- STEVENSTON, a market-town and parish, in the district of Cunninghame, county of Ayr, 5 miles (W. N. W.) from Irvine, and 14 (N. N. W.) from Ayr; containing 3791 inhabitants, of whom 1432 are in that portion of the town of Saltcoats which is within the parish. This place derived its name from Stephen Lockhart, who fixed his residence in this parish, of which, together with other lands, constituting the barony of Stevenston, his father had in the year 1170 obtained a grant from Richard Morville, Lord of Cunninghame, and Constable of Scotland. From the Lockharts the barony soon afterwards passed to the Loudoun family, with whom it remained nearly till the time of the Reformation, when it became part of the possessions of the Earl of Glencairn. After passing through other families, among whom were the Boyds, the Cunninghames, and the Hamiltons, the estate was divided; and it is now in the possession of various proprietors. The town is principally inhabited by persons engaged in the works carried on in the neighbourhood, and in the mines and quarries of the parish; and from its immediate proximity to Saltcoats, its trade is intimately identified with the trade of that place, which is described minutely under its own head. It is neatly built, and well supplied with water; a public library is supported by subscription, and a post-office has been established. Many of the inhabitants are employed in weaving for the manufacturers of Glasgow and Paisley, and a considerable number of the female population in flowering muslins, and in various kinds of needlework, which is in great repute, the Ayrshire needlework claiming a decided preference in the markets. The market of Stevenston, which is abundantly supplied with provisions of all kinds, is on Saturday; and a fair is held on the 30th of October, which is chiefly a pleasure-fair, and a mart for hiring servants. Facility of communication with distant ports is afforded by the harbours of Saltcoats and Ardrossan, whence steamers ply to Ayr, Arran, Greenock, Glasgow, and other places: the Ardrossan railway, connected with the Glasgow and Ayr, passes through the parish; and intercourse is also maintained with the neighbouring towns by excellent roads kept in good repair.The parish is about five miles in length, extending from the harbour of Saltcoats to the bar of Irvine. It is about three miles in extreme breadth, and is bounded on the east by the river Garnock, which for nearly three miles forms a boundary between it and the parish of Irvine; on the south by the Frith of Clyde; and on the south-east by the confluence of the rivers Garnock and Irvine: it comprises about 4000 acres, of which 2000 are arable. The surface, though undulated and acclivous, in no part attains an elevation of more than 300 feet above the level of the sea. Near the eastern boundary are two richly planted eminences of great beauty, commanding some extensive and varied views, and forming interesting features in the appearance of the parish, as seen from different points of view. The scenery is enlivened with some well-grown wood, and flourishing plantations on the lands of the resident heritors; on the grounds of Ardeer, Sea-Bank, and Kerilaw, they are particularly extensive and highly ornamental. The soil, though in some of the low lands tolerably fertile and of a loamy quality, is generally unproductive; in the upper part of the parish it is a stiff clay, and the lands near the Frith are thickly interspersed with sand-hills. The crops are, oats, wheat, potatoes, beans, turnips, barley, and carrots. The system of agriculture is improved, though there is still a large portion of unprofitable land; there are some dairy-farms which are well managed, and a considerable number of cattle are grazed on the different lands. The farm-houses are mostly in good condition and well arranged, and the lands are all inclosed with hedges of thorn, kept in good repair: there is an extensive mill for grain, of very great antiquity. The sand-hills abound with rabbits, about 100 having been brought from the island of Little Cumbray: nearly 6000 are annually killed. The rocks in the parish are chiefly of greenstone, limestone, and sandstone; and coal is found in some places. The greenstone, which is exceedingly compact, is quarried principally for mending the roads; the limestone is quarried for the supply of the lands on which it is found, and the sandstone is wrought extensively. There is a remarkably fine vein of white freestone at Ardeer, which has obtained the appellation of Stevenston stone. Great quantities of it are raised, not only for the use of the neighbourhood, but for that of Dublin and Belfast, where it is in much demand; it admits of a very fine polish, and is esteemed for mantelpieces and ornamental works. There are about forty men constantly employed in this quarry, of which the produce is conveyed by a railroad to the port of Ardrossan, whence it is shipped. A superior kind of firestone, also, called Osmond stone, is raised from a quarry at Parkend, and is in great request for building ovens and furnaces. Coal is very extensively wrought in the parish: the quantity raised annually averages nearly 40,000 tons, of which about two-thirds are shipped for Ireland, and a third consumed in the neighbouring districts; the number of persons employed in the collieries is 200, of whom fifty are boys. The rateable annual value of Stevenston is £6313. The Ardrossan railway, already noticed, which forms a branch of the Ayrshire railway, joining the latter line at Kilwinning, passes through the parish in an east-by-north direction, after proceeding close by the sea-coast for a short distance. There are several handsome mansions in the parish, beautifully situated in tastefully ornamented and richly planted demesnes: of these, Kerilaw, Ardeer, Sea-Bank, Hullerhirst, and Hayocks, are the principal.Stevenston is in the presbytery of Irvine and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of Gavin Fullerton and Robert Cunningham, Esqrs.: the stipend of the minister is £250. 9., including £4. 3. 4. arising from the interest of a bequest; with a manse, and a glebe of the annual value of £20. The church is a handsome and substantial edifice, erected in 1832–3, on the site of the ancient church of St. Monoch, and is well situated, and adapted for a congregation of 1175 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship; and there are places of worship in the Stevenston part of the town of Saltcoats for the United Secession and Relief. The parochial school affords a liberal education: the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house and garden valued at £6, and about £30 fees; he has also an allowance of £2. 2. 9. for additional garden-ground, and the interest of a small bequest. There is likewise a school of which the teacher has a good school-house from Mr. Cunningham, in addition to the fees. The interest of a bequest of £180 is applied to the support of a Sabbath-evening school. There are some interesting remains of the turreted castle of Kerilaw, the baronial residence of the earls of Glencairn. In 1832 some workmen, when levelling a field at Dubbs, in the parish, on removing the sand discovered, at about five feet below the surface, a pavement six yards in length and two feet in breadth, at one end of which was a stone coffin containing an urn of black, and another of grey, pottery, with some fibulæ of jet, finely polished.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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