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The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)
Volume VI - Lanark
Parish of Wiston and Roberton



Name, Boundaries, &c.—THE parishes of Wiston and Roberton were united in the year 1772. Roberton was probably so called from some eminent person of the name of Robert, or, from some opulent family having conferred it as a portion upon a son of-that name. Two derivations are given of the name of Wiston. By some it is supposed to have been originally Woolstown, or rather, in the Scotch language, Woostown, in course of time corrupted into Wiston, and to have been so called from its having been in former times a great market for wool. It is certain that there is still, about the middle of the village, a mound or small rising ground, pointed out by the old inhabitants as the cross or place where that market was held. By others, again, it is supposed to have been originally Wisetown, thence easily contracted into Wiston, and to have been so called from its having been the property of a man of the name of Wise. The Place, the name of a farm close upon the village, seems to indicate that it was at one time the seat of the proprietor. Neither derivation is unnatural, though which is the correct one it may not be easy to determine.

The united parish extends about 6 miles in length, and 4 in breadth, exhibiting •very nearly the form of a parallelogram. It is bounded on the east by the parish of Symington ; on the, north by the hill of Tinto; on the west by the parish of Douglas; and on the south by the parish of Crawfordjohn and the river Clyde.

Topographical Appearances.—Tinto, the Hill of Fire, which forms the northern boundary of the parish, is upwards of 2000 feet above the level of the sea, and commands in every direction a most extensive view. The principal points seen from it are Hartfell, Queensberry Hill, Cairntable, Goatfell, Isle of Arran, the Bass, the hills in the north of England, and even in the north of Ireland. Directly opposite, and almost in the centre of the parish, is Dun-gavel, a bill with two tops, presenting in its appearance a perfect contrast to its neighbour of Tinto; the one being mild; green, and beautiful; the other, craggy, bold, and frowning.

There is no disease peculiar to the parish, and, from the recent improvements in agriculture, and the increasing attention to the accommodation of the people, counteracting to a certain extent the natural influence of the climate, even the distempers which formerly prevailed are now very much decreased.

Geology.—The soil is very different in different districts of the parish; it may be described as principally gravelly and black loam; great part of it, however, is exceedingly marshy. It is generally supposed that there is coal in the parish. Some years ago an attempt was made for it, which was suddenly and unaccountably abandoned, and has not since been repeated. At present, and for several years past, there have been lime-works in full operation. The direction of the strata is from south to north; the dip 14 feet; the inclination 1 in 7. One principal dike of whinstone runs in a slanting direction along the west side of the layer. In breadth it is 20 feet. There are also several clay dikes running in irregular directions. Corals, branches of trees, nuts, shells of various kinds, are frequently met with among the limestone strata. A deer's horn, not petrified, was lately found in the alluvium; and a year or two ago, a fossil tree, found in these limestone quarries, was sent to Edinburgh, and, on inspection, it appeared that none of the kind had been seen before.

The hill of Tinto in this-parish, according to the accurate and comprehensive description of the Rev. Dr Macknight, published in the second volume of the Memoirs of the Wernerian Natural History Society, rises in a district where greywacke and superimposed old red sandstone occur. The mountain itself in its lower part presents rocks of old red sandstone conglomerate, but the predominant rocks are of plutonian origin, chiefly claystone and felspar porphyries, with subordinate masses of greenstone.


Land-owners.—There are seven heritors, all of them proprietors of land upwards of the yearly value of L. 50. The two principal are Lord Douglas, and Lockhart of Cleghorn. The only resident heritor at present is Thomas Gibson, Esq. of Eastfield. Macqueen, late Lord Justice-Clerk, bought the estate of Hardington, or Bagbie, as it was then called, which he very much improved, and where lie occasionally resided. Hardington House is at present occupied by his grandson, Robert Macqueen, Esq. Younger of Braxfield.

