1902 Encyclopedia > Wigtown, Scotland


WIGTOWN, or WIGTON, a maritime county in the south-west corner of Scotland, forming the western division of the old_district of Galloway, is bounded N. by the Irish Channel and Ayrshire, E. by Kirkcudbright and Wigtown Bay, S. by the Irish Sea, and W. by the Irish Channel. It is of very irregular form. Its greatest breadth, cast and west, is about 33 miles and its greatest length, north and south, about 26 miles. The area is 310,742 acres or 485; square miles.

Physical Features. - The coast-line has a total length of about 120 miles. On the eastern boundary the estuary of the Cree expands into Wigtown Bay. Between Wig-town and Luce Bays is the peninsula of the Machers, of which Burrow Head is the southern extremity. Luce Bay has a length of about 15 miles and an average breadth of 12. By its indentation on the south and that of Loch Ryan (about 9 miles long and nearly 3 broad) on the north the two-pronged peninsula of the Rinns is formed, of which the Mull of Galloway, the most southerly point in Scotland, is the southern extremity, and Kirkeohn Point the northern. The coast is more or less precipitous, with many small inlets, few of which, on account of dangerous hidden rocks, afford suitable landing-places for vessels. Loch Ryan forms, however, a splendid natural harbour, of which Stranraer is the port. Portpatrick on the Irish Channel is the nearest port in Great Britain to Ireland, and 7 miles to the south is Port Logan. With the exception of Port William on its eastern shore, Luce Bay is destitute of harbours. Wigtown Bay includes on the Wigtown side the small harbours of the Isle of Whithorn, Garliestown, Wigtown, and Carty, but the upper portions of the bay are not navigable at low water. The county is occupied almost solely by Silurian strata, its characteristic feature being a series of rocky hills, which extend more or less over the whole county, attaining their highest elevation in the north, on the borders of Ayrshire. A considerable number range between 400 and 800 feet in altitude, the highest summits being Miltonish (970 feet), on the northern border, and Craigairie Fell (1000 feet) in Kirkcowan parish. A great part of the county has a wild and bleak appearance, the hills being covered with heath and whins, while in the lower parts there are long stretches of bog and moss. The Silurian rocks are in some parts interpenetrated by small areas of granite ; and immense granite boulders are occasionally scattered over the lower grounds, doubtless the result of the Glacial action of the Kirkcudbrightshire ice bed. Along the western edge of Loch Ryan there is a narrow band of Carboniferous strata, consisting of sandstones which have been classed as calciferous. They rest unconformably on a narrow belt of Permian strata separating them from the Silurian rocks. In the Carboniferous strata various plant impressions are met with. Between Luce Bay and Loch Ryan, and on the upper shores of Wigtown Bay, there are raised beaches. Galena, copper pyrites, and barytes have been found in small quantities ; grey shales for roofing slates and flags for pavement are dug at Cairn Ryan on the eastern shores of Loch Ryan, where sandstone is also quarried for building purposes ; from the clays in the neighbourhood of Stranracr bricks are manufactured. Owing to the irregular hilly character of the county the streams, though numerous, arc generally small. The Cree, forming the boundary with Kirkcudbrightshire, flows past Newton Stewart and Carty into Wigtown Bay ; the Bladenoch, from Loch Maberry on the Ayrshire border, falls into Wig-town Bay at the town of Wigtown, after having received the Tarf, the Malzie, and the Black Burn ; and the Luce, formed by the junction of the Main Water and the Cross Water at New Luce, flows south into Luce Bay. There are a very large number of lochs, but none of them very extensive, the principal being the beautiful one in Inch parish included in the grounds of Castle Kennedy, Lochs Maberry and Dornal on the Ayrshire border, Loch Connel in Kirkcolm parish, Loch Ronald in Kirkcowan parish, and Castle Loch and the four lochs of Mochrum in Mochrum parish. Dowalton Loch, at the junction of Kirkinner, Sorbie, and Glasserton parishes, was drained in 1862.

