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Stevenston Historical Timeline 


 Significant Dates in the History of Stevenston



The name 'Stevenston' is believed to have derived from Stephen or Steven, son of Richard Loccard or Lockhart, who acquired a grant of the lands from Richard Morville, Lord of Cunningham.



1240 'Stevenston' mentioned in a charter of the Loudoun family



King James IV of Scotland appointed representatives in the various districts to keep the peace for him. The Lord Eglinton  of the House of Montgomerie was appointed for North Ayrshire. Up to this point the office of King's Bailie for the Cunninghame district was vested in the Earl of Glencairn. This transfer of power gave life to a long and bloody feud which lasted more than a century. The Glencairns were the Lords of Turnlaw, or as it is better known Kerelaw Castle. The people of Stevenston were either serfs or retainers of Glencairn and would have to bear arms at all times at his command. The first act in the feud was the sacking and burning of Kerelaw Castle, which has remained in ruins to the present day.




Representatives of both families temporarily set aside their feud to fight with James IV at Flodden against the English. The King was slain and between 5000 and 12000 Scots lives were lost.




The Statistical Account of Scotland published in 1841 says ' The first name we have been able to discover is Mr Stephen Wilkynstone, curate of Steynstoune in 1547 '




The Parish of Stevenston came into the possession of the Earl of Loudoun, whose family name was Campbell. From the Campbells it seems to have passed to the Glencairns, who possessed it both before and after the Reformation. The Campbells must have retained part of the town, as later we find part of it referred to Stevenston-Campbell, and the other part known as Stevenston-Cunninghame. Robert Cunninghame was a scion of the Glencairns, he was appointed to the exalted position of physician to Charles II for Scotland.



1670 The old High Kirk was erected.



A nephew of Sir Robert Cunninghame ultimately suceeded to the Stevenston lands in 1678. He was also called Robert Cunninghame and stayed in Auchenharvie House.  He strove hard to develop the coal trade and began by starting the 'Deep Shank' pit in the little holm to the east of Stevenston High Kirk and burn. 




Stevenston Coal now well known and being produced in great quantities. Cunninghame builds a harbour at Saltcoats to export the coal to Ireland. Coal Ships limited to less than 100 tons and usually about 30 to 40 tons. The quantities of coal available allowed for the cheap production of salt from the 'Saltlands of Saltcoats'




Kerelaw  (Kerila Estate) was sold by the Cunninghames  to John Hamilton, formerly of Canbusmeith and afterwards of Grange, both near Kilmarnock. 




The part of Stevenston know as Ardeer sold to the Rev. Patrick Warner.  32 mines




Robert Cunningham died.  His new method of deep shank mining had one disappointing feature. The coal which had previously been drawn up an incline out of the mine on sledges by ponies, now had to be carried up the shank by a spiral staircase on the backs of the wives and daughters of the miners.




The coal and saltworks were let to the shipmasters of Saltcoats. Yearly rent 250. Provost McTaggart of Irvine joined them in the lease. A steam engine was purchased and set up to pump water out of the mine, only the second to be set up in Scotland. The remains of the building which housed this 18" cylinder engine can still be seen at Auchenharvie Golf Course. Problems getting water pumped out with this engine and  later a 38" engine was  much more successful. Mr Cunninghame of Windyhall becomes manager of the public works.



1720 Mayville built for a sea captain, Robert Baillie.

Auchenharvie Engine House built ca 1720. The second Newcomen pumping engine to be installed in Scotland.



Sisters of Robert Cunninghame succeeded to Auchenharvie as heir-portioners.




Elder sister Anna Cunninghame marries John Reid, second son of Rev. William Reid parish minister of Stevenston.  Five children to this marriage: May, Robert, Elizabeth, Anne, and Sarah. May was married to Robert Baillie of Mayville and had two daughters: Lesley and Grace (Maria). Lesley attained immortality to a certain extent inasmuch as she was the inspirer of two lovely songs by Robert Burns. Soon after his marriage John Reid is believed to have taken charge of the public works. Carried on for the next 26 years with little success




An aisle was added to the old High Kirk by the parishoners in Saltcoats.




Public works now let to  a Mr Crawford for 19 years. Then when he died in 1765 his friends held it till 1767 before giving it up




Robert Reid, eldest son of John Reid of Auchenharvie succeeded his father and in consequence of a special arrangement with the heir-portioners, acquired the estate of Auchenharvie and added the name Cunninghame to his own. He entered into a co-partnership with Mr Warner of Ardeer to work the coal on their respective properties. Mr Reid Cunninghame of Auchenharvie being the sole manager.