Parochial Registers.—The books belonging to the kirk-session of the old parish of Roberton have unfortunately been lost, and no trace of them can be discovered. The earliest of those belonging to the old parish of Wiston bears the date of 1694, and with occasional, but trifling interruptions, they are extant from that period to the present.


The return to Dr Webster in 1755, the earliest account of the population of the parish that we have been able to discover, gave from Wiston 591, and from Roberton, 511, in all 1102. From a census taken by the writer in the month of February last, it appears that the present population of the united parish is 949, or 153 less than it was about eighty years ago. In 1791, the population was only 740, or 362 less than it was about forty years before. This large decrease was easily accounted for, from the circumstance, that beween the years 1755 and 1791, the system had come into vogue of throwing several small farms into one large farm, and, as a matter of course, driving the small tenants, with their families, out' of the parish ; and the very gradual increase which has since taken place is as easily accounted for on merely natural principles. There are three villages in the parish, Roberton, Wiston, and Newton of Wiston. And from the census taken in February last, it appears that there were then residing in the village of Roberton, 235; in the village of Wiston, 123; in the village of Newton, 56; and in what may be called the country parts of the parish, 535.

There is no register of deaths kept in this parish. The births average from 15 to 20, and the marriages about 7 a year.

Perhaps it may be worth mentioning, that a week or two ago, an aged couple, who, for upwards of half a century had trode the path of life together, died within a few days of each other; the husband at the advanced age of 82, and the wife ten years older.

Customs, &c. of the People.—Not very many years ago, cock-fighting and foot-ball were favourite amusements in this district, and were frequently made the subject of a trial of strength between two rival parishes. They are now sunk into merited oblivion, and their place is well supplied by the not less interesting, and far less exceptionable amusement of curling. In their domestic character and habits the people generally are manifestly improving; and though there is still ample room for amendment, it is evident that the indolent, slovenly, "canna' be fashed" system of the last century is fast falling into disrepute, and yielding to a taste for neatness, and a habit of cleanliness, both as to their houses and their persons, the effects of which are already apparent. The farmers are active, intelligent, and hospitable. Equally removed, on the one hand, from the conditions and character of the mere serf, and, on the other, from that of the gentleman farmer, they are, some of them, wealthy, and all of them able to make a respectable appearance, enjoy in abundance the necessaries of life, and are becoming daily more alive to its comforts and its elegancies. The lower orders are in general comfortable in their circumstances, and contented with their lot ; honest, industrious, and sober ; inferior to no peasantry in Scotland in point of intelligence, and unstained by the prevalence of any particular vice,—poaching, perhaps, excepted, which, in the eyes of some, seems to possess an attraction absolutely irresistible.


Agriculture and Rural Economy.—There are about 2183 acres in this parish in constant rotation ; about 1600 occasionally in tillage; about 5388 which never have been cultivated, and which remain constantly waste, or in sheep pasture; and at least 1500 which, with a profitable application of capital, might be added to the cultivated land of the parish, whether that land were afterwards to be kept in occasional tillage, or in permanent pasture. There is no land in this parish in a state of undivided common. There are only about 200 acres under wood, none of it indigenous; of these nearly one-half have been planted within these few years on the property of Lockhart of Cleghorn. The wooded grounds are judiciously laid out, and are carefully attended to. The wood thrives remarkably well, and promises, ere long, to give a new face to this part of the parish, and holds out every encouragement to the other proprietors to beautify and improve their properties in a similar manner. It consists, in general, of larch and Scotch fir, with a sprinkling of hardwood, in the proportion, perhaps, of twenty of the former to one of the latter.

Rent of Land.—The land in this parish is of such various value, some of it being worth, perhaps, L.4 per acre, and some of it scarcely 4d., that it is difficult to say what is its average rent. Of the land constantly in rotation, perhaps L.2, 10s. may be taken as a pretty fair average; and of that which is only occasionally in tillage, perhaps 15s. The average rate of grazing is L.3 for an ox or cow, and 5s. for a ewe or full-grown sheep pastured for the year.

