Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)
Volume VI - Lanark
Parish of Lesmahago
PRESBYTERY OF LANARK, SYNOD
OF GLASGOW AND AYR.
THE REV. JAMES HAMILTON, D. D. .THE REV. JOHN WILSON, A. M., MINISTERS
[This Account has been drawn up by Andrew Smith, Esq. of Fauldhouse.]
1.TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL
Name Boundaries, &c.This
parish is supposed to derive its name from Les or Lis, signifying in
Gaelic, a green or garden, and Machute, the tutelar saint of the place,
who is said to have settled here in the sixth century.
A monastery was founded
in this parish by David I. in 1140. It was dependent on the abbey of
Kelso ; and hence the village which collected round it received the name
of Abbey Green, which it still retains. This village is nearly in the
centre of the parish, and about twenty-two miles from Glasgow, upon
which the inhabitants of this and other villages in the parish depend
for employment as weavers.
The parish may be
described as nearly square, and contains sixty-seven square miles, or
34,000 acres. It is bounded on the east by the parishes of Lanark and
Carmichael; on the south by Douglas, and Muirkirk ; on the west by
Strathaven and Stone-house; and on the north by Dalserf and Carluke.
Appearances.The average elevation of more than three-fourths of the
parish is probably about 500 feet above the sea; the remainder, lying
upon the west and south-west side, rises into considerable hills,
dividing the counties of Lanark and Ayr, some of which may be supposed
to be 1200 feet high. They afford an excellent sheep-pasture. On the
south side of the parish there is a fissure in the rocks known by the
name of Wallace's Cave; if ever that hero inhabited it, his lodging
could not be of the most comfortable kind.
situation of the parish renders the temperature of the atmosphere very
variable; and, not unfrequently, the fruit-trees, after promising an
abundant crop, have had their blossoms blighted by a few chilly nights
in May. In rainy weather, the hills upon the west seem to attract the
clouds, and, consequently, more rain falls there than in the lower parts
of the parish ; but even there, want of moisture is not generally
complained of. The prevailing winds may be said to be from the
westward,every tree or hedge that is exposed leaning from that, and
making their most vigorous shoots in an opposite direction. Upon the
whole, however, the climate may be said to be salubrious, and instances
of longevity are numerous.
abounds in springs of excellent water; though none of a medicinal
quality have been yet discovered. These springs are the parents of
several streams, capable of driving machinery. The Poniel water, which
rises in the south-west of the parish, divides it from the parish of
Douglas, and after a course of seven or eight miles in an easterly
direction, joins the Douglas water about three miles from its junction
with the Clyde ; for which three miles the united stream becomes the
boundary of the parish. The Logan, Nethan, and also the Kype water rise
in the high grounds on the west. The banks of the Nethan are generally
clothed with coppice, and adorned with gentlemen's houses, or neat farm-steadings.
The Kype, so far as it
divides this parish from Avondale or Strathaven, is a moorland
stream,naked and unadorned on its banks, but capable of working
mischief on the lower grounds, when thunder storms have passed along the
hills. In consequence of these grounds being much drained within these
few years, the water descends more rapidly than formerly, and in greater
quantities, destroying bridges and injuring the small haughs or holms.
There are some other small streams that run a few miles in the parish,
but all are tributary to the above, with the exception of the Cannar,
which, after a course of a few miles, joins the Avon in the parish of
Stonehouse. As all these streams ultimately join the Clyde, where it is
from three to four hundred feet above the sea, their courses are pretty
Geology.This parish lies
nearly on the south side of the great coal field which crosses our
island through Fife, Ayrshire, and the intermediate counties.
Nevertheless, the strata are so deranged by numerous dikes or fissures,
that, where coals are wrought, the direction and inclination of the
strata vary so materially, as to set hopes and expectations at defiance.
In several of the coal and lime-works, the dip is as one in six; while
at Auchenheath, where, as well as in two other places in this parish, a
fine kind of cannel coal is wrought, supplying Glasgow and other places
with gas, the inclination is only one to twelve, or thirteen. Coal of
the same quality has (we believe) been nowhere found in Scotland; and
even here, and in a small corner of the parish of Carluke, to which it
extends, the thickness of the strata varies from ten to twenty-one
inches; it is sold for about 8s. per ton upon the coal-hill, and affords
employment to about forty pickmen in this parish. Pit-coal is also
plentiful in Lesmahago.
