[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]
PRESTWICK, an ancient village and burgh-of-barony on the coast of Kyle, Ayrshire. It stands on the road between Ayr and Irvine, 2½ miles north of Ayr, 1 south of Monkton, 8½ south of Irvine, and 9 south-west of Kilmarnock. Its age, and especially its constitution as a burgh, are remarkable, and strongly resemble those of the curious neighbouring burgh of Newton-upon-Ayr. A charter, confirming and renewing its privileges, was granted by James VI. as administrator in law for his eldest son, then a minor; Henry, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Kyle, Carrick, and Cunningham, Lord of the Isles, and Prince Stewart of Scotland. The charter is dated 19th June, 1600, and expressly says that it was known to have been a free burgh-of-barony beyond the memory of man, for the space of 617 years before the date of renewal. The burgh has power to elect annually a provost, 2 bailies, and councillors, to grant franchises for several trades, and to hold a market weekly, and a fair on the 6th of November. The freemen, or barons as they are called, are 36 in number. The burgh-lands belonging to them as an incorporation extend in a broad stripe along the Pow-burn to a line 1½ mile nearer Ayr, and comprehend about 1,000 acres. The lands are distributed into lots among the freemen, and do not remain in perpetuity, but are drawn for in a new distribution every 19 years. Part of them long existed as a common, on which each of the freemen had a right of pasturing a certain number of sheep and cattle; but this was, several years ago, divided and appropriated in the manner of the rest of the barony. Freemen cannot sell their lots or shares, or the baronial rights which belong to them, without the consent of the corporation; and females succeed equally with males to the inheritance of the freeholds. A freeman may, for an offence, be sent to prison, but not locked up; and, if he come out without being liberated by the judicial sentence of the magistrates, he forfeits all his corporation privileges and property. Some of these strange peculiarities, however, have fallen wholly into disuse. The town has a market-cross, apparently of great antiquity; and it has also a jail and council-house. Population, in 1793, 260; in 1838, 760. Prestwick, as an ancient parish, is now united to MONKTON: which see.