about the beginning of the nineteenth century, the only communication
routes entering 'Stevenstoune'
(as it was then spelt) were rough tracks which became impassable to
wheeled vehicles during inclement weather. Between 1810 and 1840 trade
was at a low ebb in Scotland, due primarily to the Napoleonic wars and
the civil war raging in America, when an embargo on trade between Great
Britain and the United States was imposed. But in 1849 trade took a turn
as far as Stevenston was concerned and the Glengarnock Iron Company
built five blast furnaces on the foreshore to smelt pig-iron. The site
was selected primarily because iron ore and coal could be mined
extensively in the district.
the turn of the nineteenth century, steel was coming into its own as a
substitute for wrought iron and the pig-iron industry began to contract.
The Stevenston Iron Works was at a disadvantage as the pig-iron produced
at Ardeer was not quite the best for steel making due to the high
incidence of impurities in the ore. Although there was plenty of iron
ore in the district, particularly around Dairy, the ironmasters had to
import ore from Spain and North Africa, particularly Tunisia, to enable
them to compete with other pig-iron manufacturers in the county.
ore was shipped to the port of Ardrossan
and transported by rail to Stevenston. Merry
& Cunningham Ltd.,
who had succeeded the Glengarnock Iron Company
as owners of the works, decided, with a view to cutting the costs in
importing iron ore, to undertake to build a quay running out into the
Firth of Clyde for 300 yards from high water mark. The object in view
was to bring the ore boats into their own pier as against the port of
Ardrossan. They proceeded to dump their slag into the sea for that
purpose and a promontory stretched for fully 300 yards out into the
Firth. The project was fairly well advanced; piles were driven in at the
extremity and for some distance, a concrete pier was laid down. The
project was abandoned only after it was obvious to those concerned that
during rough weather, no ship could tie up safely in such an exposed
position. The remains of this quay are still to be seen and the area is
still referred to as the ' slag
point ' or ' old
pier '. The blast
furnaces were worked around the clock shifts and iron was cast three
times in the twenty-four hours, each pig bar having 'Glengarnock'
stamped along it. The old trade mark was continued by Merry &
Cunningham until they went into liquidation in 1931.
The works were dismantled shortly after, and finally razed to the ground
after being in
existence for nearly ninety years.
whole area was transformed by the public works contractors, Shanks &
McEwan, and a beach
holiday camp was
laid out which had not a very long life as the war intervened and the
camp was used as a military garrison for the duration of the last war.
That camp, too, has now passed into oblivion.
furnaces themselves stood on the ground immediately behind the present Trelawney
Terrace and, as had
been previously stated, there were five in number. To the immediate
south was the ammonia works and to the rear of the only remaining
vestige of the iron works, namely, ' Seamore
House ', which
today stands isolated, was practically in the centre of activity.
Adjacent to it were the workshops of the craftsmen, namely the
engineering, blacksmiths and carpenters' shops. Facing the front of
Seamore House, which incidently was the home of the work's chemists and
draughtsmen, was the laboratory and drawing office and a row of houses
which housed the craftsmen and foremen, and known locally as the
little more than 100 yards from the furnaces and pig-iron beds were the
company's houses, which housed the furnace keepers and the other skilled
workmen. They were built true to the tradition of furnacemen and
colliers' rows. But, unlike most, instead of having a common green in
the centre of the square, there was a pond of water; a man-made
reservoir, where water was harnessed and stored with pipes leading to
the works, and used for cooling the pig bars when cast, and damping the
sand again for remoulding. To replenish the water in the pond, water was
pumped from a 'weir' in the Stevenston Burn in the grounds of Ardeer
Cottage which was
originally the home of the iron works manager.
remains of the pump-house is still to be seen and it is interesting to
recall that this 'weir' was originally formed to carry the canal across
the burn and on to Saltcoats
harbour. It is worthy of note in passing that a firm favourite, but
dangerous game of Stevenston boys was cooking potatoes in the hot sand
between the pig bars when the furnace keepers' backs were turned. It is
claimed that those who have never tasted potatoes cooked in that fashion
have missed an excellent dish.
fact that the pond, or reservoir, was in the centre of the square
instead of the 'common green' was always a sore point with Ardeer
particularly latterly, when it was stagnant. An element of danger was
forever prevalent through children of a tender age having a tendency to
wander near the edge of the pond, and it was completely contrary to the
public health interest.
local housing, occupies the site.
Knowes, Deer Park Avenue, and the extension of Ardoch Crescent. The
only remaining part of Ardeer Square standing today is the Ardeer Store.
The other remaining vestige is the Free Church of Scotland and known to
the locals as the ' Wee Tin Kirk '.