Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Lesmahagow

Lesmahagow (anc. Lesmachute or Lesmahagu, `the green (lis) or court (lys) of St Machutus or Maclou'), a parish in the NW of the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, containing the town of abbey green or Lesmahagow, 6 miles SW of Lanark, 11¾ SSE of Hamilton, 22½ SE of Glasgow, and 38 SW of Edinburgh.

The parish is bounded NW by Stonehouse and Dalserf, NE by Carluke and Lanark, SE by Carmichael and Douglas, SW by Muirkirk in Ayrshire, and W by Avondale. The boundaries with Avondale, Douglas, and Carmichael are traced respectively by Kype Water, Peniel Water, and Douglas Water; and the clyde flows 10 miles north-north-westward along all the Lanark and Carluke boundary. From NNE to SSW Lesmahagow has an utmost length of 10½ miles; its utmost breadth, from E to W, is 9½ miles; and its area is 41,533½ acres, of which 2345/6 are water. Besides Abbey Green, it contains the thriving villages of Auchenheath (2½ miles N of Abbey Green), Bankend, Boghead, Crossford (5½ miles NE of Abbey Green)m Hazelbank, Kirkfieldbank, Kirkmuirhill (2¾ miles NNW of Abbey Green), Nethanfoot, New Trows, and Turfholm. The Nethan, rising close to the Ayrshire border at an altitude of 1550 feet, winds 13 miles north-north-eastward through the interior to the Clyde at Crossford, and itself is joined by Logan Water. The Falls of Clyde, though generally viewed from the Lanark side of the river, can be also seen from the Lesmahagow side. Corra Linn is opposite Corehouse; Bonnington Linn is ½ mile above; and Stonebyres Linn 4 miles below. The scenery on the banks of the Clyde and its tributaries is among the finest in Scotland, its chief charm being its great variety of wood and water, hill and valley. In the extreme N the surface declines along the Clyde to 190 feet above sea-level; and thence it rises to 624 feet near Draffan, 1017 at Dillar Hill, 1075 near Boreland, 1108 at Auchrobert Snout, 1254 at Tod Law, 1712 at Nutberry Hill, and 1609 at Meikle Auchinstilloch. The parish is traversed by a branch line (1856-57) of the Caledonian railway, which has stations at Lesmahagow, Blackwood, and Auchenheath; and by Telford's great highway (1824) from Glasgow to Carlisle. Cross roads intersect it in all directions, and are commonly narrow and hilly.

Lesmahagow is chiefly a mining parish. Coal is found in large quantities, but irregularly disposed. A fine kind of cannel coal is worked. Sandstone, limestone, and ironstone are also found. Lead ore has been discovered, but not in sufficient quantities to repay working. The predominant rocks are trap, and, from their variety and the fine fossils found in them, are of an interesting character. Near the streams the soil is commonly alluvial. In other places, however, it is either a yellow clay resting sometimes on white sandstone, or a light friable mould resting on trap, or a damp, mossy, or sandy gravel. About 23,8871/3 acres are regularly or occasionally in tillage; 2714 ½ are under wood or plantation; and 48891/3 are pastoral or waste. Fruit-growing is carried on to an extent which almost raises it to an industry. Large fields are covered with strawberry plants, and in the summer and autumn the pear and apple harvest demands the whole labour of the villagers to secure it. The chief landowners are the Duke of Hamilton and J. C. Hope Vere, Esq. of Blackwood. Mansions in the parish, noticed separately, are Auchenheath, Auchlochan, Birkwood, Blackwood, Corehouse, Harperfield, Kerse, Kirkfield, and Stonebyres. This parish is in the presbytery of Lanark and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. The charge is collegiate, the stipend of the minister of the first charge being £477, and that of the minister of the second charge £454. The parish church, built in 1804, contains 1500 sittings, and in 1872 was adorned with a fine stained-glass window by Messrs Ballantine. A chapel of ease at Kirkfieldbank will soon, it is expected, be raised to quoad sacra status; and other places of worship are Lesmahagow Free church, Crossford Free church, Lesmahagow U.P. church, Crossford U.P. church, Kirkmuirhill U.P. church, and a Roman Catholic church at Blackwood, Our Lady and St John (1880; 200 sittings). Thirteen schools-all of them public but two, with total accommodation for 2289 children, had (1882) an average attendance of 1553, and grants amounting to £1465, 18s.8d. Valuation (1859) £43,475, 1s. 8d., (1883) £67,011. Pop. (1801) 3070, (1821) 5592, (1841) 6902, (1861) 9266, (1871) 8709, (1881) 9949, of whom 1386 were in Abbey Green, 963 in Kirkfieldbank, 816 in Crossford, 612 in Auchenheath, 547 in Kirkmuirhill, 467 in Southfield and Blackwood, and 319 in Hazelbank.—Ord. Sur., sh. 23, 1865.

