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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Saltcoats, a watering-place of Cunninghame district, Ayrshire, in the parishes of Ardrossan and Stevenston. Lying about the middle of the northern side of the Bay of Ayr, 1¼ mile ESE of the town of Ardrossan, it has a station on a branch-line of the Glasgow and South-Western railway, 4 miles WSW of Kilwinning Junction, and 29½ SW of Glasgow. Its site is low level ground in the vicinity of sandy bluffs and flat expanses, but is relieved from dulness by the vicinity of a range of high ground to the N, and by the prospect, across the waters, of the splendid mountains of Arran. Great improvements have been effected in recent years; some of the churches, one or two other public buildings, and a handsome spire on the town-house (1825), have claims to architectural beauty; the near neighbourhood of Ardrossan also is not a little pleasant; and the accommodations of Saltcoats itself, together with the character of its sea-beach, are such as to draw to it many families for summer sea-bathing. Places of worship within it are Ardrossan parish church (1774), the North church, the Free church, the Gaelic Free church, the East and West U.P. churches, the Congregational church (1863), and the Roman Catholic church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea (1856). The last is a good Early English edifice, built at a cost of £2200. A new public school, French Gothic in style, with accommodation for 500 children, and with a bell-tower 60 feet high, was erected in 1876; and in 1882 a new Academy, for 280 pupils, was built midway between Ardrossan and Saltcoats. The town has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, branches of the Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank, agencies of 19 insurance companies, an hotel, sea-baths, a gas company, an admirable drainage system, a cemetery, a horticultural society, a mission coast home, etc. Saltcoats was made a burgh of barony by a charter of 1528; but it soon lost its burghal character, and almost sank into extinction. It was originally a collection of clay-built cots, inhabited by poor persons who manufactured salt in small pans and kettles; and it thence obtained the name of Saltcotes. But it possessed only a fitful prosperity; and, about the year 1660, it had dwindled away to only four houses. In 1686, however, Robert Cuninghame, whose uncle, Sir Robert, had purchased the barony of Stevenston in 1656, built several large saltpans at Saltcoats, placed the manufacture of salt on an entirely new and advantageous footing, constructed a harbour on a scale which the circumstances of the case rendered large and enterprising, and opened various coal-pits in the vicinity on a plan to render the new harbour a place of large export for coal. The decayed hamlet grew suddenly into a considerable village; and the village thenceforth enlarged into a small town. The salt manufacture, engaging seven large saltpans, continued to flourish till the repeal of the salt duty in 1827, and is not yet quite extinct. A magnesia work, started in connection with the saltpans in 1802, was the earliest establishment of its kind in Scotland. Ship-building has, at various periods, been vigorously conducted, but has been so fitful as alternately to rise into prominence and to sink into extinction. Rope-making, also, has been a fluctuating trade. The commerce of the port has ceased for a good many years, having been absorbed by Ardrossan. It consisted chiefly in the export of coals to Ireland, and was of such extent that the amount of local dues yielded by it was about £120 a year. The harbour is a creek of the port of Irvine. A fair for cattle, pigs, and hiring is held on the last Thursday of May; and a justice of peace court sits on the first Friday of every month. Pop. (1821) 3413, (1841) 4238, (1861) 4780, (187l) 4624, (1881) 5096 of whom 2760 were females, and 3329 were in Ardrossan parish. Houses (1881) 1169 inhabited, 121 vacant, 11 building.—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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