LOCHWINNOCH, a parish, in the Upper ward of the county of Renfrew, 4 miles (N.) from Beith, and 12 (S. by E.) from Port-Glasgow; containing, with the village of Howwood, 4716 inhabitants, of whom 2681 are in the village of Lochwinnoch. The name of this place, signifying, in the Gaelic language, which, previously to the introduction of various manufactures, was exclusively spoken throughout the whole district, "the island of the lake," is derived from a very extensive lake near the village of Lochwinnoch, where, during the internal hostilities that prevailed in the 15th and 16th centuries, the proprietor of the barony, Lord Sempill, erected a strong peel or castle, of which there are still some remains. The Sempill family were vassals of the Stuarts of Renfrew, afterwards kings of Scotland, to whose fortunes they stedfastly adhered; Robert Sempill was created a baron by Alexander II., and his three sons zealously maintained the interests of Bruce during the disputed succession to the throne. John, the seventh lord, was one of the commissioners for procuring the liberation of James I., then a prisoner at the English court. On the separation of Renfrew from the county of Lanark, in 1406, Sir William Sempill was made sheriff of the former, which was erected into an independent county; and he obtained from James III. a grant of the barony of Castletown, now Castle-Semple, which passed from his descendants, the last of whom, Lord Hew, distinguished himself at the battle of Culloden in 1745, to the Macdowals, of Garthland, by purchase, and from them to its present proprietor, Colonel Harvey.
   The parish is about twelve miles in length from east to west, and nine miles at its greatest breadth, and comprises 19,219 acres, of which about 9000 are arable, 700 woodland and plantations, 300 water, 100 garden and orchards, and 9119 hilly moorland, pasture, and waste. The surface is extremely uneven, and towards the western extremity rises into hills of great elevation, forming part of the lofty range that extends along the coast from Greenock to Ardrossan. The hill of Misty Law, which rises to the height of 1246 feet above the level of the sea, is within the limits of the parish; and its summit commands a most magnificent prospect over twelve counties, embracing the Frith of Clyde, and the isles of Arran, Bute, Ailsa, and others, with a richly-diversified view of the surrounding country. The hill of Staik, which is a portion of the western boundary of the parish, has an elevation rather greater than that of Misty Law; and in the east of the parish is part of a tract of elevated table-land stretching from Paisley to the western coast. There are several beautiful valleys among the hills; and in a large valley which passes through the parish, and is by far the most extensive and romantic, were formerly the three lakes of Castle-Semple, Barr, and Kilbirnie, which in rainy seasons frequently united their waters, and spread for miles over the valley. The lake of Castle-Semple, and the site of that of Barr, are within this parish; and though the first is so much contracted as to leave the castle, which was erected on an island in its centre, now almost upon its margin, yet it forms an extensive sheet of water, between which and Kilbirnie is a large area of richly-cultivated land. The Barr loch, situated near that of Castle-Semple, has been drained to a considerable extent, and, except in rainy seasons, when it still preserves the appearance of a lake, produces luxuriant crops of oats and meadow-grass. The vale affords throughout its whole length a rich combination of beautiful scenery and romantic objects: as seen from the west, the venerable remains of Barr Castle, for many generations the seat of the proprietors of the neighbouring lands; Garthland, the residence of the Macdowals of Garthland, who are the present proprietors; the agreeable village of Lochwinnoch; the lake of Castle-Semple, with the ruins of the ancient castle belonging formerly to that family; and the woods and pleasuregrounds of the mansion of Colonel Harvey, present themselves in succession, and, with the flourishing plantations and wooded eminences in the immediate vicinity, and the lofty hills in the distance, contribute to render this interesting valley one of the most pleasing and picturesque in the country. The chief river in the parish is the Calder, which has its source in the high lands on the borders of Ayrshire, and flowing in a south-eastern direction, after making a variety of cascades in its progress, winds round the village, and falls into Castle-Semple loch. On its issuing from the lake, it takes the name of the Black Cart, and, forming a boundary between Lochwinnoch and the parish of Kilbarchan, pursues a north-eastern course, and, uniting with the White Cart at Inchinnan, falls into the Clyde near Renfrew. The banks of this river, as it approaches the village, are richly clothed with natural wood and thriving plantations; and throughout the remainder of its progress, it adds greatly to the interest of the scenery of the valley. The small river Dubbs issues from the north of the loch of Kilbirnie, and, flowing through a level tract of rich meadow land, falls into Castle-Semple loch.
