Our Church

This brief history contains information taken from the Third Statistical Account of Scotland, issued in 1960. Grateful thanks for the compilation are due to Miss Frances E. Phillips and Jean E. Gibson.

Part of the history of Quothquan can be dated back to the year 1432 there being extant a charter of that year containing a grant by Lord Somerville to the ancestors of the Chancellor family of the lands of Quothquan and Shieldhill. However, at that time, the area around was known as Kirkland of Quodquen and Shieldhill was spelt as Sheildhill.

Around the year 1566 the Chancellor’s original house in Quothquan was burnt down at the battle of Langside resulting in a move to Shieldhill in 1566. This property later became a four star hotel.

The village church – now a ruin - still has on the end of the West gable, a very fine toned bell, dated 1641. History has it that, when the church was built in Libberton in the year 1812, the intention was to transfer the bell to the church. This did not suit the villagers so they removed the bell and threw it in the Clyde saying “Lang may ye weel” and that part of the Clyde is still known as “Langly Weel”. It is not known on which date the bell was rescued and restored in the old church. George Lockhart disponed of the church in 1724 to John Chancellor of Shieldhill and according to Alexander Murray’s “The Upper Ward of Lanarkshire Delineated Glasgow 1864”, the church was subsequently used as a schoolroom. It was in ruins in 1780 and the Aisle is the burying place of the Chancellor family.

Around 1646 the largest landowner would be the 4th Earl of Carnwath who, though he was president of the Court of Session, was assassinated in 1689.

He had already sold a portion of his estate to Sir Simon Lockhart of Lee Bart., who in turn granted Disposition in favour of John Chancellor and son Alexander Chancellor of the area known as Overtoun of Quothquen covering ten oxengates for the princely sum of £5,692 10/-.

Mention will be made later of the hall which is now known as the village hall but it was originally the Manse for the old church and presumably dates back to that time. In due course it became a joiner’s shop with a thatched roof. The lighting, of course, was by paraffin lamps. In 1951 electricity was installed and electric radiators superseded coal fires.

To revert to history – The parish of Libberton lay in the upper ward of Lanarkshire, in the angle formed by the River Clyde and its tributary the Medwin. The area (exclusive of water) was 8,129 acres. The Medwin and South Medwin separate Libberton from Carnwath. Quothquan was incorporated with Libberton in 1660. Quothquan village, in the south west is a couple of miles north east of Thankerton and three miles west by north of Biggar.

The most up to date statistics though not printed until 1960 were written in 1950, and I quote, here some of these statistics:-

In the “good old days” both Libberton and Quothquan boasted their own schools. Now both are private houses.

It was decided that one larger new school should be built equidistant to Libberton and Quothquan, and so a school was opened on 2nd September 1913.

The number of pupils rose to 63, while today the average number is 15. In 1918 the old school board ended, and teachers were now responsible to Lanarkshire Education Authority. At this time, there came to an end, the payment by pupils for text books. Everything was issued free. The use of the slate and pencil was discontinued and jotters and exercise books were given to children.

Pupils who passed the Qualifying Exam went to the Secondary School in Biggar. They made their way on foot or by bicycle, but in 1928 a school bus was provided, and this means of transport is still in use today. Early in the 1940s it became compulsory whether a child had passed the “qualifying” or not, that he or she must go to a secondary school around the age of 11. This caused a drop in the numbers at the rural schools. In 1951 electricity was installed at the school. A topic of some small interest is that of the change of children’s dress. The First World War saw the end of Norfolk jackets, stiff collars and long stockings for schoolboys, and of bunchy petticoats, pinafores and boots for schoolgirls.

The same war took a heavy toll in proportion of the population of the men who were posted abroad so precipitately and haphazardly. The estates of Shieldhill and Huntfield lost most men as the war memorial in the church can testify. In the Second World War all young men not employed on farms were called up, and all save one were fortunate to return. During both wars there was great Red Cross activity in the villages.

The joint population in 1801 was 706 and rose to 836 in 1861 – the highest record.

I quote from Miss Phillips, who was born and brought up in Quothquan and whose memory goes back to the 20s. She recalls those days when a familiar sight to her was the sowing of seed by hand, scattering it from a basket fastened round the neck. Early in the morning each farmer sent the milk cart, containing the milk in large cans, to the station at Thankerton or Bankhead, and everything that came to the family by way of feeding stuffs had to be carted from the station by the farmer himself. Cows were milked by hand and oil lanterns were suspended from the byre roofs to enable the workers to see what they were doing on winter nights and mornings. One can imagine the loss of time involved. Most revolutionary of all was the introduction of milking machines in the 30s. By 1950 – and before that in some cases - electricity was installed in the farms and the kitchen ranges which devoured coal, have almost disappeared. A horse drawn plough is a memory of bygone days.

It is interesting to note that a ploughman’s wages in the 1920’s was £1-10/-, and by 1950 had risen to £5.00 per week. What price – “the good old days!”

In 1903 in Quothquan village, a building which was intended as a church was built by Sir Nathaniel Dunlop. Each Sunday at 6pm a Service was conducted by the Rev John Picken, alternating with the Rev.Dr.Inglis Wardrope of Moat Park Church, Biggar. This was termed “The Meeting”. Immediately before the meeting a Bible Class was held for children between the ages of 8 and 14 years. Heating was provided by a coal stove to the right of the pulpit and the light was supplied by the paraffin lamps until 1963 when electricity was installed. All this was paid for by Sir Nathaniel and was continued after his death by his daughter Miss Dunlop. The service was discontinued in 1952, but the Sunday School, the Guild, the Sunday School treats, etc, etc continued to be held there.

