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The Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal

Posted: Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:57 am
by Hughie
Ardrossan And Saltcoats Herald
20 December 1879

The Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal

Sir, - Referring to the communication on this subject in your last, we may state the first intention was to carry the canal to Saltcoats Harbour instead of Ardrossan. As this subject may interest some of your readers, we will refer to it shortly. So early as late Aug., 1803, a report on the scheme was made by John Rennie, C.E., in a letter to the Earl of Eglinton - "Upon a survey and plan of a canal from the River Clyde at the city of Glasgow, to the west coast of the County of Ayr at or near the harbour of Saltcoats."

Mr Rennie's report begins thus - My Lord I have minutely examined the country which lies between the River Clyde at the City of Glasgow and the Harbour of Saltcoats, and Mr John Ainslie, (the celebrated surveyor and author of the sheet map of Scotland, &c.) has taken a survey of the same for the purpose of ascertaining the practicability and expense of making a navigable canal between those places, the result of which has answered my most sanguine expectations, and I doubt not will prove equally satisfactory to your Lordship and others interested in the project.

" Mr Rennie further says - " The line continues on the same level, forming summit level of about 28 1/6 miles to within about a mile of the Harbour of Saltcoats. It then descends to the Harbour in the distance of about a mile, and by the same number of locks as it rose at the Glasgow end, making on the whole from the Clyde to the Harbour of Saltcoats, a distance of 35 1/2 miles. The plan shows the canal to enter the Harbour of Saltcoats, on the north side at Windmill Street and opposite the old pier head.

Mr Rennie says also, "The town of Saltcoats stands on a point of land in St George's Channel, which is bounded by the bay of Ayr on the south, and that of Ardrossan on the north. Such a situation is extremely favourable for vessels outward bound, for no sooner are they got beyond the Point, or rather what is called the Perch, then they may be said to be in open sea.

Having plenty of room to work against adverse winds There is little danger, therefore, of vessels being long wind-bound in this harbour, for let the direction of it be ever so adverse, providing a vessel can work and keep the sea at all, she may get out of this harbour if proper conveniences were made for that purpose. Saltcoats, therefore, is as favourable a place for the termination of such a canal as can he wished." - "But if the canal is carried into execution, it will be proper to form a harbour on a large scale, which the situation of the place affords an opportunity of doing." The report gives also details and estimates for a canal of two different sizes, &c.

Following this report, a difference took place between the Earl of Eglinton and Robert Reid Cunninghame, the proprietor of the harbour of Saltcoats, as to the proposed extension on the north side, and this not being settled, the matter broke off - and as Lord Eglinton had an idea that a better Harbour could be made at Ardrossan, his Lordship employed Mr Telford, C.E., to examine the place, and also to suggest relative to the canal.

Mr Telford begins thus - My Lord - Agreeably to your Lordship's instructions, I have examined the plan laid down for a Canal between the City of Glasgow and the town of Saltcoats, and also the coast at and near Saltcoats." After referring to various points Mr Telford goes on to say -
" The present harbour of Saltcoats is very much exposed to the South and West winds. Unless vessels enter the harbour there is no place of shelter, and from its rocky and narrow entrance, scarcely any expense can render it commodious and safe. All the coast to the South of Ardrossan Head is equally exposed with Saltcoats, but immediately North of that head, on Ardrossan Bay, is a situation peculiarly well calculated for an extensive and safe harbour. A rocky head of about half mile in length forms a complete protection against the South and West winds; and the small island, called the Horse Isle, form, a protection against the only other reach of seas which comes from the North End of the Island of Arran."

"The space in the protected part of the Bay in spacious, and will admit of wet and dry docks and the entrance of a canal. The rocks which compose the head and a part of the shore being sort of freestone, will be easily cut, and will afford materials for rubble work; and there is within a short distance an excellent stratum of hard free-stone, fit for wharfs and piers, and for forming locks. And nature having already formed the chief protection, the artificial works will be constructed at a comparatively moderate expense."

"The ground adjoining the Bay is very proper for all the conveniences which can possibly be wanted, let the works be on whatever scale may be required, and I do not hesitate to recommend this is the only fit Western termination for the Canal, &c."
Lord Eglinton had Mr Telford's suggestion immediately printed by J. & P. Wilson, Ayr, (Wee Johnnie of Burns, and his brother Peter.) His Lordship had also the report by John Rennie printed - prefaced by a note from which we extract in part, “Mr Rennie has not since had an opportunity of making another survey ; yet, according to the opinion of other professional men, a much better situation for a Harbour presents itself."

When therefore a termination of the Canal at the Harbour of Saltcoats is mentioned, the reader will understand that it is not the present Harbour that is meant; but the best situation that can be found for a harbour at or near the town of Saltcoats. It was intended that Mr Rennie should have re-surveyed the ground with reference to the harbour before his report upon the Canal was printed; but the impatience expressed by some of the subscribers and the public for his report has induced Lord Eglinton to print it for their satisfaction, though it is imperfect in this respect."

