile to the south-east of the town. The castle occupies a spacious quadrangular area, defended at the angles with circular turrets, and comprehending the ancient keep, a round tower of great strength and lofty dimensions. It contains numerous stately apartments superbly embellished, to which an entrance is afforded from a magnificent circular saloon, thirty-six feet in diameter, rising to the roof, and lighted from an elegant dome. The park, which comprises above 1200 acres, and is well stocked with deer, is tastefully laid out in lawns, parterres, and pleasure-grounds, through which the river Lugton takes its winding course to the Garnock, adding greatly to the beauty of the scenery of the demesne, which is also embellished by more than 400 acres of thriving plantations, diversified with ancient timber of majestic growth. A tournament was celebrated within the grounds, on a truly magnificent scale, by the present earl, in August, 1839, and attracted a large concourse of nobility and gentry from all parts of the United Kingdom and from the continent. The lists were formed in the gently-sloping grounds near the castle, and inclosed an area 650 feet in length and 250 feet in breadth; and a splendid pavilion was erected immediately behind the mansion, 375 feet long and forty-five feet wide, for the accommodation of 2000 persons, who were courteously entertained on the occasion. The Earl of Eglinton presided as lord of the tournament; Lord Saltoun officiated as judge of the lists; the Marquess of Londonderry as king of the tournament; and Lady Seymour, attended by a numerous train of ladies of high rank, and followed by the Irvine archers, appeared as the Queen of Beauty. Among the knights that entered the lists were, the Marquess of Waterford, the Earl of Craven, Viscount Alford, Lord Glenlyon, Lord Cranstoun, the Earl of Cassilis, and Prince Louis Napoleon Buonaparte. The tournament continued for two days; and though more than 80,000 spectators were assembled within the park, which was thrown open indiscriminately to the public, not the slightest damage of any kind occurred. Mountgreenan House is an elegant modern mansion, situated in a well-planted demesne watered by the Lugton; and Monkcastle and Ashgrove are also handsome residences.
   The ecclesiastical affairs of the parish are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Irvine and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. The minister's stipend is £266. 12., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £14. 10. per annum; patron, the Earl of Eglinton. The church, situated in the centre of the town, is a neat plain structure erected in 1771, and contains 1030 sittings. There are places of worship for the United Secession, Free Church, and Original Seceders. The parochial school is well attended; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house and garden, and the fees average about £20 per annum. Near the village of Doura, a large schoolroom, with a play-ground, and a dwelling-house for a master, has been erected at the sole expense of the Earl of Eglinton; and there are schools in connexion with the collieries.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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