MAYBOLE (surveyed in 1856-7)
Maybole’s name origin is a contested issue. Maege and botl are Old English for ‘Maiden’ and ‘house’, but there are also Brythonic and Gaelic words which fit the bill. Mynydd y Pwll is Welsh for ‘mount of the pool’, and Minis na Poll translates from Scots as ‘portion of the hollow’. Maybole from the eleventh century until the Union of the Crowns was the centre, and for all practical purposes the capital, of the Earldom of Carrick. In 1371 Sir John Kennedy of Dunure founded a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This went on to become Scotland’s first collegiate church and the present town sits on this church’s land. The decline in importance of the town, since its heyday, was reflected in its modern economy and architecture. The parish at this time was 9 miles long and 5 miles wide. The town population in 1841 was 3,431, rising to 3,862 in 1851, divided across 394 houses.
Although once an important centre of power and administration, Maybole was situated over 12 miles from any main road at this time. There were two main streets in the town, Kirk-Wynd and Main Street, with the lower half of the town being labelled ‘Kirklands’. There were few new or grand houses, but it was noted at the time that many of the original medieval features could still be seen. The streets were narrow and the houses showed signs of antiquity and magnificence of a bygone age. In its heyday the town was also the winter home of many of Ayrshire’s landed families, which was reflected in the extant architecture.
There were three main sources of industry in the town. Maybole had long been renowned for its leather working skills and during the nineteenth century the tradesmen began to specialise in shoemaking. This eventually led to the establishment of two shoe factories. During the 1850s Alexander Jack also founded his reaper machine factory. This went on to be a great success and real source of employment and pride for the community. Weaving, as with many small Scottish communities, was another large source of revenue. Handloom weaving was in decline at this time, but the weavers in Maybole often completed piecework for many of the bigger Glasgow and Ayrshire textile mills.
The town of Maybole was the centre of the parish of Maybole and was surrounded by a lush, rolling, rural landscape. Old red sandstone and trap were both quarried, mainly used for the grander buildings, in the area. It is thought that of all the arable land in the parish 18,000 acres were cultivated and 570 acres were given over to pasture. As a result of this agricultural hinterland, Maybole hosted a weekly market on Thursday and larger quarterly fairs.
The uniform adherence of the town’s citizens to the Established Church caused much comment at this time. The parish church was built in 1808 and the minister’s salary was roughly £335 in the 1850s (equivalent to £16154 today). Within the parish there were a further two chapels of ease, Free and United Presbyterian churches and an Episcopalian chapel. The parish schoolmaster was paid £35 (today worth £1700) for his services. It is recorded that there were a further six independent educational establishments but the nature of them is not detailed.
The first Orange Lodge of Scotland was established here in 1800 and enjoyed the patronage of the Marquis of Ailsa. The railway also arrived in 1856, when the Glasgow and South West Company opened a line between Ayr and Maybole.
There were many important members of the gentry resident in the area at this time, the largest landowner being the Marquis of Ailsa, originally the Earl of Cassilis and a branch of the Kennedy family. He was closely followed, however, by the Kennedys of Dunure and the Kennedys of Drumellan. Other prominent families in the area included the Fergussons of Kilkerran, the Crawfords of Doonside and the Fergussons of Monkwood. The town’s population at this time was comprised of many Irish Protestant immigrants. This half-native, half-immigrant bias was noteworthy at the time and there were some problems when non-Conformist denominations attempted to settle in the town. The new population, however, also completed much of the weaving piecework and augmented the town’s weaving prowess.
The Reverend George Gray, Minister – 1845
‘The peasantry may be generally stated to be of athletic and active habits, decidedly intelligent and moral, attached with a very few exceptions, to the Established Church . . . they speak the expressive language of Burns, are well clothed, and upon the whole, keep their cottages in a cleanly state’.