The rocks that appear are either whin, or
trap sandstone, or limestone ; in some places the sandstone inclines to
slate, but no true roofing-slate has been discovered in this parish.
Limestone has been wrought, and still is wrought in seven or eight
different places in the parish. Though sold at a pretty fair price,
affording the landlord about one-sixth of the sale price, it has given a
stimulus to improvement, particularly of waste lands. In these limestone
workings, petrified shells are very commonly found; and sometimes the
fossil remains of terrestrial animals. Ironstone may be seen in many of
the banks, both in balls and in regular strata, but not in such
quantities, nor lying so regularly, as to warrant the erection of a
furnace. -Lead has frequently been sought in the. high grounds, on the
south-west of the parish, but hitherto without success ; nor have simple
minerals been found in the rocks, or beds of rivers, to any extent.
From the rapid current of the streams,
little alluvial soil is found in the parish ; it may therefore be said
to consist chiefly of a yellow clay, to a small extent resting on a
substratum of white sandstone ; of a light friable soil, resting on
whinstone ; of a sandy gravelly soil, from decomposed sandstone, and of
moss. The second of these is unquestionably the best ; but both that and
the first, when properly managed, produce better and more certain crops
than the other two.
A short account of this parish was written by the Rev. Mr Whyte of
Libberton, and published in the Edinburgh Magazine about sixty years
Notices.--There are no historical events of importance connected with
Lesmahago, except the burning by the brother of Edward III. of the
abbey, and its destruction a second time by fire, kindled by the zeal of
the old reformers. This religious spirit appears to have here broken
forth on more occasions; for many of the inhabitants bore arms at
Bothwell Bridge. The colours and the drum then used are still preserved
in the parish.
was in Lesmahago that the unfortunate Mr Macdonald of Kinlochmoidart was
apprehended by a carpenter named Meikle, and a young clergyman of the
name of Linning,--while on his way south to join Prince Charles; in
revenge for which, the clans, on their way north, burned Meikle's house.
A Mr Lawrie, generally designated the Tutor of Blackwood, from his
having married the heiress of that estate, seems to have been a leading
character in this part of the country in and about the time of the
Revolution. His son was created a baronet by King William.
Land-owners.The Duke of Hamilton, Lord
Douglas, and James J. Hope Vere, Esq. of Blackwood, are the principal
proprietors in Lesmahago; there are a number of other respectable
land-owners, several of whom reside upon their properties.
Parochial Registers.The parochial registers
commence in 1697; since which time they have been pretty regularly kept,
and now extend to twenty volumes.
Antiquities.Lesmahago can boast of little
to attract the notice of the antiquarian, excepting the ruins of
Craignethan Castle; which about a century ago passed from the family of
Hay into that of Douglas, by purchase.
The remains of an old abbey were pulled down
about thirty years ago, to make room for a modern church; and an old
Roman road, which passed through a corner of the parish, has been
obliterated by the plough.About twenty years ago, 100 small silver
coins of Edward I. were found below a large stone.Nearly at the same
time a Roman vase was found in the parish; it is now placed in the
museum of the University of Glasgow. Some Roman coins have also been
found; and in making a drain about ten years ago, an old Caledonian
battle-axe, made of stone, was found upon the estate of Blackwood. It is
now in the possession of the proprietor.
Many large cairns have been removed in this
parish, for materials in making roads and fences. These were always
found to contain bones in the centre, but so far decayed as to crumble
into dust on exposure to the air.
Modern Buildings.A number of modern
mansions have been erected by the resident gentlemen within the last
thirty years, and during that time upwards of one-half of the farm-steadings
have been renovated; for which purposes abundance of good stone is
There are about 90 small proprietors in
Lesmahago; of whom at least 50 have rentals of upwards of L. 50 a-year.
