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Renfrewshire - a Brief Description

Renfrewshire (anciently Strathgryfe) is a maritime county on the W coast of Scotland. Although only twenty-seventh among the Scottish counties as regards area, by its Industrial importance it ranks ninth in the order of valuation and fifth in the order of population, while as to density of population it is slightly in excess of Lanarkshire and second only to Edinburgh, the most densely populated county in Scotland, the figures being for Lanarkshire 1186, Renfrewshire 1187, and Edinburghshire 1199 to the square mile. The city of Glasgow, as defined by the City of Glasgow Act of 1891, was partly in Lanarkshire and partly in Renfrewshire, but the Boundary Commissioners in 1892 placed the whole of the extended city in the county of Lanark. The small police burgh of Kinning Park was at the same time transferred from Renfrewshire to Lanarkshire, while of the parishes of Cathcart and East Kilbride, which were prior to 1891 partly in Renfrewshire and partly in Lanarkshire, Cathcart was placed in that year wholly in the former county, and East Kilbride wholly in the latter. Beith and Dunlop parishes, that were partly in Renfrewshire and partly in Ayrshire were at the same time placed wholly in the latter county. For further particulars see Glasgow, and for alterations on the boundaries of the interior parishes see the various articles throughout the work. The county is bounded N by the river Clyde and Dumbartonshire, NE and E by Lanarkshire, SSW by the Cunningham district of Ayrshire, and W by the Firth of Clyde. The shape is an irregular oblong. The greatest length, from Cloch Point on the NW to near Laird’s Seat on the SE, is 30½ miles; the greatest breadth near the centre, from the grounds of Erskine house on the Clyde on the N to a point on Dubbs Burn near Beith Station on the SSW, is 13 miles; and the area is about 250 square miles, or 162,400 acres, of which 2021 are foreshore and 3621 water. Of the land area nearly two thirds is cultivated, there being 92,217 acres in 1896 under crop, bare fallow, and grass while 5961 were under wood, the rest being occupied by buildings and roads, etc., or by rough hill grazings and waste ground.

Commencing at the NW corner at Kempock Point the boundary line follows the river Clyde for 17¾ miles to the mouth of Yoker Burn, up which it passes, following it nearly to its source. Thereafter it strikes across to Yoker Mains Burn, which it follows up till beyond Scaterig, whence it returns by the E side of Jordanhill and Scotstoun house grounds to the Clyde at the old line of the Marline Ford. Crossing the river it proceeds by an old channel of the Clyde along the western and south-western boundaries of the parish of GOVAN to the line of railway now occupying the old course of the Glasgow and Paisley Canal. Thence it proceeds southwards and eastwards along the Glasgow boundary line to a point half-way between Cathcart Church and Aikenhead Colliery. From this it bends southward and westward to the White Cart, and follows the course of that stream to the junction with Threepland Burn, which it follows for ¾ mile, and then winds southward and south-westward to a point midway between Quarry Hill and Muir Hill. Here it turns to the WSW in a very winding course, always near but seldom actually on the line of watershed between the streams that flow south-westward to the Garnock, Annick, and Irvine, and so to the Firth of Clyde; and those that flow north-eastward to the Gryfe, Black and White Carts, and so to the river Clyde. The line is therefore mostly artificial, but to the E of Beith station it follows the course of Roebank Burn, and to the W of the station the courses of Dubbs Burn and Maich Water, and passing between Misty Law Moor and Ladyland Moors reaches the watershed at Misty Law (1663 feet). It follows the watershed by East Girt Hill (1673 feet) and Hill of Stake (1711), to the E shoulder of Burnt Hill (1572), whence it takes the line of Calder Water for 1½ mile, crosses to the upper waters of the North Rotten Burn, follows this down to about ½ mile from Loch Thom, and then striking across to Kelly Dam follows Kelly Water down to the pier at Wemyss Bay. From this back northward to Kempock Point, the Firth of Clyde is again the boundary.