   The soil is generally light, but in some parts luxuriantly fertile; in others, clay, which has been drained, but not sufficiently; and in some parts, sandy. The principal crops are, oats, barley, and potatoes, with a small portion of wheat, which has been recently introduced, but with no great success; and the meadows and pastures produce good rye-grass and clover. Numbers of sheep and cattle are reared for the neighbouring markets of Paisley and Glasgow; the cattle are chiefly of the Ayrshire breed, and the cows on the dairy-farms are fine specimens of that kind. The farm-buildings are usually substantial and commodious, and roofed with slate. Great improvements have been made in draining and inclosing the lands; the fences are generally of thorn, though some of the old stone dykes are still preserved. The plantations are thriving; and where there is sufficient depth of soil, forest-trees of every kind attain a stately growth. On the lands of Castle-Semple are numerous ancient oaks, with beech, Scotch and English elms, and plane-trees of large dimensions; larch and silver-fir of extraordinary size; and some of the largest cedars of Libanus to be found in the country. Upon the Garthland estate are some very fine plantations of similar trees, but of more modern growth. The substratum of the lands is mostly whinstone. The rocks are of secondary trap, alternated with greenstone, basalt, amygdaloid, porphyry, and, in some instances, greenstone stratified with clay-slate, and crystallized free-stone, in which are imbedded petrifactions of arborescent fern. The hills of Misty Law and Staik are chiefly of porphyry, intersected towards their summit with dykes of greenstone. Carbonate of copper in small quantities is found in the whinstone; sulphate of barytes is prevalent in the trap-rocks, varying from six to sixteen feet in thickness; and trap-tuffa is occasionally seen imbedded in the porphyry. Coal is found in the vicinity of Castle-Semple loch, near the extremity of which it sometimes crops out; the thickest bed, at Hall hill, is from six to ten feet, and the others vary from two to three, in thickness. It has been wrought, but not to much profit, producing only to the proprietors a gain of about £300 annually after all expenses are paid. There is a smaller work at the western extremity of the parish, which has been lately discontinued. Limestone is found, but not to any great extent; it is quarried at Howwood, and abounds with organic remains, consisting mainly of bivalves, coralloids, entrochi, and encrini. Similar quarries were opened at Midtown and Garpel, but they have been completely exhausted. Minerals of various kinds occur throughout the district, chiefly of the zeolite species; many of them are very beautiful. Freestone of excellent quality for building is quarried in several places, chiefly for the use of the parish; but the quarries are only occasionally in operation. The rateable annual value of Lochwinnoch is £17,888. Among the principal seats is Castle-Semple House, the residence of Colonel Harvey, a handsome mansion, erected in 1735, on the north side of the loch, but by no means upon a scale corresponding to the splendid demesne in which it is seated; the grounds attached to it comprise more than 900 acres, and abound with diversity of character, and with every variety of natural and artificial embellishment. The eminences which intersect it are richly crowned with wood to their summits; and in several parts are noble avenues of trees, and detached clusters scattered over the verdant lawns: in every part, indeed, the greatest skill and the most cultivated taste have been displayed in the improvement of the grounds, which are almost unrivalled. To the north of the house are spacious gardens, laid out with great beauty, and containing long ranges of conservatories for plants, hot-houses for the choicest fruits, a large pinery, and every requisite for horticultural purposes. In front of the house is an extensive flower-garden, surrounded with shrubberies of rare plants; and encircling a fish-pond is a border of fragments of various rocks, among which is every variety of rock plants. Garthland, the residence of Colonel Macdowall, is beautifully situated near the remains of the ancient castle named Barr, and surrounded by grounds richly planted, and embracing much pleasing scenery. Lochsyde House is in a demesne forming an interesting feature in the surrounding scenery, and commanding extensive views. Glenlora, erected in 1840, and Muirsheil, in 1843, are also handsome mansions.