Harbour improved at Saltcoats, and an almost three mile long canal from the coalfield at Stevenston almost to the harbour at Saltcoats was completed, and navigated. In those days this was no small undertaking. This was the first canal, in which any business was done, in Scotland. There were side branches to every pit in production and no locks were used thus requiring fairly deep excavation at several locations. The coal was conveyed in barges and refuse which would normally make up a pit bing was loaded on the barges and dumped along the route to act as a break to the blown sand which gave trouble to the canal builders. The canal was 12 feet wide at the bottom, the sides inclined at 45 degrees and the water four feet deep. The barges were able to carry about 15 tons each. It is believed that the route taken was through the Stevenston ' Mair ' or Campbell lands crossing the Stevenston burn behind Ardeer Cottage at the weir. The canal remained in operation until about 1830




Shaft of the Main Misk Pit sunk. This worked the first and fourth seams of coal and was on the Misk Farmland continuous to the River Garnock which today is inside Ardeer Factory.



1784 Obelisk erected as a memorial to Burns's Bonnie Lesley.



Kerelaw Mansion House built and name changed to Grange. The estate was sold on the death of John Hamilton to a Gavin Fullerton, a West Indian merchant, who restored the name Kerelaw




The Glencairn title became extinct as the then Earl, the 14th died without issue.




There was a small village of some antiquity called ' Piper-Heugh ' which is believed to have been located near to the Ardeer Mains Farm. In Dr Woodrow's Statistical Account of the Parish of Stevenston published in 1791 it lay about a quarter of a mile east from the town of Stevenston. It consisted of 14 or 16 houses. Inhabitants were chiefly trump-makers or Jew's Harp or Ping Pong makers.




Present High Kirk Church built. Owes it's existence to the efforts and energy of the Rev. Dr. Landsborough.




Around this time Stevenston was visited by a plague in the form of Asiatic Cholera or, as it was sometimes called Pestilential Cholera. Over 600 people died from it in Stevenston over a period of years.  Sanitary conditions in Stevenston at this time were non-existent. Nearly all who succumbed to the cholera were interred together in the common ground at the Coorouden Cemetery (New Street).   In 1871 the workmen at Ardeer Ironworks erected a memorial to their memory and to all who had to be interred in common ground up till that time. The inscription reads: In this Plot Rest Six Hundred and Six of the inhabitants of Stevenston Who died between 5th Aug. 1845 and 15th April 1871 To their Memory The Workers of Ardeer Ironworks Dedicate this Monument. The minute book of the Parochial Board is merely page after page of applications for poor relief. Although the Authority were allowed by law under the Poor Act to grant monetary relief to the poor, we find that large numbers were being refused and those who were receiving assistance the amount was a miserable pitance.




Potato famine raging in Ireland. This lasted several years resulting in large numbers of Irish people settling in Ayrshire, along with immigrants from Eastern Europe, Lithuania, and Poland. Many of these were to find employment at the new Iron Works. Some settled for good others stayed for up to 10 years and then moved on to the ' New World '.




Glengarnock Iron Company built five blast furnaces on the foreshore to smelt pig-iron. Known as the Stevenston Iron Works.




The Rev. Dr. Landsborough died of cholera on the 12th September in his seventy-sixth year.. Cholera was raging in Ayrshire.




City of Glasgow Corporation Engineers visited Ardeer sandhills with a view to recommending that the sandhills be purchased and used as a sewage factory for Glasgow !!  Lucky escape.




A sanitary Committee was set up to endeavour to regulate sanitation. Drinking water was still being drawn from wells in various parts of the town. The most prolific well was at the top of the Schoolwell. Others were at Boglemart and at the Weavers Brae (Townhead Street). In some cases the wells were actually inside the dwelling houses covered with a flagstone. In most cases they were outside and contiguous to their dungheap and dungheaps were everywhere as some people at that time kept a cow, goat, and/or a sheep at their back door. In some cases tethered to their front door and they were herded down the Coorouden  to the town's common ground every day. The common ground, it is believed comprised the land beyond the Railway Station.




British Dynamite Company started producing at Ardeer under the management of Mr Downie, followed by Mr McRoberts. There were 40 buildings and less than 100 employees.



1878 Nobel's Explosive Company formed.



Nine hole golf course laid out on the foreshore, stretching from the No 5 Auchenharvie pit to the perimeter of the Iron Works. Burnside House in George Street was the clubhouse and the first tee was on a site occupied now by Carmyle Place.



1885 Piped drinking water comes to Stevenston



Last coal produced from any Stevenston pit. I.C.I. was formed and new divisions of I.C.I  were added to the the Nobel Industries Ltd at Ardeer



1931 Stevenston Iron Works went into liquidation.


1930s I.C.I. at Ardeer expanded during the industrial depression.


1952 Stevenston at long last obtained Burgh Status, the penultimate burgh to be created in Scotland.


                     Sources 1. -  'The Kernal of Cunninghame' by James Clements







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