Hiring fairs are held on the second Wednesday of March and October; the May fair is held on the first Wednesday after 11 May; Lammas fair takes place on the Wednesday after the Lanark fair and on the Tuesday before the second Thursday of November; market days are the first Wednesday of December and the second Wednesday of January. There are police stations at Lesmahagow, Blackwood, Crossford, and Kirkfieldbank; post offices at Abbey Green (or Lesmahagow), Kirkmuirhill, Kirkfieldbank, and Crossford, the first two having money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments. Numerous insurance companies have agents at Abbey Green, where there are also the headquarters of clubs for curling, bowling, etc., and societies of different kinds. Dr Whyte's mortification for the 'decayed and modest poor' amounts to £2700, the interest of which is divided half-yearly as directed. The interest on the sum of £100, left by Dr Hamilton, is employed in the education of deserving children living within 3 miles of Abbey Green. St Machute or Maclou is said to have been a fellowvoyager with the famed St Brendan in the 6th century; and in the 14th Lesmahagow seems to have possessed at least a portion of his relics. It is likely that between 1100 and 1120 a colony of Tironensian Bencdictines built a church here; for in 1144 David I. granted the 'cell of Lesmahagow' to the monks of Kelso, and raised it to the dignity of a Tironensian priory. This priory served as a sanctuary to all those who, 'in peril of life or limb,' betook themselves to it or to the four crosses that stood around it. Various gifts of land, teinds, and money were presented to it by David I., Robert, son of Wanebald, Robert the Bruce, Lord Somerville, etc. Charters of protection and immunity were granted it by William the Lyon in 1222 and 1230. The priory suffered very severely in the invasion of 1335. John of Eltham, brother of Edward III., and commander of part of the English forces, burned it to the ground as he passed Lesmahagow on his way northward. He met the king at Perth, and an altercation having arisen, John of Eltham-Earl of Cornwall-was slain by his brother's hand. This, as Wyntoun points out, was-

The vengeance tane perfay
Of the burning of that abbey.

On the Reformation the priory lands passed into secular hands, and were successively held by James Cunningham, son of the Earl of Glencairn; Francis Stewart, son of John Stewart, afterwards Earl of Bothwell; and by Lord, afterwards Earl of, Roxburgh, who held them from 1607 to 1625, when he disposed of them to the Marquis of Hamilton. The extent of the lands and the value of the property belonging to the priory are shown by the rental at the Reformation. It consisted of £1214, 4s. 6d. Scots; 15 chalders, 8 bolls, 1 firlot, 2 pecks bere or barley; 11 chalders, 8 bolls, 3 firlots meal; 4 chalders, 3 bolls oats. The priory was burned for the second time at the Reformation (1561), but was restored and served as the parish church until 1803, when its site was cleared to make room for the present church. Traces of the older buildings have been discovered at different times. The priory was famed for its gardens, which shows that, then as now, fruit was extensively grown in the district. The most interesting object in the parish is the old Castle of Craignethan, which has been identified with the `Tillietudlem' of Old Mortality. It 'occupies the summit of a steep bank, encircled on the E by the Water of Nethan, on the W by a precipitous rock.' Sir Walter Scott describes it as having `no roof, no windows, and not much wall,' which is by no means a fair description. The outer wall is still nearly entire, and sufficient remains of the keep to show its immense strength. The room once occupied by Mary Queen of Scots is still pointed out. (See craignethan.) Corra Castle is built on the very edge of the river, opposite Corra Linn. Its chief interest arises from its romantic situation. Coins, Roman remains, and stone weapons have been discovered. The bronze Lesmahagow flagon, found about 1810, and now in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, is 'of the pure egg-shape, with the inward-curved neck. It has a handle covered with symbolic sculpture, representing Mercury in one compartment and Minerva in another. . . . The natives had been familiar with a convenient round stepping-stone which helped them to cross a burn. The stone became indented, and, on examination, presented the appearance of a hollow piece of oval metal. It was taken up, and found to be what is above described' (Hill Burton's Hist. Scotl., i. 51, edn. 1876). An old bell and the bronze figure of 'an elephant-necked horse' are also among the relics. Ancient mounds were once numerous, but the stones that composed them have been employed in building walls, etc.

The name of Sir William Wallace is connected with this district, and caves and trees take their name from him. A cave on the S bank of the Clyde is said to have been inhabited by him. Many of the Covenanters who fell at Bothwell Brig belonged to Lesmahagow, and their monuments are still to be seen in its churchyard. In 1685 Colonel Rumbold, a chief actor in the RyeHouse Plot, was captured by Hamilton of Raploch in Lesmahagow, where too in 1745 young Macdonald of Kinloch-Moidart, aide-de-camp to the Pretender, was seized by a young clergyman called Linning, and a carpenter named Meikle.

John Wilson (1720-89) was the son of a Lesmahagow farmer. He spent the greater part of his life in teaching, and held the office of master of the Grammar School, Greenock, where he died. Wilson is remembered as a poet, his chief work being the Clyde (1764). See Annals of Lesmahagow (Edinb. 1864), by John Greenshields of Kerse, printed for subscribers.

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

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "court"   (ADL Feature Type: "residential sites")
Administrative units: Lesmahagow ScoP       Lanarkshire ScoCnty
Place names: LESMACHUTE     |     LESMAHAGOW     |     LESMAHAGU
Place: Lesmahagow

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