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The History of Stirlingshire
Chapter XXIII. Parishes


The county is divided into twenty-four parishes. The figure of Airth resembles that of a parallelogram, and is consequently somewhat irregular. Its length, from north to south, is about 7 miles, and its breadth, from east to west, about 3 1/2 miles the whole comprehending a surface of 30 square miles. It is bounded on the north by the Firth of Forth, on the east by the same firth and the parish of Bothkennar, on the south by Bothkennar and Larbert, and on the west by the parish of St. Ninians. The church was first opened for public worship on 20th February, 1820, and is built for the accommodation of 800 persons. The population of the parish in 1841 was 1,498; in 1851, 1,319; in 1861, 1,194; and in 1871, 1,395.

Alva belonged in ancient times to Clackmannanshire, which it has been politically incorporated since the passing of the Reform Bill. Since the beginning of the seventeenth century, however, it has been attached for judicial purposes to Stirlingshire, although upwards of four miles distant from its nearest point. The barony is surrounded on all sides by the shire of Clackmannan, except on the north, where it is bounded by a part of the county of Perth. From the chartulary of Cambuskenneth, we learn that Alva was a parish nearly 600 years ago, although it does not appear certain when the building of the village was first started. In the year 1795, the latter only contained 130 families, including a few single persons, each of whom occupied part of a house. The population of the parish in 1791 was 611; in 1801, 787; in 1811, 921; in 1821, 1,197; in 1831, 1,300; in 1836, 1,479; in 1841, 2,136; in 1851, 3,204; in 1861, 3,618; and in 1871, 4,296. For a considerable period prior to the Reformation, Alva was in the diocese of Dunkeld, and under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the bishop of that see. By an extract taken from the chartulary of Cambuskenneth, it appears that it was a mensel church (de mensa Episcopi), belonging to that abbacy; and that the monks, who were of the order of St. Augustine, performed duty there, from want of a sufficient fund to maintain a resident and regular clergyman in the parish. In 1260, Richard, Bishop of Dunkeld, made a donation to the monks of the church of St. Mary, at Cambuskenneth, of "the church of Alva with all its legal pertinents," and dispensed with their employing a vicar to officiate statedly. From 1581, till 1632, this parish was united to the neighbouring one of Tillicoultry the minister of Alva officiating in both. The fabric of the present church was erected in 1632, by Alexander Bruce, proprietor of Alva, who afterwards, making a small addition to the stipend, procured its disjunction from Tillicoultry. In the year 1815, at the expense of Mr. James Raymond Johnstone, it was wholly built, and fitted up so as to accommodate 600 sitters.

Baldernock, in shape, is a very irregular, three-sided figure. It is bounded, on the west side, by New Kilpatrick and Strathblane; on the south, by the rivers Allander and Kelvin; and on north and east by Campsie. The first records of session bear date 1690; but the present church was not built till 1795. It is still in good repair, and is seated for 406. The population of the parish in 1794 was 620; in 1801, 796; in 1811, 806; in 1821, 892; in 1831, 805; in 1841, 809; in 1851, 801; in 1861, 729; and in 1871, 616.

Balfron parish, which runs very nearly east and west, is about 11 miles in length, and 3 in breadth. It is bounded on the east and southeast, by Gargunnock and Fintry; on the south and north-west, by Killearn and Drymen; and on the north and north-east, by Drymen and Kippen. The church was rebuilt in 1833, and seats 700. The population in 1841, was 2,057; in 1851, 1,900; in 1861, 1,836; and in 1871, 1,502.

Bothkennar is bounded on the north, by the parish of Airth; on the east, by the Firth of Forth; on the south by the river Carron; and on the west, by the parish of Larbert. Its population in 1811, was 821; in 1821, 895; in 1831, 905; in 1841, 849; in 1851, 1,179; in 1861, 1,565; and in 1871, 2,377. Since the last census was taken, Grangemouth has been formed into a police burgh partly from the parishes of Bothkennar, Falkirk, and Polmont. In that year (1871) the population of the Bothkennar part of Grangemouth was 651; and what is now the landward part 1,726. It is worthy of notice that, while in every other parish in Scotland there was a great aversion to episcopacy, this parish was so much attached to it that they kept their minister, Mr. Skinner, a most worthy man, from 1688 till 1721; and had he not resigned his situation it is probable he would have died among them in the full exercise of his ministerial functions. There have been only six Presbyterian ministers in this parish, of whom Mr. Nimmo was one, since episcopacy was abolished.