Lord Eglinton also issued the following printed circular, (by J. & P. Wilson,) which was addressed to subscribers and others : - "A meeting of the subscribers towards the expense of making survey of a Canal from Glasgow to the West Coast of Ayrshire, at or near the town of Saltcoats, is to be held in the Tontine Inn, at Glasgow, on Wednesday, the 24th day of October, instant, when Mr Rennie's report and estimate of the expense with Mr Ainslie's plan of the Canal will be laid before the meeting." "A full attendance would be of the utmost consequence, in order to adopt the measures which may appear to the meeting best calculated for carrying into effect an object of so much utility and importance to the West of Scotland, Oct., 15. 1804."

We need scarcely say that at the meeting in Glasgow, on the 24th Oct., Lord Eglinton carried the meeting with him for a change to Ardrossan, and a new plan of the canal and a plan of the harbour at Ardrossan was ordered to be executed by Mr Telford. Mr Telford's report on the harbour is dated from Saltcoats, 5th January, 1805. After narrating the advantages, he estimates the expense of the harbour at £40,000. Appended to Mr Telford's report there is also that of Mr Murdoch Downie, a master in the Royal Navy for 21 years, - previously 10 years in the merchant service, and acquainted with the seas in this quarter.

Mr Downie's report is also dated Saltcoats, 5th January, 1805, and under headings - Facility of entrance from the sea; outlet to the sea ; depth of water ; conveniencey of anchorage and mooring: capacity and security to shipping and a harbour proper for the accommodation of shipping and trade, and an entry port to canal proposed to be made from thence to Glasgow. He concludes," that this bay is the only place along the West Coast where a harbour of this kind could have been constructed so as to possess the same advantage."

Mr Telford's report on the canal is dated, Saltcoats, 7th January, 1804. It is headed - Report respecting the proposed Canal from Glasgow to Ardrossan Bay, on the west coast of Ayrshire, as ordered at the meeting in Glasgow, on 24th October Last. Mr Telford in his report proposed to alter the line of canal as surveyed by Mr. Rennie, and to carry it through Paisley to Johnstone without a single lock, and says, " taking it for granted that the harbour will be constructed at Ardrossan, the line of canal must take a very different direction than when intended to terminate at Saltcoats, the ground is very favourable for the change as it affords more room to place the locks at a proper distance from each other," &c, &c. The line of the Canal shows on the plan as crossing the Stevenston road below Border Farm, thence to the south corner of the Ardrossan Park Wall, north of the Castle-hill, round by Tinkler-hill (where is now Montgomerie Street), and thence to a wet dock shown to the rear, and west of what is now the Hotel.

The wet dock was to occupy a space of 300 yards in length, and 100 yards in breadth, and hold 16 feet depth of water. A report relative to the proposed canal from the city of Glasgow to the harbour of Ardrossan, on the west coast of the County of Ayr in Scotland, in again drawn up by Mr Telford, dated 5th June, 1805, it is divided into the five following heads : -
Ist, An account of the general situation of the country adjacent to, and connected with the line of this proposed inland navigation.
2d, description of the particular district through which the canal will pass, and a detailed account of the canal, and the work pertaining thereto.
3d, An estimate of the expense.
4th, An estimate of the probable revenue, with some observations respecting the different branches of trade which would constitute that revenue.
5th, A report respecting the harbour of Ardrossan, where this canal will terminate, on the west coast of Ayrshire.

And to aid the foregoing description, the following maps will be annexed to this report -
Ist, A general map showing the connection with Liverpool and North of England, Dublin, and the North of Ireland; the Crinan Canal and Hebrides; the Firth of Clyde, Greenock, etc.; the City of Glasgow, Paisley, etc.; the Forth and Clyde Canal ; Leith, and the east coast; also, with the Caledonian Canal, and through it with the Baltic.
2d, A map of the particular district through which the canal passes, showing the situation of the coal mines, limestone quarries, cotton works alum works, ironstone mines, etc., adjacent to the line of canal.
3d, A map of the harbour of Ardrossan and the adjacent coast.

This report, etc., formed the groundwork for the passing of the Act for the construction of the Harbour the same year (1805). The Act for making the canal was passed shortly after (46 Geo. IH., cap. 75). It is entitled "An Act for making and maintaining a Navigable Canal from the Harbour of Ardrossan, in the County of Ayr, to Tradeston, near Glasgow, in the County of Lanark, and collateral cut from the said Canal to the Coal Works at Hurlet, in the County of Renfrew. The name and style of the Company was, "The Company of Proprietors of the Glasgow, Paisley, and Ardrossan Canal," who were empowered to raise and contribute a sum not exceeding £140,000. The first general meeting of the Canal Company was held at Paisley in July, 1806, and the operation commenced in May, 1807. The navigation between Paisley and Johnstone was opened in November, 1810, and between Glasgow and Paisley in October, 1811.

