“Where Cart rins rowin’ to the sea.”
BLYTHSWOOD HOUSE is situated on the south bank of the Clyde, on a point of land formed by the confluence of that river, and the Cart; and at the distance of six miles west from the city of Glasgow. It is the residence of Archibald Campbell, Esq. of Blythswood, representative in Parliament for Glasgow, and His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff for the county of Renfrew. The house was built by the present proprietor, and was completed about seven years ago, from designs by Mr. Gillespie Graham. It is a large square building, of plain, but handsome appearance, having a kitchen court of considerable extent, attached to its south end. The public rooms, four in number, are spacious and well proportioned. They are plain, but very elegant; and the whole interior of the house, is allowed to be excelled in comfort, by few houses on the Clyde. The east front presents a handsome portico of four columns, in the Ionic order, supporting a small pediment, in the tympanum of which are displayed the arms of the family. The portico appears with particularly good effect from the river Clyde, which flows past; relieving the square form of the house, and contributing to render it a striking and interesting object.
The grounds around the house are quite flat, and would be very uninteresting, but that they are richly cultivated, and finely wooded with a considerable quantity of trees and underwood of various ages. The more immediate vicinity of the mansion is kept in excellent order, and laid out with various walks, decorated with shrubberies. The ancient name of this place was Renfield; but on the erection of the new house, it was very appropriately changed by the proprietor to Blythswood house, the name of an exceedingly valuable property he possesses in the neighbourhood of Glasgow.
The view presented in the engraving, is taken from the opposite bank of the Clyde, a little to the north-east; and, in addition to the scenery around the house, illustrates, in some degree, the animated spectacle usually exhibited on this part of the river.
At a short distance to the south-east, stands the town of Renfrew, the head burgh, and county town of the shire of Renfrew. It is a small place, and notwithstanding its vicinity to the Clyde, has made but very little progress of late years, while numerous villages scarcely known fifty years ago, have outstripped it in manufactures and population. It was erected into a royal burgh by David I. who endeavoured to increase it, by granting to some of the monasteries tofts, or pieces of ground for building on, at the burgh, with certain rights of fishing and trading.
Renfrew and its adjacent territory, formed part of the estates granted by David I. to Walter, the son of Alan, the first Stewart; and it thus became the burgh of a Baron, in place of being the burgh of the King. Walter continued the policy of his sovereign, by granting tofts for building, with certain rights of fishing in the adjacent waters; and the same policy was continued by Alan, the son and successor of Walter.
Walter built a Castle at Renfrew, which was the principal messuage, or manor place of the extensive barony of Renfrew. This barony then formed part of Lanarkshire; but it was afterwards disjoined, and formed into a separate shire, in the reign of Robert III. The Castle stood on a small height, still called the Castle Hill, on the margin of a branch of the Clyde, which in former times approached to the burgh of Renfrew; it was surrounded by a large fosse, or wet ditch. After the accession of the Stewarts to the crown, the Castle was committed to the charge of a constable; and in the reign of James IV. this office became hereditary, in the family of Lord Ross, of Halkhead.
Renfrew continued for a time the baronial burgh of the Stewarts; but after their accession to the crown, it was again created a royal burgh, by a charter of Robert III. in 1396. This charter has been confirmed by subsequent charters to the burgh, from James V., James VI., and Queen Anne.
Robert III. erected the barony of Renfrew, the ancient patrimony of his ancestors, into a principality in favour of James, Prince and Stewart of Scotland, his son. The eldest son of the King, still bears as one of his titles, Baron of Renfrew, and the lands within the principality hold from him, instead of holding from the sovereign.
This district is rendered interesting, from its being the first settlement obtained in Scotland by the family of Stewart, who were in their descendents, so long to rule over Scotland, and afterwards the British dominions; and from whom the reigning family derive their right to the throne. As already mentioned, the lands now forming Renfrewshire, were granted by David I. to Walter, the son of Alan, the first of the family known to have come to Scotland. Alan, the son of Walter, emulated his father in the munificence of his grants, and appears to have enjoyed an equal extent of property. He flourished in the reign of William the Lyon, and was witness to many of his charters. He married, it appears, a daughter of Swan, the son of Thor, by whom he left two sons, Walter and David. Dying in 1204, he was buried in the abbey of Paisley. Walter, the eldest son of Alan, is the first who called himself, or was called by others, Seneschallus Scotiæ. He was appointed by Alexander II. the justiciary of Scotland, in 1231; he founded a monastery at Dalmulin, upon the Ayr. In 1246 he died, and was buried in the abbey of Paisley.
Alexander, Stewart of Scotland, his son and successor, commanded the Scottish army at the battle of Largs, in 1263. He was a brave as well as beneficent man. James, his successor, who died in 1309, lived throughout eventful and perilous times. In September, 1286, this nobleman, with his brother John, and his uncle Walter, Earl of Monteith, entered into an association with other great men, at Turnberry Castle, in support of Bruce’s title to the crown. In 1297, he, with his brother, associated with Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow, the brave Sir Andrew Murray of Bothwell, and above all, with Wallace, for supporting the independence of Scotland against the usurpations of Edward I.
He was succeeded by Walter, his son, who, with Sir James Douglas, commanded the third division of the Scottish army at the battle of Bannockburn. In 1315 he married Marjery, the daughter of Robert Bruce. In the parliament held at Scone, in 1318, there was made an act of entail, by which, in case of the death of Robert I. without leaving a lawful heir-male of his body, the crown was settled on Robert Stewart, the son of the King’s daughter, Marjery, and Walter, the high Stewart. After the death of David II. the Stewarts under that entail succeeded to the Scottish crown, in 1371, in the person of Robert II.
Tradition records a rather remarkable circumstance, as attending the birth of Robert Stewart. On Shrove-Tuesday, 1316, when lady Marjery was returning from Paisley to the Castle of Renfrew, then the residence of the lord high Stewart, her husband, she was thrown from her horse, and died of the fall. Circumstances having indicated the propriety of the Cæsarian operation, it was immediately performed; but it would appear, by rather an unskilful hand; for the surgeon, with his instrument, wounded the infant in the eye, whence it is said, he was afterwards, when King of Scotland, popularly called King Blear-eye.
The Lady Marjery was buried in the Chapel of the MOnastery, at Paisley, where a very fine monument was erected to her memory, having a female figure, recumbent, sculptured on it. The relicts, and the monument of Marjery Bruce have been removed from the ruined chapel, and are deposited in a small Gothic chapel, which was built by the Earl of Abercorn, as a family burying place. The monument is now most carefully preserved.
In 1164, during the reign of Malcolm IV., Somerled, the powerful Lord of Argyle, and the Hebudæ, who had repeatedly infested the western coasts with his arms, was defeated, and himself and his son were slain at Renfrew.
During the invasion of Edward III. in 1324, Baliol celebrated his Christmas at the Castle of Renfrew, in royal state; and there distributed lands and offices among his guests.