SORN, a parish, in the district of Kyle, county of Ayr, 3½ miles (E.) from Mauchline; containing, with the late quoad sacra district of Catrine, 4054 inhabitants. This place, anciently called Dalgain, derived that appellation from the nature of the soil, and its present name, which is also of Celtic origin, from the situation of its castle on a bold promontory projecting into the river Ayr. The time of the erection of this castle, and the name of its original founder, are not recorded; but it is generally thought to be of great antiquity. In the early part of the 15th century the fortress, and the lands pertaining to it, became the property of the ancestor of the family of Hamilton, one of whose descendants, Sir William Hamilton, was lord treasurer of Scotland in the reign of James V., who paid a visit to Sir William on the marriage of his daughter to Lord Seaton, and remained for some time at the castle. The estate, by this marriage, descended to the earls of Wintoun, by whom the castle and lands were sold to the Loudoun family; and after passing to various other proprietors, they were purchased about fifty years since by the family of the present owner. The parish is about six and a half miles in length and of nearly equal breadth, and comprises 23,950 acres, of which 12,600 are arable, 780 woodland and plantations, and the remainder hill pasture and moss. The surface is pleasingly varied with plains and with hills of various elevation, the highest of which, on the north-east boundary of the parish, is nearly 1600 feet above the level of the sea. The river Ayr intersects the parish from east to west, and in its course receives numerous streams, of which several have their rise in the higher grounds here: of these the Cleugh, a picturesque burn, flows through a deep and richly-wooded dell abounding with beautiful scenery, into the Ayr, near the castle, thus forming a strikingly romantic feature in the landscape of the parish, which is also embellished with stately woods and flourishing plantations. The soil on the banks of the Ayr is gravelly, on the higher grounds a reddish clay, and on the hills a kind of peat-moss resting on a substratum of clay: the crops are, oats, potatoes, and hay, with a few acres of wheat and barley, beans, turnips, and carrots. The system of agriculture is improved, and the rotation of crops generally adopted; furrow-draining is extensively practised, and much indifferent land by that means has been rendered productive. Lime is found in abundance, and forms the principal manure. The farm-buildings are substantial and commodious, and on many of the farms are threshing-mills, mostly driven by horses. The breeds of live-stock are not much attended to; the cattle are chiefly of the Cunninghame, and the sheep of the black-faced, breed. Few horses are reared except for husbandry, and these are of an inferior kind. The woods consist of various sorts of forest-timber; and the plantations, of Scotch fir and larch, with some oak, ash, elm, and birch. The rateable annual value of the parish is £9970.
   The substrata are, limestone, ironstone, slate-clay, sandstone, and coal. The limestone, which is of excellent quality, is extensively wrought for manure and for other uses; and the ironstone, though never smelted here, was formerly sent in great quantities to the works of the Muirkirk Iron Company, and was found to contain a large proportion of iron. The coal was once wrought near the village of Sorn, producing an abundant supply at a moderate expense, and it is in contemplation to commence operations for that purpose in other parts of the parish: coal is brought at present from the collieries at Auchinleck, four miles distant. There are in the parish a mill for grain, to which is attached a saw-mill, a carding-mill, a public brewery, and two licensed private breweries. The principal seats are, Sorn Castle, Gilmillscroft, Auchmannoch, Glenlogan, Catrine Bank, and Kingswell. The village of Sorn is pleasantly situated on the road from Ayr to Muirkirk, in a vale of considerable extent watered by the river Ayr, and is chiefly inhabited by agricultural labourers; a few of the inhabitants, however, are employed in handloom weaving. A penny-post office has been established here; and facility of communication is afforded with the neighbouring places by good roads which pass through the parish, and by a stone bridge over the Ayr. Fairs are held on the second Tuesday in March, O. S., and the first Monday in November; they are both for the sale of cattle and agricultural produce, and are well attended. A race is held on the fair days. The village of Catrine, situated on the north bank of the river, is described under its own head. The parish was separated from that of Mauchline in 1692, when the chapel of ease of Sorn, which had been erected nearly forty years, became the church; it is in the presbytery of Ayr, synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and patronage of Mrs. Agnes Somervell. The minister's stipend is £195. 11., with a manse, and the glebe is valued at £15 per annum. The church, built in 1658 was thoroughly repaired in 1826, and is adapted for a congregation of 611 persons. The parochial school, near the village of Sorn, is well attended; the master has a salary of £34. 4., with £15 fees, and a house and garden. There is also a school at Catrine. A friendly society was established in 1832, which has a fund of more than £250, and contributes to diminish the number of applications for parochial relief. Dr. Matthew Stewart, professor of mathematics in the university of Edinburgh, and father of Professor Dugald Stewart, was occasionally a resident of this parish; and the house in which he lived is still remaining. On his decease, his son became heritor of the estate, and spent much of the earlier period of his life here. Mr. Stewart died in 1828, and was succeeded by his son, Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Stewart, who has erected a handsome dwelling-house on a commanding spot near the site of the former: this house, from the circumstance of James V. having, while on his way to Sorn Castle, reposed himself by the side of a well near the place, has obtained the name of Kingswell.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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