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From The Topographical, Statistical, and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland ”.
 A. Fullarton and Co., Edinburgh; London ; and Dublin . 1847

 
RENFREW, a parish in the county of the same name, bounded on the north by the parishes of West and East Kilpatrick in Dumbartonshire; on the east chiefly by Govan in Lanarkshire; on the south by the Abbey parish of Paisley; and on the west by the rivers Black Cart and Gryfe, which separate it from Kilbarchan and Inchinnan. Its greatest length is about 6 miles; greatest breadth 2 ¾ miles; contents 3,776 imperial acres. Its figure is very irregular, and is further broken by the intersection of the rivers Clyde and White Cart, and - for a short distance - of a canal which runs alongside of the latter. Fully one third of the parish is on the north side of the Clyde , with which portion communication is maintained by row-boats for foot passengers, and by a large vessel, open at both ends, and moved along a chain by a hand-windlass, for cattle, carts and carriages. The canal is crossed by a strong swing bridge, and the White and Black Carts by a handsome stone-bridge at their confluence at Inchinnan. On the south of the Clyde , the surface is almost perfectly level, there being only one noticeable acclivity, which is dignified by the appellation of Knock - ‘a little hill’. North of that river, the ground rises into low conical eminences, with flat land between and around them. The soil on both sides is, for the most part, deep, fertile, and alluvial. The parish wears a pleasing and cheerful aspect, nearly the whole being in a state of cultivation, while the landscape is beautified by several mansion-houses with plantations, and enlivened by the many vessels, impelled by wind and steam, that hourly float along the brimming waters of the Clyde .
In the lands of Scotston and Jordanhill, on the north side of that river, coal has long been wrought. At Yoker, on the same side, but lower down, there is an extensive distillery manufacturing whisky from malt; and near it the trustees for the improvement of the river have their chief establishment of artificers and labourers. The parish is traversed by no less than six public roads which are of obvious utility.
- The population, including the burgh, was, in 1801, 2,031; in 1821, 2,646; and in 1841, 3,076. Families, in 1841, 633; giving an average of 4.86 to each. The annual value of real property for which the parish was assessed, in 1851, exclusive of the burgh, was £7,128.
 - The parish is in the presbytery of Paisley , and synod of Glasgow and Ayr ; Patron, the Crown. The date of erection of the church is unknown. It was enlarged and repaired in 1726, at an expense of £225 12s. 1d.; and was refitted with seats in 1820, at an expense of £865. Sittings 750, exclusive of the family gallery of the principal heritor. Stipend £277 18s. 3d.; glebe £54. Unappropriated teinds £171 7s. 11d. There is no regular place of worship in the parish, except the Established church, to which the usual proportion of 8-9ths of the population professed to adhere, in 1836.
- Besides five private schools, there is a considerable seminary, which originated under the following circumstances: - In 1838, soon after the death of Archibald Campbell, Esq., of Blythswood, Lord-lieutenant and Convener of Renfrewshire, a meeting of the nobility and gentry, and other friends of the deceased, was held, at which it was resolved “to transmit to posterity some lasting mark of the high and grateful sense which the county at large entertained of the public services and private worth of Mr. Campbell.” Subscriptions were entered into, and a committee was appointed for the purpose of carrying this resolution into effect. The committee having determined that the monument should be a building combining some institution of public utility with the preservation of Mr. Campbell’s memory, they entered into an agreement with the town-council of Renfrew, by which an institution for the education of youth was to be erected out of the money subscribed, and the council - besides giving a site - were to endow and support the institution. A handsome edifice, called “The Blythswood Testimonial,” was accordingly finished in 1842. It stands on the west of the burgh, near the domains of the estimable gentleman of whom it forms so appropriate a memorial. This seminary may be considered as coming in the place of the parochial or grammar-school, for which provision was made by a charter of James VI. in 1614.
In the parish, as we have already intimated, there are some handsome mansions. Blythswood house is finely situated upon the point of land where the united streams of the Carts and Gryfe mingle their waters with those of the Clyde . The prospect here was pronounced by Pennant - “the most elegant and the softest of any in North Britain .” The house is constructed of the finest white freestone, - the east front presenting a portico of four columns in the Ionic order. It was built, in 1821, by the above-mentioned Archibald Campbell, Esq., who died in 1838, and was succeeded by his relative, Archibald Douglas, Esq. of Mains, who now holds the name and title of ‘Campbell of Blythswood.’ The original name of this property was Renfield, - and it had an old house upon it so called. When the present mansion was built, it received the name of Blythswood, in honour of a small but now very valuable estate belonging to the family, on which a great part of the north-western portion of Glasgow is built.
