Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

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Hughie
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Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by Hughie » Wed Jan 09, 2019 2:52 am

This is a very long article. I'll temporary lock it while I add posts over the next few days to maintain continuity. When completed I'll open it up for any comments.

Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald
January 1908

The old railway is a link in the history of Saltcoats. Last summer the Town Council removed the stone blocks which formed the sleepers, and smoothed down the roadway. The walls, which were broken down and dangerous, were repaired, and the place made trig. The site above the railway now forms an esplanade, safe to walk upon. Seats have been placed along it where visitors can sit and enjoy the fresh sea-breeze and then ever-varying view.

Two of the stone sleeper blocks have been taken from their bed close to the Free Church, and deposited as momentous and curios in the Archaeological section of the Glasgow Museum at Kelvinside. "What mean ye by the stones!" may be asked. It will be of interest to know something of their history, and particularly of the spot they were taken from. The coal from Stevenston Colliery was for long time conveyed to Saltcoats by canal, the first in Scotland. It terminated at the Coalree in Canal Street, on the spot now occupied by Parkend Cottages - numbers 21 to 37 Canal Street.

There it was transferred into carts and taken to the harbour. A large number of men and horses were employed in this work - a strange contrast to the quantity, speed, and force employed in the mineral traffic of today. The road was not then, as now, over the Kyleshill bridge, but on the level from Canal Street straight across the ground now occupied by the Glasgow & South-Western Railway, and along the shore, which became afterwards the turnpike road, and is now called Seaview Road, up Finlay's Brae (then much narrower and steeper than it is now) into Harbour Street and Quay Street to the harbour. The present inner wall, next to Seaview Road, was at first the only sea wall. It was built by the road trustees about the year 1811 for the protection of the road from the sea, which "actually washed the back of the houses and garden walls, and sometimes covered the road or street after it passes Kyleshill."

Added:
A large 1909/10 ordnance map of the Saltcoats area can be found in this earlier threetowners topic

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Re: Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by Hughie » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:18 am

Continued:
Mr Cunninghame, of Auchenharvie, had long intended forming a railway between the Coalree in Canal Street and the harbour, along the rocks and on the shore, which, he held, belonged to himself. The immediate cause of the railway being commenced was the action of the Road Trustees. In 1805 the Ayrshire Roads Act was passed, and under it the Trustees placed a toll-house (still standing) at M'Lachlan's Lane. The coal carts became liable in toll dues. This was considered rather hard on the coal company, as they had paved and kept up part of the road between the Coalree and the harbour. On Mr Cunninghame's remonstrances, the Trustees for two or three year accepted : compensation of £30 a year instead of the usual toll dues, but new regulations were made, and in 1810 dues of twopence per cart were imposed. The impost would amount to £350 to £400 annually on the coal traffic, although the coal passed over only about a fifth part of a mile of the road, the upkeep of which would not cost £10 a year.

In June, 1811, the railway was commenced. It was not then intended to carry it farther than the entrance to the town, which was then at the entrance to Harbour Street, at the house now called Erskine Place House, and which in the olden time was Miss Hamilton's. This was the first house in the town which was met with, coming from Stevenston on the shore road, and was the west limit of the reserved sands. Mr Cunninghame built the present outside sea wall, And between it and the present inner wall the railway was formed.

The ground, or rather the rocks, Mr Cunninghame claimed as his own property; while Lady Mary Montgomerie, then the representa-of the Eglinton family, claimed it as hers.

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Re: Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by Hughie » Thu Jan 10, 2019 7:21 pm

Continued:
The action which has been famous in the history of Saltcoats was then commenced by an interdict at the instance of Lady Mary to prevent the making of the railway. Her claim to the rocks and ground arose in this way :- In 1724 the Earl of Eglinton acquired from the Auchenharvie family the twenty shilling lands of the town of Saltcoats, and lands of the townhead thereof, that is to say, the whole town of Saltcoats lying within the parish of Stevenston, recording to the Cunninghames the Harbour and "these sands or lands lying betwixt tho Craig and the sea on the south and north sides, and betwixt the said James Cunninghame's house of Seabank and the town of Saltcoats on the east and west parts thereof, although part of the said twenty shilling land." Disputes afterwards arose as to the limits and extent of their lands.

