- KILSYTH, a burgh of barony and a parish, in the county of Stirling; containing, with the late quoad sacra parish of Banton, and the village of Auchinmully, 5613 inhabitants, of whom 4106 are in the burgh, 12½ miles (N. E.) from Glasgow. This place was anciently called "Monaebrugh," from the name of the barony which now forms the eastern portion of the parish, and of which alone it for many years consisted till the annexation of the barony of Kilsyth in 1649. Since that period, the whole parish has assumed the appellation of Kilsyth, from the name of that barony, which previously was a portion of the parish of Campsie, and of which the etymology, like that of Monaebrugh, is involved in doubt and obscurity. The lands once formed part of the possessions of the Livingstone family, of whom Sir James Livingstone, in acknowledgment of his services in defending the castle of Kilsyth against Cromwell, was elevated to the peerage by Charles II., in 1661, by the titles of Lord Campsie and Viscount Kilsyth. The estates continued with his descendants till the year 1715, when they became forfeited to the crown on the attainder of William, third viscount Kilsyth, for his participation in the rebellion; and the lands were purchased in 1784, by Sir Archibald Edmonstone, of Duntreath, whose grandson. Sir Archibald Edmonstone, Bart., is now the chief proprietor of the parish. The principal event of historical importance connected with the place is the memorable battle of Kilsyth, in 1645, between the army of the Covenanters, consisting of 6000 infantry and 1000 cavalry, commanded by General Baillie, and the forces of the Marquess of Montrose, consisting of 4400 infantry and 500 cavalry. This sanguinary battle, which occurred near the site now occupied by the reservoir of the Forth and Clyde canal, terminated in the entire defeat of the Covenanters, with the slaughter of nearly the whole of their infantry; while of the forces of the marquess, a very inconsiderable number were slain.The town is situated on the north road from Glasgow to Edinburgh, and consists of several streets irregularly formed; it is lighted with gas, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water, conveyed from a spring in the neighbourhood into public cisterns by earthen pipes. The principal trade is the weaving of cotton by handlooms, in which more than 1300 persons are engaged for the Glasgow merchants; and there are two factories recently established, in which lappets, cloth for umbrellas, and checked ginghams are made, affording occupation to about 130 persons. The manufacture of white and brown paper is also carried on, to a moderate extent, employing from forty to fifty persons; and many of the inhabitants are engaged in mines of ironstone and coal, and in the quarries in the parish. There is no regular market-day, though the town is amply supplied with provisions of every kind: fairs are held on the second Friday in April and the third Friday in November, but they are not much frequented. The post-office, under that of Glasgow, has a daily delivery by a post gig, which also carries one passenger; and facility of communication is afforded by the road from Glasgow to Edinburgh, and by the great canal within a mile to the south of the town. Kilsyth was erected into a burgh of barony by charter of George IV., in 1826; the government is vested in a bailie, dean of guild, and four councillors, elected under the provisions of the act of the 3rd of William IV. There are no incorporated trades possessing exclusive privileges; and the occupation of a tenement of the annual value of £5, on lease, is sufficient to qualify as a burgess, upon paying a fine of five shillings on admission. The magistrates exercise jurisdiction, in criminal matters, only in petty offences; and no regular courts are held.The parish, which is bounded on the north by the river Carron, and on the south by the river Kelvin, is about seven miles in length and three and a half in average breadth, and comprises 15,000 acres, of which nearly 4000 are arable, 7000 meadow and pasture, and the remainder, with the exception of a few acres of plantations, moorland and waste. The surface is boldly diversified with hill and dale, and is generally of bleak and barren aspect. The Kilsyth hills, which intersect the parish from east to west, and a portion of the Campsie fells, which skirt it on the north-west, are among the most lofty elevations; and some of them attain a height of more than 1200 feet above the level of the sea. From the summit of these hills is an unbounded view, extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the German Sea, and commanding nearly the whole country at a glance. The Meikleben, which unites the Kilsyth range with the Campsie fells, has an elevation of 1500 feet; and the Garrel and Laird's hills, also in the parish, rise to a height of 1300 feet. The chief river is the Carron, which has its source in the adjacent parish of Fintry, flowing eastward into the Forth at Grangemouth; it abounds with trout, and forms in its sinuous course numerous romantic cataracts. The Kelvin has its source within the parish, and, though for some