The increase of the population betwixt 1821
and 1831 may be accounted for by the facility with' which even boys
engaged at weaving got possession of money; able to earn considerable
wages before they had acquired sense to manage them, many hurried into
matrimonial connections; and their wives being equally young and
thoughtless, they indulged in dress and luxuries, and preserved no
portion of their gains against poverty in less auspicious seasons.
Character and Habits of the People.The
people in general may be said to be of cleanly habits, which are
impaired, however, in some degree, by the influx of strangers. Their
style and manner of dress, however, may be said to be rather expensive,
the servant-girl dressing as gaily as the squires' daughters did thirty
years ago. The difference in their table has nearly kept pace with that
of their dress; and, with few exceptions, unless among those employed in
agriculture, tea is an universal beverage; even paupers consume more of
that article than was used in the parish fifty years ago. How far these
changes tend to the comforts and benefit of society may be questioned.
Certainly the lower orders are not so contented nor independent as
formerly; nor is their general character for morality or religion
improved; while there cannot be a doubt. that pauperism has greatly
increased. The number of illegitimate births during the last three years
has been 27.
the weaving of cotton was introduced about forty-five years ago, no
trade or manufacture was carried on beyond the wants of the parish. A
cottage or two was attached to every farm-house, for the accommodation
of the necessary labourers; along with whom the small proprietors and
farmers shared in the toils of the day ; joined at the same table in
their meals; and, by the side of the kitchen fire, enjoyed the song or
gossip of the evening,concluding the day with family-prayer. A fire in
the better apartment, except on the visit of a friend, or on some gala
day, was never thought of. Their dress was composed of home-made stuff,
excepting a suit of black, which was generally of English cloth, and
carefully preserved for funeral and sacramental occasions.
As before stated, this parish contains about
34,000 Scotch acres; of which, probably, 11,000 never have been under
cultivation. About 1000 acres may yet be brought to carry grain
occasionally, if the spirit of improvement, now so general, be not
checked. 1200 acres are planted; 450 are in coppice-wood, and 50 in
village gardens and orchards. 21,300 acres thus appear to be now, or
occasionally, in cultivation.
Planting in general has been carried on
within these forty years to a considerable extent in Lesmahago, which
before that period was naked and bare. Now, however, it has a very
different appearance, and almost everywhere the eye of the traveller may
rest on useful stripes or clumps. In these the Scotch fir predominates,
though that plant seems very much degenerated ; wherever it is mixed
with the larch, the latter takes the lead; and in damp soils it is also
far behind the spruce. Were we to hazard an opinion on the cause of this
degeneracy of Scotch fir, we would say it might be found in the careless
way in which the nurserymen procure the seed, which, when collected from
the nearest young and stunted trees, produces feeble plants. Another
circumstance tending much to prevent the proper growth, is the want of
thinning in proper time. Few people who plant, like the idea of cutting.
Rent of Land.The quality of land varies
very much: some of it is very rich, but unfortunately the poorer soil
predominates. The average rent of the whole may be stated at L. 1 per
acre Scotch, while the waste lands may be estimated at 2s. 6d.,giving
a rental for the parish, exclusive of woods and orchards, of L. 22,675.
The inclosed lands around gentlemen's houses
are generally let for pasture during the summer, yielding a rent of
about L. 3 for every cow or ox weighing from 400 to 500 lbs. weight. In
the common sheep-pastures, 5s. a-head during the season may be stated as
a fair rent.
of Wages.Farm-servants are not so high priced, nor so difficult to be
got as they were a few years back; at present, a good man-servant, fit
for the plough, &c. may be hired for L. 14 a-year, with bed and board;
while less experienced hands may be had from L. 9 to L. 12; girls fit
for conducting a dairy, under the eye of their mistresses, get about L.
4 during the summer, and about L. 2, 10s. during winter, with board.
Tradesmen generally work by the piece or job; but, like the labourers,
are getting less wages than lately, nor are they so shy to work by the
day; when they do so, masons and carpenters expect 2s. 6d.
a-day,-without victuals; and tailors is. 3d. or 1s. 6d. with board.
