NEILSTON, a parish, in the Upper ward of the county of Renfrew; containing, with the villages of West Arthurlee, Crofthead, Gateside, and Uplamuir, part of the late quoad sacra district of Levern, and the late quoad sacra district of Barrhead, 10,577 inhabitants, of whom 1497 are in the village of Neilston, 9 miles (S. W. by W.) from Glasgow. This place is supposed to have derived its name from one of its earliest proprietors, and in the 12th century belonged to Robert de Croc, whose daughter and heiress conveyed the lordship by marriage to Stewart, of Darnley, ancestor of the earls and dukes of Lennox, and of Darnley, the husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. The parish is about eight miles and a half in length and four miles and a half in breadth, and is bounded on the north by the Abbey parish of Paisley for nearly eight miles; on the east by the parish of Eastwood, on the south by Mearns, on the south-west by the parishes of Stewarton and Dunlop, and on the west by Beith and Lochwinnoch. The surface is irregular; towards the eastern boundary nearly flat, and towards the south and west, rising to a height of from 400 to 900 feet above the level of the Clyde. In some parts the ground forms hills of various elevation, of which the highest are the Pad and the Corkendale-law, the first about 800, and the second about 900, feet above the sea. Between these hills lies the narrow valley of the Levern, which that river waters for several miles, and along which passes the turnpike-road to Glasgow and Paisley. From the summit of the Pad is a magnificent view towards the east, comprehending much highly varied and richly beautiful scenery; and from Corkendale-law are seen, on a clear day, the vale of Levern, the rock of Dumbarton, Loch Lomond, with several of its picturesque islands, and, in the back ground, BenLomond and the Grampian range. To the east the view from Corkendale comprehends the fine vale of the Clyde, with the city of Glasgow, and the entire course of that river from its source till it loses itself in the Atlantic the Pentland hills, and the height of Tinto from its base to its summit; while on the south are the hills of Cumnock, Sanquhar, and others in the county of Kirkcudbright, and, in the distance, the tops of the Skiddaw and Saddleback mountains, in the county of Cumberland. To the south-west the prospect embraces the extended plains of Ayrshire, thickly studded with splendid seats and graceful villas, with the harbour and shipping of Ayr, the hills of Galloway, the rock of Ailsa, and the mountains of Morne and Newry on the Irish coast. The whole form an impressive assemblage of objects which for their number, variety, and beauty, are seldom equalled.
   The chief river is the Levern, which has its source in Long loch, and for four miles divides the parish, passing the villages of Neilston and Barrhead, and uniting its waters with those of the White Cart near Cruikstone Castle, to which fortress Mary, Queen of Scots, retired for a time after the battle of Langside. The Kirkton stream, issuing from a reservoir of that name, falls into the Levern at Arthurlee after a course of about two miles; and the Brock, which takes that appellation on leaving the Walton dam, pursues a devious line of six miles, and falls also into the Levern. These streams in their course, which is rapid, exhibit much romantic beauty, and form picturesque cascades, some of which display in miniature the most striking features of the celebrated falls of the Clyde. There are several lakes, of which the principal are, Long loch, Loch Libo, and Loch Cawpla. Long loch, from which, as already observed, issues the Levern, is about one mile in length and half a mile broad, and eighteen feet in depth; the shores possess little beauty or variety of scenery. Loch Libo is of elliptic form, and surrounded by lofty hills, richly wooded to the water's edge, and has a strikingly picturesque appearance: from it issues a small stream called the Lugton water, which flows through the pleasure-grounds of Eglinton, and falls into the Garnock near Kilwinning. Loch Cawpla is but of small extent, though its waters are increased in winter; and is not characterised by any interesting features. There are also several reservoirs, connected with the various works carried on in the parish: of these the Hairlaw, which is the most extensive, covers seventy-two acres of ground, and is about sixteen feet in depth, deriving its principal supply from Long loch. The Comore reservoir is sixteen acres in extent and twenty-four feet deep; and another, to the north of the Pad, is about fourteen acres in extent and sixteen feet in depth: the Kirkton and Walton dams likewise contain a considerable body of water. There are numerous springs of an excellent description, the largest of which, called "Aboon the Brae," issues from a rock, and discharges about forty imperial gallons per minute; also several wells of the purest water, which never fail in the driest summers.
   The soil in the eastern portion is a dry loam, occasionally intermixed with gravel; in the hilly district, of less fertility, but producing good pasture; and in other parts, moorland and mossy. The whole number of acres is estimated at 24,320, of which about 16,600 are arable, a large part in pasture, 870 acres in wood and plantations, and the remainder, whereof 3000 might be rendered productive, in moor and waste. The crops are, oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, turnips, cabbages, and beet. The system of agriculture is improved; draining has been carried on to some extent, and considerable portions of unprofitable land have been reclaimed, and brought into cultivation, under the auspices of the Neilston and Neighbourhood Agricultural Society, instituted 1826, and which is conducted with spirit and success. The lands have been well inclosed, and the fences are kept in good repair. Great attention is paid to the management of the dairy-farms, upon which much dependence is placed; and about 1100 milchcows are pastured, chiefly of the pure Ayrshire breed; but few sheep are bred here, not more indeed than 200, of which the larger number are of the Highland or black-faced, and the others of the Leicestershire breed. The farm houses and buildings are generally substantial and commodious; and the more recent improvements in the construction of agricultural implements have been adopted. The woods are chiefly of beech, ash, elm, plane, and oak. The plantations consist of larch, and Scotch and spruce firs, intermixed with various kinds of forest-trees; they are well attended to, and in a thriving state. The principal substrata are, limestone, ironstone, whinstone, freestone, and coal: iron-ore is found in some places, and zeolite of every species is abundant. The limestone is largely wrought; and there are mines of whinstone, freestone, and coal. An extensive quarry of whinstone has been opened at Brownside, and more than 50,000 cubic feet are taken from it annually: the freestone, of very fine quality, is wrought at Uplamuir, and is in great request for building. The coal is at various depths and of various quality. A seam seven inches in thickness is found at a depth of seven fathoms from the surface; ten fathoms below it occurs a seam twelve inches thick; at a depth of nineteen fathoms lower is a seam of six inches; and at twenty-one fathoms below this last, is the main coal, which varies from three and a half feet to five and a half in thickness. There are three pits in operation, and the aggregate quantity of coal procured is about 1200 tons per week. The rateable annual value of the parish is £28,961.
