STRATHAVEN (surveyed in 1858)
Strathaven is situated in South Lanarkshire about a mile on the north side of the river Avon. The small river named Powmillon Burn, a tributary of the Avon, runs through the town, originally protecting the castle on its southern side (sheet xxiii.15.10). The castle had been built by Andrew Stewart after he obtained the barony of Avondale in 1456. The name Strathaven means ‘Wide valley of the Avon’, and is derived from the Scottish Gaelic words strath or ‘wide valley’ and abhainn or ‘river’. The town became a burgh of barony in 1450. The population in 1851 was 4,274, a small increase since the 1831 census when it had been 3,852.
In the mid nineteenth century the town was focussed on the site of the castle and the Common Green, which is likely to have been the original market place. Six streets radiate out from this centre, the most important being the turnpike road between Ayr and Hamilton and Glasgow. The railway station lay outside the town itself, to the north-east; this was a branch line from Hamilton and must have been very new at the time of survey as proposals for its construction had only begin in 1856 (Wilson 1857).
The castle had been inhabited as late as the beginning of the eighteenth century by the Duchess of Hamilton, but by the time of this survey it was in ruins.
Trade and Industry
Several industries used the water of the small Powmillon River as a source of power and water; these included a mill and smithy to the north side of the town (sheet xxiii.15.5) and a tannery, a corn and flour mill, and a brewery to the south (sheet xxiii.15.10). The brewery had been in existence from around 1825 and the corn mill had been built in 1831. Weaving was the main industry in the town, with the Statistical Account noting over eight hundred weavers in the parish in 1845.
The surrounding area was predominantly used for dairying according to the Stastical Account of 1845, although there were also sunstantail sheep runs owned by the Duke of Hamilton. The Dukes of Hamilton are reputed to have bred Clydesdale horses here in the eighteenth century. Large areas of bog had been drained and improved in the area in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Lime to improve the ground was available and quarried in three areas in the parish. Local supplies of coal were used at this period for burning the lime but not for household coal.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Wilson (1857) records that the town had two Church of Scotland churches, a Free Church, and three United Presbyterian churches.
There was a parish school, a Free Church school and four private schools including one for girls.
Culture and Society
A library had been built in the town in 1809. The Scottish radical James Wilson was born in Kirk Street, Strathaven in 1760. He was a weaver and radical who was executed on August 30, 1820, on a charge of treason, after leading a group of fellow radicals in a march to Glasgow in 1819.