Buchanan has not yet been measured. It is supposed, however, to be about 24 miles in length, and 5 in breadth; while its area, including the islands and mainland, may be stated at 120 square miles. It is bounded by Loch-lomond on the west; by the parish of Arrochar on the north; by Loch Katrine, and the parishes of Aberfoyle and Drymen on the east; and by the river Endrick on the south. Its population in 1755 was 1,699; in 1793, 1,611; in 1801, 748; in 1831, 600; in 1841, 619; in 1851, 632; in 1861, 622; and in 1871, 591.

Campsie (Lennoxtown) was reduced to its present dimensions, in 1649, by the annexation of its eastern extremity to Kilsyth, and of its southern extremity to Baldernock. Its length is about 7 miles, and its breadth about 6. It is bounded by the parish of Fintry on the north; by Baldernock and Strathblane on the west; by Cadder and Kirkintilloch on the south; and on the east by Kilsyth. The "clachan" has been treated ecclesiastically in a previous chapter. The population of the parish in 1789 was 1,627; in 1793, 2,517; in 1836, 5,653; in 1841, 6,396; in 1851, 6,918; in 1861, 6,483; and in 1871, 6,739. The great increase of inhabitants, during the first decade noted, arose from the establishment of the Lennox mill and the Kincaid printfields.

Denny is 6 miles in length, and, on an average, 4 in breadth. On the west, it is bounded by Darroch hill; on the east by Dunipace; on the north by the river Carron; on the south by the Bonny; and on the south-west by Kilsyth. As already mentioned, this parish was originally part of the parish of Falkirk. The parochial registers commence about 1679. The minister of Polmont draws from the heritors, in Temple Denny, the equivalent for his grass glebe a satisfactory evidence that both parishes were at one time portions of Falkirk. The population in 1755 was 1,392; in 1790, 1,416; in 1801, 1,967; in 1821, 3,364; in 1831, 3,843; in 1837, 4,300; in 1841, 4,428; in 1851, 4,754; in 1861, 4,821; and in 1871, 4,993.

Drymen is bounded on the north by Aberfoyle and Port; on the east, by Kippen, Balfron, and Killearn; on the south, by Killearn, Kilmaronock, and Dumbarton; and on the west, by Buchanan and Kilmaronock. Its extreme length is 15 miles, and breadth 10. It contains about 50 square miles. The church was erected in 1771. It is a plain substantial building, and affords accommodation for about 400. The population in 1755 was 2,780; in 1791, 1,607; in 1811, 1,500; in 1821, 1,652; in 1831, 1,690; in 1841, 1,523; in 1851, 1,481; in 1861, 1,469; and in 1871, 1,405.

Dunipace, in form, approaches to that of a triangle. It is bounded on the west and north by the parish of St. Ninians; on the east by Larbert; and on the south by the parishes of Falkirk and Denny the Carron separating it from the latter for nearly 5 miles. It is a curious fact that forty years ago there was neither a medical man nor a clergyman, a smith nor a wright, nor even a resident beggar in this parish; and it was only in 1838 that there was either a baker or a tailor. In the latter part of the thirteenth century an uncle of Sir William Wallace was parson of Dunipace, which was originally a chapel of the parish of Ecclis, now St. Ninians. At the time of the Reformation Dunipace and Larbert were erected into two separate parishes the former then being both the more populous, and by far the more wealthy of the two so much so, that the latter could not maintain a minister. A union, therefore, with Dunipace was desired, and accomplished under the authority of two Acts of the Scottish Parliament in 1617 and 1624. The present church stands on top of one of those little knolls with which the whole district abounds. It is built in the Gothic style, with a tower, in which there is a fine bell. It is seated for 604 persons, and was first opened for worship on the 29th June, 1834. The old church stood a mile and a half to the eastward. The population of the parish in 1831 was 1,278; in 1841, 1,578; in 1851, 1,472; in 1861, 1,601; and in 1871, 1,733.