- At the confluence of the Black Cart and the Gryfe are the house and lands of Walkinshaw, long the seat of an ancient family of that name, but now belonging to William Maxwell Alexander, Esq., and others. The house is modern, and stands among full-grown wood.
- Jordanhill, the seat of James Smith, Esq., F.R.S., occupies an eminence on the north of the Clyde , about a mile from the river, and commands an extensive and agreeable prospect. It was built about the year 1782, but has since been much improved. The estate of Jordanhill anciently belonged to the Crawfords, one of whom was that Captain Thomas Crawford who surprised, and took by escalade, the castle of Dumbarton , in the year 1571.
- Near the river, on the same side, is Scotston, an ancient inheritance of a branch of the Montgomeries, which, after being held by several families, was purchased in the 18th century by Richard and Alexander Oswald, merchants in Glasgow . It now belongs to Miss Oswald. The house is modern.
-Elderslie-house, the seat of Mr. Speirs, has been noticed under the article ELDERSLIE.
This parish is distinguished for its connexion with the illustrious house of Stewart. The lands of Renfrew are the first-mentioned of the estates specified in the charter granted by King Malcolm IV. in 1157, in favour of Walter, the founder of that family, whereby he confirmed a grant which had been made by King David, who reigned from 1124 to 1153. The office of high steward of Scotland was also conferred on Walter and his successors, who from thence took the surname of Stewart, often, but incorrectly, spelt Stuart. At Renfrew they had their earliest and usual residence; and from this corner of the land, therefore, there issued a race which successively ascended the thrones of Scotland and England .
Their mansion stood on a slightly elevated piece of ground, on the west side of the road leading from the town to the ferry. It no longer exists, but the site is still called Castlehill. Within the recollection of many living, there was a deep fosse partially round the site, strengthened with stone on the inner side, and having a small rivulet passing through it. Part of the foundations having been lately dug up, several rings and a key were found. Adjacent are lands which still bear the names of ‘The Orchard’ and the ‘Kings Meadow;’ also a small street called ‘The Dog-row,’ meaning the place where the kennel was. This street we have seen mentioned as a boundary in a deed dated in the early part of the 15th century.
- Somerled, Lord of the Isles, who had risen in rebellion against King Malcolm IV., was defeated and slain at Renfrew in 1164. The mount, with a stone at the top, noticed by Pennant (vol iii. p. 151), as traditionally reported to be the memorial of Somerled’s fall, and the place of his interment, no longer exists.
- The lands of Knock - so called from the hill already mentioned - at one time belonged to the Knoxes of Ranfurly, from who the Reformer was descended; and from this place the surname of Knox may be derived. Semple says (p. 30) that in 1782 there was dug up here a part of an urn, with some human bones, and that about 36 years previously, what was supposed to be a Roman urn was found at this place. In the New Statistical Account (p. 17) it is said that, in 1778, two urns, containing human ashes, and believed to be Roman, were dug up here; but this is probably Semple’s account in a different form. The spot is little more than a mile from the site of the Roman station at Paisley . The lower edge of the hill is, to this day, called ‘the Butts,’ - most probably because it was a place for the practice of archery.
But the Knock is chiefly remarkable on account of an accident which tradition tells befell Lady Marjory Bruce, daughter of King Robert Bruce, and wife of Walter the Steward, in the year 1316. It is said that the Princess, when far advanced in pregnancy, was thrown from her horse and killed at this place, but that the life of the child was saved, which child, long afterwards, ascended the throne as Robert II. Till the year 1779, there stood here an octagonal column, about 10 feet in height, inserted in a pedestal also eight-sided, and about 6 feet in diameter. It had neither inscription nor sculpture, but went by the name of ‘Queen Bleary’s Cross,’ or ‘Stane,’ and, according to unvarying tradition, supported by Crawford (p. 61), was commemorative of the above unhappy accident.
- Another occurrence, much more recent and better authenticated, is commemorated by a large stone which stands on the estate of Renfield or Blythswood, close to the high road leading from Renfrew to Inchinnan-bridge. At this spot, the Earl of Argyll was wounded and taken prisoner after the failure of his ill-conducted enterprise in 1685. It consists of a fragment of rock, weighing probably a couple of tons, and contains some reddish veins, which (as the Earl leant upon it after being wounded) were long believed to be the stains of his blood.
RENFREW, a royal burgh, and the capital of Renfrewshire, is situated within half-a-mile of the south bank of the Clyde , nearly 3 miles north of Paisley , and 6 miles west of Glasgow . It is certainly the most ancient town in the county, being traceable as far back as the reign of David I. It was constituted a royal burgh by Robert III, in 1396. The town is very small, consisting only of a single street, about half-a-mile in length, with some lanes. At the cross, near the west end, stand the town-house and jail, with a spire and clock. North of this is an excellent gas work, erected by the community in 1841. The town maintains an almost stationary state, and has a neat and comfortable look. The inhabitants are chiefly occupied in the weaving of silks and muslins; and there is a bleachfield, and a starch manufactory.