Rate of Wages.--The rate of labour, winter and summer, for farm-labourers is is. 4d., and for country artisans, 2s. 6d. per day, victuals included ; for a man-servant, L. 12, and a woman-servant, L.5, 15s. tier annum.

Live-Stock, &c.—There are about 185 scores of sheep in the parish, chiefly of the black-faced Linton breed; about 366 milk cows, principally of the Ayrshire breed, though a new species has lately been introduced, and found upon trial to be of superior quality, viz. the Lanarkshire newly improved breed, crossed by Ayrshire cow and short-horned bull, or vice versa; and about 76 horses employed in agriculture, of the Clydesdale breed. There is an evident growing attention to the improvement of the breeds of sheep and cattle, to which, perhaps, the various cattle shows in the neighbourhood have not a little contributed; and, indeed, the character of the husbandry in general has of late very much improved, and is still improving, particularly as to the reclaiming of waste land, draining and liming. As a proof of which, I may state that one of our farmers, Mr Muir, Hardington Mains, obtained this year the silver medal given by the Highland Society for the reclaiming of waste land; and I believe that another, Mr Wilson, Hillend, would have been equally successful had he chosen to apply. It is right to add, that the merit of whatever has been done in this respect is almost entirely due to the tenants themselves, who receive in general but too little assistance from their respective proprietors.

Produce.—The average gross amount of raw produce raised in the parish cannot be exactly ascertained; but it is believed that the following is nearly correct:


Villages.—Biggar, about seven miles distant, is our nearest post and market-town. As already stated, there are three villages in the parish, Roberton, Wiston, and Newton of Wiston.

Means of Communication.— The turnpike road from Stirling to Carlisle runs through the whole length of the parish, and has in various respects been of vast advantage to it. There are no bridges of any consequence; the fences are deficient, but such as we have are tolerably good.

Ecclesiastical State.—The present church is that of the old parish of Wiston. It was enlarged after the annexation of the two parishes, has since been repaired, and is at present in a very tolerable state. It is situate within a mile and a-half of the eastern, and fully four miles and a-half from the western, extremity of the parish. But though not exactly centrical, as even the private roads in the parish are now generally good, those at a distance have no great reason to complain; nor do they seem to feel it any inconvenience, for few attend church with greater regularity. It is seated for 355, not the legal provision ; but by means of forms and folding seats, accommodation has lately been provided for about thirty more, and these newly provided sittings are free.—The manse was built in the year 1750, and during the present incumbency, upwards of twenty years ago, a considerable addition was made to it.--There are two glebes, the globe of the old parish of Roberton, and that of the old parish of Wiston. The former is sixteen acres in extent, and is let at present for L. 25; the latter is about seven acres and a-half, including the garden and site of the manse and offices, and would let, I suppose, for about L. 20. The globes are more than two miles distant from each other, and though it is strongly recommended in the decreet of annexation to exchange the glebe and yard of Roberton for lands lying contiguous to the glebe of Wilton,- the recommendation has not yet been attended to. The teinds are exhausted, and by a decreet of modification and locality, 1816, the stipend was fixed at L.191, 11s. 8d. money, and one chaldron meal.

There is a Relief chapel in the village of Roberton. It was built about thirty-three years ago, and is seated for 377. The minister's salary, I believe, depends entirely on the produce of the chapel ; what that may exactly amount to I cannot tell, for, of course, I have no official communication on the subject, but I rather think it will not exceed L. 40 per annum. It has been in a declining state for several years; nor is its decline to be ascribed to any circumstances of an accidental or extraordinary nature. There are 150 families attending the Established church, and 42 families attending different dissenting chapels, particularly the Relief one already mentioned. There are 766 persons of all ages belonging to the Establishment, and 183 of all ages belonging to dissenterism. There are 405 in communion with the church of Scotland, and 102 in communion with dissenting bodies.

