Ironfoundry Buildings

The early buildings were of stone or brick with pantile roofs.  They were dark, claustrophobic buildings with earthen floors and few mechanical labour-saving devices.  Modernisation was always slow and new buildings tended to augment rather than replace older ones.  Such conditions persisted well into the twentieth century.  John Duncan noted:

When I started work [at Broomside] in 1931, the buildings resembled an old farmsteading.  The outside walls of red brick with roof tiles, and inside had wooden beams and earth floors.”

The layout of Falkirk Iron Works in 1821 provides a typical example of an early foundry and its component parts, though it was the only foundry, other than Carron, to have a turning and boring shop at such an early date because it was manufacturing cannon.

Illus: Plan of Falkirk Iron Works in 1821.

  1. Sales counting room
  2. Warehouse
  3. Warehouse with pattern loft above
  4. Wrights’ shop
  5. Smiths’ shop – ditto.
  6. Hen house – ditto.
  7. Old counting room – built with brick & covered with tile, one storey.
  8. Dwelling house – built of stone & covered with slate.  One storey with a garret.
  9. Ditto – built with brick & covered with tile, one storey
  10. Engine house
  11. Turning & boring
  12. Grinding shop
  13. Annealing shop
  14. Tinning and japanning shop
  15. Moulding room
  16. Shade over the air furnace
  17. Mould shop
  18. Shade over stove & cupola
  19. Moulding shop commonly called Harleys Room.
  20. Pattern shop
  21. Pot warehouse
  22. Moulding
  23. Moulding shop commonly called the Relief.

Integral to the layout was the courtyard surrounded by a screening wall for security.  This not only cut out the kind of pilfering which marred the early days of Carron but it also obscured sensitive operations from the view of passers allowing processes to remain secret.  Of course, if the courtyard was not kept closed or guarded, it negated the security.  On or about 20 May 1891, between one and two o’clock, Francis Begg, moulder residing at St Crispins’ Place, entered Springfield Foundry without the permission of its owners.  The workmen were absent and he went to the dressing shop and proceeded to take measurements of the mouldings and compared them with sketch plans he had brought.  At this stage the mouldings clearly showed the markings of the runners or “gates” by which the metal was poured into the mould and which it took some time and skill for the foundry to get correct.  At the time he was employed by Parkhouse Foundry, having left the Springfield Works several years before.  At the Falkirk Sheriff Court an interdict was granted banning him from the works for life.

A painting of the Columbian Stove Works dates to about 1865 and shows the single storey red tiled moulding shops, without skylights, in the courtyard of the former dye-work’s two storey stone buildings.

Illus: (a) Painting of the Columbian Stove Works seen from Cowden Hill. The main moulding shops are shown with pantile roofs and in the background is the manager’s house
Illus: (b) 1862 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The establishment of a new foundry required capital to purchase a site, buildings and equipment. A small foundry could be set up with comparatively small capital requiring only moulding shops and warehouses of tiled roofs and cast iron columns, with a second-hand boiler up-ended for a cupola furnace. Patterns, iron columns and moulding boxes could be made on the premises as required, and the facilities extended as demand increased. The first pattern to be made at the Callendar Iron Works in 1876 was a column to support the roof of the moulding shop. At Carmuirs Iron Works in July 1899 the first cast took place and three tons of moulding boxes and moulders’ plant were made.

The Gowanbank Foundry was set up in 1864 with a capital of £2,200, of which £1,100 was held by Andrew MacLaren a London merchant, £750 by Malcolm Cockburn and £350 by his brother Andrew Cockburn. Malcolm had the general management and superintendence of the operations at a salary of £150 per annum, and Andrew was responsible for the working management at £91.

Often the site was that of an earlier factory of some sort, which had fallen on hard times. Even in such case it was usually necessary to erect new buildings, designed specifically for the task, as well as to convert the existing ones. The original cost to Ure & Co of the old distillery (then used as a dye works and laundry) at Bonnybridge was £400. By the time that the existing buildings had been repaired and a new pattern shop and moulding shop constructed nearly £900 had been spent. Equipping the foundry took another £900. Ure & Co started in May 1860 with a capital of £970 and had to borrow £1,200.