The community have long enjoyed the exclusive privilege of fishing salmon in the Clyde , within certain extensive limits. In the 16th century, according to Bishop Lesley, they often had 60 boats so employed during the whole of the spring and summer (not “all the year round,” as his language has been erroneously translated). Crawfurd says that Renfrew had once a little foreign trade; but that when he wrote in 1710, the chief traffic was with Ireland . The burgh must of old have plumed itself on account of its occupation on the waters; for its arms represent a ship, with the motto, ‘Deus gubernat navem. ‘ At present there are no vessels belonging to Renfrew, except such as carry coals, manure, &c., on the river. The salmon fishery is still prosecuted; but the fish have greatly decreased in quantity. A branch of the Clyde at one time ran close to the town, on the north; but the river deserted this channel in the 17th century, or perhaps more recently; and the town now communicates with the Clyde by a small canal, formed about the year 1785, partly in the old bed of the river. A commodious quay was built in 1835, at an expense of £800; and about 100 yards below it, is the terminus of a railway to Paisley , opened in 1837.
No place, perhaps, in the west of Scotland , is so peculiarly healthy as Renfrew. Epidemical distempers are hardly ever known. For this, two reasons have been assigned. The one is, that the town stands upon a bed of sand of great depth, so that the rain is soon absorbed, and damps and fogs are hardly ever felt. The other reason is the peculiar excellence of the water.
The royalty of the burgh is very extensive. It stretches down the Clyde as far as the river Cart in the direction of the Greenock road, as far as Inchinnan-bridge, about a mile from the cross, and in the direction of Paisley about a mile-and-a-half. The parliamentary boundary is much more limited, but appears to afford room for any probable extension of the town. There is a portion of ground within the parliamentary boundary, but excluded from the royalty, though entirely surrounded by it. This ground, which is now partly built upon, is that called the Orchard and Castlehill, which has been noticed in the account of the parish, as having formed the residence of the Stewarts.
The property of the burgh, in reference to its size and population, is large and valuable. It consists of farms, pasture-lands, fishings in the Clyde , the ferry across that river, houses and gardens, canal and harbour dues, seats in the church, feu-duties, &c. The Commissioners on Municipal Corporations, in 1833, reported that no valuation of this property had been made, but that the total annual revenue at that time was £1,448 12s. 7d. In 1841 it had increased to £1,683 7s. 9 ½d.
Before the burgh reform act of 1833, the mode of election in Renfrew was one of pure self-nomination. The last provost under the old system, Mr. Robert King, was constantly re-elected, and filled the office for 24 years continuously. It must be acknowledged, however, that although tenacious of office, the worthy functionary bore his faculties meekly; and notwithstanding the extravagant tavern-bills, for which this petty burgh was long noted, his administration must, upon the whole, have been prudent and judicious, - for it appears that by the Commissioners’ Report, that, during the last 16 years of his sway, the debt due by the corporation was reduced to the extent of one-half.
The council consists of a provost, 2 bailies, a treasurer, and 15 ordinary members. The provost is ex officio a deputy-lieutenant of the county. The only incorporated trade is that of the tailors. Renfrew was formerly associated with Glasgow, Dumbarton, and Rutherglen, in returning a member to Parliament; - by the Reform Act it is united with Kilmarnock , Dumbarton, Port-Glasgow, and Rutherglen. In 1841, the parliamentary constituency of Renfrew was 95, the municipal 88, - and the population, within the parliamentary boundaries, 2,013. The assessed value of real property within the burgh, in 1815, was £2,955.
There are three fairs annually, chiefly for the sale of cattle. The magistrates hold a court weekly on Saturday, which is also the market day. The meetings of quarter-sessions, commissioners of supply, and freeholders, are held at Renfrew as the county town. This was also the seat of the sheriff court till 1705, when it was transferred to Paisley .


[1] The derivation of this name from the ancient language of the country seems liable to little doubt. In the British, Rhyn means a point of land, and Frew or Fraw, a flow of water. These words are strikingly applicable to the site of the town of Renfrew , on a point of land between the rivers Clyde and cart, which unite their waters about a mile below. The angular piece of land formed by their junction, is called Renfield, affording an instance of the ancient and modern languages in combination. Vulgarly, the word is pronounced Arenthrow, and in conformity, in some measure, to this, we find Principal Bailie in his ‘Letters’, written in the 17th century, spelling it Baranthrow and Baranfrow.
 
 

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