RENFREW FROM CAMDEN
On the nearer bank of the Clyde is located the Barony of Renfrew,
named from the main town, which seems to be Ptolemy's Randuara on the River Cathcart; it
has a resident of the same name of ancient nobility, Baron Cathcart; near to him are (for
this small province is an exceptional nurse of nobility) Crookston, formerly seat of the
Lords of Darnley, from whom it came by right of marriage to the Earls of Levinia or
Lennox, whence Henry father of King James VI was called Lord Darnley; Halkhead, of the
Barons of Ross of English origin, undoubtedly they derive their race from that Robert Roos
of Warke, who once he had left England gave his loyalty to the King of Scots; Paslet, in
the vernacular Paisley, formerly a celebrated monastery founded by Alexander second
of that name Steward of Scotland, which yielded to few in splendour and fitments of the
church, now it gives a dwelling and title of Baron by the kindness of King James VI to
Claud Hamilton younger son of the Duke of Chatelherault [his son James now enjoys the
title of Earl of Abercorn]; and Semple, whose Lord Baron Sempill is by ancient right
Sheriff of this Barony. But we read that the title of Baron of Renfrew pertains by special
right to the Prince of Scotland.
By ROBERT GORDON
The province of Renfrew, commonly called the Barony of Renfrew, is so named from the
main town on the left bank of the Clyde.
It stretches in length 26 miles, and where it is broadest 13, ending in
a wedge at Inverkip Church. The total circumference is 70 miles.
On the north it is washed by the Clyde, and is opposite Lennox; on the
west where it ends in the wedge it is washed by the Firth of Clyde, and is opposite Cowal
and Argyll; on the east it is contiguous with Clydesdale, on the south with Cunningham.
The land is more pleasant than fertile, yet it supplies everything abundantly to the
inhabitants, and enjoys a healthy climate.
It has two principal rivers, the Cart and the Black Cart, of almost the
same name, into which all the other smaller rivers and burns flow; they join together at
Inchinnan Church and discharge into the Clyde at one mouth.
It numbers two towns, Renfrew, on the left bank of the Clyde, the head
of the whole province, and place for the gatherings of the prefect or Sheriff; it is ruled
by the Provost, Bailies and Town Council, like the other Royal Burghs, which enjoy the
right of voting in the supreme assemblies of the Kingdom. The town of Paisley is more
splendid and larger than Renfrew, on the left bank of the River Cart, on an elegant and
beautiful site: it has in a low valley the most brilliant palace of the region, which was
formerly the seat of Abbots of the Cluniac Order, but now along with the revenues of the
monastery has come into the possession of the Earls of Abercorn, who chooses the
Bailies, as they are called, by whom Paisley is ruled.
It is governed by a prefect who is called the Sheriff; he is selected
each year by the King?s Supreme Senate in the King?s name from the nobles of the province;
the office formerly belonged by hereditary right to the Baron Sempill, who either in
person or by prefects selected by him was in charge of administering the law.
Ecclesiastical governance has after the ejection of the Episcopal
hierarchy returned to the aristocracy of Minsters and Elders in Presbyteries; of these it
presents a single one which normally is convened at Paisley.
Nobles of the first rank possessing here Baronies or Lordships are: the
Duke of Lennox, at Crookston and Inchinnan; the Earl of Eglinton, at Polnoon; of
Glencairn, at Finlayston; of Abercorn, at Paisley. The greater Barons, in the vernacular
Lords: Sempill, at Sempill; Ross, at Halkhead; Blantyre, at Cardonald. Among the lesser
nobles of knightly rank stand out Stewart of Minto, Stuart of Castlemilk, Stewart of
Blackhall, Houston of Houston, Maxwell of Pollok, Maxwell of Newark, Bursby of Bishopton,
Wallace of Elderslie, Wallace of Johnstone, Fleming of Barochan, Cuninghame of Craigends,
Sempill of Fulwood, Sempill of Cathcart, Schaw of Greenock, Porterfield of Duchal and
Cochrane of Cochrane.