We may here mention that Mr Wilson, of Hurlet, in his view of Agriculture of Renfrewshire, published in 1812, refers to the canal thus - " The expense of the main line of canal from Glasgow, through Paisley and Johnstone, to Ardrossan - a distance of 31 1/2 miles - was estimated at £125,000 ; but the amount of subscriptions was only about a third part of this sum, the canal proprietors are now executing only the lower reach of the canal, viz, from Glasgow, through Paisley, to Johnstone, a distance of eleven miles, at an expense of about £90,000." And farther, he says - "The county is much indebted to the Earl of Eglinton for promoting this important and most useful undertaking." As to the first origin of the canal, Mr Wilson says also, about the year 1791 a canal from Paisley to Saltcoats had occurred to a number of gentlemen as a measure of essential service to the country, and in the Statistical Account of Beith, published in 1793, a line of canal is pointed out to Saltcoats or Irvine,

With regard to the accident referred to in your last, this is referred to in various prints and publications. A writer in the “Edinburgh Annual Register," for Nov. 1810, gives the number who lost their lives at 84, viz-52 males and 32 females. The Paisley Repository, No. 24, 4th edition, published 20th February, 1811, by John Millar, (Johnnie Millar as he was sometimes called), author of the "Witches of Renfrewshire," and other works, refers to the accident thus :-Upon the 31st of October, 1880, a "Passage Fly Boat," named the Countess of Eglinton, was launched here (Paisley) on the "Glasgow, Paisley, and Ardrossan Canal," and commenced going between Johnstone and Paisley on Tuesday, the 6th Nov., following.

On the 10th, being "Paisley Martinmas Fair Saturday," and, as stated by the Author in the "Annual Register," "every lad and lass who could master 8d must have a sail, and in place of going into the cabin, as stated in the " Repository which extends the whole length of the vessel, the only place intended for passenger they took possession of the cabin top. In consequence the boat heeled to the one side, and upwards of 180 people, men, women, and children, were plunged into the Canal Basin, in which the water was 6 feet deep.

The account in the "Repository gives the number drowned as 85, with details of their names, ages, sexes and occupations, and the streets they lived in. A lint is also given of those saved with their names, and making total on board of 200 persons. John Millar, being rather curious in arithmetical questions his works show, has given some details, such as the "average ages of the 85 persons drowned at 16 years, one month, and 7 days." of this accident an account may also be seen in Dr Burns' Historical Dissertations on the state of the poor, page 116, 1st edition ; written by the late Mr D. Wallace,

Having given authorities and references as to the first origin and Parliamentary name of the Canal, now, and for many years called the Glasgow, Paisley, and Johnstone Canal, it may be considered sufficient to give our signature simply,

Re: The Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal

Posted: Fri Aug 02, 2019 2:59 pm
by down south
Very interesting, Hughie. Particularly interesting is the revelation that the original proposal was to have the canal terminate at Saltcoats Harbour. It would appear from all this that the Earl of Eglinton didn't develop Ardrossan Harbour out of mere desire to do Saltcoats down, but because it was thought to be a better site for a harbour.


Re: The Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal

Posted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 2:50 am
by Hughie
Hughie wrote:
Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:57 am
The line of the Canal shows on the plan as crossing the Stevenston road below Border Farm, thence to the south corner of the Ardrossan Park Wall, north of the Castle-hill, round by Tinkler-hill (where is now Montgomerie Street), and thence to a wet dock shown to the rear, and west of what is now the Hotel.
I'm wondering what is meant by "Ardrossan Park Wall?" "Tinkler Hill" is a new one on me too, though I can visualise the local route of the canal coming down in the Montgomerie Street area, (from under the top of Glasgow Street) the route which the Caley railway was later to take to Montgomerie Pier.

Re: The Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal

Posted: Mon Aug 05, 2019 1:13 pm
by hahaya2004
Hughie, I found this about Tinkler Hill:
"A small hill a little to the S. E. of Meikle Ittington having a Trig Station thereon, it is a well known object Supposed to have derived its name from Tinkers or other tribes locating here in olden times."
The planned route of the canal (grey):
Ardrossan Park Wall might have been at or near Parkhouse. If you follow the road (Parkhouse Rd. & High Rd.) you would be south of Border.Tinkler Hill is to the north of Border.

Re: The Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal

Posted: Tue Aug 06, 2019 10:59 pm
by Hughie
Thanks, Irene. That canmore link shows the proposed line of the canal clearly. :)