There was a reference to arbiters in 1783, who decided that the smelting house (now Parkend House) and also the rocks and Skippers' Acre (now gardens of houses on north side of Canal Street) with some acres of Townhead mailing (now east of Rockvale) should belong to Cunninghame; but that Kyleshill and Bettleball House and yard (now the old barn at back of Parkend) should belong to Eglinton, reserving Cunninghame the Craig, or rocky ground, called the lands or sands bounded on the north by the Craigs, but including the Craig, and bounded on the south by the sea

The description of the lands or sands between the Craig and the sea, which was thought sufficient for the titles of 1724, was not sufficiently clear in 1785, and had become uncertain in 1811. A process was set agoing about the same time at the instance of the Aulds, tenants of Townhead or mailing lands, and other feaurs in the town for interdict against Mr Cunninghame to prohibit him from interfering with their use of collecting seaware, quarrying stones, or carrying away gravel or sand from the beach, bleaching and drying clothes on the shore, and bathing.

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Re: Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by Hughie » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:15 pm

Continued:
There was a long proof in January. 1813. Once a year for several year afterwards there was some formal step taken, but in 1816 the proceedings fell asleep. After a sleep of thirty three years the action was wakened up in 1849, and it was not till 1854 that a final decision was given in Mr Cunninghame's favour.

The first part of the railway from the Coalree to Erskine Place was finished in the end of 1812, and was in use till 1830, when it was altered and re-formed on a different level, but in the same place. From 1812 to 1830 the coal was transferred into carts at Erskine Place, and carted to the harbour. In 1831 the railway was extended along the back of the Saracen's Inn to the harbour. This part was not much more than twenty years in use, as the railway as a whole fell very much into desuetude after 1852

Some interesting points were brought out at the proof in 1813. The witnesses were all solemnly sworn, purged of malice and partial counsel, and interrogated upon oath. Their evidence went to show acts of possession on the parts of both claimants and their tenants in the use of the shore, etc., when and where they had quarried and lifted stones and seaweed, and whether or not they had been allowed or molested, and by whom. John Hutchison, tailor, and Matthew Auld, coalhewer, both deponed that long ago they had seen the sea flow up to the gate of the entry at Seabank House. John Kelso, collier in Stevenston, deponed that the water taken from Stanley Burn was first put upon the wheel of Kyleshill Machine Pit more than sixty years ago.

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Re: Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by Hughie » Sat Jan 12, 2019 7:32 pm

Continued:
William Burns, chemist, settled in Saltcoats, 1801. His works were first established at the foot of Kyleshill, near John Cunninghame's (now Miss Welsh's) house. He got stones for his furnaces from the shore opposite Archibald Wilson's (now Mrs Little's) house About 1806 be removed his works beyond the Ropework, and part of the stones were taken from the shore.

Thomas Bolton, shipmaster, deponed when he first knew Saltcoats there were no houses upon the road from Kyleshill to Harbour Street, on either side of the way. That Miss Hamilton's house (Erskine Place House), upon the east side of Harbour Street, was then built, and it is, and always has been so long as the deponent recollects, the first house in the town that a person met with on the shore side of the road upon approaching the town on the east. Dopones he remember Windyhall being the principal inn of Saltcoats. (John Anderson, weaver, who died in Hamilton Street four years ago, was born in Windyhall on the same day as Queen Victoria) Windyhall Inn has now given place to the Klondyke Public House

Dr Miller deponed that he knew that Mr Cunninghame intended to fen part of the ground opposite Archibald Wilson's house for cotton work to Dunlop & Lindsay, Glasgow, but it was not carried out. He remembered Windyhall being the principal inn. Depones and adds of himself that he remembers the late Charles Crookshanks at Bogside coming from Windyhall one afternoon a little intoxicated, insisted upon riding off the road opposite Archibald Wilson's upon the rocks, which he said would be the best road home, and he fell and was hurt, and he said, a good many years afterwards that it was shame that they did not build a dyke upon the side of the road there.

Thomas Scott, collier, wrought in the Kyleshill Pit. It was wrought by water wheel. The water of Stanley Burn drove the wheel. and passed through Auchenharvie or Seabank grounds on the way to the pit for half-a-mile. Cunninghame was to allow it on consideration of Eglinton giving up rent of £5 which Mr Reid (Cunninghame) paid his Lordship for a water course below the Ardrossan ground to the seashore from the Raise Mine in Seabank ground.

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Re: Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by Hughie » Tue Jan 15, 2019 7:51 pm

Final
Robert Weir of Kirkhall remembered when there was no made road between Findlay's Brae (at the Free Church) and Miss Hamilton's (Erskine Place). The carts went always that way, at low water, but for passage at high water a few large stones were placed there, to raise the road higher, and repel the force of the sea, by Andrew Gibson, Vintner, who had kept a public house called the Cross Keys, near the corner of Quay Street, and this was considerably more than twenty year ago. That Gibson did so because there was no passage at high water for travellers between Findlay's Brae and his house, unless they went round by Findlay's brae and down the lane, and Gibson was in use to point out this road to travellers in order to induce them to go to his inn in preference to Mitchell's inn (afterwards the Queen's Arms), which was at the foot of Braidshaw roading.

