Urr in the twelfth century From The Parish of Urr  
by Rev.David Frew (1909)

The ancient barony of Urr probably determined the bounds of the parish, when it came to be formed, some time in the twelfth, or early part of the thirteenth century. To that period of religious revival in Scotland, under the influence of Margaret, wife of Malcolm Canmore, and her son David I, is ascribed the general division of the country into bishoprics and parishes. The latter, as a rule, were associated with the existing baronies, and made co-terminous with them: the parish of Urr would be delimited accordingly, on the lines already fixed by the barony. The subsequent partition of the barony in the time of Bruce may be related in some way to the appearance of two parish churches in Urr simultaneously, which will be noticed later. The condition of things in Galloway, and consequently in Urr, about the time of its erection into a parish, shows some improvement upon the rudeness of existence in former days. The religious revival instituted by Queen Margaret, and other influences at work in the province since its incorporation into the Scottish kingdom, had not been without a salutary effect upon the social life of the people.

The land was still, to a great extent, covered with wood and swamp; but agriculture had risen to the level of a recognised industry, and was as far advanced in its methods as it was for three or four centuries afterwards. Besides black oats, rye, and long-bearded barley, such quantities of wheat were grown, that Edward I was able to draw upon them for the support of his army during his campaign in Galloway. The rise of monastic institutions in the province, and the distribution of parish clergy among the people, helped to spread the knowledge of agriculture, as well as other refining influences. Of course the cultivation of the soil still proceeded upon somewhat elementary lines. The possibility of reclaiming wet lands by drainage, and enriching poor ones with fertilising substances, was not yet understood, hence tillage was confined to the higher-lying regions, even practised upon the summits of considerable hills; and, when the portion of land utilised became worn - out and unfruitful, it was left to recover itself by the healing virtue of time. This explains the traces of past cultivation still visible on heights where no modern agriculturist would dream of attempting to grow a crop. 

The plough was of primitive structure, and was drawn by quite a herd of oxen, ten being no infrequent number. Where it could not be worked, or failed to take effect, the spade was brought into requisition. The harrows were simply bunches of whins or thorns tied to the tails of the oxen. When the grain had been gathered and dried, it was ground in a small stone handmill called a quern. This usually consisted of two round flat stones, the upper one having a narrow hole or funnel driven through its centre, and the lower one a wooden or metal pin inserted in it, on which the other revolved, and crushed the grain. Some of these stones have been- found in and around the parish of Urr, after having been used for other purposes, and are now carefully preserved. Much of the grain was not put through the quern, but made into malt, and brewed into ale. The mountains, forests, and uncultivated parts generally were no longer given over to wild animals, but stocked with black cattle, sheep, goats, and swine; which, in the absence of fences, had to be assiduously herded off the cultivated lands.

The clothing of the natives was still largely composed of animal skins; though wool had begun to be used, and, either in its natural state or spun into yarn, was woven into a coarse kind of cloth, which was utilised for raiment. Flax was grown in very few places, and linen consequently almost unknown. Shoes were hardly ever worn by the lower classes, though pieces of hide were sometimes tied upon the feet to cover and protect them. As usual in an undeveloped stage of society, the drudgery, and indeed most of the work, was left to the women, the time of the men being divided between idling and fighting. 

The houses of the poorer inhabitants remained very much as they had been for centuries: small huts of wooden beams and branches, plastered over with clay or mud, and roofed with heather, sod, or turf, which the cattle shared with the owner and his family. Large castles, however, after the Norman style, with thick stone walls and numerous apartments, moats and draw-bridges and other fortifications, began to be built by the nobles; and it was at this period the abbeys and monasteries arose, and grew into the splendid proportions which may still be traced and admired in such magnificent ruins as those of New Abbey and Dundrennan.

Register of Holm Cultram Abbey

 Motte of Urr   Galloway in the 17C.

Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material