Columbian Stove Works

Smith & Wellstood Ltd       1858-present

Ure, George & Co                1860-1890

Illus: Extract from the 1897 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Sites & Monuments Record

BonnybridgeSMR 536NS 824 800


1855:  James Smith returned from America where he had established a successful ironmonger’s store.  In small premises in Stockwell Street, Glasgow, he started designing and assembling stoves based on the American models that were lighter and more efficient than those in use in Britain.  These were free standing models rather than those built into walls.

1856: Smith moved into larger premises at 83-85 Union Street, Glasgow.

1858: Stephen Wellstood, a childhood friend, came over from America at Smith’s suggestion and the company of Smith and Wellstood was formed.  Wellstood was a tinsmith to trade and created a range of utensils for use with the American stoves.   Premises opened in Liverpool.

1860:  Until this year Smith did not have the facilities to cast the stoves, this was done by the Union Foundry on contract.   The necessary skill was provided by George Ure who was a managing partner at the Union Foundry.   George Ure had trained in the Carron Iron Works before becoming Manager in Messrs Crosthwaite & Miller’s Camelon Foundry in 1845.   From that same foundry he brought Mr Mitchell to supervise the moulding.  Ure bought an old chemical works in Bonnybridge (Robert Binnie of Underwood’s, which had been a distillery and was then being used as a laundry) and converted it into the Columbian Stove Works in six weeks.  James Russell, a Glasgow engineer, supervised the work.  The first casting took place on 14th June.  At this stage the foundry side was run as “Ure & Co”, with George Ure as the main proprietor and Smith and Wellstood as partners.  The design and sale of the American stoves was run as a separate business.

Later in 1860 the Falkirk Herald reported that “ranges of well-built and neatly paved moulding shops have sprung up on what was at the best very unproductive soil”.  By October there were 10 moulders, one of whom was George Ure’s nephew, Robert Dobbie.  Twice the road through the pend had to be diverted, as the works expanded.

Illus: An early photograph of the works from Cowden Hill.

1861: Stephen Wellstood came up from the Liverpool shop to take charge of a new warehouse constructed at Bonnybridge, adjacent to the Columbian Stove Works.

1863:  Smith & Wellstood and Messrs Ure and Co erected the Columbian Hall for the social welfare of their workers.  It was designed by Wellstood as a reading room and lecture room.  Behind the platform they placed a bust of Benjamin Franklin – the inventor of the American stove.

1864: The headquarters was moved to Dixon Street, Glasgow.  Robert Dobbie left Ure and Co to work as Stephen Wellstood’s assistant.

1867: Stephen Wellstood retired and became a councillor in his native city of Edinburgh.  Robert Dobbie took his place. The excellence of the castings and Smith’s American connections caused the Singer Sewing Machine Co to approach the company with a contract for sewing machine stands and Ure looked after this side of the business.  For 18 years all their stands for the European market were made in Bonnybridge.  From the reputation which grew up other sewing machine companies, such as Kimball and Morton placed orders. 

1869: Robert Dobbie intended to set up his own foundry and collected stoves for this purpose.   He was consequently sacked but won compensation for unfair dismissal.

1870:  Business expanded to such a degree that a new foundry was built on the opposite side of the Bonnybridge road, called the Bonnybridge Foundry.  It was mutually agreed that this should become the possession of Ure and his family, while the old foundry would revert to the production of stoves and ranges for Smith and Wellstood.

1880s:  The Bonnybridge Foundry suffered from loss of orders and as the fami­lies of Ure and Smith were now inter-married, it was decided to amalgamate the two companies again.  At this time the Hostess portable range and the Emperor parlour stove were still popular.

1886: Both of the original founders died. Wellstood in January, Smith in April, followed by Mr Mitchell the head moulder in May.  William Macadam Smith took over the business after his father’s death.

1887, Dec:  The two partners, Robert Brown Smith and William Macadam Smith, converted to a limited company.  The new shareholders included James B Smith of Stirling – 100 shares, Robert Brown Smith of Edinburgh – 2,350 shares, W Macadam Smith of Glasgow – 2,350, Robert Grieve – 50, James Ure – 50, Joseph J Sullivan of London – 50, and James Logan of Glasgow – 50.  The capital was fixed at £100,000 divided into 5,000 shares of £20 each whereof 4,700 were issued to vendors as fully paid up.

Illus: The Columbian Foundry on the left and Bonnybridge Foundry on the right with the Forth & Clyde Canal in the foreground.  Prior to 1905 there was no bascule bridge here.  The Canal railway Station is on the right.

1890:  The two companies amalgamated, also becoming a private limited company bearing the original name of Smith and Wellstood.  As well as Macadam Smith the directors included George Reid Ure, John Reid Ure, Allan Gillespie, William Ross Lane, and James Logan. Macadam Smith visited Australia and South Africa in order to secure overseas orders.  Expansion continued, with the works having its own gas works and brickworks.  Gas was provided to the village of Bonnybridge for street lighting, etc.  The firm also had its own steam barge.

