This article contains the description of the county given in 1837, with links, at the foot of the page, to the e-book sections on the different areas covered.

Pigot and Co.'s National Commercial Directory of ... Scotland &c., 1837.


Commonly called a Stewartry, but in reality and to all intents and purposes a sheriffdom or shire, lies in the south of Scotland, and forms the eastern and by far the most extensive portion of the ancient district of Galloway. It is bounded by Dumfries-shire on the east and north-east, on the south by the Solway Frith and the Irish Sea, by the county of Ayr on the north and north-west, and by Wigtownshire (or Western Galloway) on the west. In extent it measures, from south-east to north-west, about forty-four miles, by a breadth varying from twenty to thirty miles, the narrowest part being towards its north-western limits : it comprises a superfices of 855 square miles, or 547,200 statute acres, including twelve square miles of lakes: about one-third of the whole surface may be said to be brought into cultivation. It appears that the denomination of 'stewartry' originated at the period when, by the forfeiture of the possessions of the Baliols, the Cummins, and their various vassals, this district became the property of the crown, when it is understood to have been first put under the authority of a royal STEWART; in subsequent times the office of Stewart, in the appointment of the king, was one of much honour, and was often the subject of contest. For a considerable lapse of time, however, after the establishment of a separate stewartship, the district was still in some measure esteemed to be politically attached to Dumfries-shire, but this nominal connexion was formally dissolved before the civil wars in the reign of Charles I. From the force of ancient usage, the appellation of Stewart, instead of that of sheriff, has, down to the present day, been popularly continued, although by the civil arrangements of modern times there is not the least difference in the two offices.

SOIL, PRODUCE, MANUFACTURES, &c.—The soil of the county is principally composed of a thin mould, or a brownish loam mixed with sand—and is incumbent sometimes on gravel, and in many places on rock ; the whole surface is interspersed with meadows, and mingled with moss. The shire has no statistical subdivisions, except that four of the most northerly parishes—Carsphairn, Dalry, Kells, and Balmaclellan—are commonly designated the district of 'Glenkens.' The aspect of the country, however, forms a very natural distinction into two divisions: if a line be drawn from the centre of Kirkpatrick-lrongray parish to the Gatehouse of Fleet, all to the north-west, with little exception, is so mountainous, that it may with propriety be termed a Highland district; while the south and east parts exhibit a fine champagne and cultivated country—a contrast strikingly obvious. Anciently the greater proportion of the land was covered with a forest, which is now eradicated, or to be traced only in trifling remnants on the banks of the streams. It appears that, so early as the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, this hilly territory was under a productive process of agriculture, originated and improved by the assiduity of the monks of the different abbeys in the district; and it is upon record that in the memorable year 1300, when Edward I subdued Galloway, he caused considerable quantities of wheat to be exported from the harbour of Kirkcudbright to Cumberland, and even to Dublin, to be manufactured into flour, in which state it was brought back to victual the various strong holds and castles held by that monarch. In these times the staple products were wheat and oats—the culture of barley, pease and beans being very limited. This age of agricultural prosperity was succeeded by destructive intestine wars, fanaticism, improvidence, and consequent misery, which lasted four hundred years, and reduced the country to a desert. It was not until the beginning of the eighteenth century that any measures were adopted to effect a resuscitation of its agricultural capabilities, which for so long a period had lain dormant. The inclosure of the lands with fences was the first attempt at a series of improvements; but this judicious preliminary was encountered by k2; riotous opposition from the rural population, who rose in considerable numbers, under the title of 'levellers,' and proceeded to demolish the newly-formed boundaries, under the influence of some extravagantly wild notions as to a natural general right in property ; and they were not subdued until the most energetic measures were employed for that purpose : this mischievous result of ignorance having been overcome, however, and the 'levelling' delusion dissipated, the county steadily advanced in an accelerated progress of improvement; and towards the close of the same century the district could compete with Dumfries and other adjacent shires in agricultural prosperity. Planting has been introduced by several noblemen and gentlemen of the stewartry, and much has been accomplished in reclaiming moss-lands. The number of horses, cattle and sheep reared in the county is sufficiently large to evince the possession of much practical knowledge, and consequent success, in this branch of productive economy; and the breed of swine has increased to a prodigious extent, these animals being now a staple commodity both for home consumption and exportation. The district is very nearly destitute of coal, which, as well as the greater part of the lime used, is brought from Cumberland; and there is very little freestone. Marl is found in great plenty, especially in the loch of Carlinwark, which contains an inexhaustible store of the best shell-marl ; ironstone and lead ore also abound, but the deficiency of coal presents an obstruction to either being made available for the smelting process. Besides the salmon fishings at the mouths of the rivers, the Solway Frith affords every opportunity for the capture of the inhabitants of the deep. The manufacture of linen, woollen and cotton goods engages a considerable number of hands in the towns and villages.

RIVERS, &c.—Like other mountainous countries, this is intersected by numerous streams, which, uniting, form four considerable rivers; these are—the DEE, the KEN, the CREE, and the Urr. The Ken is considered the largest, receiving in its course numerous rivulets which drain the neighbouring hills, and even affording an asylum to the waters of the Dee, although the latter assumes the appellative privilege after entering the Ken. All these rivers rise in the north, and empty themselves into the Solway Frith or the Irish Sea. The smaller streams are the Fleet, the Tarf, the Deogh, and the Cluden. The Solway Frith, in a circular form, washes the coast of the stewartry from the Nith to the Cree, a space of forty-five miles; and along the shore of this beneficial estuary the coast is bold and rocky, the cliffs in some instances rising to a great height.

The shire, or stewartry, comprises twenty-eight parishes, and contains two royal burghs—KIRKCUDBRIGHT and NEW GALLOWAY; the latter, in conjunction with Wigtown, Stranraer and Whithorn (in Wigtownshire), sends a member to parliament; and the STEWARTRY, like the other counties of Scotland, returns another representative to the senate. The principal eminences in this district, above the level of the sea, are—Criffel (or Crawfell), 1,831 feet; Cairnsmuir, 1,728; Bencairn, 1,200; and Cairnharro, 1,100.


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