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Ardrossan

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Ardrossan (Gael. ard-rois-an, 'highish foreland'), a seaport town and watering-place of Cunninghame, N Ayrshire, 1 mile WNW of Saltcoats. By water it is 13 miles E by N of Brodick in Arran, 14½ NNW of Ayr, and 87 NE of Belfast; and by a section of the Glasgow and South-Western railway, it is 8½ miles SSE of Fairlie terminus, 6 WSW of Kilwinning Junction, 9½ WNW of Irvine, 20½ NNW of Ayr, 17½ WNW of Kilmarnock, 31½ SW of Glasgow, and 79¼ WSW of Edinburgh. Lying on the northern shore of Ayr Bay, at the entrance of the Firth of Clyde, Ardrossan has its own little North and South Bays, parted by the low headland of Castle Craigs, which got its name from the great stronghold of the Montgomeries. By them acquired about 1376 through marriage with the sole heiress of Sir Hugh de Eglinton, this castle according to tradition had been the scene of one of Wallace's exploits, who by firing the neighbouring hamlet lured forth its English garrison to quench the flames, slew them as they returned, and cast their bodies into a dungeon, thereafter known as `Wallace's Larder. ' Cromwell is said to have demolished it; and its scanty but picturesque remains comprise only the angle of one tower, the vaulted kitchen, and two arched cellars, with a broad stepped passage leading down to them. On the Cannon Hill, hard by, stood the old parish church, overwhelmed by the storm of 1691; a tombstone in its kirkyard is sculptured with two escutcheons, one of them bearing the lion rampant of Scotland, and is popularly associated with a warlock baron, the ` Deil o' Ardrossan.' It was believed that ` were any portion of the mould to be taken from under this stone and cast into the sea, forthwith would ensue a dreadful tempest to devastate sea and land.'

The town, which arose as an adjunct of the harbour, consists of wide, well-built streets, crossing each other at right angles, with a handsome crescent to the E, a good many tasteful villas, and the Pavilion, an occasional residence of the Earl of Eglinton. Erected into a burgh of barony in 1846, it partially adopted the General Police Act prior to 1871, and is governed by a provost, 2 junior magistrates, and 6 commissioners. It has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, branches of the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank, 29 insurance agencies, a gas and water company, a large hotel with baths (1807; refitted 1833), a neat town-hall, a reading-room, a library, a Good Templars' hall, a lifeboat institution, and two Saturday papers, the Liberal Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald (1853) and the Conservative Ayrshire Weekly -News (1859). Places of worship are the New Parish or quoad sacra church (1844; cost over £3000; 840 sittings) with a spire, a Free church (1859; cost £2000) also with a spire, a U.P. church (1857; cost £1300), an Evangelical Union church (1861; cost £550), and St Andrew's Episcopal church (1875), a good Early English structure, at present wanting chancel and tower. Two public schools, with respective accommodation for 138 and 500 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 113 and 351, and grants of£98,17s. 6d. and £345,9s. 9d. The harbour was founded on 31 July 1806 by Hugh, twelfth Earl of Eglinton (1740-1819), who the same year was raised to the British peerage as Baron Ardrossan. Steam-tugs were then unknown, and the navigation of the Clyde above the Cumbraes was often baffling and tedious, above Port Glasgow open to none but very small craft, so his lordship's idea was to make this the port of Glasgow, with which it should be connected by the Glasgow, Paisley, and Johnstone Canal. Accordingly the works were projected on a scale so magnificent as would have rendered them almost the finest in Britain; but, far exceeding the estimates, they were brought to a standstill in 1815, over £100,000 having already been expended, and Telford and Rennie requiring £300,000 more. They were not resumed till 1833, when the thirteenth earl came of age, and then were completed on a greatly reduced though still considerable scale, the total cost being upwards of £200,000, and the harbour comprising two tidal basins of 6 and 18 acres, and a wet-dock of 4 acres, with 19 feet at high water over the lock-sill. The whole is well supplied with steamcranes and other appliances for loading and discharging; whilst a lighthouse with white flashing light stands at the NW point of the outer breakwater, and a beacon tower on sheltering Horse Island, a low and grassy islet of some 12 acres, lying ¾ mile to the WNW. At first a sub-port of Irvine, Ardrossan was constituted a head port in 1858, and at the close of 1880 had on its register 108 sailing vessels of 12,553 and 11 steamers of 3547 tons, against an aggregate tonnage of 10,326 in 1860,11,396 in 1864, 12,173 in 1869, and 12,943 in 1874. The following table gives the tonnage of vessels that entered and cleared from and to foreign and colonial ports and coastwise, in cargoes and also-for the three last years-in ballast:-

