History of the County of Renfrew from the Earliest Times
The County of Renfrew
lies between 55° 40' and 55° 58' north latitude, and between 4° 14' and
4° 54' west longitude. It is bounded on the east and north-east by the
county of Lanark, on the south by Ayrshire, and on the west and north by
the Clyde, with the exception of a small portion, opposite to the town
of Renfrew, on the north bank of the Clyde, adjacent to the county of
Dumbarton. The greatest length of the county, which is from south-east
to north-west, is 31½ miles, and its greatest breadth, which is from
north to south, is 13½ miles. Its area is 254 square miles, or 162,427
acres, 1294 of which are on the north of the Clyde. In 1901 the
population of the county was 293,451.
The coast line of the
shire, which on the west and north-west is bold and rocky, but elsewhere
low and flat, extends from the Kelly Burn, near Wemyss Bay, to the lands
of the House of Elderslie, in the parish of Renfrew, and is about 30
miles long. The chief promontories are Wemyss Point, Ardgowan Point,
Cloch Point, Kempoch Point, Fort Matilda Point, and Garvel Point. The
chief indentations are Wemyss Bay, Inverkip Bay, Lunderton Bay, Gourock
Bay, the Bay of St. Lawrence, and Newark Bay.
There are two islands in
the shire : Newshot Island in the Clyde, about 50 acres in extent, and
Colin’s Isle in the Cart. Formerly the Clyde ran close to the Burgh of
Renfrew and cut through the grounds of Elderslie House, and thus formed
a third island, known as the King’s Inch.
The general surface of
the county is considerably elevated above sea level, but there are no
great irregularities. There are extensive moors, the greatest of which
is Duchal Moor, in the parish of Kilmacolm. The ground rises to the
greatest height in the east and west. The principal hills are Blackwood
Hill (1,200 feet) and Myers Hill (1,100 feet), in the parish of
Eaglesham; the Hill of Staik (1,711 feet), East Girt Hill (1,673 feet),
Misty Law (1,663 feet),
and Queenside Hill (1,540 feet), in the parish of Lochwinnoch; Creuch
Hill (1,446 feet), Knockminwood Hill (1,253 feet), Hydal Hill (1,244
feet), and The Laird’s Seat (1,054 feet), in the parish of Kilmacolm. In
the south of the county are the Fereneze Hills and Neilston Pad. Lesser
heights occur throughout the county. Parts of the shire are well wooded,
and here and there are scenes of great beauty. To the north of Paisley
is a beautiful piece of level country, about six miles long by three
broad, known as the Laighlands.
Besides the Clyde, the
principal rivers are the Cart and its parent streams, the White Cart,
the Black Cart, and the Gryfe Water. The White Cart rises near the point
where the three counties of Lanark, Renfrew, and Ayr meet. It flows
through the parish of Eaglesham, along the boundary between Renfrewshire
and Lanarkshire, through the parish of Cathcart, past Pollokshaws,
Crookston Castle, and through Paisley to Inchinnan Bridge, where it is
joined by the united waters of the Black Cart and the Gryfe. It receives
the Threepland, Ardoch, and Holehill Burns, the Earn Water, the
Auldhouse Burn, the Levern Water near Crookston Castle, and the Espedair
Burn at Paisley. The Black Cart issues from the north end of Castle
Semple Loch, and flows past Johnstone and Linwood to Walkinshaw, where
it is joined by the Gryfe. The Gryfe rises among the high lands south of
Greenock, and after flowing past Bridge of Weir and Crosslee, joins the
Black Cart at Walkinshaw. Their united waters join the White Cart at
Inchinnan Bridge and form the Cart, which flows into the Clyde. The Kipp
and the Daif are small streams in the parish of Inverkip. The Calder
rises in Kilmacolm Moss, and flows eastward into Castle Semple Loch.
The principal lakes are
the loch just named in the parish of Lochwinnoch, Loch Long and Loch
Libo in the parish of Neilston, Brother Loch and Black Loch in the
parish of Mearns, and Binend Loch and Lochgoin in the parish of
Rocks of volcanic origin
abound, especially in the higher parts of the shire, and have been
moulded into their present forms by glacial action. Among the uplands of
Misty Law, in the heart of the Renfrewshire part of the Clyde volcanic
plateau, is a remarkable group of vents with a connected mass of tuff
and agglomerate occupying a space of about four miles in length and two
and a half miles in breadth. Strata of tuff and lava occur also in other
places. Near Paisley is a platform of glacial clay with Arctic shells.
The markings on the rocks show that the motion of the ice was towards
the south. The southeastern portion of the county belongs to the great
western coal-field of Scotland. At Quarrelton the coal bed was found to
be of extraordinary thickness. Coal has been wrought at Hurlet for over
three hundred years.
The sulphates found in
abundance in the mines there have given rise to important chemical
industries. Coal is found as far west as Inkerman and Bishopton, and is
usually accompanied by iron either in beds or in balls. Sandstone and
limestone are found in several parts of the county. In the west, from
Port-Glasgow south to Ayrshire, red sandstone prevails, intermingled
with porphyry and greenstone.
On the moorlands the soil
is thin, poor, and cold, though here and there excellent pasture is
found. The arable land is chiefly in the north and north-east, in the
middle of the county and along the banks of the Black Cart, where the
soil is a rich loam varying in depth from a few inches to several feet.
In the Laighlands, to the north of Paisley, the soil is generally a
deep, rich loam of a dark brown colour, resembling carse clay.
The climate, owing to the
western position of the county, is greatly influenced by the breezes
from the Atlantic Ocean. West and south-west winds prevail during the
greater part of the year. Hence the climate in the west is both mild and
moist; but less moist in the eastern parts. The yearly rainfall at
Greenock averages about 60‘96 inches, and at Paisley about 37'90 inches.
The county was at one
time well wooded, as is indicated by the names Eastwood, Stanely Wood,
Fereneze Forest, and Paisley Forest. Ancient records show that the woods
abounded in game, and the rivers in fish. The White Cart was at one time
famous for its pearls.
Before the Reformation
the county consisted of fourteen parishes, and of parts of three others.
In 1589 the parish of Greenock was disjoined from the parish of Inverkip,
and Port-Glasgow from Kilmacolm in 1694. Other parishes have been formed
out of the parish of Greenock and the Abbey (Paisley) parish. The
division of the county into two wards—the Upper and Lower Wards—was not
officially recognised till the year 1815. For Parliamentary and other
purposes the shire is now divided into two districts—the Eastern and the
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