Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Renfrew

Renfrew (Br. Rhyn, 'a point of land,' and frew, 'the flowing of water'), a parish containing a town of the same name lying along and intersected by the Clyde in the NE of Renfrewshire and in the Upper Ward of that county. It is bounded N by Dumbartonshire, E by Lanarkshire, S by Abbey parish, Paisley, W by Kilbarchan, and SW by Inchinnan. On the N and E the parish and county boundaries coincide. Starting from the centre of the Clyde at the mouth of the Black Cart, the line passes up the centre of the former river till at Yoker Burn it strikes to the N, and follows the course of the burn for about 1 mile. It then strikes across to Yokermains Burn, and follows it up to beyond Scaterig, whence it turns southward and south-westward to the Clyde, which it reaches at the old position of Marline Ford. Crossing the Clyde the line continues near the E and S of the grounds of Elderslie House to Pudzeoch Burn, which it follows to Millburn Bridge, whence it follows the Mill Burn to the N end of the reservoir, and then proceeds irregularly to the corner of Hillington Wood. There it quits the county boundary and takes first a south-westerly direction to a point a little E of the 5-mile post on the Glasgow and Paisley joint railway, and afterwards a north-westerly direction to a point on the road midway between Newmains and Bogside. From this the course is up a small burn to Arkleston Print-Works, and then westward to a point on the White Cart, opposite the mouth of Abbotsburn, up which it proceeds by Wester Walkinshaw to the Black Cart, the centre of which it follows back to the Clyde. The greatest length, from the WNW at the junction of the Gryfe and the Black Cart to the ESE at Hillington Wood, is 4 miles; the greatest width, from the N at the mouth of the Black Cart to the S at Arkleston, is 23/8 miles; and the area is 4488·488 acres, of which 18·557 are foreshore and 159·017 are water. The Clyde divides the parish into two unequal portions, about one-third of the whole area lying to the N of the river. In the northern section, which is the only part of Renfrewshire lying N of the Clyde, the ground is flat along the edge of the river, but thereafter rises rapidly to 50 and then to 100 feet, and reaches, towards the NE, in the grounds of Jordanhill House, an extreme height of 149 feet. On the S side of the Clyde the ground is flat, rising in the SW to only from 17 to 20 feet above sea-level; in the SE to from 28 to 30 feet; and in the extreme S, at Cockle and Knock Hills, to over 50, the latter (85 feet) being the highest point of the southern section. On the extreme S the parish includes a portion of the municipal and parliamentary burgh of Paisley. Both sections are wellwooded and highly cultivated, the soil being a rich and fertile alluvium, with a subsoil of sand or strong clay. The underlying rocks are carboniferous, and both coal and ironstone are worked. Some of the clays in the NE and elsewhere are extensively used in the manufacture of bricks, and several of them contain arctic and recent shells. The drainage is effected by the streams and rivers mentioned in describing the boundaries. The ground between the policies of Elderslie House on the SW and the river Clyde is known as the King's Inch, and was, down to the middle of the 17th century or later, an island-a narrow branch of the Clyde having struck off from the main river at Marline Ford and passed between it and the burgh. Somerled, Lord of the Isles, who had risen in rebellion against King Malcolm IV., was defeated and slain at Renfrew in 1164; and a mound with a stone on the top is noticed by Pennant as, traditionally, the memorial of the place of his defeat, but no trace of it now remains.

