PRESBYTERY OF BIGGAR, SYNOD
OF LOTHIAN AND TWEEDDALE.
THE REV. ALEXANDER CRAIK, MINISTER.
I.-TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL.
Extent.-THE parish of
Quothquan was annexed to that of Libberton in the year 1669. The united
parish extends from north to south about seven miles, and from east to
west about four and a-half miles. It contains nearly 14 square miles, or
8703 imperial acres.
Appearances.—Along the whole course of the Clyde in this parish, there
is a great extent of low level land, consisting of a strong clay soil, a
considerable portion of which is covered with water as often as the
Clyde overflows its banks, which generally happens ten or twelve times
in the year; and the soil being enriched by these inundations, produces
luxuriant crops, without any other manure. Where these holm lands are
embanked, (which is done when it can be effected without great expense,)
the crops are protected against the inroads of the river; but in this,
as in other cases, manure is required to renew the soil.
The banks of the Clyde
rise gently, but in some places rather suddenly, to the height of 50 or
60 feet above the stream, and extend to the distance of half a mile or
more beyond it. The land on the banks of the Clyde is generally early
and fertile, and its average rent L. 2, 10s. per acre. As the land
recedes from the Clyde, it becomes more elevated, later, and less
productive; and though there are some early and fertile spots near the
11ledwin, the banks of that river are for the most part poor and moorish.
head, it may be only remarked, that a greater quantity of rain falls
here than on the east coast.
The climate is neither so
warm nor so dry as to render the culture of wheat an object ; but other
kinds of grain succeed very well in ordinary seasons; and the
inhabitants of this parish are subject to as few diseases, and are as
healthy, on the whole, as those of any other parish in Scotland. This
must be owing, in a great measure, to the pure keen air they breathe, as
well as to the general temperance of their habits.
Hydrography.—The only rivers in this parish
are the Clyde and the Medwin. The Clyde, when swollen by rain, overflows
all the low grounds on its banks, doing much damage to the growing crops
within its reach. The farmers, however, often carry off the crops as
they are cut, beyond the reach of the inundation. The breadth of the
Clyde in this parish is from 100 to 120 feet, and its depth from 15 to 1
foot. There are several fords when the stream is low; but in winter they
are often impassable.
The South Medwin, which bounds Libberton
parish for three miles, rises near Garvaldfoot, in the parish of West
Linton, and, after a course of nine miles, is joined by the North Medwin,
in this parish, about a mile and a-half before they both fall into the
Clyde. A small branch of the South Medwin runs off towards the east,
near Garvaldfoot, and, dividing at Dolphington, the counties of Lanark
and Peebles, falls into the Tweed. The South Medwin, within its usual
channels, is in general about 22 feet broad, and 2 or 3 feet deep, at an
average. When united, the Medwins are not much broader, but of greater
It appears from Wodrow's History that., in the year 1663, the parish of
Libberton was fined L. 252, 8s. Scots, and Quothquhan L. 182, 16s.
Scots, for nonconformity to Prelacy.
Chief Land-owners.—The chief land-owner is
Sir Norman Macdonald Lockhart, Bart. of Lee and Carnwath.
Family of Chancellor of Shieldhill.—The
second land-owner is Alexander Chancellor, Esq. of Shieldhill, whose
ancestors have been in possession of this estate for the last four
centuries, as appears from a charter still extant, [This charter is
referred to in the Memoirs of the Sommervilles, Vol. i. p. 175. Ibid.
pp. 240-248.] granted by Thomas Lord Sommerville to William Chancellor
of Shieldhill and Quothquhan, A. D. 1432. In July 1474, William
Chancellor rode with the rest of the then Lord Sommerville's vassals to
meet King James on his way from Edinburgh to Couthally Castle, to
partake of the festivity of the "speates and raxes."
After the battle of
Bothwell Bridge, James Chancellor was imprisoned on suspicion of having
harboured some fugitives; but nothing being proved against him, he was
liberated after some days confinement. [Wodrow's Church History.] The
same gentleman was returned as elder by the presbytery of Biggar to the
first General Assembly which met after the revolution of 1688.
[Records of the Biggar Presbytery.]
The family residence was originally at
Quothquan, and remained there till 1567, when the then proprietor joined
Queen Mary's party at Hamilton, and engaged in the battle of Langside.
