Grahamston Foundry

Grahamston Iron Co. Ltd.

Mitchell’s Foundry

Illus: 1947 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Sites & Monuments Record

Gowan Avenue, Falkirk    SMR 701NS 885 807

Timeline

1832:  Alexander Black’s map of Falkirk shows a proposed canal and wharf on the site of what was to become the Grahamston Foundry.  The site had been part of Mungal Bog.

1868, November:  Founded by William Thomson Mitchell with James and William Mitchell of Bonnybridge and Francis Buchanan of Carron as partners.   Wm T Mitchell had started his career as an apprentice patternmaker in Carron Iron­works, and had become the foreman patternmaker with Walter McFarlane & Co at their Saracen Foundry in Glasgow.  Francis Buchanan had been born in Nailer Row in Carron and became a moulder at Carron Ironworks.  A wharf was placed on the Forth and Clyde Canal.

1875: Substantial new cupola inaugurated.  “The platform framework is composed of strong rolled Belgian girders and is supported by six ornamental columns.  The arrangement of the cupola proper also illustrates the judicious combination of massive strength and artistic finish.  The blowing department is by Root’s patent No 5 blowers”.  Melting capacity was 10 tons per hour, or 60 tons per day.

1876:  North British Railway provided a connection with the mainline and in 1879 two more sidings were added.   It soon became the 3rd largest foundry in the district.

1877: Two storey block of houses built for the workmen on the southern part of the feu, G Deas Page, architect.

1886:  Twenty ton gate manufactured for the Edinburgh International Exhibition bearing the coat of arms of that city.   It now stands at the entrance to the works.  (It was renovated in 1949.)  At this time the foundry was making 600 tons or 25,000 castings a month.

1890: Master Walter Mitchell (aged 11) set fire, for the first time, to the new No. 3 cupola, built by Copland & Co of Glasgow.

1892:  Francis Buchanan died in November at the age of 66 years.  On Dec 31 1893 his widow transferred her hus­band’s shares to Wm T Mitchell for the sum of £6,164.  This now gave him com­plete ownership of the business.

1894:  William Mitchell died on 9 Sep 1894.  As his three sons were all still young he had arranged for three trustees to carry on the business.  These were his son-in-law Thomas Downie a traveller for the company, Robert J Maxwell, the firm’s cashier, and Mitchell’s eldest son, James.

1900-1911:  Additions in this period included a new warehouse and straw shed, and an extension to the pattern store.

1914:  In May 1914 the Grahamston Iron Co. was incorporated under the Companies Acts at a value of £52,500.  The shares worth £10 each were allocated  to  the founder’s seven offspring and his two Trustees as follows: Thomas Downie  650, Robert  Maxwell 50, James Mitchell 650, Walter Mitchell 650,  William  Mitchell 650,  Mrs Downie 650, Eliza Mitchell 650, Helen Mitchell (later  Stewart)  650, Janie Mitchell 650.  T Downie was made chairman of the company.

1914-18:  During the First World War the works made chemical shells, hand gre­nades and shell lifter plugs.

1926: Mr Downie died, firm continued under Wm Mitchell’s three sons – James, Walter, and William.

1927: Harry McPhie made Works Manager.

1933:  Extension to warehouse, new moulding shop, and an extension to the enamelling shop.

1934: New showroom opened.

1937: Grahamston Iron Co purchased the Summerford Foundry.

1939-45:  During the Second World War the company made 400 tons of winch cast­ings for merchant ships on behalf of the Carron Co, reconditioned almost a million 25 pdr shell, cleaned ammunition boxes, shot blasted tank castings, and cast control plugs for bombs as well as thousands of stoves and ranges for the Ministry of Supply.

1941:  In December the Glasgow Office and warehouse at 24 George Square were closed.

1942: F M Hawthorn joined the company as a coster for Ministry of Supply work and stayed until his retirement in 1953.

Illus: Aerial photograph of Grahamston Foundry with the Forth & Clyde Canal on the left.  The Company’s property has been highlighted.

1946: No 1 Mechanised Moulding Dept started to produce pipes.

1947: Mechanisation undertaken partly due to a lack of skilled labour.   Harry McPhie retired due to ill health.  Two new self-charging cupolas built by Green & Co. were lit by the new chairman Walter W Mitchell.

1948: March, W T Mitchell Jnr and H C Stewart made Directors.