The parish of Renfrew is distinguished for its connection with the ancient house of Stewart, the lands of Renfrew being the first mentioned of the estates specified in the charter granted by King Malcolm IV., in 1157 in favour of Walter, 'son of Alan,' and confirming a grant previously made by King David I. The office of King's High Steward being also conferred on Walter and his descendants, they took thence the surname of Stewart, and so this corner of the land became the cradle of the illustrious race destined to ascend in succession the thrones of Scotland and England. Knock Hill on the S is still shown as the traditional spot where Marjory Bruce, wife of a succeeding Walter, High Steward of Scotland, was thrown from her horse and killed while hunting in 1316. She was far advanced in pregnancy at the time, and the Cæsarean operation was resorted to in order to save the life of the child, who afterwards became Robert II. The tradition adds that an injury caused to his eyes during the operation was the occasion of the affection that procured him his popular name of 'Bleary.' The spot was marked till somewhere between 1779 and 1782 by an octagonal pillar placed on an eight-sided base, and known, by some confusion of names, as Queen Bleary's Cross. The monument was then destroyed by a rustic vandal, who occupied the neighbouring farm, and who used the pillar as a door lintel, and the stones of the supporting steps to repair a fence. Its site was to the ESE of Knock Farm, and a little farther to the ESE there was formerly a mound called Kempe Knowe. It was a circular mound of earth about 20 yards across, and surrounded by a moat about 5 yards wide, but no trace of it now remains. According to tradition it was constructed to be the place of contest between the last Sir John Ross of Hawkhead and a noted English wrestler, whose match the English king of the period had challenged the Scotch king to produce. Ross disabled his adversary in a way that procured him the name of 'Palm-mine-arms,' and was rewarded by the king with the lands and royal castle at 'the Inch;' and the older inhabitants always referred to his monument, which is placed in a burial vault constructed for it by the Earl of Glasgow on the SE of the new church, as 'Palm-mine-arms.' Semple, in his continuation of Crawfurd's History, mentions that an urn had been dug up at the Knock Hill in 1746, and another in 1782, so that in all probability the mound had been a barrow much older that Sir John Ross's time. The lower part of the hill is called the 'Butts,' and was probably the place where the burghers of Renfrew practised archery. At the side of the road from Renfrew to Iuchinnan, near the bridge across the White and Black Carts, and within the policies of Blythswood House, is a large block of sandstone known as the Argyll Stone, and marking the spot where the Earl of Argyll was wounded and captured after the failure of his ill-conducted enterprise in 1685. After the dispersion of his forces in Dumbartonshire he crossed the river Clyde, and was attempting to make his escape in disguise when he was stopped by a party of militia who were guarding the ford where the bridge now stands. Some reddish veins in the stone, long pointed out as the stains made by his blood as he leant wounded against the rock, are no longer visible. Besides the burgh of Renfrew the parish also includes, on the N, the town of Yoker, and on the extreme NE the small mining village of Scaterig. The portion to the N of the Clyde is traversed by the road from Glasgow along the N bank of the river; while the high road from Glasgow to Greenock passes through the southern portion. A road from N to S passes from Paisley through the burgh of Renfrew to the Clyde, where i a ferry, with large ferry boats for horses and carts, provides communication with the opposite side at Yoker. To the W of this road is a branch railway line from Paisley to Renfrew. The mansions are Blythswood, Elderslie, Jordanhill, Scotstoun, and Walkingshaw. Besides agriculture and the industries connected with the burgh, there are pits, brick and tile works, and a distillery at Yoker. Eleven landowners hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 19 hold each between £500 and £100, 41 hold each between £100 and £50, and there are a considerable number of smaller amount.

The parish is in the presbytery of Paisley and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and the living is worth £648 a year. The churches are noticed in connection with the burgh. The landward school board has under its management the Oswald, Scotstoun, and Yoker schools; and these, with accommodation for 201, 120, and 150 pupils respectively, had in 1883 attendances of 160, 139, and 148, and grants of £126, 5s., £73, 18s., and £135, 6s. 6d. Valuation (1860) £20,9022, (1884) £27,976, 18s. 1d., exclusive of the burgh and of £1896 for the railway. Pop. (1801) 2031, (1821) 2646, (1841) 3076, (1861) 4664, (1871) 5938, (1881) 7439, of whom 3859 were males and 3580 females, while 5115 were in the burgh.—Ord. Sur., sh. 30, l866.

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

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a parish containing a town"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Renfrew ScoP       Renfrewshire ScoCnty
Place names: RENFREW     |     RHYN
Place: Renfrew

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