Districts and Surface, etc.—The county is divided into an Upper and a Lower Ward, the former with Paisley, and the latter with Greenock, as the chief town. The surface varies considerably, but may be considered as falling into three divisions—hilly, gently rising, and flat. The first lies along the southern border, and extends to the centre on the SE and along the W. It comprises most of the parishes of Eaglesham and Mearns, great part of the parishes of Neilston and Lochwinnoch, and most of the parishes of Kilmalcolm, Port Glasgow, Greenock, and Innerkip, and reaches an altitude of 1093 feet in Eaglesham, 871 in Mearns, 900 in Neilston, 1711 in Lochwinnoch, 1446 in Kilmalcolm, 661 in Port Glasgow, 995 in Greenock, and 936 in Innerkip. It is generally a somewhat bleak moorland, but some of the heights command good and extensive views. The gently rising district which lies immediately to the N of the hilly one commences at the boundary with Lanarkshire on the E, and extends WNW to the neighbourhood of Langbank and Kilmalcolm. It comprehends the parishes of Cathcart and Eastwood, and parts of the parishes of Neilston, Paisley, Renfrew, and Inchinnan, Kilbarchan, Houston, and Erskine. Many of the heights are well wooded, and the scenery is picturesque. The flat district, known locally as the ‘laich lands,’ lies along the N border, forming a level tract by the side of the Clyde, and extending along the narrow flat valley of the Black Cart and Castle Semple Loch. It extends from the eastern boundary of Renfrew parish to the Erskine Hills, and thence south-westward as already indicated, comprehending most of the parish of Renfrew, and parts of the parishes of Paisley, Inchinnan, Houston, Erskine, Kilbarchan, and Lochwinnoch. It appears to have been, at a comparatively recent geological period, covered by the waters of the inlet noticed in the article on GLASGOW. The physical characteristics of the small portion of the county to the N of the Clyde have been already noticed in the article on the parish of Renfrew.

The drainage is carried off by the White Cart, the Black Cart, and the Gryfe, all of which unite and flow into the Clyde 1 mile NW of Renfrew Ferry, and by the Clyde itself. The courses of these rivers are separately described, and it remains here merely to notice the drainage basins. The whole of the eastern and south-eastern portions of the county are drained by the White Cart and the streams flowing into it, of which the principal are, beginning at the SE corner, Threepland Burn, Ardoch and Holchall Burns, Earn Water, Newfield Burn, Brock Burn, Levern Water, and Cowden Burn, and some smaller streams in the neighbourhood of Paisley. A small district in the centre is drained by the Black Cart, the river Calder, Patrick Water, and the other burns flowing into it, none of which are of any great size or importance. The western part of the county is drained by the Gryfe and its tributaries, of which the chief are, from the source downwards, North Rotten Burn, Green Water, Burnbank Water, Blacketty Water, Mill Burn, Gotter Water, Locher Water, all on the S side, and Barochan and Dargavel Burns on the N. Besides these a number of smaller streams, of which the chief are Dubbs Burn and Maich Water, flow into the Ayrshire drainage basin, and others again in the W and N flow direct to the Clyde. Of the latter the chief are Kelty Burn, entering the Firth of Clyde at Wemyss Bay; the Kipp, which enters at Innerkip; and Shaws Water at Greenock. In the SE in the basin of the White Cart, there are a number of lochs, of which the most important are Loch Goin or Blackwoodhill Dam (8 x 3 furl.), on the border of the county, and which, through Loch Burn and Craufurdland Water, is one of the main sources of Irvine Water; Dunwan Dam (5 x 2 furl.), the source of Holchall Burn; some small lochs SW of Eaglesham, Binend Loch (4 x 2 furl.), and Black Loch on the head-streams of the Earn; Brother Loch (3 x 3 furl.), on Capelrig or Thornliebank Burn; Glen Reservoir (3 x l furl.) and Balgray Reservoir (5 x 3 furL), on the course of Brook Burn; Glanderston Darn, Walton Dam, and Harelaw Dam (5 x 2 furl.), Long Loch (8 x 2 furl.), from which issues one of the head-streams of Annick Water (Ayrshire); a small loch a mile WNW of Barrhead, and Stanley and Glenburn Reservoirs S of Paisley. Between the basins of the White and Black Carts is the small but picturesque Loch Libo, whence flows the Lugton (Ayrshire). In the basin of the Black Cart are Broadfield Dam, on a tributary of Patrick Water, and Castle Semple Loch (12 x 3 furl.), from which flows the Black Cart itself. At its upper end is the area formerly occupied by Barr Loch (8 x 4 furl.), which is now drained. On Calder Water are Calder Dam and Queenside Loch. In the valley of the Gryfe there are two small lochs near Bridge of Weir, and at the source are the Gryfe Reservoir and the Compensation Reservoir (together 12 x 2 furl.), connected with the Greenock waterworks; and immediately to the W of these is Loch Thom (12 x 3 furl.) The fishing in most of the lochs and streams, where the water is not poisoned by industrial operations, is fair.