Falkirk is situated in the eastern division of the county, and is separated from the Firth of Forth by a small part of the parish of Polmont. It extends about 9 miles in length, and from 2 to 5 in breadth. It is bounded on the east by the parishes of Polmont and Muiravonside; on the west by Cumbernauld and Denny; and on the north by the river Carron, which divides it from Dunipace, Larbert, and Bothkennar. The parish is of an oblong shape, stretching from the north-east to the north-west. Ancient documents show that at one time Denny, Slamannan, Muiravonside, and Polmont formed parts of the then existing parsonage of Falkirk. Of the period when the first three of these parishes were disjoined no record has been found; but Polmont was created a distinct parish in 1724. Here the parochial records are voluminous, and have been regularly kept until the present time. The date of the earliest entry is 4th January, 1594. The old church, which was founded by Malcolm, in 1057, and rebuilt in 1810, with sittings for 1,500 hearers, has already been mentioned. Falkirk is the only market town in the parish, and in 1841 contained nearly 5,000 inhabitants; but the population of the parliamentary burgh, in 1835, was ascertained to be 7,445. At the last census, in 1871, it was 9,547; and, on the lowest calculation, it must now be over 12,000. The population of the parish in 1755 was 3,932; in 1792, 8,020; and 1801, 8,838; in 1811, 10,395; in 1821, 11,536; in 1831, 12,748; in 1835, 13,037; in 1841, 14,108; in 1851, 16,438; in 1861, 17,026; and in 1871, 18,051.

Fintry, irregular in figure, extends from east to west about 6 miles, and its breadth, from north to south, is 5. It contains nearly 20 square miles. The parish is bounded on the north by Balfron and Gargunnock; on the east by St. Ninians and Kilsyth; on the south by Campsie; and on the west by Killeran and Strathblane. The parochial registers belonging to the session have been kept from a remote date. The oldest is dated 1632. The Established Church, which is a plain but neat building, with a tower on the west end, was erected in 1823, and contains 500 sittings. The population in 1755 was 891; in 1791, 348; in 1801, 958; in 1811, 1,1003; in 1821, 1,002; in 1831, 1,051; in 1851, 823; in 1861, 685; and in 1871, 499. After 1755 the farms of the parish were enlarged by the union of several small farms; and the consequence was, that many of the tenants were ejected, and had to seek a subsistence for themselves and families elsewhere. Accordingly, in 1791, there is a decrease of population to the extent of 543. About this time, however, a change of an opposite nature caused a great increase. Mr. Speirs built a large cotton factory; and, to accommodate the many hands employed, a village was erected which, in 1841, contained about 650 inhabitants.

Gargunnock contains about 20 square miles. Its length is 6 miles, and breadth 4. It is bounded on the east and south by St. Ninians; on the west by Fintry, Balfron, and Kippen; and on the north by Kincardine and Kilmaronock. The earliest entry in the parish registers is dated 1615. Although built in 1774, the church is still in a state of good repair. It accommodates 500 sitters. The population in 1755 was 956; in 1793, 830; in 1833, 908; in 1841, 826; in 1851, 754; in 1861, 729; and in 1871, 675.

Killearn contains 27 square miles. Its length is 12 miles; and its breadth, where greatest, 4; but at an average 2 1/2. It is situated in Strathendrick, now the western district of Stirlingshire. It was originally, however, a part of Lennox or Dumbartonshire. The population in 1755 was 959; in 1769, 948; in 1794, 973; in 1831, 1,206; in 1841, 1,187; in 1851, 1,176; in 1861, 1,145; and in 1871, 1,111. A temporary diminution was also occasioned here by the union of small farms.

Kilsyth, in form, approaches to an irregular oblong. It runs for 7 miles along the north high road from Edinburgh to Glasgow, and its mean breadth is fully half its length. It contains nearly 24 square miles. The natural boundaries are the Carron, on the north; the Kelvin and the Bonnyburn, on the south; Inchwood burn on the west; and the Bush burn on the east. The population in 1801 was 1,762; in 1811, 3,206; in 1821, 4,260; in 1831, 4,297; in 1841, 4, 683; in 1851, 5,346; in 1861, 5,828; and in 1871, 6,313.

Kippen lies chiefly in Stirlingshire, but in different places is intersected by portions of Perthshire which run across it from north to south, for nearly a third part of the parish. Its greatest length is about 8 miles, and its breadth from 2 to nearly 4 miles. It is bounded on the north by the river Forth, which separates it from the parishes of Port and Norriestown; on the east by Gargunnock; on the south by Balfron; and on the west by the parish of Drymen. The church was built in 1825, and seats 800. The population in 1793 was 1,777; in 1801, 1,722; in 1811, 1,893; in 1821, 2,029; in 1831, 2,085; in 1851, 1,892; in 1861, 1,736; and in 1871, 1,568.