   The abundance of coal, and the numerous copious streams by which the parish is intersected, appear to have excited the attention of enterprising landholders to the introduction of manufacturers; and about the year 1768, the Rev. Mr. Miller, in conjunction with several of the heritors, established a factory for the manufacturing of inkle. The printing of calico was introduced soon afterwards, and works were erected on the banks of the Levern, at Fereneze, on a very extensive scale, in 1773; these works were carried on with great success, and upon so large a scale that the annual duties paid to the excise amounted to £3000, and the expenditure in wages to £2000. A bleachfield was formed in the same year, by Mr. Adair from Ireland, at Cross-Arthurlee, which was soon followed by numerous similar establishments founded by various proprietors; and additional printfields were gradually formed. The spinning of cotton was commenced in 1780, and a mill erected for that purpose at Dovecot-hall, on the banks of the Levern, by Messrs. Stewart, Dunlop, & Co.; and spinning-mills were subsequently erected, on a larger scale, at Gateside in 1786, at Broadlie and at Arthurlee in 1790, at Crofthead in 1792, and at another place in 1801. These several mills, most of which have been rebuilt or greatly enlarged, are of very spacious dimensions, and many of them five stories high; the number of mule spindles in all the mills at present in operation is 77,826, and of throstle spindles 1344. The number of looms at work is 230; and the number of persons constantly employed in spinning and weaving cotton in the works is 1659, of whom two-thirds are females. The value of the produce is estimated at £140,000 per annum, of which £51,575 are paid in wages. There are on the banks of the Levern four large printfields and three bleachfields; on the Kirkton stream, one printfield for dyeing Turkey red, and four bleachfields; and on the Walton stream, two printfields and one bleachfield. The aggregate number of people occupied in printing and bleaching is 2055, of whom about one-third are females; and the amount of wages is £47,700 per annum. An iron-foundry is carried on, for furnishing the different works with the requisite machinery, and for other articles of manufacture. Crofthead House and Lower Arthurlee House are spacious and handsome residences; and there are also several good dwellinghouses belonging to gentlemen connected with the works.
   The chief villages are Neilston and Barrhead, which are inhabited chiefly by persons employed in the mills, bleachfields, and printfields, and in the various trades requisite for the supply of this populous parish with the usual articles of merchandise. The nearest market-town is Paisley; but the villages abound with every thing requisite for the accommodation of the inhabitants. The municipal regulations are wholly under the direction of the county magistrates, and the peace is preserved by constables of their appointment: a court is held alternately at Neilston and Barrhead, for the recovery of small debts, monthly. There are post-offices at Neilston and Barrhead, which have a good delivery; and facility of intercourse with Paisley, Glasgow, and Edinburgh is afforded by good roads kept in excellent order, the turnpike-roads from Glasgow to Irvine, and from Paisley to Ayr, passing through the whole length of the parish. Numerous bridges cross the various streams. There is a mechanics' institution called the Levern Institution, which has a library containing a wellassorted collection on scientific and literary subjects. Fairs are held at Neilston on the third Tuesdays in February, May, and October, O. S., for cattle, and on the fourth Tuesday of July, for horses, when a horse-race is celebrated, which is in general well attended; a fair is also held on the last Friday in June, at Barrhead, chiefly for horse-racing, and on the following Saturday for cattle. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Paisley and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. The stipend of the incumbent is £263: the manse, erected about 1763, and enlarged and repaired in 1809, is a handsome and comfortable residence, delightfully situated; and the glebe comprises about eight acres of profitable land, valued at £24 per annum. The church is an ancient edifice of the later style of English architecture, repaired and new-seated in 1798; it is well situated for the parishioners generally, and is adapted for a congregation of 830 persons. There are places of worship for the Free Church and the United Associate Synod. The parochial school affords a liberal course of instruction; the master has a salary of £34, with a large house and garden, and the fees average upwards of £60 per annum, exclusive of extensive private tuition, yielding £30. There are five schools maintained by the proprietors of the cotton-works, for the instruction of the children employed by them, in reading, writing, and arithmetic; and seven others, of which four are for females, supported exclusively by the fees. The aggregate number of children taught in the several schools exceeds 1000. There are but very few vestiges of antiquity in the parish. Two of the springs, called Holy wells, point to the existence of some religious establishments here at an early period; but there are no remains, nor is any thing recorded of their history. Baron Mure of the exchequer, at one time member of parliament for the county, a man of profound learning and of great eloquence; and the late Dr. Monteath, an eminent physician, were natives of the parish. Mr. John Robertson, the inventor of the self-acting mule, which has contributed so greatly to the improvement and perfection of the cotton manufactures established here, was also a native.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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