The Dalderse Foundry at Bankside, Bainsford, only operated from 1804 to about 1810 and the premises were then used as a distillery and subsequently a sawmill. In 1856 it was converted back into a foundry. In 1900 the Dock Foundry in Bo’ness used the old pottery premises, but this meant the demolition of the pottery kilns and much new build. However, the former straw and clay sheds, slip-house and flint mills were used as light workshops. The previous offices were converted into dwellings.

Illus: Preparing the mould with sand in one of the bays at the Falkirk Iron Works.

Some of the foundries were built adjacent to works owned by one of the partners and could share facilities such as powerhouses. In 1883 the Grange Foundry was sited next to the extensive modern sawmill of Dow and Co in Grangemouth and derived its power from it. Similarly, the Torwood Foundry of Jones and Campbell was built adjacent to the sawmill of James Jones in 1888.

The extensive use of timber trusses with iron fittings in the roof structures limited the spans enclosed.  However, the use of cast iron columns allowed these roofs to be laid adjacent with the long axis parallel and the sides open, creating an open plan.  These were lofty single-storey buildings, allowing the foul air produced by the moulding process to be quickly dissipated.  They were also cold.  They were lighted by long panels of skylights.  Towards the last quarter of the nineteenth century steel couples were in common use and the size of the spans increased.  The couples rested on the columns, spanning the roof space.  Belted to the top of these, but running along the length of the buildings, were substantial moulded iron rhones.  These bound the whole building together, as well as taking the rainwater away.   Most of the moulding shops could be measured by the number of such roofs or bays.  Occasionally they were referred to as “shops,” because each could be allocated a different function.  In 1896, for example it was noted that Abbot’s Foundry was doubling its size with the addition of a new moulding shop of 6 roofs.  The size of each “shop” can be gauged by the construction at the Denny Iron Works in 1899 of “Five new shops, each 156 x 25.5 ft in size, to house fitting, erecting, moulding and warehousing activities.”  The combined space was enormous.  When it opened in 1877 the entire building at the Etna Foundry was 270ft long by 211ft broad.  The roof consisted of nine spans, each 30ft broad by 22ft high.  Two roofs rose to 35ft to accommodate cranes.  The gables of these long bays were usually closed with conventional brickwork.  The sides might be clad with steel sheeting or even timber, which weakened the stability of the gable.  At the Muirhall Foundry the gable was to be supported by a platform for the furnace.  However, before this was completed the wall blew down in a gale, killing the contractor.

Illus: Aerial photograph of the Sunnyside Iron Works looking SW towards Arbuthnot House and Camelon showing the huge expanse of the spanned roofs.
Illus: Aerial photograph of Denny Iron Works looking east. Most of the roadside frontage was of conventional two-storey offices.

Often the different moulding shops were given nicknames – so at Falkirk Iron Works in 1864 there was the “Glasgow Shop,” “Jam,” “Kennedy,” “Boiler,” “Big,” “Red Ann” and “Music Hall”; while the pattern store was called Australia because it was as far south as you could go within the works.

Other workshops were latterly of red brick construction, often with yellow margins. Warehouses tended to be of two storeys. They had to be large because they carried valuable stocks of patterns and a wide range of products.

Illus: The three-storey warehouse at Castlelaurie Foundry still survives.  It is made of red brick with yellow facings.  See the illustration at the head of this section.

In the latter half of the twentieth century the design of foundry workshops followed the general trend of industrial buildings, being featureless steel framed sheds clad in sheet steel and lagged with insulation fibre.

The size of the foundries varied considerably, both across time and from foundry to foundry.  At the time of establishment the feus acquired tended to allow for expansion.  In some cases only a quarter of the landholding might be occupied by buildings, as at Banknock

The yard space could be used for storage or even assembly of large items. Spaces had to be set aside for raw materials such as pig iron, coal, and limestone. Railway sidings could also eat into the site. In some cases, such as Carronbank and New Grange, most of the feu was quickly occupied by buildings and any business expansion meant the more efficient use of the existing space. An acre was the smallest practical area for an iron foundry and a large number possessed between 1 and 5 acres. Above this figure the firm was considered large. In 1891 the combined area for the Falkirk and Castlelaurie foundries was 15 acres, but by 1920 this had risen to an astonishing 40 acres. The covered areas too were considerable. Even as late as 1962 Falkirk had 9 acres and Sunnyside 7 acres under cover. Etna in 1896 had 10.69 acres of buildings.

