Classification and Statistics

Settlement Type: town
Population (2011): 33698    
(2001): 33090
(1991): 32988
(1981): 32969
(1971): 23019
(1961): 16911
(1951): 14745
(1901): 9603
(Parliamentary Burgh)
(1881): 8498
(1871): 6866
(1861): 7060
(1851): 7534
(1841): 4594

Tourist Rating: Two Stars
Text of Entry Updated: 15-JAN-2020

Latitude: 55.6147°N Longitude: 4.667°W
National Grid Reference: NS 321 389
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The Irvine Development Corporation (IDC) took on the planning responsibilities for the designated area, leaving operational functions to the Town Council and Ayrshire County Council. The New Town was designed around a north-south road (the A78 Irvine Bypass), which was opened by Lord Kirkhill, the Minister of State for Scotland in the mid 1970s, with Northern and Southern Approach Roads providing access to the town centre from the west. The town centre was improved through pedestrianisation of the Bridgegate and High Street in the mid 1980s but still feels homely, like a small market town. Outside the town centre new residential neighbourhoods were designed to avoid through-traffic, and segregate that traffic from pedestrians. These neighbourhoods include Bourtreehill, Broomlands, Castlepark, Girdle Toll, Lawthorn and Stanecastle. By the time of its demise in 1996, the IDC had built more than 6000 social houses for rent although more than half of this stock had become owner-occupied through right-to-buy legislation. The IDC's last houses were remarkable; constructed in a rich variety of vernacular styles in the Irvine Harbourside area. More recent expansion has been through architecturally-bland private housing developments.

After a ten-year hiatus, the work of the IDC was continued by the Irvine Bay Regeneration Company, which was created in 2006 and undertook a number of successful projects before being wound up in 2017, with its responsibilities passing to North Ayrshire Council's Economic Growth Service.

Irvine benefits from substantial green spaces; Eglinton Country Park to the north, the marshland of Bogside and sand dunes of the Ardeer Peninsula to the northwest, Irvine Beach Park to the west, and Glasgow Gailes Golf Course, Milgarholm Park and Shewalton Moss to the south, together with a number of nature reserves, developed by the IDC but transferred to the Scottish Wildlife Trust in 1996. The IDC was also responsible for a large number of trees; the broadcaster Magnus Magnusson planted their millionth in 1981.

Irvine is surrounded by some fine links golf courses; Irvine Golf Club was founded in 1887 and plays on the Bogside course, while Ravenspark is a municipal course and there are four further courses to the south at Gailes.

The rocks here are coal measures (sandstone, siltstone and mudstone) laid down in coastal environments between 308 and 319 million years ago during the Carboniferous Era, with sills later injected between and cut across by dykes.

The Treaty of Irvine was signed in Seagate Castle on 9th July 1297 between the Scots and English. The surrender of the Scots brought a temporary halt to the Wars of Independence, although gave rise to a rift between Robert the Bruce (1274 - 1329) and William Wallace (1270 - 1305).

Other notable people born in Irvine include: the Covenanter Rev. Robert Blair (1593 - 1666), poet James Montgomery (1771 - 1854), artist George Henry (1858 - 1943), illustrator Agnes Miller Parker (1895 - 1980), another artist Matthew Dalziel (b.1957), athlete Cameron Sharp (b. 1958), politician Fiona Hyslop (b. 1964), actress Julie Graham (b.1965), journalist Shelley Jofre (b.1969), pentathlete Stephanie Cook (b.1972), bowler Paul Foster (b.1973), musician Simon Neil (b.1979) and curling champion Scott Andrews (b.1989).

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited in 1956 and 1979.

Irvine has a lengthy industrial heritage including chemical and railway works, forges, a shipyard and a Royal Ordnance Factory, which operated from 1917 until 1957. Rockware Glass opened a factory in Irvine in 1921, became part of the Ardagh Group in 2006 and now makes more than 300 million bottles for whisky, vodka and gin annually. Hyster set up a large factory to build forklift trucks on part of the former Royal Ordnance Factory in 1960. The plant grew to employ more than 500 people but closed when production moved to Ireland in 2009. The Irvine Development Corporation built industrial estates at Fullarton, Heatherhouse, North and South Newmoor, Meadowhead, Oldhall West, Riverside Business Park (Oldhall East) and Shewalton. The first significant company to come to the New Town was the pharmaceutical manufacturer Beecham, which was established at Shewalton in 1970 and subsequently expanded. It continues to operate today as GlaxoSmithKline. Ailsa Trucks built buses on another part of the former Royal Ordnance Factory from 1971, using Volvo chassis. They built a new factory in the north of the town in 1978, occupying the site of the army's former Eglinton Vehicle Depot. Ailsa was taken over by Volvo in 1985 but the plant closed in 1999 and the site was later zoned for housing development. Scottish & Universal Newspapers built a printing plant at South Newmoor Industrial Estate in 1978. The electronics manufacturer Sanmina-SCI opened at South Newmoor in 1983 but their plant closed in 2002 with the loss of more than 400 jobs. Fullarton Computer Industries was founded here in 1978, had expanded internationally but also failed. The immense Caledonian Paper Mill began production at Shewalton in 1989.

There are two local newspapers: the Irvine Herald and Irvine Times.

References and Further Reading
Close, Rob (1992) Ayrshire and Arran: An Illustrated Architectural Guide. The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, Edinburgh
Close, Rob and Anne Riches (2012) The Buildings of Scotland: Ayrshire and Arran. Yale University Press, New Haven and London
Smith, Robin (2001) The Making of Scotland. Canongate Books Ltd, Edinburgh
Strawhorn, John (1985) The History of Irvine: Royal Burgh and New Town. John Donald Publishers Ltd., Edinburgh
Wilson, Hugh and Lewis Womersley (1967) Irvine New Town: Final Report on Planning Proposals. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, Edinburgh

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