Stoneykirk

   STONEYKIRK, a parish, in the county of Wigton, 5 miles (S. S. E.) from Stranraer; containing, with the fishing-port of Sandhead and the village of Stoneykirk, 3062 inhabitants, of whom 56 are in the village. This place, the old name of which, properly Stephenkirk, and derived from the dedication of the principal church, has given way to the present appellation, of which the origin is unknown, consists of the three ancient parishes of Stoneykirk, Clayshank, and Toscarton, united about the time of the Reformation. It appears to have been at an early period the residence of the Thanes of Galloway, of whose baronial castle there were till lately some remains on the lands of Garthland, consisting of a square tower forty-five feet in height, on the battlements of which was legible the date 1274. There are but few events of historical importance connected with the parish. Some vessels belonging to the Spanish Armada were wrecked off the western coast, not far from a bay which in commemoration of that circumstance, has since been called the bay of Float; and at Money Point, near the bay, a considerable number of Spanish dollars was subsequently discovered. The parish is bounded on the east by the bay of Luce, and on the west by the Irish Channel, and is nearly ten miles in length and three miles and a half in average breadth, comprising about 21,500 acres, of which 19,000 are arable, 375 woodland and plantations, and the remainder, whereof 1100 might be reclaimed, moorland and waste. The surface is varied; in some parts tolerably level, and in others diversified with numerous hills, of which none, however, attain any considerable degree of elevation. The only stream approximating to the character of a river is the Poltanton burn, which separates the parish from the parish of Inch, on the north. This stream, which is twenty feet in width, takes an eastern course, and flows into the bay of Luce; it abounds with par and pike, affording good sport to the angler, and salmon and sea-trout are occasionally found, entering it from the bay. The west coast is bold and rocky, towards the north in some places precipitous, but less elevated towards the south; it is indented on that side with several small bays, giving shelter to vessels employed in the fisheries, and of which the principal are, Port-Spittal, Port-Float, and Ardwell bay. The eastern coast is more level, and towards the north the shore for a considerable extent is sand, which is dry at low water; the principal bays are Sandhead and Chapel-Rosan. The sands extending from Sandhead, and forming a continuation with those of Luce, were, previously to the erection of the lighthouse on the Mull of Galloway, fatal to numbers of vessels, which were stranded on this part of the coast. These sands abound with shell-fish of various kinds, particularly with that called the razor-fish, which, during the months of March and April, is caught in great numbers; mackerel are also plentiful in the bay of Luce in the month of August. Off the western coast, cod are found in abundance, and the fishery is carried on to a considerable extent, but merely for the consumption of the adjacent district; for though every facility for extending it into a lucrative pursuit is afforded by the advantages of the place, no more fish are taken than are sufficient for the inhabitants.
   The soil along the shore of the bay is sandy, but in other parts, though light and dry, it is generally fertile. The crops are, wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips, with the usual grasses; flax was formerly grown, but its cultivation has been for some years totally discontinued. The system of husbandry has been greatly improved; the farm-houses, of which many are of recent erection, are substantial and comfortable, and the offices well arranged; much waste land has been reclaimed by draining, and brought into profitable cultivation; and all the more recent improvements in the construction of agricultural implements are in use. The plantations consist of firs of various kinds, interspersed with the usual sorts of forest-trees, and are all in a thriving state: there are also still considerable remains of natural wood, chiefly ash, birch, and elm, of which there are many fine specimens. The rateable annual value of the parish is £11,060. Balgreggan, the seat of Patrick Maitland, Esq., a handsome mansion beautifully situated in a richly-wooded demesne; Kildrochat, the residence of the late Countess of Rothes; and Ardwell, the seat of Sir John Mc Taggart, M.P., are the principal houses. The village of Sandhead is described under its own head; the village or kirk-town of Stoneykirk consists only of a few houses around the church. A post-office under that of Stranraer has deliveries every day, and facility of communication is maintained by the countyroad from Stranraer to Kirkmaiden, and other roads that intersect the parish. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Stranraer and synod of Galloway. The minister's stipend is £231. 15. 11., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum; patrons, alternately, the Crown and the Earl of Stair. The church, which is situated about two miles from the shore of Luce bay, was built in 1827, at a cost of £2000; it is a substantial and handsome structure in the later English style of architecture, and contains nearly 1000 sittings, all of which are free. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school affords a complete course of instruction to about sixty children; the master has a salary of £25. 13. 3., with a house and garden, and the fees average £15 annually. On the lands of Ardwell are some remains of Druidical circles and Pictish houses; and on those of Garthland, two lachrymatories of gold, weighing three ounces and a half each, were found in 1783. Upon the farm of Clayshank, the foundations of a church may be distinctly traced; and at Kirkmadrine, the churchyard of which is still preserved as a buryingplace, are some gravestones with ancient inscriptions. There are also several artificial mounds of earth in the parish, of which one, near Balgreggan House, of circular form, is 460 feet in circumference at the base and sixty feet in height, and has on its summit an excavation surrounded with a ditch.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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