   The village of Lochwinnoch consists of one principal street about half a mile in length, and of one smaller street crossing it at right angles. The houses, generally two stories in height, and roofed with slate, are neatly built; and there are several houses of superior order, belonging to the proprietors of the various works which have been established in the parish, and to the introduction of which is to be attributed the very rapid and progressive increase of the population within the last fifty years. To the north-west of the village is a bridge over the river Calder, which is noticed in many ancient records; it is of great antiquity, and of elegant design, and was widened and repaired in 1814. The linen manufacture established at Paisley in 1707 induced the farmers of this parish to cultivate the growth of flax for its supply; and many of their female domestics were employed in spinning yarn for the weavers of that place, till, in 1740, a company from that town built a factory here, and subsequently one of greater extent, which afforded employment to many of the inhabitants. The making of thread was introduced here in 1722, and about twenty mills were erected for that purpose; but, in process of time, that trade began to decline, and at present it is nearly discontinued. A bleachfield belonging to the company of Paisley was established here, into which was introduced the use of sulphuric acid by Dr. Home, of Edinburgh; at Lonehead, a second bleachfield was soon after begun; and another, at Burnfoot, was established by Mr. Hamilton Adams. Bleachfields, also, were commenced by Mr. Wilson, of Bowfield, and are still carried on with spirit; and at Midtown are similar works, constructed by Mr. Cameron, in connexion with which a beetling-mill has been built on the river Calder, for finishing goods for the market. About fifteen weavers are employed in making goods for home consumption; and more than 200 are engaged in weaving for the manufacturers of Paisley and Glasgow. The principal articles were formerly muslins of different kinds; but these have given place to the weaving of China crapes, Angola shawls, silk cypresses, and various stuffs of silk and cotton mixed. There is also a mill belonging to the Messrs. Crawford, partly used for carding and spinning wool, which is carried on in the upper part of the premises; in the lower part is a very spacious and complete mill for grinding corn: this building, which is substantial and handsome, was erected in 1814. The cotton manufacture, however, at present constitutes the staple trade of the place. The old mill, erected by Messrs. Houston, Burns, and Co., in the year 1788, is situated on the north-west of the village, and the machinery is put in motion by the waters of the Calder; the building is very extensive, five stories in height, and contains 8140 spindles for yarn and water twist of various sizes, affording constant employment to about 180 persons. The new mills, built by Messrs. Fulton and Co., are a spacious and handsome building, not far from the end of the high street, and near the Calder, by the stream of which the works are driven, together with a steamengine, added to the original building in 1825. In this establishment 25,224 spindles are constantly at work, which make on an average about 6000 pounds of cotton-yarn every week, and give occupation to 350 persons. A mill upon a smaller scale, employing eighty persons, was built by Messrs. Caldwell and Co. at Boghead, near the village; but it was burnt down by an accidental fire in 1813, and has not been rebuilt. A post-office has been established in the village; and excellent roads to every part of the parish, and public turnpike-roads kept in good repair, afford a facility of intercourse with Glasgow, Paisley, and the principal towns in the neighbourhood. A canal from Glasgow to Ardrossan was begun about the commencement of the present century, intended to pass along the side of Castle-Semple loch, and was completed as far as Johnstone; but it was then discontinued, and has not been since resumed. There is, however, a railway from Glasgow to Ardrossan and Ayr, which runs through the parish. Numerous shops in the village supply the district with all kinds of provisions and articles of merchandize; and three fairs are held in the course of the year. The Hill fair, so called from its being held on the market hill, is chiefly for cattle, on the first Tuesday in November, O. S. The May fair is on the second Tuesday in May, O. S., and was formerly celebrated by a procession of the trades; but a few cattle only are sold. On the first Tuesday in July a fair is held, at which the farmers on the north side of Castle-Semple loch assemble and parade the village, mounted on their best horses, which are showily caparisoned, and their riders also decorated with ribbons, sashes, and other ornaments: after the parade, races frequently take place. The numbers attending upon these occasions, however, are gradually diminishing; and the practice will probably be soon discontinued. A few cattle are still sent to this fair.