1949: On 12 May new canteen, ambulance room and shower baths opened.  Henry Wilson, architect.

1951: No 2 Mechanised Moulding Dept started production in August.  Roofing over all four cupolas completed.  The London office at 22 St Stephen’s House, Victo­ria Embankment in Westminster, vacated.

1954: New engineering shop to service mechanised units.  Robert Gardner who had been with the firm 28 years became a Director.

1955: New floor laid, building alterations, and wheelabrator for the Enamelling Dept.  No 3 Queen Mary Warehouse erected and a new Engineers’ Maintenance Dept constructed near No 1 MMD.  James L Mitchell became a Director in April.

1956:  Woodworking shop built, and on 26 April No 4 Mechanised Moulding Dept started producing gutters- it had cost an estimated £20,000.

1957:  No 3 MMD, the largest and most expensive plant at the foundry, had its first cast on 18 April.  Baths extended, and Directors’ garages built.

1958: On 2 August the chairman, Walter W Mitchell died.

1959, 29 June: Mitchell Grahamston Holdings Ltd incorporated due to the threat of nationalisation, thus separating the foundry from the reserves of invest­ments.  Garages for lorries and an electric truck shop erected.

1960: No 5 MMD went into operation on 22 August.

1961: New office block erected on the site of Gowanbank House at the corner of Gowan Avenue and Alma Street.  The steel frame structure was  linked to the recent canteen and opened  on  17 March;  railway taken up and area resurfaced; new cupola hoists to Nos 1  &  2; bought  Yule  the Chemist Ltd in Stirling followed by a chemist  in  Bridge  of Allan.  WT Mitchell, Chairman, died on 6 Nov.  His nephew WT Mitchell took his place.  HC Stewart and R Gardner became Joint Managing Directors, JL Mitchell the fourth Director.  A Life Assurance Scheme and Works Provident Fund established for the workforce.

1962: No 6 MMD completed in December and began to make gutters in Jan follow­ing.  Various building works undertaken.  A fire at a relocated tar tank meant renewal of roof there with steel girders.

1963: Old offices demolished and Dressing Shop reorganised.  Core shop extend­ed.

1964: New pattern shop built.  More rebuilding.

1965:  J Logan started as Works Manager.  Grahamston Plastics incorporated in March to make plastic gutters and pipes.  They leased premises at Sealand Rd Industrial Estate in Chester.

1966:  Last hand-made pipes cast.  Grahamston Iron Company, a partnership, commenced on 1 June.

1976:  W.S.F.  Robertson, company secretary, and R.J Mitchell (son of WT), appointed Directors.

1981: Robertson died.

1984: “Repetition work in grey iron up to grade 180 (12). Also ductile iron and Ni-hard.  General castings, rainwater, soil and drain goods.  Solid fuel approved domestic appliances.  Vitreous enamelling. Employment range 300-400.”

1990:  Closed and the site subsequently bought by Marshall’s Mono to extend their works.  Most of the buildings were demolished, but some were reclad for storage and the offices at Gowan Avenue retained.

Workforce

  • 1879: 350
  • 1886: 400-500
  • 1892: 500
  • 1901: 445                 533  (Falkirk Burgh Val. Roll)
  • 1911: 320                 905  (   ”      ”    ”    ”  )
  • 1913: 400
  • 1934: 500
  • 1948: c700
  • 1965: 500
  • 1987:330

Products

Drain Cover 2020/03 : Dalgrain Road, Grangemouth: Rectangular. Open grill. 10 perpendicular slots in 2 rows of 5. Foundry name at top. Photo, David Thom

Cooking and heating ranges, galley ranges, combination grates, slow combustion stoves, mantel registers, rain-water and soil pipes, builders’ castings, manhole covers, gulley traps, ventilators, rooflights. Engineering and shipbuilding castings. After 1920 the firm did its own enamelling.

In 1948 it was noted that the firm had supplied castings for: Westminster Hospital, Wandsworth Town Hall, Harringay Ice Rink, Ford’s Dagenham Works, Beresford Hotel in Glasgow, Falkirk & District Royal Infirmary, Westerglen BBC Station. Glass enamelled soil pipes had recently been sent for the New Magistrates Court in Johannesburg.

Grahamston rooflight

Graham-Corr ventilator rooflight.

Nu-Heather combination grate.

Nu-Rex cooker.

Queen Heater (1958)

Rex portable range.

Warrior self-setting range.

G.B.Bailey, 2021