In 1918 the inauguration of the W.R.I. was held there as by that time it had become known as Shieldhill Hall. The building has been used for funeral services, christenings and even on one occasion, a wedding. When Miss Dunlop died in 1956 she left a sum of money to Libberton Church for the care and maintenance of the hall as a church hall, but by 1976, despite the Guild raising approx £3400 for repairs, a great deal still had to be done, and in 1990 the hall was sold, the proceeds being used to decorate and repair the church.

Around 1940 ownership of estates started to change hands. Firstly in 1939 Sir Alexander Erskine Hill built Quothquan Lodge on ground acquired from a Mr McFarlane. That house became the home of Tony Jacklin, well known golfer and winner of the British Open in 1969. Then Sir John Chancellor bought the farm and policies of Eastertown and Burnfoot, now in the private ownership of the Russell family.

As far back as 1865 Greenshields was lived in by the Patersons and it became the home of Gilbert Harvey and family. Also of some interest is Easter Gladstanes, lived in some 400 years ago by the Gladstones, of whom William Gladstone was the great-great-grandfather of William Ewart Gladstone. Huntfield House and extensive estate, which was the home of Miss Dunlop in 1912, became run by Mr Bryce McCosh and the farm Quothquan Mill, lived in by the Lyon family, had at some time taken in the lands of the two Arthurshields estates.

In 1949 at Libberton and 1950 at Quothquan eight prefabricated houses were built by Lanarkshire County Council. If memory serves me well, they were built to last ten years to give precedence to damage in Glasgow during the war. They are still lived in yet so must have been made of stern stuff.

In the 1950s, undoubtedly the greatest sources of social life were the Bowling Club and the “Rural”.

The Quothquan W.R.I. was founded in 1918, and is the oldest Rural in Lanarkshire. The benefits of being a member cannot be over-estimated. The yearly charge was 2/- (ten new pence) and all the women of the parish were members. Demonstrations on all sorts of subjects – baking, arts and crafts and cooking, were given by skilled demonstrators from the domestic science colleges. A picnic was held in the summer, a children’s party at Christmas and various concerts and dances held, all under the auspices of this organisation. The easier access to towns has caused the W.R.I. quite a reduction in membership; nevertheless today the Rural has a very firm hold on the life of the community.

Mention was made earlier of the village hall, and this is perhaps a good time to go into more detail. It has changed, of course, over the years. It no longer has a thatched roof for one thing. The name too, has changed. When Miss Dunlop left it to the villagers in her will, the hall was known as the Quothquan Reading and Recreational Rooms. Miss Dunlop had maintained the upkeep of the hall, and is known to have been a most generous benefactress to villagers both individually and collectively. She instructed that the Trustees of the hall should be the four officials of the Bowling Club and four officials of the W.R.I. The Bowling Club no longer exists, as does the small sum left for maintenance. The present Trustees have applied for a grant, and in the meantime are raising several thousand pounds in the hope of restoring the hall. In due course it will be made available to the villagers who may wish to use it again for concerts, dances, whists etc., etc. It is also hoped it will be the home for the Libberton and Quothquan Children’s Playgroup.

Long ago, both Libberton and Quothquan each had a shop, the Libberton one being in a house –now demolished –in a row of houses known as “Dublin”. On the edge of Libberton was a small croft known as The Stiddling. This has now gone and the land is incorporated into Millridge Farm. A house called Birleywell which stood opposite the Smithy is no longer there, but new houses being built are a welcome innovation. Libberton also boasts as fine a village church as any to be found. A beautiful restoration of the interior was carried out in 1902 by the widow of Dr. Patrick Fraser. The pulpit and seating were renewed, and a fine marble memorial with a brass tablet was installed to the memory of Patrick Fraser M.D. Mrs Fraser also gave two windows in memory of George Edward Peek. A table commemorates Rev. John Picken M.A. 1890-1935.

When I first came to Quothquan, I could not understand why the first house number appeared to be 54. Where had stood 53? Since then I have had many an interesting evening in the company of Miss Phillips, recounting her wonderful store of memories of her beloved village. From that, most of the foregoing has been obtained. For a start, the row of houses which was known in 1898 as “The Castle” was reduced from six to four, and became known as Huntfield Place. The house still known as Geantree had earlier incorporated Lime Tree Cottage. Robert Barrie’s house on the Cormiston Road has disappeared, as too have the weaver’s cottages at Lippertown (now Loanhead). At one time too, there were weaver’s cottages opposite Lily Vale, which in itself was a small croft.

In general, the villages have changed very little over the past 100 years apart from a few new bungalows, but of course, as was already said, estates have broken up and who could have dreamed of the wonderful machinery today? Nevertheless it is my belief that our forebears were more content with less than we accept today as our right: they were hardier, and in the carrying out of public duties more conscientious, thorough and painstaking.

I do hope this short narrative will be of interest to others. It seems a shame that history should disappear like the weaver’s cottages.

Dates of Interest

§ 1568 - Chancellor move to Shieldhill

§ 1641 - Church, cemetery and manse

§ 1660 - Libberton and Quothquan Villages united

§ 1689 - Assassination of 4th Earl of Carnwath

§ 1812 - Building of Libberton Church

§ 1902 - Restoration of interior of Libberton Church

§ 1903 - Erection of religious hall at Quothquan

§ 1913 - Libberton School opened

§ 1981- Inauguration of Quothquan W.R.I.

§ 1918 - Free education to villages.

§ 1956 - Transfer of Quothquan Reading and Recreational Rooms by Miss Dunlop to the villagers.