Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Tarbolton

Tarbolton, a village and a parish in Kyle district, Ayrshire. The village, standing near the right bank of the Water of Fail, by road is 8½ miles S of Kilmarnock, 7 NE by E of Ayr, and 1½ NNW of Tarbolton station on a loop-line (1870) of the Glasgow and South-Western railway, this being 4¼ miles WSW of Mauchline Junction. Occupying a considerable area, and containing a number of neat houses, it has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, 2 hotels, a town-house (1836), a cattle-show on the first Monday of May, and a fair on the Tuesday after 11 June. The parish church, erected in 1821 at a cost of £2500, is a good edifice, with 950 sittings, a four-dial clock, and a spire 90 feet high. There are also a Free and a U.P. church. In 1671 Tarbolton, granted to John Cunninghame of Enterkine, was constituted a burgh of barony, with right to hold a weekly market. Two bailies and twelve councillors are annually elected by the householders in December. Pop. (1841) 1083, (1861) 1154, (1871) 829, (1881) 922.

The parish, containing also the village of Annbank, is bounded NW and NE by Craigie, E by Mauchline, SE by Stair, S by Coylton, and W by Coylton, St Quivox, and Monkton. Its utmost length, from E by N to W by S, is 6¼ miles; its utmost breadth is 51/8 miles; and its area is nearly 19 square miles or 12,141¾ acres, of which 82 are water. The Water of Fail runs south-eastward across the interior to the river Ayr, which winds 91/8 miles west-south-westward along all the Stair and Coylton boundary, though the point where it first touches and that where it quits the parish are only 4¾ miles distant as the crow flies. Along the Ayr the surface declines to 195 feet above sea-level; and thence it rises gently northward to 205 feet at Commonside, 302 at Afton Lodge, 424 at Torcross, 575 at Skeoch, and 437 at Coldcothill. The parish is thus undulatory, comprising softly outlined ridges, all under culture except where covered with wood. The low grounds, especially along the Ayr, comprise much pleasant close scenery; and the high grounds command magnificent prospects, over land and sea, to bold and distant backgrounds. The rocks are variously Old Red Sandstone, rocks of the Carboniferous formation, and trap. Coal was worked here so early as 1497. Nearly eight-ninths of the entire area are in tillage; some 950 acres are under wood; and the rest is either meadow or morass. At Parkmoor are trenches of a reputed Roman camp; and other antiquities are noticed under Fail and Coilsfield. The `prophet,' Alexander Peden (1626-86), was schoolmaster at Tarbolton; and Dr William Ritchie, professor of divinity in Edinburgh University, who died here in 1829, was minister. In 1581, when Esme Stuart, Lord d'Aubigny, was created Duke of Lennox, one of the titles given him was Lord Tarbolton. The self-taught sculptor, James Thom (1799-1850), of `Tam o'Shanter' and `Souter Johnny' fame, was born in the upper part of the parish, within a mile of Lochlee, which- from 1777 to 1784 was the home of Robert Burns (1759-96). Both the village and its neighbourhood abound with reminiscenees of the poet. To the Tarbolton lodge of Freemasons he addressed a well-known Farewell; and at Tarbolton in 1780 he started a debating society, the Bachelors' Club. His extraordinary piece, entitled Death and. Dr Hornbook, is said to have been written with the view of burlesquing a person of the name of Wilson, who united the vocations of parish schoolmaster and a vendor of medicines. And at Coilsfield or Montgomerie, Mary Campbell, his `Highland Mary,' was `byreswoman' or dairymaid. Mansions are Coilsfield or Montgomerie, Afton Lodge, Enterkine, and Smithstone; and 8 Proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 11 of between £100 and £500. Tarbolton is in the presbytery of Ayr and the synod of Glasgow and Ayr; the living is worth £460. The present parish comprises the ancient parish of Tarbolton and the larger part of the parish of Barnwell. Ancient Tarbolton was twice subjected to the monks of Fail, yet did not remain with them, but continued to be an independent rectory; and in 1429 it was erected into a prebend or canonry of Glasgow Cathedral. Barnwell, however, was a vicarage of the monks of Fail; and in 1653 it was annexed partly to Tarbolton, and partly to Craigie. Its church, which stood near an old castle of the same name, was then allowed to go to ruin. A chapel of ease was built at Annbank in 1871; and two public schools, Annbank and Tarbolton, with respective accommodation for 469 and 324 children, had (1884) an average attendance of 400 and 213, and grants of £325, 3s. 6d. and £187, 1s. Valuation (1860) £14,474, (1885) £21, 552, 5s. 7d., plus £5908 for railway. Pop. (1801) 1766, (1831) 2274, (1861) 2669, (1871) 3219, (1881) 3599.—Ord. Sur., shs. 14, 22, 1863-65.

(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a village and a parish"   (ADL Feature Type: "populated places")
Administrative units: Tarbolton ScoP       Ayrshire ScoCnty
Place: Tarbolton

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