(of Carron Company)
Charles Gascoigne was the son of Woodroffe Gascoigne of Parlington, Yorkshire and his mother was Grizel, eldest daughter of Charles, 9th Lord Elphinstone and she was born at Elphinstone Tower, near Airth, in 1704. Later in life, he supposedly secured employment with the East India Co., courtesy of his grandfather Lord Elphinstone and, after meeting Samuel Garbett, was found a partnership in a London firm of drysalters, known as “Coney and Gascoigne”. This took place in 1757. In 1759, the year in which Carron Company was founded, Charles married Samuel Garbett’s daughter Mary, at St Martins, Birmingham.
In 1763, Garbett added to his business interests in this district, when he opened a turpentine manufactory at Carronshore called Samuel Garbett & Co. He brought in his son-in-law Gascoigne to manage this affair. The headquarters of Garbett & Co. was a mansion house with offices and warehouses attached, known as Carron House. This business then expanded to incorporate shipping, specifically for the handling of much of Carron Company’s goods. In 1765, Gascoigne took over the lease of the harbour at Carronshore and created a monopoly there, annoying most of the locals; at the same time, he became a partner at the ironworks and in 1769 became managing partner. His time was occupied attempting to put Carron Company on a firm financial footing and to improving the company’s cannon manufacturing abilities. In 1772, due to Gascoigne’s alleged mis-management and some shady dealings, Garbett’s company at Carronshore collapsed with large debts. The relationship between Gascoigne and his father-in-law completely deteriorated.
At this time, the quality of guns produced at Carron was bad and the company’s main customer, the Board of Ordnance, in 1773, eventually withdrew their contract with Carron Company for long guns. Gascoigne was determined to succeed in this market and pressed on. By 1778, a new gun called the ‘Carronade‘ had been developed at Carron, and Gascoigne was one of three claimants as to its invention. The guns were accepted by the Board of Ordnance and had success at sea, especially during the Napoleonic Wars when it was the norm to engage the enemy at close quarters when the Carronade’s large shot could cause maximum damage. However, Gascoigne’s private affairs had become precarious and led to his bankruptcy; but he still continued as manager at Carron.
In those days, a programme of military assistance had been granted by the British Government, to the Empress Catherine of Russia. An order for a ‘fire engine’ (a steam pump) was received at Carron from Admiral Knowles, who was part of the assistance programme in Russia. The engine, designed by John Smeaton, was dispatched to Russia in 1774, along with some Carron workmen and a supply of coal. It was used to drain the military docks at Kronstadt. In 1784, Gascoigne then received another order from Russia, for guns, this time from Knowles’ successor Admiral Sir Samuel Greig. Greig had also been entrusted by the Empress to recruit British expertise, to modernise the Russian iron foundries and to assist with the production of cannon in that country. He turned his sights on Charles Gascoigne of Carron Company. Large orders were obtained by Carron, to supply machinery etc. for the foundry near Petrozavodsk. In May of 1786, Gascoigne, with the permission of his fellow directors, set sail for Kronstadt with some Carron workmen, to supervise the erection of the equipment at the Alexandrovski Works at Petrozavodsk. He was never to return. During his stay in Russia, which lasted 20 years, he was responsible for improving their foundries and cannon-making capacity, establishing the machine presses at the Royal Mint and generally, had a hand in all new developments then. He was given many honours by the Empress and her successor, eventually becoming “Actual State Councillor” Karl Karlovich Gaskoin, a member of the Russian Government.
Charles Gascoigne died at Kolpino, outside St Petersburg, in July 1806, during the reconstruction of the Izhora works, and in accordance with his will was buried in Petrozavodsk. However, the site of his grave has been lost forever. Only now are his achievements there being acknowledged by the installation of suitable plaques &c.
Brian Watters (2005)