Larbert parish proper is nearly elliptical in form the measures of the transverse and conjugate axis being about 3 and 2 1/2 miles; while the superficial extent is close upon 4 1/2 square miles. The river Carron is the boundary on the S. & S. S. E., for 2 1/4 miles; Dunipace on the west and north-west for 2 1/2 miles; the little rivulet the Pow, of Airth, on the north; and for 1 1/4 mile, on the north-east and south-east, the parishes of Airth and Bothkennar form the marches. On account of its early poverty, Larbert, as we have already said, was united quoad sacra to Dunipace; but the establishment of the iron works at Carron changed matters entirely. Its population in 1831 was 4,262; in 1841, 4,411; in 1851, 4,606; in 1861, 4,999; and in 1871, 5,280.

Logie is bounded on the north by the parish of Dunblane; on the south by the river Forth, which divides it from Stirling and St. Ninians; on the west by Lecropt and Dunblane; and on the east by Alva and Alloa. Its extreme length from north to south, is between 6 and 7 miles; and its extreme breadth, from east to west, about 6. The present church, which was built in 1805, is a plain unpretending structure, but neat and commodious. It is seated for 644 people. Its situation is peculiarly romantic and beautiful; and that of the old kirk (now an interesting ruin) still more so. The population in 1831 was 1,943; in 1841, 2,198; in 1851, 2,551; in 1861, 3,468; and in 1871, 4,553.

Muiravonside, or Moranside, is about 7 miles in length and its irregular breadth may average 2. The river Avon descending towards the north-east, till it turns to the north and west nor far from Linlithgow Bridge, bounds its extreme length on the south-east, and forms the border of its breadth on the north-east, separating it from the parishes of Slamannan, Torphichen, Linlithgow, and Bo'ness. It is said to have been, in ancient times, annexed to the parish of Falkirk; but we find it named a separate parish in 1606, the date of the oldest presbytery record. In several returns, too, of the earldom of Linlithgow, which were made in the seventeenth century, Muiravonside is reckoned amongst its patronages. The population in 1801 was 1,070; in 1811, 1,330; in 1821, 1,678; in 1831, 1,540; in 1851, 2,644; in 1861, 2,662; and in 1871, 2,653.

Polmont is about 6 1/2 miles in length, and its utmost breadth is nearly 3. It is bounded on the north by the firth of Forth; on the east, partly by the river Avon, which separates the county of Stirling from the county of Linlithgow, and partly by the parish of Muiravonside; on the south by Muiravonside and Slamannan; and on the west by the parish of Falkirk, from which it was disjoined in 1724. Its name, however, must be at least of long standing, for among the titles of the Duke of Hamilton, he is called Lord Polmont. The population in 1755 was 1,094; in 1791, 1,400; in 1801, 2,194; in 1811, 1,827; in 1821, 2,171; in 1831, 3,200; in 1835, 3,107; in 1841, 3,412; in 1851, 3,764; in 1861, 3,892; and in 1871, 3,910. In 1801, the colliery at Shieldhill was in active operation, and hence the large increase at that period compared with the census in 1791. In 1811, work there was almost discontinued: consequently the decrease. Again, from 1821 to 1831, the Redding Colliery was conducted on an extensive scale; and in 1835, the diminution was occasioned by fewer men being employed.

St. Ninians once comprehended the whole district between the Forth and Carron. With the exception of the small space occupied by the parish of Stirling, the Forth is still its northern boundary for many miles, by which it is separated from Kincardine, Lecropt, Logie and Alloa. On the east, it is bounded by Airth; on the west by Gargunnock and Fintry. The Carron on the south, for nearly 6 miles, separates it from Kilsyth and Denny; while Dunipace and Larbert form the remainder of its southern boundary. A parallelogram of 10 miles by 6 is more than the parish would fill up. 11 miles by 5 is nearer the mark. It contains about 55 square miles. From the church to Randieford, on the west, is a distance of fully 11 miles; and to Powbridge, on the east, about 7, though in a direct line the distance between these extreme points may not be over 15 or 16 miles; but owing to the windings of the Forth and other causes it is very irregular, and at both extremities is not more than 3 miles. The church was built in 1750, and contains upwards of 1,500 sittings. The population in 1645 was 4,760; in 1745, 5,916; in 1755, 6,491; in 1792, 7,079; in 1801, 6,849; in 1811, 7,636; in 1821, 8,274; in 1831, 9,552; in 1841, 10,080; in 1851, 9,851; in 1861, 8,946; and in 1871, 10,146.