Education.—There are three schools in the parish, two parochial and one private and unendowed. The branches generally taught are, English, writing, arithmetic, and occasionally Latin. The salary of the schoolmaster of Wiston is L.25, 13s. 3d., that of the schoolmaster of Roberton, L. 30. The fees in the school of Wiston are, English, 2s., English and writing, 2s. 6d., English, writing, and arithmetic, 3s., English, writing, arithmetic, and Latin, 4s. per quarter. In the school of Roberton the fees are, English, is. 6d. English and writing, 2s. 6d. English, writing, and arithmetic, as. 6d. per quarter. At the annual examination in March, there were attending the parochial school of Wiston, 64; the parochial school of Roberton, 56; and the private school in Roberton 32. Both parochial teachers have the full legal accommodation. In. nothing, perhaps, has there been such a decided improvement of late years, as in the system of parochial teaching; and in no parish with which I am acquainted are the people more alive to the benefits of education, nor do they evince a keener interest in the subject. This is apparent from the fact, that in the poorest hamlets in the most distant parts in the parish, you will not find a child six years of age who has not been at school, as well as from the great turn out of parents on the day of annual examination, and the eagerness with which they listen to the proceedings.

Libraries.—There are two public libraries in the parish, one a subscription library, consisting of books of every description, the other a Sabbath school library, consisting exclusively of religious works, but not limited in its circulation to the children attending the school. Both are well supported.

Friendly Society.—A friendly society was instituted a considerable time ago, though in what year it is impossible to say, as the original books have been lost. The earliest record in the possession of the society bears the date of 1782. We regret to add, that it is not quite so flourishing as it once was; and we can ascribe its decline (temporary we hope) to no circumstance, so much as to the almost general extinction of that spirit of honest independence by which the inhabitants of Scotland were at one time so remarkably and honourably distinguished; nor can we think of any tiling more likely to revive the prosperity of the society, than for the heritors and other influential individuals connected with the parish to give it their countenance and support, by enrolling themselves as members, and taking an interest in its proceedings. For their own sakes, as well as for the sake of the community at large, they ought to do so, as it is now, in this parish at' least, the only remaining bar against the inroads of pauperism.

Poor and Parochial Funds.—The average number of persons receiving parochial aid is from 15 to 20, exclusive of occasional paupers; the sum allotted to each individual is of course regulated by circumstances. The least that is given (and truly it is as little as can be given) is 4s. per month, and the most 15s. In 1832, the total amount of money received in behalf of the poor was L.119, 11s. 12d. The church collections amounted to L. 12, 13s. 41d. and, with the exception of the interest of L. 100, and a few other inconsiderable items, the remainder of the sum arose from the regular assessment, at the rate. of 10d. Sterling, on each pound Scotch, one half paid by the proprietor, the other by the occupier.

Inns.—There are no fewer than four inns or public houses in the parish, while one would be quite sufficient. Their effect, as might be expected, is decidedly bad.

Fuel.—The fuel is coal from the neighbouring parishes of Douglas and Carmichael. The price is 8d. a-load at the pit, and 10d. a-load for driving. The distance is about six miles.


In the Statistical Account of 1792, it is stated, "there is, strictly speaking, no poors' roll. It is sometimes necessary to press aid on the necessitous, such is their modesty." From the foregoing accounting it will be seen that matters are in this respect lamentably altered. Various causes have no doubt, contributed to this effect. The dissenting chapel at Roberton, by thinning for some time the attendance at the Established church, necessarily diminished the amount of church collections, whilst the enlarged scale on which the lime-works came to be wrought, by introducing into the parish a poor and thoughtless population, added to the number of the necessitous, without providing any supply for their relief. These two circumstances combined gave rise to the necessity of a legal assessment, and that in its turn, and as its necessary consequence, has extinguished the spirit of independence, increased the number of the poor, and dried up almost every source of voluntary contribution for their support.

May 1834.

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