- MUIRAVONSIDE, a parish, in the county of Stirling, 3 miles (W.) from Linlithgow; containing, with the villages of Burnbridge, Maddiston, Rumford, and part of Linlithgow-Bridge, 2249 inhabitants. The compound term Muir-avon-side is derived from the original moorish appearance of part of the parish, and its situation on the bank of the river Avon, which runs along its boundary on the south-east and north-east for nine miles, separating it in one part from the county of Linlithgow. In ancient times the parish formed part of that of Falkirk, and was chiefly the property of the Livingstone family, who in 1540 obtained by marriage the old castle of Haining, a manorial residence. Sir James Livingstone, second son of the first earl of Linlithgow, was created Lord of Almond, the appellation, probably, of the district adjacent to the castle, and which is supposed to have been that portion of Falkirk now forming this parish: the silver communion cups of Muiravonside are still named "the cups of the church of Almond." The priory called Manuel or Emmanuel, situated on the west bank of the Avon, was founded about the year 1156, for Cistercian nuns, by King Malcolm IV., by whom, and several of his successors, it was richly endowed; and the prioress, Christiana, in 1292, as well as her successor, Alice, in 1296, swore fealty to Edward I. at Linlithgow. The ruins, together with other estates, came into the possession of the crown by the forfeiture of the Earl of Callendar and Linlithgow in 1715.The parish is about seven miles long, and in average breadth measures two miles, comprising 7000 or 8000 acres, the whole of which are arable, with the exception of a very small proportion of moss, waste, and plantations. There are some naked and dreary tracts, with a marshy soil, in the western portion; but the general variety of the surface, and the rising grounds, which are of moderate elevation, commanding extensive prospects of the Forth, the towers of Clackmannan, Stirling, and Linlithgow, the glens that ornament the course of the Devon, the Grampian hills, and numerous plantations, confer on the scenery a character of interest and cheerfulness. The principal inconvenience felt in the interior is the deficiency of streams, owing to the peculiar distribution of its land, which consists of an irregular and broken ridge lying between the Avon and the alluvial plains of the Forth. Springs are seldom seen throughout the range of clayey soil which covers two-thirds of the parish; the only streams are the Holloch, Manuel, and Sandyford; and though in the mosses there are some powerful springs, the infusion of iron is so strong as to form a crust of red ochre around their outlets. The soil, besides the extensive clayey portion, comprehends sand, peat, and marl, in which last was found an interesting specimen of the ancient elk, with a horn, now forming part of the collection in the College museum of Glasgow. There is also a considerable extent of gravelly earth; and the surface is singularly marked in parts with numerous picturesque mounds and hillocks, which, with the breaks, fissures, and perpetual variations of the sandstone rock along the course of the Avon, and its beautiful scenery of overhanging wood, constitute some of the most prominent and striking features in the locality.All the ordinary kinds of grain and green crops are raised. The ground is manured with dung procured from Edinburgh, and with lime obtained in large quantities from Linlithgow. In the eastern part of the parish, where the farms are large, the houses and offices good, and the lands well cultivated, furrow-draining has been extensively carried on, and secure fences raised; but most of these improvements are still wanting in the western part, where the farms are comparatively small. The live stock are excellent in the superior district; but in the western their quality is inferior, the want of proper fences, and other causes, contributing to injure the breed. The appearance of the whole parish, especially that of the eastern district, has undergone an entire change within the last fifty years; the thicket which at the close of the 18th century almost overspread it, has been cleared; and ground formerly covered with broom and heath now displays in perfection the results of agricultural labour and skill. The rock and coal formations in this neighbourhood are remarkably intersected with trap dykes. Along the course of the Avon is sandstone, and several quarries are wrought of fine blue whinstone; there are also two quarries of superior freestone, the one producing a material differing in some respects from that of the other, but both wrought in large quantities. Coal has been raised in many different places; but the only pits now in operation are those of Stanrig, Blackbraes, and Craigend. Iron, also, is procured by the Carron Company near the village; and large quantities are supposed to exist in other parts. The rateable annual value of the parish is £6735. Maudiston is the principal village, situated on a declivity in the midst of picturesque scenery. Part of the village of Linlithgow-Bridge, built by Alexander, Earl of Linlithgow, about the year 1650, is likewise in this parish; its customs were given in 1677, by Charles II., to Earl George, and many of the landholders in Muiravonside inherit estates granted in perpetual feus by the last earl in order to raise money to carry on the rebellion of 1715. The Edinburgh and Stirling turnpike-road passes through the district, as do also the railroad by Slamannan to Glasgow, another between Glasgow and Edinburgh, which crosses the vale of the Avon by a viaduct of more than twenty substantial arches, and the Union canal, which has a bridge of twelve arches in the midst of a profusion of beautifully sylvan and verdant scenery. The produce is usually disposed of at Falkirk. The parish is in the presbytery of Linlithgow and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and in the patronage of the Crown: the minister's stipend is £225, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £9 per annum. The church is a plain structure, built about the year 1812, and accommodates 500 persons. There is a place of worship for the United Secession. The parochial school affords instruction in Latin, writing, arithmetic, grammar, and geography; the master has a salary of £34. 4., with a dwelling, three and a half acres of land, and £24 fees: the land, which is valued at £6 per annum, is an ancient bequest of the Callendar family. There is a parochial library containing 120 volumes. The chief antiquities consist of the ruins of Manuel Priory and Almond Castle, the latter of which was deserted as a place of residence about the year 1750. A line of fortified eminences extends from Hazlelaw to Sight hill, but nothing is known of their origin; and stone coffins have been frequently discovered in various places.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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