Geology.—The geology of Renfrewshire claims special attention, on account of the remarkable development of volcanic rocks belonging to the Lower Carboniferous period, and the important series of coal-fields situated to the N of the volcanic area between Houston and the E border of the county near Rutherglen.

The various subdivisions of the Carboniferous system are represented within the limits of the county. Beginning with the red sandstones lying at the base of this formation, which are the oldest strata in Renfrew shire, they occupy a belt of ground along the coast in the neighbourhood of Innerkip. They are merely the prolongation towards the N of similar red sandstones fringing the Ayrshire coast between Ardrossan and Largs. Consisting mainly of red sandstones and cornstones with bands of breccia and conglomerate, there is little variety in the character of the strata. They stretch inland, from the shores of the Firth of Clyde at Innerkip to the hills near Loch Thom, where they are thrown into a gentle anticlinal fold, succeeded by the overlying Cement-stone series, of which, however, there is but a limited development. Throughout Renfrewshire the Cement-stone series is almost wholly represented by a prodigious succession of contemporaneous volcanic rocks, which are the continuation of the great volcanic belt on the N side of the Clyde, forming the Kilpatrick Hills There can be little doubt of the precise geological position of these volcanic rocks in this county, because, to the W of Loch Thom, they rest conformably on the white sandstones and Cement-stones, and where no faults intervene they graduate upwards into the Carboniferous Limestone series. They form a belt of hilly ground stretching across the county in a NW and SE direction, from the hills S of Greenock, by the Gleniffer Braes, to the high grounds round Eagesham. In the E portion, the volcanic rocks form a low anticlinal arch, the axis of which coincides generally with the trend of the chain, the overlying strata being inclined towards the SW and NE. Throughout this extensive area the igneous rocks consist of basalts, melaphyres, and porphyrites, with intercalations of tuffs and coarse volcanic breccias. The upper and under surfaces of the lava flows are extremely slaggy and scoriaceous, and the cavities are filled with agates and various zeolites. The discharge of lavas and tuffs was so persistent that there are but few traces of sedimentary deposits in the volcanic series. In the neighbourhood of Eagesham, however, sandstones, dark shales, and sometimes impure fossiliferous limestones are associated with the tuffs. An interesting feature connected with this remarkable volcanic area is the existence of numerous vents, from which the igneous materials were discharged. They are now filled with basalt, porphyrite, or volcanic agglomerate. The best example of one of these ancient cones is to be found on the hills between Queenside Muir and Misty Law, where there is a great development of coarse agglomerate pierced by dykes and bosses of felstone and basalt. This agglomerate pierces the stratified volcanic rocks of the district.

As already indicated, there is a perfect passage from the contemporaneous volcanic rocks into the overlying Carboniferous Limestone series. The junction between the two, however, is usually a faulted one, and hence the regular succession is visible only at few localities. Where no faults intervene, the strata immediately overlying the ancient lavas consist of ashy sandstones, grits, and conglomerates, which are replaced at intervals by white sandstones and clay ironstones. Occasionally they are associated with bands of tuff. From the ashy character of’ the strata one might infer that the sedimentary materials were mainly derived from the denudation of the underlying volcanic rocks, while the bands of tuff indicate spasmodic outbursts of volcanic activity. The ashy strata just described are succeeded by the lowest members of the Carboniferous Limestone series. In Renfrewshire this important series of strata is divisible into three groups, in common with other areas in the midland counties, viz., a lower limestone group, a middle coal-bearing group, and an upper limestone group.
Along the N border of the volcanic area, between the White Cart Water at Busby and the banks of the Clyde near Erskine House, the members of the Carboniferous Limestone series are everywhere brought into contact with the ancient lavas and ashes by faults. A g1ance at the Geological Survey maps (sheets 30 and 22 of the 1-inch map of Scotland) shows the irregular nature of the boundary line due to the peculiar system of faulting. In one remarkable case the Carboniferous Limestone series stretches almost continuously across the volcanic belt, from Johnstone and Howwood to Lochwinnoch. This hollow is flanked by two powerful faults, throwing down the lowest members of the overlying series.