After her defeat, a party of 500 horsemen, sent out by Regent Murray to
demolish the houses of her adherents, burned down, among others, the
mansion-house at Quoth4uan. After this calamity, the family residence
was removed to Shieldhill, which appears originally to have been a
square tower of no great dimensions, but which has at different times
been added to and modernized, particularly by the present proprietor.
At a short distance to the southward from
Shieldhill is the mansion-house of Huntfield, the property of John
Stark, Esq., surrounded by thriving plantations.
Parochial Register.—The earliest date of the
parochial registers is 1717. They consist of two volumes, and refer to
births and baptisms, marriages and burials. The registration by
dissenters is somewhat irregular; but otherwise the records are
Antiquities.—About half a mile south-west
from the church, are to be seen the ruins of a fortification or
camp,—improperly called Roman, as its form is circular. It stands on the
edge of a high and barren moor, about half a mile from the Clyde, and
commands an extensive view of that river to the south and west. It
contains about 1 acres, and is surrounded by a double wall of earth, a
deep ditch intervening.
"From the session records," according to the
Statistical Account of the late Mr Fraser, "it appears that the births
in this parish from April 1683 to April 1753, amounted exactly to 2205,
the annual average of which is 311. The marriages during the same period
amounted to 563, the annual average of which is little more than 8." The
return to Dr Webster in 1755 gave 708 persons examinable, or above 8
years of age.
The decrease of population may be imputed to
the consolidation of farms, the non-residence of heritors, the removal
of part of the population to towns in quest of employment, and of late
to America,—twenty individuals having emigrated to that country from
this parish in the year 1831.
There are 8 proprietors in this parish,
having yearly rentals of L.100 and upwards. The gross rental of the
parish is L. 4561.
Character of the People.—They are generally
sober, frugal, and industrious, and, as a proof, of this, there is not
an alehouse in the parish. I regret to add, however, that illicit
intercourse betwixt the sexes has become more common than it appears to
have been forty or fifty years ago; the number of illegitimate births
being not less on an average than three in the year. I should add, too,
that poaching is not uncommon, and is hardly considered to be unlawful.
Agriculture and Rural Economy.—
Rent of Land.—Average rent of land per acre
is L. 1, 5s.; average cost of grazing an ox or cow per year, L. 3;
grazing a quey, L. 1, 10s. ; grazing a sheep, 14s.
Rate of Wages.—Yearly wages of a ploughman,
with victuals, L. 12; of a maid-servant, L. 6, 10s.; of a boy or girl,
L.2; labourers, per day, without victuals, Is. 9d.; masons, 2s. 6d;
wrights, 2s. 6d.; smith's work per lb. of iron, 6d. In the time of
harvest, labourers' wages with victuals, L. 2; womens' 30s.
Breeds of Live Stock.—The common breed of
cattle is the Ayrshire, and of sheep a cross between the Cheviot and
Leicester. Both are improved by the frequent introduction of new stock.
Husbandry.—The general method of farming on
dry lands is in six divisions, by the following rotation of crops, viz
1. corn; 2. fallow or green crop; 3. corn; 4. hay; 5. pasture; 6.
pasture. On rich lands lying near the Clyde, four divisions are
observed, viz. 1. corn; 2. green crop; 3. corn: 4. hay.
Every encouragement has been given by the
proprietors to industrious tenants. In the southern and western parts of
the parish, where enclosures can be considered advantageous, the whole
of the lands are enclosed, either by stone-dikes or hedges and ditches.
In other districts of the parish, there are no enclosures of any
description. A good deal of improvement has been effected in draining
wet lands, but. very little of any consequence in reclaiming waste
lands. On one estate about fifty acres have been reclaimed within
fifteen or twenty years.
The duration of leases in the parish is
nineteen years. In the southern division the state of farm-buildings is
considered superior to that of those on almost any estate in the
neighbourhood of equal extent. In the course of the last seven years the
greater part of the farm-steadings has been rebuilt substantially. The
others have been repaired, and by enlargements every suitable
accommodation has been given to the tenants. In the rest of the parish,
the farm-buildings are generally bad, and incommodious.
The face of the country would still be much
improved by enclosures and belts of planting, judiciously made. A good
deal has been done in this respect of late years: and on the lands of
Cormiston, Shieldhill, Huntfield, and Whitecastle, more than 400 acres
of larch, Scotch and spruce fir, intermixed with varieties of hard wood,
have been planted by their respective proprietors. These plantations are
at present in a thriving state, and are already, or will, ere long, be a
great ornament to the vicinity. On the property of Huntfield alone,
there are 250 imperial acres under wood, the greater portion of which
has been planted within the last twenty years. A great part of Libberton
moor, which is now a barren waste, if sheltered, drained land subdivided
by belts of planting, and let in small pendicles to industrious
cottagers at little or no rent for some years, would soon be reclaimed;
and at no very great expense rendered no less profitable to the
proprietor, than ornamental to the neighbourhood.