Slamannan is bounded on the north-west by the parish of Cumbernauld; on the west and south-west by New Monkland; on the east and south-east by Torphichen; and on the north and north-east by Muiravonside, Polmont, and Falkirk. At the north-western extremity, there is a point where three counties meet, viz., Stirling, Dumbarton, and Lanark; and on the south there is another point where the counties of StirIing and Lanark meet with the county of Linlithgow. The parish lies on the south of the water of Avon, and is from 5 to 6 miles in length, and about 3 in breadth. In 1724, when Polmont was disjoined from Falkirk, a considerable portion of the former, which lies on the north of the Avon, was annexed quoad sacra to Slamannan, making the whole parish upwards of 6 miles in length and nearly 5 in breadth. The church, which was rebuilt in 1810, accommodates upwards of 700 persons. The population in 1801 was 923; in 1811, 993; in 1821, 981; in 1831, 1,093; in 1851, 1,655; in 1861, 2,916; and in 1871, 4,164.

Strathblane lies in the south-west corner of the shire, and is bounded on the east by the parish of Campsie; on the south by Baldernock and New Kilpatrick; and on the west and north by Killearn. Its average length is rather more than 5 miles, and breadth about 4. The surface comprises nearly 20 square miles. The church, which was built in 1803, is a handsome edifice of modem Gothic, and is seated for 450. The population in 1755 was 797; in 1795, 620; in 1811, 795; in 1821, 748; in 1831, 1,030; in 1841, 1,045; in 1851, 1,010; in 1861, 1,122; and in 1871, 1,235.

Stirling parish is 2 miles in length from west to east, and 1 1/2 mile in breadth from north to south. Its figure is very irregular, depending in some places on the waving line of the Forth, in others on the deep indentations made in it by the parish of St. Ninians. By the latter it is bounded on the west, south, and east, by Logie on the north-east, and north, and by Lecropt on the north. The population in 1755, was 3,951; in 1792, 4,698; in 1801, 5,256; in 1811, 5,993; in 1821, 7,333; in 1831, 8,499; in 1841, 8,860; in 1851, 12,837; in 1861, 13,846; and in 1871, 14,279. With the Reformation, came the abolition of the Popish ritual, and the establishment of the Protestant worship. From this period, until 1607, the parish was under the spiritual charge of one minister. A second minister was then appointed, but it was not till 1643 that a fixed endowment was given by the magistrates and others. In 1731, upon an application from the inhabitants, the third charge was created, when consent was granted to a multure, which had been levied for some years, being perpetuated for its support. From this time, the ministers of the first and second charges were colleagues together in the east church, the minister of the third charge preaching in the west, until, upon the deposition of Ebenezer Erskine, in 1740, for whom this charge had been instituted, that church was disused as an ordinary place of worship, and only opened on sacramental occasions for the accommodation of those who could not find access to the east church. This state of things, notwithstanding petitions from the inhabitants, continued till 1817, when the third charge was revived, and the west church re-opened with Archibald Bruce ordained and admitted as minister. The arrangement, in other respects, continued the same down till 1825, when the then minister of the third charge being appointed to the second, remained in the west church, instead of being transferred to the east, and on being appointed in 1829, to the first charge still remained in the west. After that date, the minister of the first charge was fixed in the west church, the minister of the second charge in the east, while he of the third charge preached in each church alternately as colleague to both the others. The first person who appears to have occupied any ministerial office in the parish was Thomas Duncanson, Reader, who was, for uncleanness, suspended by the General Assembly, December 31st, 1563. The earliest appointment of a second minister was, as we have already said, in 1507, when Robert Mure was admitted coadjutor to Patrick Simpson. The dissenters from the national religious establishment were, seventy years ago, perhaps more numerous, proportionally, in Stirling than in most parts of Scotland. It was here, indeed, that, in 1738, that secession began which afterwards spread over the country under the name of "The Associated Synod," and, ten years after, branched into burghers and antiburghers. The prime mover, however, in a party which has been considered as unfavourable to loyalty, where the reigning prince has not signed "the Solemn League and Covenant," Mr. Ebenezer Erskine, eight years after his expulsion from the bosom of the national church, demonstrated his attachment to the civil government, by assuming the military character in the defence of Stirling against the insurgent army in 1746, when he gallantly headed two companies of his affectionate flock.

A census table, dry as the look of it may seem, tells an interesting tale of its own. The social history of a district may, in part, be read from it. An increase of population means industrial prosperity. A decrease, industrial depression. In the previous pages of this chapter, we have given the number of inhabitants in each of the parochial divisions of the shire. We close with the population of the county itself, at intervals from 1765 till 1871.

1765 39,761
1768 47,373
1801 50,825
1811 58,174
1821 65,376
1831 72,621
1841 82,057
1851 86,237
1861 91,926
1871 98,179


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