To the south of the village is a large tract of waste and surrounding the arable possessions of the feuars and others, known as the "Common," or "Commonry," and which originally belonged to the feuars and villagers as Crown lands.
One of the most serious chapters in the history of our legislators has been the gradual expropriation of these commons from the working classes, as, originally self-appointed to guard and maintain the rights of the inhabitants of the manors, the administrators of the law have used their power to despoil the feuars of their rightful inheritance.
The lawyers, "the conservators of ancient barbarism," as Carlyle truly termed them, were good enough to tell the landlord that all uncultivated land within the manor was his property, subject, of course, to the rights of the commoners. These preservers of the peace and champions of law and order have indeed "respected" these rights, and in several instances overreached them. The matter is neatly put in the following well-known lines:
"It is a sin in man or woman
To steal a goose from off the common;
But what shall be that man's excuse
Who steals the common from the goose?"
At one time the common belonging to the Barony of Dasher, otherwise the village of Kippen, reached as far back over the hill known as the Black Brae as it was possible for the feuars to travel till the weathercock on the top of the old belfry in the churchyard was lost to sight, that constituting the march to the south.
We find, however, from documents and charters in the possession of Mr. Robert Dougal, Castlehill, that a contract or exchange was made between the feuars and the proprietor of Boquhan for the southern part of the common, in the Barony of Dasher, the portion conceded by the feuars being that part on the south side of the road leading to Wright Park. Mr. Dougal has also in his possession a sketch drawn by James Auld, Kippen, dated 10th Feb., 1817, giving the measurement of the existing common as 9 acres 24 falls 23 ells.
About this period a request was made by Mr. A. Littlejohn, writer, Stirling, craving liberty from the feuars to plant a number of trees on the common, but the feuars refused this request, believing, no doubt, that ample concessions had already been made.
The curling ponds and curlers' house of the Kippen Curling Club are constructed on Dasher Common.
Some distance west from the Dasher Common is the one known as the Shirgarton Common, comprising a piece of waste land extending across that part known as the Redgatehill.
This common, being in the Barony of Shirgarton, is entirely in Perthshire, and the feu charters and title deeds in possession of the feuars distinctly specify their right to quarry stones and mortar for building purposes, cut turf and fail in the commons of the respective baronies in which they are situated, as also the casting or digging of peats in the portions of the peat moss belonging to the various baronies.
The Village Green
A "Tiff" with the Laird.
The plot of ground at the foot of the Burn Loan, adjoining the farmhouse of Burnside, through which, according to an old charter, a highway leads from Burnside to the high street of Castlehill, was granted on lease as a washing or bleaching green to the feuars of Kippen for a term of 500 years by Robert Graham of Gartmore, in 1782, the feuars on their part agreeing to pay sixpence yearly. We can, however, find no account of this rent having ever been collected. Originally this washing green was double the size that it is at present.
Some years after the green was acquired, at a meeting of feuars convened for the purpose, it was agreed to enclose the eastern half, or portion, of the green with a thorn hedge, and thus fulfil the double purpose of preventing the inroad of cattle and other animals, while at the same time affording the villagers a means of hanging clothes on to dry. The feuars, having purchased the thorn plants, planted the hedge three feet from the march, on their own property, with a view to enabling them to have a footpath on the other side, and giving them access to articles that might be blown off, and also in order to keep the hedge properly trimmed.
On 10th February, 1842, a public meeting of the villagers was held on the green for the purpose of appointing a committee to act as caretakers, the following feuars being appointed:
Later, a dispute and threatened litigation arose in 1846 between the Laird of Boquhan and the feuars of Kippen regarding the building of a steading wall at Burnside Farm. The laird, holding the opinion that the hedge previously mentioned was a mutual one, proceeded to uproot a portion of it, with the purpose of building a dyke of some yards length on the line of same. The feuars in a body appeared on the scene, and vigorously protested against their hedge being interfered with, and unanimously agreed to institute legal proceedings should the work be persisted in. Operations were at once suspended, the dyke being ultimately built on the laird's own property, three feet from the hedge. Some of the old thorn trees can still be seen growing alongside the dyke.
Gillespie Memorial Hall
The Gillespie Memorial Hall was erected by Mrs. Honeyman Gillespie, a native of the parish, in memory of her husband, William Honeyman Gillespie, Esq., of Torbanehill, author of "An a priori Argument for the Being of God," and other works. This building was originally designed, and, indeed, part of the work commenced, to occupy a feu held as kirk property, adjoining Helensfield House, but, owing to some legal difficulty, it was transferred to the site it now occupies, and the work completed in 1877, at a cost of over £2,000.
This site was given free by the Rev. William Wilson, minister of the parish, and mainly owing to his zeal and energy was the work carried through. By a codicil in the late Mrs. Honeyman Gillespie's will certain restrictions have been made as to the purposes of this hall, and it is specially stipulated that in the event of the Church of Scotland becoming disestablished the hall shall then become the property of the Episcopal Church of England.
The ante-room of the hall contains a well-selected library, available to villagers and others at a small annual subscription.
Kippen Public Hall
The enlargement of the Castlehill School in 1897 rendered the old Parish School of no further use, and at this date a number of the villagers formed themselves into a company for the purpose of purchasing "the auld schule" from the School Board, and transforming it into a public hall. This they succeeded in doing, and the hall is now known as the Kippen Public Hall, the promoters by their action having to a certain extent met a long-felt want in the parish.
Inns and Public Houses
These were very numerous in the village at one time, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century there were no fewer than fifteen vendors of intoxicating liquors. The price of whisky was much lower than now, and we are informed that it contained less injurious constituents than the beverage in use at the present day. Pure malt whisky cost from 7s. 6d. to 8s. per gallon, while a gill of that stimulant could be had in the tap-room of one of these numerous inns, accompanied with cakes and cheese, for the modest sum of threepence.
The principal inn and hostelry in the village was the Black Bull, at present occupied as a private dwelling-house, and known as Black Bull House; the next in importance being the Crown Inn, also now occupied as a dwelling house, and believed to be the oldest at present in the village. The Cross Keys Inn occupied the same site as at present, while a hostelry occupied the site where the villa of Ben View is now erected, and in the small toll-house, immediately opposite (now used as a coal cellar), drink was also sold, the place being used as a kind of custom or toll-house, and named "The Grotto." The toll-keepers at Castlehill and Broich were also engaged in selling liquor.
At several other houses in the village, too numerous to mention, intoxicants were sold, and rivalry seems to have prevailed amongst the vendors, as it is recorded that one publican bearing the name of Andrew Blair, whose inn was located opposite the present Cross Keys Hotel, had the alluring signboard above his door, "The Cheap Sale Shop." The block of buildings, where the Crown Hotel and posting establishment is at present, did duty as an inn, with schoolhouse attached.