Banknock3.01897Only a small portion ever built on.
Callendar3.50.751876Another acre acquired in 1892
Forth & Clyde2.01870
Larbert1896Additional 12.0
Sunnyside3 parcels of 7.2.9, 3.1.1 & 21.221898
West End1.01892

Illus: Plan of Falkirk Iron Works in 1938:

  • 1 – Dwelling house;
  • 2 – Stable;
  • 3 – Shed;
  • 4 – Coach house;
  • 5 – Harness room;
  • 6 – Garage;
  • 7 – Dwelling house;
  • 8 – Fire appliances;
  • 9 – Girls’ canteen;
  • 10 – Show room;
  • 11 – Ambulance rooms;
  • 12 – Bank;
  • 13 – Office;
  • 14 – High tension switch house;
  • 15 – Car shed;
  • 16 – Dwelling house;
  • 17 – Canteen;
  • 18 – Garage;
  • 19 – Studio;
  • 20 – Laboratory;
  • 21 – Brick shed;
  • 22 – Store;
  • 23 – Fire brick store;
  • 24 -Motor room;
  • 25 – Metal store;
  • 26 – Store;
  • 27 – Office;
  • 28 – Store;
  • 29 – Office;
  • 30 – Office;
  • 31 – Wages office;
  • 32 – B. B. packing shop;
  • 33 – Metal store;
  • 34 – Grinding;
  • 35 – Filing;
  • 36 – Berlin Blacking metal store;
  • 37 – Polishing shop;
  • 38 – Electrical metal store & packing;
  • 39 – Electrical department store;
  • 40 – Works stores;
  • 41 – Stencil room;
  • 42 – Works electrician;
  • 43 – Wet mill room;
  • 44 – Drying room.;
  • 45 – Scouring;
  • 46 – Stove;
  • 47 – Stove;
  • 48 – Pickling;
  • 49 – Day mill room;
  • 50 – Enamel melting;
  • 51 – Electrical testing;
  • 52 – Electrical metal & sheet iron store;
  • 53 – Stove;
  • 54 – Pattern store;
  • 55 – Core store;
  • 56 – metal Bogies;
  • 57 – Dressing shop & store, Devon boilers & pans;
  • 58 – Stove;
  • 59 – AGA piece moulding;
  • 60 – Day moulding;
  • 61 – Machine moulding;
  • 62 – Pump & compressor switch house & fan room;
  • 63 – Sand blast house with air compressor;
  • Blacking shop;
  • 65 – Box mounting shop;
  • 66 – Mantel grate fitting;
  • 67 – Blacksmith’s shop;
  • 68 – Range metal store;
  • 69 – Fire brick store;
  • 70 – AGA fitting shop;
  • 71 – Range metal store;
  • 72 – Range metal store;
  • 73 – Iron store;
  • 74 – Metal store;
  • 75 – Passing shop;
  • 76 – Dressing shop;
  • 77 – Range metal store;
  • 78 – Fan room & switch house;
  • 79 – Cockburn’s pattern store;
  • 80 – Gas fitting shop;
  • 81 – Metal store;
  • 82 – Store;
  • 83 – Abbot’s fitting shop;
  • 84 – Dust tank;
  • 85 – Joiners;
  • 86 – Joiners;
  • 87. Paint shop;
  • 88 – Sand house;
  • 89 – Core shop with stove;
  • 90 – Filing shop;
  • 91 – Wood store;
  • 92 – Oil store;
  • 93 – Dwelling house;
  • 94 – Welfare hut;
  • 95 – Portable boiler metal store;
  • 96 – Portable boiler store;
  • 97 – Lock keeper.
  • A – Grinding mill with fan, dust tank & boiler house;
  • B – Berlin Blacking shops;
  • C – electrical fitting shop;
  • D – machine shop;
  • E – engineers’ shop;
  • F – enamelling shop;
  • G – days-men moulding shop;
  • H – range fitting shop;
  • J – piece moulding shop;

K – steam & constructional fitting shop;
M – pattern store;
N – pattern shop;
P – loading bay;
Q – general packing & dispatch;
R – portable boiler fitting shop;
S – sheet iron fitting shop;
T – coal bing;
U – pig iron bings & crane.

To continue reading about the ironworks and click here to learn how they were powered.

G.B. Bailey 2021