Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy



Monumental Inscriptions

In 1983 the inscriptions on monumental stones in burial grounds of Cunninghame District were recorded, under the auspices of the Manpower Services Commission and of Cunninghame District Council, and further supported by Largs and District Historical Society and the Friends of Cumbrae Museum.

This effort resulted in the production of eleven large volumes of inscriptions, covering the area now known as North Ayrshire, indexed by names and located by maps of the graveyards and cemeteries. Each stone was also photographed. The volumes are located in the Historical Section of Ardrossan Library (Tel 01294 469137). Each local library also holds a copy of the monumental inscriptions for the local cemetery.

PART 1. The Three Towns.

There are seven burial grounds in the area of Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston. Two are in day to day use, and one is in occasional use.

Probably the oldest disused graveyard is that on Castlehill, Ardrossan, most conveniently reached from Hill Place. The 36 monumental stones lie in grass about 160 metres north of the castle ruins, and on the south side of the rectangle of foundation stones, all that remains of the church destroyed by a hurricane in 1691. The grave stones are so weathered that at least 24 of them no longer show an inscription. The remainder carry only fragments of words and occasional names. The oldest date that is legible is 1662. There is no register of those graves.

A second church was erected in 1697 at a more sheltered spot, about a mile from the castle, beside the Stanley Bum, but it fell into disrepair and was abandoned in 1744. The remains of this church, again merely a rectangle of stones, may be seen in a small park on the north side of Stanley Road about 100 metres west of the point where the Stanley Burn passes under the road. There is record of one burial within this building, and those of five of the Weir family of Kirkhall in an adjacent private burial ground. The latter is no longer evident. Details are given in “Historical Notes of Ardrossan” by Arthur Guthrie, (1882).

A third church was erected at Manse Street, Saltcoats, but it too was later replaced by a larger building in 1773, as Ardrossan Parish Church, on the same site. A graveyard was established on the south side of the building. Nowadays it contains 192 monumental stones. When the inscriptions were recorded in 1983, at least 20 stones were found to be illegible. A register of 575 interments between 1874 and 1915 is available for examination in the Local History Section of Ardrossan Public Library. Unfortunately, there is no name index to the volume. This church ceased to function in 1908 and is now a museum.

Ardrossan Parish Cemetery was established in 1854. It occupies a large walled area on the west side of Sorbie Road. The entrance is about 100 metres north of the crossroads with Parkhouse Road and the High Street. Up to the present time, almost twenty five thousand burials have taken place in this site. When the recording of the inscriptions was carried out in 1983, the map that was also prepared was arbitrarily divided into sections labelled A,B,C, and D and the graves in each section numbered. A Surname index is provided for each section. owing to the large number of graves in each section the searcher will probably find it helpful to copy from the book a little sketch map as an aid to locating the grave.

As with all other Council controlled cemeteries in North Ayrshire, the Burial Registers, Lair Registers, and maps showing the location of a lair are now held in the Cemeteries Office at 43 Ardrossan Road (Tel: 01294 605436), where they may be viewed by appointment. Unfortunately, however, these maps use a totally different numbering system to that in the monumental inscription volumes. Here the letter A to D signify the type and location of the lair within a section of the graveyard, rather than the section in which it is to be found. The burials are recorded chronologically, so one has to know the approximate date of the burial to find the location of the grave.

Ardrossan Public Library has four volumes of Burial Registers for this cemetery. In general they contain more information than the lair Registers. Three of the volumes cover the period 1874,to 1957. In the first (1872 – 1903), when the deceased is a child the name of the parent or guardian is included. In the two later volumes, details of the condition, occupation and residence of the deceased are provided. The fourth Register is entitled “Burials in section E, 1900 – 1974”. No monumental inscriptions will be found for those listed in this Register, since they were designated as “paupers”. They are buried in this graveyard in areas known as “common ground”, and although the Lairs are numbered, no names are shown on the cemetery maps. I understand that this method of dealing with such destitute persons was discontinued after Regionalisation. Nowadays a Local Authority Department such as Social Work, etc will purchase a Lair for the deceased.

The best technique to finding details of an ancestor buried in this cemetery is to first use the monumental inscription name index. This will give date of death, and from this, the cemetery map, the Burial Register and the Lair Register should provide all the information required.

New Street Cemetery, Stevenston, is relatively difficult to find. It is situated behind houses on the west side of the street (B752). and is approached through a lane whose entrance is about 230 metres from the junction with Stevenston Main Street. The Stevenston Bum and a high steel fence separate the cemetery from the adjoining back gardens. The gate is kept locked, but there is a notice indicating where a key may be obtained. The cemetery was opened in 1861 and contains 681 monumental stones. Again, further information may be obtained at the Council Cemeteries Office.

Hawkhill Cemetery is situated on the eastern outskirts of Stevenston, on the north side of the A78, and just beyond the junction with the B752 to Ardeer. It is a non-denominational cemetery opened in 1929, designed to take over from New Street Cemetery. By 1983 it contained about 2000 monumental stones. The numbering of the location of the stones, used by those who recorded the monumental inscriptions, is again quite different from that used in the Lair maps located in the Council Cemeteries Office. All three cemeteries are kept in good condition by the Council.

Stevenston High Kirk (Church of Scotland) stands on high ground on the north side of Stevenston Main Street. A small church dating from 1670 was erected in 1744 and replaced by the present church in 1833. The graveyard situated around the church, contains over 420 monumental stones and extends on the east side down a steep slope to the Stevenston Bum. A large number of the stones am broken and illegible. Although it is thought that some stones were set in place during the 17th Century, the earliest legible stone dates from 1707. Within the church there are a number of commemorative plaques and stained glass windows upon which various persons are named. Vaults beneath the floor hold the remains of members of landed families in the area.

Here also in 1983 the legible monumental inscriptions were recorded, black and white photographs taken, and a map showing their location drawn. A Register of burials was sent to the Scottish Record Office in 1961, where it may be found at Ref. CH2/336/2. It contains records of burials from 1820 – 1849. It appears that after that date persons were buried in the graveyard of Ardrossan Parish Church or in the new local cemeteries.

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