1892: Shed erected for new fire engine bought from Merryweather & Sons, London, with 150ft of piping.

1898:  Several acres of adjoining ground purchased for further expansion and a new moulding shop built on part of it.  New patterns introduced.  By this time there were four cupolas in use, and the works were so busy that they cast on six rather than five days a week, and rainwater goods were produced.

Macadam retired as Managing Director and George Reid Ure became Chairman and Managing Director until his death in 1930.

1928: John Reid Ure died.  One moulding shop rebuilt along with an enamelling shop with enlarged muffles.

1929:  Firm of Mitchell, Russell and Co formed with Smith and Wellstood as majority shareholders to take over Gillespie’s Ltd and reorganise it on modern grounds.  Another moulding shop rebuilt.

Illus: The Columbian Stove Works looking west with the gas works on the left.

1930: George Albert Ure followed his father as Managing Director.  A large part of the moulding shops was re-roofed and a new core-making shop and store added.  Also, an additional enamelling shop with two muffles.  New rumblers and a dust collection plant installed in the dressing shop.

1931:  Smith and Wellstood were the first to use a Calorimeter room or thermal laboratory in Scotland.  The Esse cooker resulted and went into production in 1933.  Further expansion of enamelling plan and fitting shop.  Agencies established in Bombay and Buenos Ayres (and in Ceylon in 1934).  A War office contract was gained in 1932.

1934: 12 houses at Barleyhill and 1-2 old School demolished.  Berlin Black foundry, warehouse rebuilt, female toilets added and offices extended.  New road driven to Singer Place through the Antonine Wall.

1935: Rearrangement of the fitting shops due to an extension to the moulding shop – £2,000.

1936: Research room established.  Large addition to the fitting shop, a new moulding shop, large engineering shop, office accommodation and drawing office.

1937: A field at Broomhill was sold to the Council for housing.  The rainwater goods plant was closed and patterns disposed of in order to provide more space for the core work of the foundry.

1938:  Smith & Wellstood Nominees formed as a new venture with James Risk of Smith & Wellstood as a director.  Other directors included Gourley Todd (stockbroker, Kilmacolm), Edwin G Smith (warehouse proprietor, North Berwick), Reginald RF Smith (ironfounder, Murrayfield).  It was not able to conduct business during the war and went into liquidation in 1949.

1950: Columbian Stove Works rebuilt and mechanised, opened in January the fol­lowing year.  Capable of producing 120 tons of high-grade castings per week.

New foundry opened in Springs near Johannesburg.   JC Leith became Managing Director of this foundry.

Apprentices’ Training School opened.

1971: Johannesburg Foundry sold to a South African Company, but the technical link remained.

1973: Smith and Wellstood taken over by the Kent based Dint Engineering Group.

1977: Taken over by Newman Industries.

1980:  A consortium consisting of General Accident Life Assoc of Scotland and Melville Store Investments purchased the company.  In the following year the renewed confidence was manifested in the form of a mural.    David Gillan managing director.

1982: New enamelling plant installed.

1983: Acquired by Ouzledale Foundry Co Ltd in December and became “Smith & Wellstood (Mfg) Ltd.

1984: “Grey iron up to grade 220 (14) and high chromium alloy irons.  Max. wt. 45kg.  Both jobbing and repetition work.  Specialising in castings for domestic gas, electric and solid fuel appliance industries.  Employment range 50-100.”

1995: Old foundry demolished and houses built in 1997.


1879: 250 in Smith & Wellstood; 400 in Ure, George & Co

1885: 500 in Scotland & London

1892: 709 with Bonnybridge

1913: 700

1926: 2000

1964: 700


The company started by making American stoves for the Scottish market.  These were more fuel efficient than the open fires then in use.  Pots, tea kettles, potato steamers, ham boilers, grid irons and baking trays were made to accompany them.  Galley ranges, portable boilers.

Caravan stoves, steam heating boiling pans, steam heated serving counters.

  • Enchantress
  • Empress
  • Rotary Kitchener Cooking Range with turning top
  • International Hall Stove
  • Temple large hall / Church stove
  • Emperor
  • Paragon
  • Morning Star
  • Prima Donna
  • Salamander bath heater
  • Countess cooker
  • Princess
  • Peeress
  • Duchess
  • Mrs Sam Cooker
  • Esse-Q Range
  • Wellstood cooker and water heater
  • President cooker
  • Dolphin open fire
  • Hydresse Water Heater
  • Auto-Ace water heater
  • Mermaid water heater
ArtesseJeunesse Esse-Dura (1929)22 Beutesse (1938)400 Esse (1948)23 Esse
500 Esse300 Esse
  • ESSE solid fuel cooker (1933)
  • Esse Fairy cooker
  • Esse Premier cooker
  • Esse Major
  • DORIC small solid fuel cooker

G.B. Bailey, 2021