STEWARTRY, the name which was given in Scotland to a district governed by a steward, an officer appointed by the king with jurisdiction over crown lands, and powers similar to those of a lord of regality. While the civil jurisdiction of a steward was equivalent to that of a sheriff, his criminal jurisdiction was much more extensive. The only remaining trace of this jurisdiction exists in the term stewartry, which in place of county is applied to the district of Kirkcudbright.
Galloway was in early times rather a tributary dependency of Scotland than an integral portion of the kingdom, and retained its old Celtic proprietary, and peculiar laws and usages, which were adverse to the introduction of a sheriffdom. It was for a long time ruled by a line of lords, who were among the most powerful feudatories of the Scottish crown. The Comyns, who in the course of time succeeded to the lordship, were overthrown and expatriated by Bruce ; and it seems to have been on their forfeiture that Eastern and Central Galloway were erected into the present stewartry. Western Galloway being already under the jurisdiction of the sheriff of Wigton. On the abolition of heritable jurisdictions in 1747, various regalities and baronies which had existed within the district were done away with, and the emancipated stewartry was placed under a steward-depute, whose functions were in every practical point of view the same as those of a sheriff-depute. Act I Vict. c.39, declares that in any existing or future statute the words sheriff, sheriff-clerk, &c. shall be held to apply to steward, steward-clerk, &c.