Entered Cleared
  British Foreign Total British Foreign Total
1864 76,038 934 76,972 268,385 26,238 294,623
1869 66,224 2084 69,028 245,798 19,341 265,139
1874 273,135 20,921 294,056 276,107 20,583 296,690
1879 396,905 13,308 410,213 389,872 14,515 404,387
1880 349,167 11,126 360,293 354,901 10,822 365,723

Of the total, 3117 vessels of 360,293 tons, that entered in 1880,1062 of 210,917 tons were steamers, 2155 of 175,132 tons were in ballast, and 3055 of 339,011 tons were coasters; whilst the total, 3070 of 365,723 tons, of those that cleared, included 1067 steamers of 212,098 tons, 449 vessels in ballast of 43,937 tons, and 2913 coasters of 307,991 tons. The principal foreign trade is with France, the United States, Spain, and Portugal; and imports are timber, grain, limestone, iron ore (8668 tons in 1878,1407 in 1879), and pyrites (14,643 tons in 1879); exports being coal (221,567 tons coastwise, 66,230 to foreign countries, in 1879) and pig-iron. In 1879 the total value of foreign and colonial imports was £53,671 (£115,900 in 1876), of exports £95,543, and of customs £66. A floating dock and a patent slip can each accommodate ships of 500, and a graving-dock ships of 1500, tons; and here during 1875-80,22 sailing vessels of 1392 tons were built. Fishing employs 158 boats of 767 tons; and there are 6 timber yards, a large iron foundry, 3 iron-works, besides 3 sail-making, 2 nailmaking, and 3 block and pump establishments. A grain market is held every Thursday, and a fair on the second Tuesday of June. Pop. (1837) 920, (1851) 2071, (1861) 3192, (1871) 3845, (1881) 4009.

The parish contains also the western portion of Saltcoats. Bounded N by Dalry, E by Kilwinning, SE by Stevenston, SW by the Firth of Clyde, and W by West Kilbride, it has an extreme length from N to S of 4¾ miles, a varying breadth of 1&hz. and 2¾ miles, and an area of 7145½ acres, of which 435¾ are foreshore and 41½ water. Montfode and Stanley Burns descend to the shore to W and E of the town, and Caaf Water with its affluent the Munnock Burn traces most of the northern boundary; Knockdewart Loch (1¾ x ½ furlong), in the NW, is the only lake of the interior, Ashmore Loch (½ x ¼ mile) lying just within Stevenston. The surface has a general northward rise, attaining 208 feet near the ruins of Montfode or Montfort Castle (1¾ mile NW of the town), 287 near Sorbie, 464 on Knockrivock Mount, 351 on Moss Mulloch, 500 near Drumcastle Mill, 356 near Low Dykehead, 536 near Coalhill, and 794 on the cairn-crowned Knockdewart Hills. The rocks are chiefly of the Carboniferous formation, including coal and ironstone, neither of them worked, and excellent limestone and sandstone. Trap rocks, too, at the town, eruptive through the carboniferous strata, were largely quarried for the breakwater. The soil is generally light and sandy between the shore and the foot of the hills, and a stiffish clay on the uplands, but almost everywhere has been long and highly cultivated. Much the largest proprietor is the Earl of Eglinton, owner in the shire of 23,631 acres of an annual value of £49,551 (£9520½ for minerals, £4525½ for harbour works); but 4 other landowners hold within Ardrossan a yearly value of £500 and upwards, 25 of between £100 and £500,46 of from £50 to £100, and 114 of from £20 to £50. In the presbytery of Irvine and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, the civil parish is divided between two quoad sacra parishes-New Parish, consisting of the town, and Ardrossan parish, including all the rest, together with a bit of West Kilbride.

Ardrossan parish has its church at Saltcoats, a living worth £403 per annum, and a population (1871) of 3420. Valuation of civil parish (1843) £11,775, (1860) £23,077, (1880) £39,904,12s., including £2420 for railways. Pop. (1801) 1846, (1821) 3200, (1841) 4947, (1861) 6776, (1871) 7221, (1881) 7687.—Ord. Sur., sh. 22,1865.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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