Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Stranraer

Stranraer, a town and- a parish at the head of Loch Ryan in Wigtownshire. A royal, parliamentary, and police burgh, a seat of trade, a seaport, and the capital of the W of Wigtownshire, the town stands on the Portpatrick railway (1861), 7¾ miles NE of Portpatrick, 58¾ SSW of Ayr, 72¾ WSW of Dumfries, and 162½ (by road 128) SW of Edinburgh. It includes a portion called Tradeston in Inch parish, and portions called Sheuchan and Hillhead in Leswalt parish; is bisected nearly through the middle by a streamlet, which has now been arched over at all points where it comes in view of the public streets; occupies broken ground, with such inequalities of surface as are un favourable for scenic effect, and even disadvantageous for facile traffic; and, though consisting chiefly of modern streets and possessing a large amount of handsome or elegant architecture, presents very little regularity or tastefulness of arrangement. One street, about 3 furlongs in length, runs with a curvature along the margin of Loch Ryan; another, of about equal length, but commencing further to the E, goes bendingly in somewhat the same direction; a third, about 3½ furlongs in length, beginning at a point opposite the E end of the first and nearly the middle end of -the second, goes also in somewhat the same direction; seven others, each from 100 to 200 yards in length, cross these in various directions; and some clustered rows of houses stand in the outskirts. Entire streets, formed towards the end of last century, contained originally, and much more contain now, many houses equal to the best in some of the richer and more populous towns in the kingdom; but they were allowed- to take any line or curve or bend which caprice or accident might dictate, so that they exhibit scarcely any symmetry or grace in the grouping of their edifices. The plain old TownHall, erected in 1855, is now used as a volunteer drillhall and armoury. The new Town-Hall and Court House was erected in 1872-73, after designs by Mr Wardrop of Edinburgh, at a cost of £7000. It is a fine Scottish Baronial edifice, two stories high, with a tower and spire, a court room, a police office, etc. The prison was closed in 1882, along with many other local prisons in Scotland, and the building is now used as a private dwelling. All prisoners sentenced at the court here to more than 14 days' imprisonment are now sent to the central prison at Maxwelltown, Dumfries-those to less than 14 days to the local prison at Wigtown. Stranraer or Kennedy's Castle, almost hidden by other buildings, in the centre of the town, is a baronial fortalice founded towards the close of the 15th century. Consisting of whinstone, with corners and lintels of sandstone, it has thick walls and small windows, crow-stepped gables and pepper-box turrets, and in 1682 became the residence of the ` Bloody Claverse, ' as sheriff of Galloway. Stranraer parish church is a plain, substantial building of 1841, and contains 1084 sittings. Sheuchan Established church, a handsome edifice, with a conspicuous square bell-tower, was built as a chapel of ease in 1842, and became parochial in 1868. Stranraer Free church is a plain building of the Disruption period, containing 728 sittings; but-for the Sheuchan Free church congregation, a fine new church was opened in August 1884. It is situated in King Street, contains 550 sittings, and cost over £2000. Ivy Place U.P. church, built in 1840, contains 750 sittings; and a handsome new church, erected by the West U.P. congregation, was opened in October 1884. It is situated in Lewis Street, close to the Court House, contains 500 sittings, and cost about £3000. The Reformed Presbyterian church was built in 1824, and contains 710 sittings. The United Original Secession church was built in 1843; and St Joseph's Roman Catholic church (400 sittings) in 1853. The Stranraer Academy, built in 1845 at a cost of £2000, passed, in terms of the Education Act of 1872, to the burgh school board; and is conducted by three masters, two mistresses, and four assistant teachers. The burgh school board had in 1884 three schools under their charge-the Academy, with 445 on the roll; the Sheuchan school, with 250; and the elementary school, with 450. The total expenditure of the board was £1911, 2s. 3d., being at the rate of £2, 5s. 10½d. per scholar in average attendance. The board have ten certificated teachers under them, seven ex-pupil teachers, and seven pupil teachers. Stranraer Reformatory (1859) is licensed-to contain 100 boys; and the Wigtownshire Combination Poorhouse has accommodation for 352 inmates. Other institutions are a public reading-room, a public library, an athenæum, an agricultural society, and some philanthropic, religious, and miscellaneous associations.