   The parish is in the presbytery of Paisley and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and in the patronage of the heritors; the minister's stipend is £277. 1. 6., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £19. 10. per annum. The old church, which was collegiate, was built by Sir John Sempill, who was created Lord Sempill by James IV., and was killed at the battle of Flodden Field, in 1513; it was amply endowed. The walls are still remaining; and the chancel, which was separated from the nave by a screen, and subsequently inclosed, contains the ashes of many members of that ancient family, and is still used as a place of sepulture for the existing proprietors of the Castle-Semple estate. The present parish church, a handsome edifice, was erected in the year 1806, and has a fine portico surmounted by a neat spire; it is situated near the western lodge of the grounds of Castle-Semple, surrounded on three sides by a high wall, and on the fourth inclosed by a parapet wall with an iron palisade. It is adapted for a congregation of 1250 persons; and the ground in which it stands is well planted, and embellished with flowering shrubs and evergreens. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, and United Secession. The parochial school is well regulated; the master has a salary of £34, with £32 fees, and a house and garden. There is a school at Beltrees, to the master of which £5 per annum are paid by the parochial schoolmaster; and a school is supported at Howwood, of which the master has a house and garden rent-free, and occasionally receives a sum of money raised by subscription. A school has also been established in the village of Lochwinnoch, by the proprietors of the new mill, who pay the master a salary of £36 per annum for instructing the children employed in their works, for which purpose they have provided an excellent schoolroom. A parochial library was established in the parish in 1823; and in 1833 another was opened, exclusively for religious purposes: there is also a small library of religious books for circulation among the children of the Sabbath schools. William Brown, Esq., who died in 1835, bequeathed to the Kirk Session the sum of £3300, to be invested, and the interest appropriated to the relief of the poor. There are five friendly societies in the village of Lochwinnoch, and one in the village of Howwood; also a female provident society and a female benefit society, the ladies connected with which visit all the poor in their neighbourhoods, and distribute clothing and fuel to such as are in need of assistance.
   The walls of the ancient peel erected on the island in Castle-Semple loch, but the site of which, from the partial draining of the lake, is now up upon its margin, are still remaining, and show the fortress to have been an impregnable stronghold, well calculated for security during the turbulent times in which it was raised. On the opposite side of the loch are the remains of Elliston Castle, the residence of the Sempill family previously to the 15th century. It is a quadrilateral building, about forty-two feet in length, thirty-three in breadth, and about thirty feet high; the side walls are six and a half feet, and the end walls about nine feet, in thickness. Upon a headland to the west of the village are the remains of Barr Castle, which, with the exception of its roof, is still entire: it is a tower of oblong form and of great height, crowned with battlements, and strengthened with angular turrets; the walls are pierced with loop-holes for arrows, and also with port-holes for cannon. It consists of four stories: the lowest, which has an arched roof, appears to have been used for the security of horses and cattle in case of hostile irruptions; the story immediately above it contains the banqueting-hall; and the others, various apartments for the use of the family. On the public road to Dunlop are the remains of Auchinbathie Castle, said to have been the residence of the ancestors of the brave Sir William Wallace; an opinion confirmed by the name of the small barony in which it is situated, still called Auchinbathie-Wallace. From the ruins, it is difficult to ascertain its original dimensions; but the walls still standing, and which are in good preservation, are about thirty feet in length, twelve feet in breadth, and seventeen feet high. Near the castle is a small eminence in the midst of a morass, called Wallace's Knowe: here Sir William Wallace is said to have defended himself against a strong party of the English, and in the neighbourhood he performed many memorable exploits. In the eastern part of the parish are traces of an encampment, on the farm of Castlewaws, near which was fought the battle of Muirdykes, in 1685. The Duke of Argyll, who had assembled in Holland a force of 1500 of his countrymen, refugees, being on his arrival in Scotland surprised and captured at Inchinnan, the remnant of his troops was placed under the command of Sir John Cochrane, and attacked here by the army of James VII., which, after an obstinate engagement, called the battle of Muirdykes, they repulsed with considerable loss. Remaining masters of the field, they intrenched themselves behind a natural defence till it was dark, when, fearing a reinforcement on James's side, they retreated towards Beith. The camp is situated on the summit of one of the highest hills on the south side of the loch, and, on that part which is least precipitous, is defended by a rampart of stones and turf. Within the intrenchment is a circular wall of the same materials, about sixty yards in diameter; it was probably one of the hill forts of the ancient Britons, of which there are several in this part of the country, though by some it is supposed to have been a stronghold thrown up by Sir William Wallace in his wars with the English. Many canoes have at various times been found in the loch; and between the peel and the north side of the lake, twenty have been found buried in the mud within the last half century. Among the most eminent persons connected with the parish was Alexander Wilson, the poet, a native of Paisley, who followed the occupation of a weaver in the factories of Lochwinnoch. Many of his poems, indeed, have reference to incidents which happened in this parish. Having, however, incurred a fine for a satirical poem, he emigrated to America, and, living in Philadelphia, devoted himself to the study of natural history, and published a work entitled American Ornithology. James Latta, a native of this place, was the author of a Practical System of Surgery.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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