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British Industrial History

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Merry and Cuninghame

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of Glengarnock Ironworks and of 105, St Vincent Street, Glasgow

1841 James Merry and Alexander Cunningham, coalmasters and ironmasters, had second thoughts about exploiting the black band, mussel band and clay band ironstones in the district. The ore had been discovered some years before but there were doubts about the suitability of local coal for smelting it. The pair had not been prepared to take the gamble on smelting it, for if the coal proved unsuitable they would have been marooned many miles from the nearest alternative supply. However the situation changed when the Glasgow to Ayr Railway was built along the shore of the Kilbirnie Loch, which could also provide reserves of water. The railway would allow alternative supplies to be brought in if the gamble failed. [1]


1843 The partners were joined by Alexander Cunningham of Craigends and the Glengarnock Ironworks were founded

1850. "THE Subscribers, Merry and Cuninghame, in April 1846, and the Subscriber, James Merry, in September 1847, ceased to be Partners of, or to have any interest in The GLASGOW COMMERCIAL EXCHANGE COMPANY, having then respectively sold and transferred their Shares in that Company.[2]

1866 Mentioned. 'Wellington or Craigneuk Coal Pit, in the occupation of Messrs. Merry and Cuninghame.'[3]

1872 The works initially had 8 blast furnaces and by 1872 this had increased to 14. The aim was to manufacture steel plates and angles.

1876 James Merry leaves. "... James Merry, Esq., of Belladrum, in the county of Inverness, and of No. 68, Eaton square, London, ceased, as on the 15th day of May, 1876 to have any interest in the Companies carrying on business as Iron and Coal Masters, in Glasgow, and at Carnbroe, Glengarnock, Ardeer, and elsewhere, under the names and firms of Merry and Cuninghame, and the Glengarnock Iron Company.[4]

1884 the blast furnaces were reconstructed for a higher output of 250-300 tons per week, and four, eight ton, Bessemer converters (the first in Scotland [5]), and a steam hammer were installed. At 10 tons, and with a 215-ton anvil, this steam hammer was the heaviest in Scotland. It was installed because there was some doubt whether the Admiralty would accept rolled, rather than hammered, slabs.

1885 The first casts of steel were made early in 1885, and at later date a cogging mill and a 30 inch reversing mill plate mill were installed.

An extensive trade in tinplate bar was developed for delivery to South Wales tinplate mills. This mill also pioneered the rolling of steel joists, which acquired a high reputation among structural engineers. However, tariffs in the United States soon ended the trade in tin plate and the company was the first in Scotland to move into making H-beams for structures and bridges. Most structural work at that time was done with Belgian iron, but the cheap and strong Glengarnock girders soon replaced the imported girders.

1890, Merry and Cunningham was reorganized into two separate limited companies. One under the original name of Glengarnock Iron Works and the other the Glengarnock Iron and Steel Co. J. C. Cunningham was the chairman and among the directors was E. Windsor Richards, one of the leading iron and steel masters of the day. They led the company into a large trade in sections, rails, sleepers and fish plates.

1891 The company was registered on 18 February, to take over the Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire portion of the business of Merry and Cuninghame, colliery proprietors and ironmasters. [6]. J. C. Cunningham was the chairman and among the directors was E. Windsor Richards, one of the leading iron and steel masters of the day. They led the company into a large trade in sections, rails, sleepers and fish plates.

1918 of Ardeer Iron Works, Stevenston, Ayrshire, and Carnbroe Iron Works, Coatbridge.

1910-1920 Annual reports in Coventry Archives[7]

1922 of Ardeer Iron Works, Stevenson, and Binley Colliery, Coventry, Warwickshire.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Glengarnock Steel Works 1843 - 1985 [1]
  2. Edinburgh Gazette 23 April 1850
  3. The London Gazette Publication date:27 November 1866 Issue:23191 Page:6533
  4. London Gazette 2 June 1876
  5. The Times, 2 September 1885
  6. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  7. National Archives