The Parish of Kells.
The placenames index for this parish is accessed via the menu on the left. Links from there open up access to various historical and modern maps indicating where the place is to be found as well as links to other historical information and photographs if we have them.
Extensive historical information, particularly in the form of scanned books, is becoming available on the Internet. In this section we have begun listing links to this information relative to this parish.
Thanks to a Victorian hobby of collection topographical postcards many old views from within the parish are available today. This section contains an ever growing selection from those we have available.
A TOPOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF SCOTLAND, by Samuel Lewis. Published in 2 vols, London, 1846.
"KELLS, a parish, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, 14 miles (N. W. by N.) from Castle-Douglas, and 19 (N. by W.) from Kirkcudbright; containing, with the burgh of New Galloway, 1121 inhabitants. This place is supposed by some to derive its name from its elevated situation, of which, in the Gaelic language, the word is descriptive; others deduce it from the British Cell, on account of the extensive woods formerly existing here, and of which considerable remains are still found imbedded in the various mosses. The parish, which is one of the largest in the county, is bounded on the west and south by the river Dee, which separates it from the parishes of Minnigaff, Girthon, and Balmaghie ; and on the east by the river Ken, which divides it from Dalry, Balmaclellan, and Parton. It is about sixteen miles in length and eight miles in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 47,500 acres, of which by far the greater part is mountain pasture, and, with the exception of about 400 acres of woodland and plantations, the remainder is arable and in good cultivation. The surface is irregularly broken, rising towards the north into a range of lofty mountains, including the most conspicuous heights of Galloway, of which some have an elevation of 2700 feet above the sea. The arable lands, which are chiefly along the banks of the Ken, are tolerably level, and interspersed with copses of oak and birch. The lower grounds are watered by numerous rivulets, which intersect the parish in various directions, and form tributaries to the Dee and to the Ken. The Ken has its source on the confines of Dumfriesshire, and, after entering the parish on the north-east, receives the waters of the Deuch, and at the southern extremity unites with the Dee. There are also many lakes, of which those of Loch Dungeon and Loch Harrow, in the north, are of considerable extent, but both inferior to Loch Ken, on the eastern border of the parish, which is about five miles in length and three quarters of a mile in breadth, and by far the most eminent for the beauty of its scenery.
The soil of the lands along the Ken is a rich clay, producing good crops of oats, but not in larger quantity than is sufficient for home consumption. The district is chiefly pastoral, and, under the auspices of the Glenkens Society, established in 1830, with the patronage of Mr. Yorstoun, of Garroch, has been greatly improved : the cottages, especially, have in many instances been rendered much more comfortable and commodious. The progress of agricultural improvement, however, is retarded by the difficulty of obtaining lime at any moderate expense ; and consequently, several farms which would otherwise be capable of tillage are thrown togegether as sheep-walks. The number of sheep pastured is 17,500 ; 1300 head of cattle, mostly of the Highland breed, are annually reared, and 300 horses of the Galloway kind. The sheep and cattle are sent to the markets in the south. The hills in the parish are chiefly of granite : there are neither mines nor quarries of any description. The remains of ancient wood are principally copses of oak and birch, both of which are indigenous, and appear well adapted to the soil; and the plantations, which are of recent formation, consist of oak, intermixed with Scotch fir and larch, and are well managed, and in a flourishing condition. The rateable annual value of the parish is £5246. Kenmure Castle, the seat of Lord Viscount Kenmure, the principal landed proprietor, is a very ancient structure, seated on a circular mount, at the head of Loch Ken, within a mile of the town of New Galloway, and is supposed to have been the residence of John Baliol. It suffered frequent assaults during the wars with England in the time of Edward I.; and was burnt in the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, and again during the usurpation of Cromwell. The estate subsequently belonged to the Gordons, of Lochinvar, of whom Sir John was created Lord of Lochinvar and Viscount Kenmure, in 1633 ; but it became forfeited to the crown in the time of William, the sixth viscount, who was attainted for his participation in the rebellion of 1715, and beheaded on Tower Hill, London, in the following year. The property was, however, purchased from the crown by a member of his family ; and the title was restored by act of parliament, in 1824, to his grandson, the late viscount and proprietor. The grounds are tastefully embellished with stately timber and thriving plantations, and the approach to the castle is by a noble avenue of lime trees. Glenlee is a handsome mansion, which has been greatly enlarged, and is finely situated on the banks of the Ken, in a park embellished with many oaks of majestic growth. Knocknalling and Ballingear are also good houses, recently erected.
The Ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Kirkcudbright and synod of Galloway. The minister's stipend is £300, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £15 per annum ; patron, the Crown. The church, erected in 1822, is a handsome structure in the early English style of architecture, with a square embattled tower; it contains 560 sittings, and is capable of being made to hold a greater number. The parochial school is attended by about 100 children; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average £30 per annum. The Glenkens Society annually award prizes to the most deserving of the scholars. A school-house has recently been erected in the northern part of the parish, by Mr. Kennedy, of Knocknalling, who pays the salary of the master; and there is also a Sabbath school, to which is attached a good library. The poor are partly supported by the interest of £522 bequeathed by various individuals, in the hands of the Kirk Session. There are several chalybeate springs in the parish, of which one, on Cairn-Edward, about two miles from New Galloway, was formerly in great repute, and is still used by the inhabitants in its neighbourhood. Among the natives of the parish have been, Lowe, the author of Mary's Dream ; Heron, author of a history of Scotland; Gordon, the translator of Tacitus ; and the Rev. William Gillespie, author of the Progress of Refinement, of Consolation, and other works."