Breeds of Live Stock.From the elevation of
Lesmahago parish, it is better suited for the dairy, and the breeding of
cattle, than for raising grain ; consequently, the small proprietors and
tenants have turned their attention in these ways for the last thirty
years. During that time, the Ayrshire breed of cattle has been
principally reared; and the cheese made from new milk, known by the name
of Dunlop, has become a staple commodity. Of this about 300 lbs. weight
may be made from every cow, when the whole milk is turned to that
account ; and on some farms, with careful hands, that quantity, is
raised, and a number of young stock reared,which goes to uphold the
original stock, or to supply the English and other markets with that
breed of cattle. Lanarkshire has long been famous for its breed of
draught horses, of which Lesmahago has its share.
The Jewish antipathy against swine seems to
be wearing off, and the occupiers of land find it profitable to keep a
few of these animals, to consume the refuse of the dairy; and many
labourers and mechanics keep a pig, by the dung of which they raise
potatoes with a neighbouring farmer in the following year. A mixed
breed, between the English and Highland kind, seems the favourite;
which, when properly fed, may be killed at the age of nine or ten
months, weighing from two to two and a-half hundred weight. It is
probable this kind of stock may be more attended to hereafter.
The sheep kept on the high grounds are of
the old Scotch black-faced kind, weighing from ten to fifteen pounds
imperial per quarter, when fattened. This breed is better adapted to the
soil and climate than the Cheviot or finer kinds ; and the improvements
sought after by the sheep-master are in shape and weight; to both of
which they pay particular attention. By keeping fewer in number than was
done forty years ago, they are better fed, and are thus enabled to
struggle with the storms and snows of winter; while surface-drains made
upon the soft lands, at the rate of L. :3 for 6000 yards, have added
greatly to their improvement, by keeping the ground dry, and raising
Husbandry.A very considerable extent of waste land has been reclaimed
in Lesmahago within the last twenty-five years; which has generally paid
the improvement in the course of the first three years, leaving the
amelioration of the soil as profit.. to the farmer. Draining had long
been only partially carried on, but seems now to become more general.
Irrigation is little attended to here, except, in a few instances, for
meadow hay; and embanking is not much wanted, as the streams have
generally high and steep banks.
The leases granted to tenants are generally
for nineteen years. Some time ago, when land was constantly increasing
in value, landlords in some instances made the leases of shorter
duration; but this has not had the effect of either putting money into
their pockets, or improving their estates: it has rather been of a
contrary tendency. As mentioned before, the farm-houses have been much
improved within the last forty years; and within the same time,
enclosures have been much attended to ; some hundreds of miles of
Galloway stone-dikes have been built, where the materials were abundant,
or the soil inimical to hedges; while the last have been raised upon the
better soils, and now adorn a great proportion of the parish. It may be
regretted, however, that we still want those hedge-rows of timber, which
in many parts of the island give the appearance of a close-wooded
greatest obstacles to improvement appears to be the system of entails;
and, I may add, the custom among landlords of letting their farms to the
highest bidder, without a sufficient evidence of his possessing capital
adequate to the management of the farm in the most advantageous way.
Produce.The gross amount of raw produce
(exclusive of the pasture lands) raised in the parish, as nearly as can
be ascertained, is as follows:
There are no market-towns in the parish, the
nearest being Lanark, at the distance of six miles from Abbey Green.
Upwards of one-third of the population, however, are congregated in the
villages of Abbey Green, Kirkmuirhill, Kirkfield Bank, Boghead, and
Nethanfoot, all of which villages have a regular communication with
Glasgow by means of coaches and carriers; and there is a daily post to
Means of Communication.Besides the Glasgow and Carlisle road, which
runs upwards of eight miles in the parish, and the Glasgow and Lanark
road, running about five, there are not less than eighty miles of parish
roads kept up by converted statute labour money: and of these fifty
miles at least are in very tolerable order. Bridges have been built,
partly from the county funds, upon all the streams crossed by these
lines of road.
