Penninghame

   PENNINGHAME, a parish, in the county of Wigton, 8 miles (N. W.) from Wigton; containing, with the market-town of Newton-Stewart, 3672 inhabitants, of whom 1500 are in the rural districts. This place, of which the name is of obscure and doubtful derivation, is not distinguished by many events of historical importance. There are some memorials of a battle having occurred at a very early period near Killiemore, in the parish, supposed to have been between the Romans under Agricola and the ancient Caledonians under Galdus; but no particulars have been recorded. The residence of the bishops of Galloway appears to have been at this place; and the celebrated bishop Alexander Gordon, who died here in 1576, was also proprietor of the lands of Clary, in the parish, which he settled upon his only daughter and heiress, who married Anthony Stewart, rector of Penninghame, a member of the Galloway family, and which are now the property of the present earl. The parish is bounded on the north and east by the river Cree, and on the west by the Bladenoch; and is about sixteen miles in extreme length, and from five to six miles and a quarter in extreme breadth; of very irregular form; and comprising nearly 38,000 acres, of which 12,000 are arable, 600 woodland and plantations, 1600 meadow, and the remainder hill pasture, moorland, moss, and waste. The surface rises to a considerable height in the centre of the parish, the eminences ranging from north to south, and sloping gradually towards the rivers on the east and west; it is also diversified with numerous hills of moderate elevation, and with tracts of level land, of which latter the moss of Cree, in the south-east, is almost 2000 acres in extent. The rivers are, the Cree, which rises on the confines of Ayrshire, and, after flowing for some distance along the border of the parish, expands into a considerable lake, and, pursuing its course southwards, falls into the bay of Wigton; and the Bladenoch, which, issuing from Loch Mabery, at the north-west angle of the parish, forms its boundary, and runs eastward through the parish of Wigton into the Cree. There are various small streams, tributaries to the rivers; and several lakes in the northern part of the parish, but none of them of any considerable extent, or distinguished by features deserving particular notice. There are also numerous springs of excellent water, and a chalybeate, strongly impregnated, but which has long ceased to be medicinally used. Salmon and grilse are taken in the Cree in great abundance, during the advanced period of the season, which commences in January, and continues till the end of September; seatrout are caught during the summer, and fresh-water and yellow trout at all times. In March the Cree abounds with smelts, of which great numbers are sent to England; and in the lakes, and the streams which flow from the hills into the Cree and Bladenoch, trout and pike of large size are found.
   The soil on the higher lands is usually dry and fertile, and on the lower lands in the south, a rich loam of considerable depth; but in general, the land in the intervals between the hills is wet and marshy. In the northern district the soil is extremely various, but mostly of inferior quality. The crops are, barley, for which the ground seems peculiarly favourable, oats, potatoes, wheat, and turnips, with the usual grasses. Great improvement has been made under the encouragement of an agricultural society established within the last few years; and many tracts of moss and waste land have been reclaimed, and brought under profitable cultivation. The lands have been drained, and embankments have been constructed by the Earl of Galloway, and are still in progress; the due rotation of crops is regularly observed; and the inclosures, which are well adapted to the size of the farms, are chiefly stone dykes, but occasionally hedges of thorn. The farm-houses have been also improved, and are generally substantial; and all the more recent improvements in the construction of implements have been adopted. Much attention is paid to live-stock, for which the pastures afford ample scope. The sheep, of which great numbers are reared, are mostly of the original native breed on the sheep farms, with some of the Leicester and Cheviot breeds in the southern district of the parish; the cattle are mainly of the Galloway breed, with some few of the Irish; and Kyle cows have been lately introduced, especially on the dairyfarms in the neighbourhood of Newton-Stewart. Much of the agricultural produce, and numbers of sheep and cattle, are sent by water to Glasgow and Greenock, and to the Liverpool market, for which the river Cree, always navigable for vessels of forty tons to Carty-Port, about a mile to the south of the town of Newton-Stewart, where there is a convenient harbour, affords every opportunity. There are scarcely any remains of ancient woods. The plantations, principally of modern growth, consist of larch, Scotch and spruce firs, oak, ash, elm, and beech, which are all in a thriving state, though some of them are on lands not available to any other use; and evergreens of all kinds grow luxuriantly on damp soils, when the stagnant waters have been drained off. The chief substrata are of the greywacke formation, and are extensively quarried for building purposes, though sometimes with difficulty; the stone forms walls of great strength and beauty, and, when managed with care, is perfectly dry. Galloway granite is also found in several parts, occurring in masses occasionally mixed with green sienite, and of many tons' weight; it is much used in buildings in lieu of freestone. The rateable annual value of the parish is £11,324.
   The chief mansion-houses are, Penninghame House, beautifully situated on the Cree, about half a mile distant from the picturesque ruins of Castle-Stewart, an ancient seat of the Galloway family; Merton Hall, two miles to the west of Newton-Stewart; Corsbie, belonging to the Earl of Galloway; and Corrisel. There are no villages: the town of Newton-Stewart is described under its own head. The post-office there has a tolerable delivery; and facility of communication is maintained by good roads, of which the military road from Dumfries to Portpatrick intersects the parish; and by two good bridges respectively over the Cree and the Bladenoch, of which the former is a handsome structure of five arches. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Wigton and synod of Galloway. The minister's stipend is £231. 15. 11., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £22. 17. 2. per annum; patron, the Earl of Galloway. The church, erected in 1777, and enlarged in 1827 by the addition of galleries, contained 700 sittings; but being in a decayed state, and inconveniently situated, a new church was erected at NewtonStewart in 1841. The present church is in the later English style, with a tower surmounted by a lofty spire; it is seated on an eminence, and has 1200 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Relief and Reformed Presbyterians, both in the town, where is also a Roman Catholic chapel. 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 £15 annually. There are also several endowed schools, of which one has a salary from the Earl of Galloway, with a school-house and dwelling-house, built by subscription, to which his lordship liberally contributed: another was founded by Archibald Mc Creddie, Esq., who endowed it with £500, the interest of which is paid to the master for the gratuitous instruction of poor children. A third school was founded by Samuel Douglas, of Jamaica, a native of the parish, who bequeathed, in trust to the ministers of Penninghame and Kirkmabreck, property since vested in land producing £300 per annum, from which, after deducting the cost of the erection of an appropriate building in Newton-Stewart, on a site given by the Earl of Galloway, the trustees pay £80 as a salary to a master, and £20 each for the boarding, clothing, and education of as many children as the remainder of the funds will maintain. There are numerous graves near Killiemore, of which the origin is unknown; and near them have been found coins of great antiquity, but on which the inscriptions were altogether illegible. The head of a Roman spear, nine inches in length, and a Roman battle-axe, were discovered near Merton Hall early in the present century; and celts of granite, and other relics of antiquity, have at various times been dug up. To the north of Newton-Stewart are the ruins of Castle-Stewart; and there are yet some remains of the old house of Clary, the property of Gordon, bishop of Galloway, in the ancient gardens of which are trees still bearing fruit. There are ruinous vestiges of the chapel of St. Ninian, and also of the old church and burying-ground of Penninghame: near the latter are a few small cottages, called the Clachan, through which hamlet James IV. in 1507 passed, on a pilgrimage to Whithorn.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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