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Neilstown

Neleston—Neliston. [Regist. de Passelet.]

The parish of Neilstown rises from a flat on its eastern boundary into hilly grounds, from 400 to 500 feet of elevation on the south and west. The ridge formed by the Fereneze and Lochliboside hills stretches from north-east to south-west through the parish, enclosing the picturesque Loch Libo at the southern end. Behind these is the remarkable saddle-shaped hill called the Pad of Neilstown, and the Knockmade ridge, divided into two by the valley of Lavern, which issues from Loch Long on its south-eastern limits.

The baronies of Knockmade and Shutterflat on the southern boundary, now united to Beith and Dunlop, quod sacra, formerly belonged to Neilstown. Lochliboside and Hartfield were anciently in the parish of Paisley, but now in Neilstown. [Retours—Crawfurd.]

Early in the thirteenth century, the monks of Paisley had obtained the property of the church of Neilstown, probably from their patrons the Stewards. William de Hertford, perhaps the rector, gave them the rectory in farm for his life, in exchange for the half of the great tithes of Thornton, and in 1227, the monks were allowed by Papal commissioners to hold it in usus proprios, and exempt from procurations, on condition of presenting a qualified chaplain. [Regist. de Passelet, p. 321, and Regist. Glasg., p. 121.] About the middle of that century, Robert Croc, who had claimed some right in the church, resigned it in favour of the monks, in presence of Walter the highs steward. [Regist. de Passelet, p. 105.] The church and village of Neilstown have always stood between the right bank of the Lavern and the Kirktown burn. Some part of the persent church is old.

Tradition has preserved the sites of two ancient chapels, one on the west bank of the Lavern, near Arthurley, at a place still called Chapel, and another about a mile from the church, at a sequestered spot called ‘Boon the brae’. There is a fine spring at each.

In the Libellus Tax. Reg. Scot. the rectory and vicarage together are estimated at £33, 6s. 8d. They were let in 1561 for £66, 13s. 44. [Rental of Assumptions.] The church lands of Neilstown were of 13s. 4d. old extent. [Retours.]

It would appear that the lands of Neilstown belonged to Robert Croc, when he resigned to the monks of Paisley his claim to the church. They passed with the other possessions of the Crocs, Crookston and Darnley, into the Darnley branch of the family of Stewart. [Retours.]

Caldwell occurs as an estate with known boundaries and marching with the Stewart’s forest of Fereneze in 1294. It came into the possession of a branch of the Mures of Abercorn early in the 15th century, [Crawfurd.] by the marriage, as is believed, with the heiress of a family taking its name from the lands.

Arthurley seems also to have been held by a family of the same name in the middle of the 14th century. [Regist. de Passelet.] It passed afterwards into a branch of the family of Darnley. [Crawfurd.]

Coudon belonged to the old family of Sprewl, one of whom, Walter Sprewl, was steward of the earldom of Lennox, and had grants of the lands of Dalchorne and Dalmore about the end of the 13th century. The lands of Coudon were resigned by Walter Sprewl in favour of his son Thomas in 1441. [Writs of Coudon, apud Crawford.]

A sculptured stone, which once stood on the lands of Hawkhead, now serves as a bridge over a burn between those lands and Arthurley. There are two cairns on the top of the Fereneze hills, one of them remarkable for its size and for the foundation of a large wall surrounding it.