If we except some small patches of Millstone Grit to the E of Barrhead and near Pollokshields, and the limited development of the true Coal-measures on the border of the county of Rutherglen, the whole of the area lying to the N of the volcanic rocks belongs to the Carboniferous Limestone series. The strata are traversed by numerous faults which repeat the valuable seams of coal and ironstone. In the neighbourhood of Johnstone and Linwood they are arranged generally in the form of a synclinal fold. Along the W margin of this basin, near Bridge of Weir, we find the Hurlet Coal and Limestone dipping to the E and SE being rapidly followed by the Lillies Oil Shale, the Hosie Limestone, and the Johnstone Clayband Ironstone. In the neighbourhood of Linwood the deepest part of the basin is reached, the Lower Garscadden Clayband Ironstone being succeeded by various coal seams belonging to the middle coal-bearing group. To the S of Johnstone there is a remarkable development of intrusive sheets of basalt occurring near the base of the Carboniferous Limestone series. The largest of these masses occurs in the neighbourhood of Quarrelton, measuring 1½ mile from N to S, and consisting of dolerite. It is underlaid by the thick Quarrelton Coal, which rests on a basement of volcanic tuff reposing on white sandstones intervening between the Quarrelton Coal and the volcanic rocks of the Cement-stone group. Near Howwood, the intrusive sheet just referred to, and the associated strata, form an antichnal arch, from which the Hurlet Coal and Limestone dip away towards the E and W. Similar intrusive sheets of basalt rock occur about 1 mile to the NE of Paisley, where they occupy a similar geological horizon.

Passing E to that portion of the basin extending from Hurlet to Shawlands and Crossmyloof, there is a splendid development of the middle coal-bearing and upper limes tone groups. A traverse from Hurlet E to Cowglen shows, if we exclude minor faults, a general ascending section from the outcrop of the Hurlet Coal and Limestone, through the Lillies Oil Shale, Hosie Limestone, and the various ironstones and coals of the middle coal bearing group, to the Cowglen Limestone. The latter bed forms the base of the upper limestone group, thus occupying a similar position with the Index Limestone in the Lanarkshire basin. The valuable coals and iron-stones of the middle group also occur to the N of Shawl ands and Crossmyloof, where they are abruptly truncated by a fault throwing down to the NE the Millstone Grit and the Coal-measures. Near Crossmyloof the coal seams of the middle group of the Carboniferous Limestone series are actually brought into conjunction with the numerous coals and ironstones of the true Coal-measures.

Advancing S from Crossmyloof, where the coal seams of the middle group have a general dip to the 5, there is a general ascending series through the upper limestone group to the overlying Millstone Grit. The observer crosses in succession the Cowglen or Index Limestone, the white Giffnock sandstones, the Orchard Limestone, which is underlaid by a thin seam of coal; while at the top he finds the Arden Limestone, also underlaid by a seam of coal. In this district the Arden Limestone is regarded as marking the boundary between the Carboniferous Limestone series and the overlying Millstone Grit. The limestones of the upper group are by no means very fossiliferous, but there is a bed of shale at Orchard teeming with fossils which has become famous among the geologists of the west of Scotland. From this band alone Messrs Young and Armstrong have chronicled upwards of 120 species of univalve and bivalve shells, together with Foraminifera and Entomostraca.

To the E of Barrhead there is a small outlier of thick yellow sandstones, representing the Millstone Grit, resting on the Arden Limestone which rises from underneath the sandstones on every side save the E, where the basin is truncated by a NE and SW fault. Another little outlier of Millstone Grit resting on the Arden Limestone occurs about a mile to the SE of Thornliebank.
Throughout the county there are numerous basalt dykes of Tertiary age, piercing alike the Lower Carboniferous volcanic rocks and the Carboniferous Limestone series. Perhaps the best examples occur in the volcanic area to the NW of Lochwinnoch, where some of the dykes run parallel with each other for a distance of several miles.

The proofs of glaciation in the county are abundant. Numerous instances of striations are met with, especially in. the volcanic area between Lochwinnoeh and Port Glasgow. Throughout that district the general trend of the ice-markings is SE, due to the movement of the great ice sheet radiating from the Highland mountains. This SE trend continues as far as Kilbarchan and Lochwinnoch, but to the E of these localities the striæ gradually swing round to the SW. This change in the direction of the ice movement has been adequately explained by Professor James Geikie, who contends that during the great extension of the ice the glaciers from the Highland mountains moved in an E direction along the valley of the Clyde till they coalesced with those radiating from the Southern Uplands. Eventually the combined ice sheets moved in a SW direction across the volcanic chain in the E of Renfrewshire towards the Firth of Clyde. The glacial deposits will be described in the general article on the geology of Scotland.

From Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, 1896