According to the latest landowners' Return, the county was divided among 1820 proprietors, possessing 309,087 acres at an annual value of £230,589, or about 14s. 11d. per acre. Of the proprietors 1674 possessed less than one acre each. The following owned over 5000 acres each : - earl of Stair, 79,174 ; E. J. S. Blair, 37,268 ; earl of Galloway, 23,203 ; marquis of Bute, 20,157 ; Sir W. Maxwell, 16,877; James M 'Donal', 16,290; Sir Andrew Agnew, 12,962 ; D. Bunter Blair, 8255 ; William Maitland, 7848 ; Sir J. Dalrymple Hay, 7400 ; R. Vans Agnew, 6777 ; W. C. S. Hamilton, 6300 ; Mrs S. 0. M`Taggart, 5998 ; Lieut.-Col. Sir W. '1'. F. Agnew Wallace, 5785 ; and It. 11. J. Stewart, 5552.1 Communication. - The Portpatrick Railway, crosses the county from Newton Stewart by l(irkcowan, Glenluce, and Stranraer to Portpatrick. From Newton Stewart the Wigtownshire Railway passes south by Wigtown and Garliestown to Whithorn. The Girvan and Portpatrick Railway branches off from the I'ortpatrick line at East Challoch near Dunragit and passes northwards by New Luce. There is a line of steamers to Ireland by I'ortpatrick.

Manufactures and Trade. - Although agriculture is the main industry, there is a variety of small manufactures in the towns, including a woollen factory at Kirkcowan, engineering and locomotive works at Stranraer, hand-loom weaving in various places, distilling, tanning, and currying. The fishing industry is of almost no account. There is, however, an oyster fishery in Loch Ryan, and herrings are caught in Loch Ryan and the Bay of Luce. The value of the salmon fisheries, including those of the rivers, is less than £1000 a year.

Administration and Population-. - From 22,918 in 1801 the population had by 1821 increased to 33,240 and by 1851 to 43,389 ; but it declined to 42,095 in 1861, to 38,830 in 1871, and to 38,611 (males 18,143, females 20,468) in 1881. In point of density Wig-town stands twenty-first among the counties of Scotland, the number of persons to the square mile being 79. The proportion of females to every 100 males was 112.82, the largest proportion of any county with the exceptions of Orkney, and Shetland and Forfar. The number of persons who could speak Gaelic was only twenty-eight. The town population in 1881 numbered 9060, the village 8574, and the rural 20,977. The county has three royal burghs Wigtown (1789), Stranraer (3455), and Whithorn (1643). The last two are also police burghs (Stranraer, 6342). Part (2645) of the police burgh of Newton Stewart is within the county, the remainder being in Kirkcudbrightshire. Newton Stewart is also a burgh of barony, as are likewise Glenluce (901) and Portpatrick (591). The county returns one member to parliament. Formerly Wigtown, Stranraer, and Whithorn formed with New Galloway a group of burghs returning one member, but by the Act of 1885 they were merged in the comity. The county includes seventeen parishes. Wigtownshire is in the same sheriffdom as the counties of Kirkcudbright and Dumfries. Sheriff courts are held during certain periods at Wigtown and Stranraer, and quarter sessions are held at Wig-town and Glenluce.


style. The ancient cathedral of Whithorn, though in a dilapidated condition, forms a picturesque ruin, and near it are some slight remains of the ancient priory founded by St Ninian. The Dominican priory of Wigtowu, founded in 1267, has, like the ancient castle, entirely disappeared ; and only some slight mounds remain of Saulseat abbey, founded for Premonstratensians by Fergus, lord of Galloway, in 1148. Wigtown was probably created a sheriffdom in the 13th century. In 1341 the earldom of Wigton, which included the whole of the county, with the jurisdiction of a regality, was bestowed upon Sir Malcolm Fleming. In 1372 the earldom was purchased by Archibald Douglas, who the same year was created lord of Galloway. In the reign of James I. William Douglas of Leswalt was sheriff of Wigtown and keeper of the castle of Lochnaw ; but in 1426 the constableship of Lochnaw, with the sheriffdom of Wigtown, was acquired by Andrew Agnew. These dignities continued to be held by the Agnew family till 1632, when Sir Andrew Agnew refused to take the test and was superseded by Graham of Claverhouse. At the Restoration in 1688 the office of sheriff was restored to the Agnew family, and they held it till the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions in 1747. The principal modern mansions are Galloway House, built in 1740, the seat of the earls of Galloway ; Castle Kennedy, built by the first earl of Stair after the destruction of the old castle by fire in 1716 ; the baronial castle of Lochnaw, including, with large modern additions, the battlemented tower of the ancient building ; and Barnharroeh House, the seat of R. Vans Agnew.

See Symsnn, Description of Galloway, 18o3; Murray, Literary History of Galloway, 1882 ; Sir Andrew Agnew, Hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway, 1864 ; Histories of Galloway, by Mackenzie, 1841, and P. H. Mackerlie, 1870-78. (T. F. H.)


About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries