In the early 19th century there was little in the way of a local market for the produce of foundries located in the Falkirk area. Central Scotland was relatively undeveloped and there was little ready cash for new consumer articles. People were content with their existing items and had no knowledge of cast iron. A good example of this was the copper skillet, many of which were made at Culross. It was not long, however, before the mass production of cast iron pots drove down the price of such objects and put the coppersmiths of Culross out of business. Hundreds of thousands of these pots were made and resulted in a change in cooking habits. It is hard to over-emphasise the importance of the humble pot because where it led other products followed and a consumer society emerged.
The main market for the domestic goods and for many of the building materials was the south-east of England. This was served for two centuries after the foundation of the Carron Company by the constant flow of vessels along the east coast. In London both Carron Company and Smith and Wellstood had warehouse shops, whilst other companies had agents or representatives. The growing cities of the north-west of England, such as Liverpool and Manchester, could be reached by sending goods along the Forth and Clyde Canal to Glasgow and to this end the Carron Company maintained a small fleet of lighters. Smith and Wellstood, too, acquired a barge. Glasgow was also the launch pad for emerging markets in Ireland at the end of the 20th century and a huge number of coal-burning stoves and fireplaces were delivered there.
Agents earned good commissions travelling the United Kingdom to acquire orders from ironmongers large and small.
The first twelve portable ranges produced by the Broomside Foundry were sold to GL Wilson of Hammersmith, London, on the understanding that if all twelve were not sold within the month, then the company would accept the unsold ranges back and would not charge for those that had been sold. All were in fact sold within two weeks and the company prospered.
The use of iron in traditional implements such as spades and ploughs brought about great improvements in agriculture. Not only were plough shares made of this versatile material, but the wooden frame was redesigned in it. When James Small produced his greatly improved swing plough he was altruistic and did not patent it. The Carron Company and the foundries benefitted. Agricultural equipment improved with the use of iron and this improved the yields, but also freed up men from the land.
Such innovative uses of cast iron led to further inventions and the new material produced novel design solutions which only acted to increase the demand for the material. It is notable that the earliest products of Carron Company fall into three categories – munitions, domestic cooking utensils and tools/machinery for other trades. Those trades were enhanced by the implements and contributed to the industrial revolution.
The Empire was Britain’s own common market and Falkirk iron products can be found scattered throughout the modern Commonwealth in buildings of all sorts including joiners’ shops, whale oil boiling plants, sugar factories and lighthouses – hopefully we will get examples of these for this website.