- CUMNOCK, OLD, a manufacturing town and parish, in the district of Kyle, county of Ayr, 10½ miles (S. W.) from Muirkirk, and 61 (S. W. by W.) from Edinburgh; containing 2836 inhabitants, of whom two-fifths are in the town. This place derives its name from its situation in the bosom of a hill, and its adjunct by way of distinction from that part of it which, more than a century since, was separated from it, and erected into a separate parish. The town appears to owe its origin to a charter granted to Sir Thomas Campbell, prebendary of Cumnock, by James IV., making the church lands a free burgh of barony, and empowering him and his successors to let the glebe, in burgage tenure, for building. The barony, after passing through several hands, came ultimately, in the reign of Charles II., into the possession of the Earl of Dumfries, and is now the property of the Marquess of Bute. The town is beautifully situated in a deep recess, at the confluence of the rivers Glasnock and Lugar, and consists chiefly of three streets, and a spacious quadrangular area now the market-place, the sides of which form ranges of good houses, and in the centre of which is the church. The houses are regularly built, with the exception of those in some narrow lanes, which are of inferior order. The whole has an air of cheerful neatness; and, combined with the interesting banks of the Lugar, and the rich woodlands immediately surrounding, it presents a pleasing appearance. Gas-works have been recently constructed for lighting the town; and there are two public libraries supported by subscription, each of which has an extensive and well-selected number of volumes. A post-office has also been established.The manufacture of wooden snuff-boxes resembling those originally made at Laurencekirk, is extensively carried on here, and has been brought to a state of great perfection. These boxes are made from the wood of the plane-tree as being closest in its texture; and at the original prices paid for them, a solid foot of wood worth three shillings, could be manufactured into boxes that would sell for £100. From the great reduction in the price since the extension of the manufacture, however, they are sold for less than a tenth part of the original value; and the painting of the boxes in devices has been nearly superseded by the introduction of chequering, which is performed in great variety by machinery, producing brilliancy of colour and elegance of pattern. The number of persons employed in this manufacture is about fifty. Weaving is extensively carried on for the manufacturers of Glasgow and Paisley, and more than 120 looms are in constant operation; a considerable number of females, also, are employed in working and embroidering muslins, which are much admired. There is a large manufactory for threshing-mills and cheese-presses, of which former some are sent to Ireland; also a pottery for brown earthenware, for which purpose clay of good quality is found in the parish. Fairs are held on the first and sixth Thursdays after Candlemas, the Wednesday after the last Tuesday in May and first Tuesday in July, and the last Wednesday after the third Tuesday in October (O. S.) A baron-bailie is appointed to superintend the police of the town, by the Marquess of Bute.The parish is about ten miles in length, and two in average breadth, and comprises 16,400 acres, of which about 630 are woodland and plantations, 2500 moorland pasture, and the remainder arable. The surface is pleasingly undulated, rising in some parts into hills of gentle elevation; and along the banks of the Lugar are fine tracts of level ground. The whole of the lands have an elevation of some hundred feet above the sea, but they are finely sheltered by the still higher lands of the district adjoining. The river Lugar, which has its source in the eastern extremity of the parish, is formed by the union of the streams of Glenmore and Bella, and, after forming the northern boundary of the parish, flows with a westerly course into the river Ayr. The scenery near it is boldly varied; in some parts the banks are richly wooded, and in others the stream runs between perpendicular ramparts of barren rock and projecting crags. The river Glasnock issues from a lake on the southern confines of the parish, and, after flowing through the town, falls into the Lugar. The lake abounds with trout, pike, and eels; trout are found also in the Lugar, and salmon were formerly frequently taken in its waters, but, since the construction of a dam on the river Ayr, none have ascended so high. The soil is chiefly clayey, intermixed with portions of a light and sandy quality, and occasionally a rich loam. The chief crops are oats, with a little wheat, barley, and bear, potatoes, peas, beans, and turnips; the system of agriculture is in an advanced state. A great degree of attention is paid to the management of the dairies, and considerable quantities of cheese are made, and sent to the neighbouring markets, where it is much esteemed. About 1000 milch-cows, of the Ayrshire breed, are kept on the several farms; and the number of sheep, chiefly of the black-faced kind, averages about 1200. The rateable annual value of the parish is £9724.The substrata are, limestone, coal, and freestone. The limestone is of very superior quality; and the lime, which is distinguished by the appellation of Benston lime, is in great demand for cement, and, from its property of acquiring hardness when under water, is much used in the erection of bridges. The freestone on the banks of the Lugar has a light blue tint, and is susceptible of a very high polish; and a white freestone is also found, which is in repute for millstones, and sent in great quantities for exportation. The coal is alternated with strata of trap, but is on the whole of good quality. The woods consist of oak, ash, elm, beech, plane, lime, chesnut, and birch; and the plantations, of silver, spruce, and Scotch firs, poplar, mountain-ash, holly, and evergreens of almost every variety. Many of the trees are of stately growth, and all are in a flourishing condition. Dumfries House, the seat of the Marquess of Bute, is a very spacious and handsome mansion, built of the blue freestone found in the parish, and containing stately apartments; the walls of the drawing-room are hung with some fine old tapestry, presented to one of the earls of Dumfries by Louis XIV. of France. The house is beautifully situated on the bank of the Lugar, which flows through the pleasure-grounds, and over which an elegant bridge has been erected near the mansion. Glasnock House, also situated on the bank of that stream, is an elegant mansion of recent erection, and is built with the white freestone found near the Lugar: Logan and Garrallan are likewise good houses. The parish is in the presbytery of Ayr and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the Marquess of Bute. The minister's stipend is £218, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum. The church, erected in 1754, is adapted for 900 persons, but is much too small for the population: the cemetery has been removed to a rising ground called the Bar Hill, east of the town. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and United Secession. The parochial school affords instruction to about 130 scholars; the master has a salary of £34, with £15 fees, and a house and garden, and he also receives one-half of the interest of a bequest of £1000 by Mr. Duncan, for the gratuitous instruction of twelve children. The other half of the interest is distributed among poor persons not on the parish list. There is a savings' bank with a fund of about £1000; and three friendly societies are supported. Within the grounds of Dumfries House are the ruins of the ancient castle of Terringzean, anciently the residence of the Loudon family; and in the south side of the parish are some slight ruins of Boreland Castle.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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