The town has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments; a railway station, and a branch- railway to the harbour; offices of the British Linen Company, the Clydesdale, the Commercial, the National, and the Union Banks; offices or agencies of 26 insurance companies; gasworks (1840); and 4 principal hotels, called the King's Arms, the Commercial, the George, and the Albion. A Liberal newspaper, the Galloway Advertiser and Wigtownshire Free Press (1843), is published every Thursday. A weekly market is held on Friday; cattle fairs are held on the third Friday of April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November; horse fairs are held on the Monday before the first Wednesday of January, the Thursday in June before Kelton Hill, and the Monday before the second Thursday of October; and a hiring fair is held on the first Friday of May. Manufactures, on any considerable scale, are prevented by the want of waterpower, and the high price of fuel. The employments of the inhabitants are mainly such as are common to towns situated in the centre of agricultural districts. There is an engineering and locomotive works in connection with the Portpatrick railway, employing between 30 and 40 men. The handloom weaving and nail-making trades formerly carrie on are now defunct. Some fishing, chiefly for white fish and oysters, is carried on in Loch Ryan; and, during the winter herring fishing on Ballantrae Banks, a large number of boats make Stranraer their headquarters, owing to the excellent harbour accommodation and railway facilities. A large general trade, for the W of Wigtownshire, is conducted in the exchange of country produce for imported goods. The healthiness of the town and its capacity of uniting the facilities of a market with many of the advantages of a country life, have rendered it the adopted home of a considerable number of respectable annuitants. The commerce was so small in 1764 that only two vessels, of 30 or 35 tons each, belonged to the port; and it since has alternately increased and dwindled, the aggregate tonnage belonging to the port being 1732 in 1801, 2684 in 1818, 1481 in 1855, 2969 in 1868, and 1373 in 1884. The port had formerly a customhouse jurisdiction, from Sandhouse in Carleton Bay to the Mull of Galloway, and thence to the S side of Gillespie Burn, but it has now been merged in Ayr. Owing to the increase in the railway facilities due to the opening of the Girvan and Portpatrick railway in 1877, the shipping trade of the port has declined rather than advanced since that time. The harbour has a long wooden pier of modern erection, but is only tidal, and has not much depth of water; vessels of from 60 to 100 tons come close to the town; vessels of somewhat greater burden find good anchorage in the vicinity of the pier; and vessels of 300 tons anchor at what is called the Road, about ¼ mile distant. On the opposite side of the harbour there is the Railway or East Pier, from which the steamers ply daily to and from Larne in Ireland by what is known as the ` short sea route ' (39 miles). It has water at all states of the tide for vessels of moderate draught. A steamer also sails weekly to Glasgow, and another fortnightly to Port William, Isle of Whithorn, Drumore, and Liverpool. The principal import is coal; and the exports include shoes, leather, cheese, grain, and miscellaneous farm produce. Sir James Caird, K.C.B., F.R.S., of Cassencarrie, the agricultural reformer, was born at Stranraer in 1816; and North West Castle was the residence of the famous Arctic explorer, Sir John Ross, K.C.B. (1777-1856), whose father was minister of Inch..

The town, which rose up around the castle and a preReformation chapel, was created a burgh of barony in 1596, and a royal burgh in 1617. It has adopted the General Police and Improvement Act of 1862, and is governed by a provost,2 bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and 13 councillors, who also act as police commissioners. With Wigtown, Whithorn, and New Galloway it unites in sending a member to parliament; but the Redistribution Bill of 1885 proposes to merge the burgh in- the county. The sheriff court for the western division of the county is held on every Wednesday during session; a sheriff small debt court is held on every alternate Wednesday during session; and a justice of peace small debt court is held on the first Monday of every month. Corporation revenue (1833) £225, (1865) £272, (1884) £338. Parliamentary constituency (1885) 788; municipal, 1004. Valuation (1875) £14, 733, (1885) £22,151. Pop. (1841) 4889, (1861) 6273, (1871) 5977, (1881) 6415, of whom 3402 were females, 6342 were in the parliamentary and police burgh, 3455 were in the royal burgh and parish of Stranraer, 3528 in Stranraer ecclesiastieal parish, 1506 in Inch parish, 1381 in Leswalt parish, and 73 on board ship.

The parish of Stranraer, coextensive with the royal burgh, was formed out of Inch in 1628. It is bounded by Loch Ryan, Inch, and Leswalt; and comprises 55¼ acres of land, and 35¾ acres of foreshore. Part is held in burgage; part belongs to the Earl of Stair, and is let in leases of 99 and 999 years; and part is subfeued by Agnew of Sheuchan. The Rev. John Livingstone, (1603-72), a Covenanting divine, was minister from 1638 to 1648. Stranraer is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Galloway; the living is worth £286; whilst that of Sheuchan, with 533 inhabitants, is £237. The presbytery of Stranraer comprehends the quoad civilia parishes of Ballantrae, Colmonell, Inch, Kirkcolm, Kirkmaiden, Leswalt, New Luce, Old Luce, Portpatrick, Stoneykirk, and Stranraer, and the quoad sacra parishes of Arnsheen, Glenapp, Lochryan, and Sheuchan.-The Free Church also -has a presbytery of Stranraer, with churches at Cairnryan, Glenluce, Inch, Kirkcolm, Kirkmaiden, Leswalt, Portpatrick, Sheuchan, Stoneykirk, and Stranraer, and a preaching-station at New Luce.—Ord. Sur., sh. 3, 1856.

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

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Wigtownshire ScoCnty
Place: Stranraer

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