Gowanbank Foundry

Cockburn, Malcolm & Co Ltd

Cockburn, M & Co Ltd (Brass Works)

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

Sites & Monuments Record

Gowan Avenue, Grahamston          SMR 693NS 886 808


1864: Founded by Malcolm and Andrew Cockburn, together with Andrew MacLaren.  Malcolm had begun his career in the Stocktaking Dept of the Falkirk Iron Co.  He rose to be under-manager there and left to become manager of the Union Foundry in Camelon.  He and his brother, a patternmaker, had become partners in Burnbank Foundry.  A site for the new foundry was found on the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal at Grahamston, part of which was leased from the Canal Co and part from Callendar Estates (having been the site of the Gowanbank Brick & Tile Co).  The capital was £2,200 of which Andrew MacLaren, a London merchant, provided £1100, with £750 from Malcolm Cockburn and £350 from Andrew.   Malcolm was given the general management and superintendence of the operations, and Andrew the working management.

1866:  The Cockburn brothers took out a bond with James Aitken of Darroch of £800 and bought out Maclaren.

1871: Andrew Cockburn resigned and Malcolm became sole owner.

1874: Paisley conservatory made (see introduction) supervised by William Russell the under manager.

1889: Joseph Crosthwaite works manager.

1897: New fitting shop and moulding shop.

1900-1911:  Additions in this period included moulding shops, pattern store, boundary walls, enamelling department, chimney stalk.  Alterations were made to the moulding shops.  This work was to make room for the work previously undertaken at Springfield Foundry.

1903: Became a limited company with Mr Cockburn as Chairman and his sons Malcolm and Norman as Directors.  Baths main product.

1907: Malcolm Cockburn senior died.

1913: Malcolm Cockburn junior died.

1914-18: Manufacture of shells and grenades for the government.  In December 1917 Joseph Crosthwaite died at the age of 75 years.

1922: The Light Castings Limited group was formed, consisting of McDowall, Ste­ven and Cockburn in Scotland, and Planet and Coalbrookdale in England.   Pro­duction at Gowanbank extended to all bathroom fittings.  Extension built to house a brass foundry and machine shop to make taps, etc.  At the time Cockburn’s was the largest single manufacturer of baths in Britain, but because it was situated so far from the main population centres in England, and as the site was unsuitable for mechanisation the Light Castings  Board decided to move production to a brand new site in Middlesex.

1929:  Amalgamation of 23 works to form Allied Iron Founders.   Rationalisation meant that Cockburn’s concentrated on baths and sanitary ware and gave up fitted goods and pipes, while the other Allied works in Falkirk gave up bath manufacture.

1930s: The depression meant that the works only operated part time.

1930: RL Hunter took over management of Cockburn’s under the general supervi­sion of James Brown of the Forth and Clyde & Sunnyside Works.  Market south of the border allocated to English firms and Cockburn’s had to make an extensive range of baths to compete with other Scottish manufacturers who had limited ranges due to mechanisation.  An Enamel Research Dept was located at Gowanbank.

1933: Fitting shop extended.

1938: New enamel preparing shop.

1939:  Foundry production closed by the war.  Used for production of brass primers for shells and bombs, and grenade projectors.  The Muffle type furnaces of the enamel plant used to heat treat armour plate for tanks.

1946: Baths opened for workers with 8 hot and cold showers, 12 hand basins, a first aid room and a white tiled hall.  JD Reid, architect.

1947: Brass founding was made into a separate business known as M Cockburn Ltd (Brassworks) on the site of the Callendar Abbots Works.  PR Bradley Manager.

Despite an increased demand for baths and the fact that Cockburn’s was still the second largest bath works in Britain, the Allied Board refused to mechanise production at Gowanbank.

1951: Brassworks brought back under the Cockburn umbrella.

1954: Mr D Mck.Webster became manager.

1961: Part of moulding shop demolished to erect a workshop.  Bath production finally mechanised, turning out 40 baths an hour.  New plant cost £25,000.  A further £950 was spent on a compressor house.

1962: Mr McMillan, manager.

1963:  All companies in the Allied group dissolved to become subsidiaries of Allied, controlled from London.

1968: J Millar, manager.  Automatic bath enamelling plant introduced.

1969:  Allied taken over by Glynwed.  Luxury bath production transferred to Birmingham.

1977: Closed.


  • 1879: 300
  • 1886: 250
  • 1901: 243
  • 1911: 271
  • 1913: 350
Illus: Enamelling a bath using enhanced safety equipment.

G.B. Bailey, 2021