Ecclesiastical State.Lesmahago has been a collegiate charge ever since
the Reformation. The church is in the village of Abbey Green, in the
centre of the parish. It is capable of containing 1500 sitters,the
whole being divided among the heritors for their respective tenantry,
according to their respective valuations, with the exception of a pew to
each clergyman. The first minister has a glebe of eight acres (Scotch,)
which might be let at L. 5 per acre; with a stipend of sixteen chalders,
one half oatmeal and the other barley, converted, at the highest fiars
price of the county, and yielding on an average of the last seven years,
L. 277, 12s. The second minister has a manse and garden, but no
glebe:he has the same stipend as the first, and rents a small farm from
the patron, on which the heritors have built his house and the requisite
There are two dissenting chapels belonging to different denominations of
Burghers; both of these have been lately erected. The officiating
clergymen are paid from the seat rents, and from voluntary
contributions, affording about L. 100 a-year to each. Although these
houses have still the enticement of novelty, by far the greater number
in the parish adhere to the Established church, in which divine service
is well attended. The average number of communicants at the Established
church is about 1700. The number of dissenters is about 200.
Education.The parochial schoolmaster has
the maximum salary, with a good house and garden; he has also
perquisites as session-clerk, amounting to L. 22 a-year. His school-fees
may amount to L. 45. The heritors have assessed themselves in an
additional chalder, which is divided among a few other schools, enabling
those at a distance from the parish school, to educate their children in
English, writing, and arithmetic, and sometimes even in Greek and Latin,
at an expense of from 3s. to 5s. a quarter, according to their studies.
The consequence is, that reading and writing may be said to be
universal, and at present the different schools are attended by upwards
of 600 children. A subscription school for teaching girls to read and
sew is also kept up in the village of Abbey Green; it is attended by
about 30. There are also four well attended Sabbath schools for boys and
girls. It does not, however, appear very evidently that either the
conduct or morals of the people have been improved by the increased
facilities of education: the vices of drunkenness and pilfering, from
whatever cause, have certainly not decreased, while discontent has made
rapid strides, and the reluctance to come upon the poors' roll has
&c.There is a small subscription library in the parish, but it is not
in a very thriving state. The parishioners at the same time receive a
variety of the London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow newspapers and
Benevolent Societies.There are three Societies in the parish, which
distribute a portion of their funds among their aged or sickly members :
the inclination, however, to join in such associations, it is feared, is
Savings Bank.A Savings bank was established a few years ago. The
principal depositors are farm and house-servants: and it is now in a
thriving state. The average amount yearly invested is L. 60; withdrawn,
Parochial Funds.The number of paupers has been trebled within the last
thirty years, and now amounts to 148 regularly enrolled. There being
neither alms nor poors' house in the parish, they receive from 3s. to
15s. monthly in their own houses, amounting to about L. 500 yearly; of
this sum, L.47 is raised by collections in the. church; and L. 98 is the
produce of mortif ed money; the remainder is made up by an assessment
upon the land, one-half paid by the heritors, and the other by the
tenants. Too little attention, however, is paid to this branch of
parochial business; the session, by giving up the practice of collecting
with ladles in the church, and individuals by propagating the idea that
the heritors are bound to support the poor, have brought the public
collection below what it was a hundred years ago, when the population
was less than half what it is now, and money four times the value.
Inns.There has been an increase in the
number of inns, or rather whisky shops, in the parish, at the rate of
six to one, within the last forty years; which either tends to, or is a
proof of, the demoralization of the inhabitants; at present their number
is as one to less than every 250 souls in Lesmahago.
This parish has undergone a great change
since the last Statistical Account was published; the population has
greatly increased; the lands have been generally inclosed; plantations
have sprung up; roads, from mere tracts, have become good carriage ways;
and these, with the opening up of lime in several places, have given a
facility to improvements in agriculture which has not been neglected; an
improved mode of husbandry has been adopted; draining has been
introduced; and waste lands to a great extent have been brought into
cultivation. These improvements, however, may, with due encouragement on
the part of the landlords, be carried still farther, and, by giving
employment to labourers, would add to the comfort and happiness of that
useful class of society, and tend to the diminution of
pauperism,objects which ought never to be lost sight of by judicious
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