Saturday, October 25, 2014

Village of Avondale

Current day Avondale is a parish in South Lanarkshire, containing the historic market town of Strathaven. The proper name for the parish and market town according to Rev. William Proudfoot, contributor to the Statistical Account of Lanarkshire, published in 1841, was Avondale even though it was not infrequently called Strathaven. The river Avon cuts the parish into to nearly equal halves, hence the name.

The Duke of Hamilton was the patron of the parish and owned nearly a fourth of the land. The population in 1831 was a little more than 5,700 people. Rev. Proudfoot considered the inhabitants "a well-informed, reading people."

Coal formations, ironstone, and limestone were prevalent in the parish at the time Robert and Henrietta (Brown) Muir were married and lived in Avondale. The duke kept several thousand acres in pastures for sheep grazing and grouse hunting. The duke also raised Clydesdale horses in the area. In 1841 Strathaven had a reputation for producing some of the finest veal in the country which was regularly shipped to Glasgow and Edinburgh and sold as "Strathaven veal."

A Roman road was known to run through the parish for a considerable distance, which led to a Roman fort at Loudon hill in East Ayrshire. There is also a castle with obscure origins but believed to have been built about 1350. It is called Strathaven Castle, Galver's Castle, or Avondale Castle.

Strathaven Castle; photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

There were 13 schools in the parish and enrollment was just under 600 students. Rev. Proudfoot believed almost every child above 6 years old could read. Latin, Greek, English, English grammar, writing, arithmetic, geography, mensuration, and mathematics were taught. A library with approximately 1,200 books was established in the parish in 1809.

There was a radical uprising in 1819. We do not know if Robert Muir and Henrietta Brown lived in Avondale at that time. The first documented existence of the couple is their parish marriage record, dated 1828, nearly a decade after the uprising. Rev. Proudfoot wrote about it:

"I grieve to be under the necessity of noticing a 'rising' open rebellion against lawful authority, and intended against both the altar and throne. I refer to the attempt of a few deluded persons, calling themselves 'Radicals' who with, something like weapons in their hands, marched from this place towards Glasgow, under the command of a James Wilson, whose life was soon after forfeited to the outraged laws of his country. It does not appear that Wilson ever contemplated matters so far as to become an open rebel against the laws of his country; but he had infused a spirit into his companions which he was unable to control. This rising was in the utmost degree contemptible, for it comprised no more than thirteen individuals, deluded by a false report that a general rebellion had taken place in Glasgow. It is to be remarked that none of those who joined in this ludicrous crusade afterwards experienced anything like prosperity."

The good reverend also complained about the funeral customs of the parish:

"Much time is lost, and no small expense unnecessarily incurred, by the way in which funerals are conducted in this parish. Great numbers of both men and women usually attend and sit together and receive their 'service' together in a barn or place of meeting. Though warned to attend at twelve o'clock, they seldom make their appearance till much later, and do not leave the place of meeting with the body before two o'clock; and having perhaps to travel several miles, the interment is seldom over till towards four o'clock. In general, three 'services' are given, two glasses of wine, and one glass of whiskey or rum."

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