That at the earliest period the deponent remembers carts going with coals to the harbour; used to go by Findlay's brae, and they returned empty by Harbour Street, in doing which the horses were often up to the knees in water. Being interrogated if he knows the boundary of Kyleshill, depones that he does not. He had beard five thousand stories about it, which varied just as it suited the interest of the parties, but he did not believe one of them.

The old railway fell into disuse shortly after 1852, when Merry & Cunninghame started the Ardeer Iron Works. Several times the sea wall was broken down by the sea, and the railway partly washed away. After one of these breaks the rails were laid on wooden sleepers, supported on trees brought down from Seabank and placed by Mr Cunninghame's own workmen, the sea washing underneath. The traffic passed over this platform for a year or two till the wall was restored again. After another breach the traffic was finally interrupted. The rails all the way to tho harbour were lifted.

When Kenneth & Whitefield became tenants of Auchenharvie Colliery, the rails were laid from No. 1 Pit through the washing-house green and alongside of the ropework (now the Laundry). and also along the sea wall; but the railway company, rather than allow the crossing of their line to be made, lowered the dues for haulage to Ardrossan, and tho coal continued to go there.

The Town Council has made a great improvement, and a further one could be made by lowering the sea wall all or part of the way to the harbour, so that persons walking could see over. The esplanade would then be a favourite walk and resort for health and pleasure.
Last edited by Hughie on Tue Jan 15, 2019 7:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Thanks to those who informed me of the duplicate last post - I've now added the proper final post.

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Re: Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by Max » Mon Jan 21, 2019 1:39 am

Thanks Hughie

I found this old OS map a handy reference showing the old railway lines although one of the street names you mentioned, namely Erskine Place, is not in this version.

Erskine Place is shown in the other OS map linked earlier in this thread, between Hill Street and Seaview Road, on the side nearer the Saracen’s Head hotel, which folk might remember as the Grange Hotel.

https://maps.nls.uk/view/74937986

Regards

Gordon Maxwell
Here lies our land: every airt
Beneath swift clouds, glad glints of sun,
Belonging to none but itself.
We are mere transients, who sing
Its westlin' winds and fernie braes,
Northern lights and siller tides,
Small folk playing our part.
'Come all ye', the country says
You win me, who take me most to heart

author: Kathleen Jamie

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Re: Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by Hughie » Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:22 am

Thanks for that, Gordon. Well done! It's great being able to see what was around at that time. :)

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Re: Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by Max » Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:55 pm

I was lucky enough to be able to purchase a brand new copy of “The Auchenharvie Colliery” compiled by the Three Towns Local History Group. It was an excellent accompaniment to this thread, highlighting the importance of the Cunninghames in the development of Saltcoats harbour and the coal mining operations of Stevenston and Saltcoats.

Next time we get to visit the homeland I’ll be taking a long stroll along the old canal path and picturing just what it would have looked like back in the day.

Our wee town is so full of history that I’m glad to see preserved here for future generations to appreciate, from my own generation who can just barely remember the old Saracen’s Head building extended all the way down to the outer sea wall where the wagons would have once ended their path pulled by horses to deposit coal until the ultimate demise of Saltcoars harbour as an export site of coal and working salt pans.

It would be awesome to see the old store room on Saltcoats harbiur turned into a museum showcasing the unique story of how the harbour came to be built and become a pivotal part of the re-development of the Braes.
Here lies our land: every airt
Beneath swift clouds, glad glints of sun,
Belonging to none but itself.
We are mere transients, who sing
Its westlin' winds and fernie braes,
Northern lights and siller tides,
Small folk playing our part.
'Come all ye', the country says
You win me, who take me most to heart

author: Kathleen Jamie

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Re: Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by madge » Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:38 pm

At the moment the Harbour house is being made wind and water tight. A committee has been formed
with a view to further development. A public meeting is due to take place tomorrow (Tuesday) in the
Argyle Centre, Saltcoats at 7pm


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Re: Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by Hughie » Tue Jan 22, 2019 7:08 am

Thanks, Madge. Hope they have a good turn-out. :)

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Re: Saltcoats - The old railway to the harbour

Post by Scott McCallum » Tue Jan 22, 2019 2:10 pm

Image

This photo has been posted before on the forum but it shows the positions of the long-gone plates on top of which the line was laid and where the line ran under the Saracen's Head Hotel.
Scott McCallum

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