Produce.—The average gross amount of raw
produce raised in the parish, as nearly as that can be ascertained, is
Carnwath is the nearest market-town. It is
21 miles from Libberton church.
Means of Communication.—There is no
toll-road in the parish, except. the one betwixt Glasgow and Peebles,
which passes through the north-east corner of it for nearly a mile ; and
many of the parish roads are bad, as they extend about 30 miles, and
would require far more funds to put and keep them in repair than the
parish could afford.
Ecclesiastical State.—The parish church was
built in 1812, and had the heritors laid out L. 40 or L. 50 more upon
it, it would have lasted sixty or seventy years longer than it will do.
It is feared that from damp much of the wood, both in the galleries and
below, will soon rot. The church affords accommodation to 450 persons,
and is amply sufficient for the whole population.
The manse was built in 1824, and is a good
house ; but the offices are indifferent.
The glebe extends to about 8 Scotch acres,
and is worth L. 16 yearly.
The stipend is 15 chalders, or 240 bolls
Linlithgow measure, of grain, half meal and half barley, besides L. 8,
6s. 8d. for communion elements.
There are no chapels of ease, nor dissenting
chapels in the parish. The number of dissenters above twelve years of
age is about 170, —much the same number as was found by the present
writer when he entered to the parish in 1813. The dissenters generally
be-•long either to Seceding or Relief congregations in Biggar, which is
nearer to some parts of the parish than the parish church. There are
only two Episcopalian families in the parish, who have no chapel within
20 miles. The average number of communicants at the parish church is
from 200 to 220.
Education.—There are two schools in the parish, viz, the parochial
school at the church town of Libberton, and the school of Quothquan ;
the latter is supported by a mortification of L. 2, 10s. L. 6 for house
rent yearly, and the school fees; there are also attached to it a good
school and school-house, built last. summer.
There is also a Sunday school taught at
Quothquan, which is attended by 25 scholars, and is superintended partly
by the teacher at Quothquan, and partly by the private tutor at
salary of the parochial teacher is L. 30, and the amount of school fees
does not exceed L. 20 a-year. In Quothquan school the school fees must
be considerably less. The parochial teacher has the legal
accommodations. There are no persons born and brought up in the parish,
who cannot read and write.
There is a parochial library in the parish; also a Friendly Society,
which was instituted in 1811 for the relief of its distressed members.
Poor and Parochial Funds.— At present there
are 13 poor persons receiving each about. an average of L. 4 yearly. The
amount of annual contributions for the poor is about L. 58, of which L.
45 arises from voluntary assessment, one-half of which is paid by the
proprietors, and the other half by the tenants. The church collections
amount to L. 11; and there is also the interest of L. 40, —L. 1, 16s.
There is less disposition among the poor to refrain from seeking
parochial relief than formerly, nor do they now consider it so
Fuel.—The fuel chiefly used is coal, procured either from the parish of
Douglas, at the distance of ten miles, or from Cleugh, in the parish of
Carnwath, nine miles distant from the church town of Libberton.
As a proof of the great rise in the value of
land in this parish within these last thirty or forty years, the
property of Whitecastle, situated in the most elevated district of the
parish, was purchased about forty years ago, for about L. 2700; and it
has yielded an annual rent, for these nineteen years past, of L. 283,
which is not accounted too high. About thirty-two years ago, a property
was purchased for the same sum, in the southern district of the parish;
the annual rent of which is now L. 345.
It may be added, that the farmers labour
under great disadvantages from their high rents, the difficulty of
communication with good and ready markets, and their liability to have
their crops of corn and potatoes injured by frosts in autumn; in
consequence of which they have not only a deficiency of produce, but are
obliged to purchase their seed at a dear rate from a distance. In
certain districts, chiefly the poorest, and most elevated of the parish,
there is a disease incident to cows called the stiffness, the cause or
cure of which has never yet been well ascertained, but which generally
proves fatal to its victims. It is a general wasting, or atrophy, which
attacks cattle in the spring or winter months, and reduces them to
skeletons. Their only chance of recovery is in their removal to a richer
pasture, before the disease has far advanced.