distance from its rise but a small rivulet, has been diverted by Sir Archibald Edmonstone into a wider and deeper channel, and, after flowing under the aqueduct of the Forth and Clyde canal, increases in importance as it advances towards Glasgow. Of the smaller streams that intersect the parish, the principal is the Garrel, which descends from the Garrel hill, and, in its course, within a mile and a half, has a tall of 1000 feet. Its waters, as it approaches the ancient village of Kilsyth, have been partly diverted into the reservoir at Townhead, for the supply of the Forth and Clyde canal; but, after receiving some small tributaries, it flows southward into the Kelvin. The reservoir is of oval form, about seventy-five acres in extent, and occupies a natural hollow of considerable depth, by filling up the entrance to which, to the height of twenty-five feet, the inclosure was formed at a very inconsiderable expense.The soil in the lower parts of the parish is a rich and deep loam; in the higher parts, light and sandy, but of great fertility; in other parts, gravel alternated with clay, and there are also some large tracts of peatmoss. The crops are, oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, and turnips. The cultivation of potatoes in the open fields is said to have been first practised in this parish by Mr. Graham, of Tamrawer, who, from one peck planted in April, 1762, obtained a produce of 264 pecks in the October following. The system of husbandry has been greatly improved under the encouragement held out by the Farmers' Association for this parish and others adjacent, which meets at the principal inn annually, in June, when a cattle-show takes place, and prizes are awarded to the successful competitors. The farm-buildings have been rendered commodious, and the lands inclosed with fences of thorn, kept in excellent repair; tile-draining has been extensively practised, and all the more recent improvements in the construction of agricultural implements have been adopted. The hill-pastures are well adapted for the feeding of sheep, and the meadows in the vale of Kilsyth are among the most luxuriant in the country. Great attention is paid to the dairy-farms, on which all the cows are of the Ayrshire breed; the chief produce is butter and milk, of which large quantities are sold for the supply of the neighbourhood. The plantations were formerly on a very limited scale, chiefly confined to the demesnes of the principal landholders; but they have lately been extended. They consist of ash, birch, mountain-ash, elm, alder, oak, and sycamore, for which the soil seems well adapted. The substratum is mostly of the coal formation, and ironstone and limestone are found in abundance: the coal, which is of good quality, is wrought for the supply of the adjacent district, and the ironstone by the Carron Company. There are also quarries of limestone, and of freestone of a fine colour, and of good quality for building. The rateable annual value of the parish is £9288.The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Glasgow and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. The minister's stipend is £271. 6.7., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum; patron, the Crown. The parish church, erected in 1816, at the western extremity of the town, is an elegant structure in the later English style of architecture, and containing 860 sittings. A church has been built at Banton; and there are places of worship for members of the Free Church, the Relief, and Wesleyans. Parochial schools are maintained in the burgh, at ChapelGreen, and at Banton; the master of the first has a salary of £30, with a house and garden, and the fees, averaging £60. The master of the Banton school has a salary of £12. 6., with fees amounting to £23; and the master at Chapel-Green a salary of £9, to which are added £22, the proceeds of a bequest by Mr. John Patrick, and fees averaging £30 per annum. At Conney park and Balcastle are remains of Pictish forts, of which the latter is the most entire of all the works of the kind in the kingdom. There are also some of the ruins of Colzium Castle, and of a smaller mansion of the Livingstone family which was burnt by Oliver Cromwell on his route to Stirling. Small remains still exist of the ancient castle of Kilsyth, on an eminence overlooking the town; and in the town is the old mansion of Kilsyth, now inhabited by poor families, but in which are yet preserved the apartments where Prince Charles Edward spent a night. Under the old church was the burying-place of the Livingstone family, of whom William, the third viscount, after his attainder retired to Holland, where Lady Kilsyth and her infant son were killed by the accidental falling in of the roof of the house in which they lived. Their bodies were embalmed, and, being inclosed in a leaden coffin, were sent to Scotland, and interred in the family vault, now in the open churchyard. On examining the coffin in 1796, the remains of both were found in so perfect a state, and even the complexion so fresh, as to present every appearance of natural sleep.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.