Garnkirk Fireclay Works, Garnkirk, North Lanarkshire – History

Garnkirk Fireclay Works, Garnkirk, Lanarkshire.

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In 1831 the Garnkirk Colliery and Brickfield Company were established and targeted the fire clay to be found in deep seams around Garnkirk and Glenboig area of Lanarkshire. The Company was owned by Mark Sprot, Garnkirk House and his brother Thomas Sprot. James Murray and Co appear to have been given the lease over the ground. The seams of clay were reputed to be of the finest quality and in a bed 4 – 19 feet thick. By May 1833 the company was advertising a full range of products including firebricks of every descriptions, tiles, gas retorts, crucibles, water pipes, ornamental vases and chimney cans. In September of 1849, Murray severed his connection with the company.  For most of its life, the company was noted as having an immense wholesale home and export trade. By 1860 the company had agents in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

Below – 11/04/1831 – The Glasgow Herald – Garnkirk clay field for lease – James Murray & Co, Fire brick and Grinding Works, Port Dundas

1832 – The Garnkirk Fireclay Company, owned by Mark Sprot of Garnkirk House, was set up. It was reputed to be the largest and most complex works in the UK at that time.

Early in 1832 reference was made to the manufacture of bricks at Garnkirk but the Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway accounts reveal that the traffic in bricks along the line did not begin to develop to any extent until September 1832.

03/12/1832 – Glasgow Herald – Garnkirk chimney falls down.

03-12-1832 Garnkirk

Below – 20/05/1833 – The Glasgow Herald.

20-05-1833

07/06/1834 – Caledonian Mercury – Grand horticultural promenade exhibition and prize show at Inverleith – an elegant vase and two ornamented flower pots manufactured from the fine fire clay lately discovered at Garnkirk were exhibited and much admired.

1836 – 1837 – Garnkirk Coal Co and Fire Brick Work Office, Townhead. Orders and Letters left at Thomas Murray’s, 8 Argyll Street.

14/10/1840 – Wolverhampton Chronicle – Article about iron making in Glasgow and clay quality around Garnkirk … It is curious that the clay in the neighbourhood answers perfectly for making crucibles for cast steel but it does not answer so well as Stourbridge clay for making glasshouse pots. On analysing the 2 clays we found that the Garnkirk contained much more alumina and less silica than the Stourbridge showing that glass infusion acts more powerfully on alumina than on silica.

1841 – 1842 – Garnkirk Coal Co, Firebrick office at Railway Depot, Townhead. Orders and letters left at Thomas Murrays, 8 Argyll Street, Glasgow.

02/04/1842 – Yorkshire Gazette – Glasgow was visited by one of the most severe storms of wind that has been experienced for many years …. we lament to learn that about 10 o’clock on Friday night, an accident of a serious nature occurred at Garnkirk fire brick and lime works. 2 of the stalks were blown down by the hurricane which swept over the city and suburbs and as this, unfortunately, happened to be the night on which the men at these works commenced a double shift, all those engaged in that department were buried in the ruins. By the most active exertions, the sufferers, 5 in number, were extricated from their dreadful situation. 2 of them dead and the other 3 much injured – one of them so much so that he is not expected to recover. The body of one of those recovered was almost cut in two. The names of the men killed are Daniel Mullen, a native of Ireland and John McArthur from the Highlands, both unmarried. The others are named Alexander Stark, Donald MacPherson and Alexander McPhee.

11/12/1843 – Belfast Commercial Chronicle – Samuel Boyle appears to be dealing in liquor and stocking Garnkirk fire clay bricks, blocks, covers etc.

Below – 15/08/1844 – Ayr Advertiser – An experiment to convey liquid manure to fields via fire clay pipes from the Garnkirk Pottery.

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1845  – New patents  The Australian 06/02/1845 – James Murray of the Garnkirk Coal Co, Lanark, Scotland for a new method of using and applying artificial gas made from coal, oil and other substances for lighting and ventilating caverns, pits or mines or mines or other pits where where minerals or metals are worked or extracted.

29/01/1845 – The Scotsman – Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland show. Mr Murray, Garnkirk Works for an assortment of fire clay vases etc.

Below – 15/02/1848 – Greenock advertiser  –  A correspondent describes a journey along the Caledonian Railway and refers to Garnkirk Fire Clay Company … At the next station, Garnkirk, are situated the finest, most extensive, and handsomest fire-brick works in the kingdom, not even excepting those of Stourbridge, the fire clay of Garnkirk being, in the opinion of the celebrated Dr Thomas Thomson, superior to the Stourbridge clay. At these elegantly ornamental works, which are seen close to the line in passing are manufactured fire-brick of all descriptions, tessellated pavements, patent kiln tiles, gas retorts and crucibles, ridge tiles, water pipes, and more especially splendid ornamental vases after the antique, adapted for gardens, balconies, and buildings …

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Below – 21/07/1849 – Glasgow Gazette – New kilns at Garnkirk. Alexander Sprot. The company are ready to treat for licenses to use their patent for making brick etc from pulverised clay by hydraulic pressure.

Below – 10/04/1850 – Derry Journal – Advert.

Below – 12/10/1850 –  The Daily Crescent – New Orleans – Brick quality ‘test’ carried out between a Garnkirk and Biloxi fire bricks.

1850 garnkirk v biloxi

Below – 1852  – Garnkirk Fire Clay Works Advert – Slaters Directory.

Garnkirk Fire Clay Works 1852

Below – 1853 – Garnkirk Coal Company, Garnkirk Works, Glasgow. Frontpage of their catalogue (photocopy). At this time they have agents based in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Boston, USA.

07/02/1854 – Dundee, Perth and Cupar advertiser  – Advert  – William McLaren, The Yard, West Port, Dundee is stocking Garnkirk fire clay goods … The superiority of the articles manufactured by the Garnkirk Company is so well known that it is only necessary to say that they comprise  – fire bricks, fire clay, drain pipes, vent linings, chimney cans, and ornamental vases in great variety, grate bricks of all sizes and tessellated paving tiles, balcony rails etc …

Below – 07/12/1854 – Northern Warder – Garnkirk advert. W McLaren Agent.

Below – 10/11/1855 – The Garnkirk Coal Company, Garnkirk Works, Glasgow William Henderson, an agent in Ulster.

11/02/1856 – Glasgow Herald – Garnkirk Works – At two o’clock on Thursday morning a large chimney of 120 feet, connected with the fire brickwork, was blown down, carrying away a piece of a stove and a dwelling house in which one of the foremen and his family were asleep, burying them in the ruins.  Happily, they escaped with some slight bruises.  two of the engine stalks of chimneys connected with the coal and fire clay pits were also blown down, and a large fenced wall around the works gave way at the same time.  The houses were stripped of cans, slates, &c. At Heathfield, an adjoining fire brickwork, one of their largest stalks or chimney was blown down. Coatbridge.

Below – 13/03/1856 – Caledonian Mercury – Court of Session. Caledonian Railway etc V Mark Sprot. A dispute over lost mineral rights.

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Below – 07/06/1856 – Aberdeen Herald – Garnkirk Coal Company. G Duncan, Netherkirkgate – Agent.

1857 – Garnkirk Colliery and Brickworks Lanark. J Gillespie Manager, Muirhead.

Below- 21/04/1857 – Northern Whig – William Henderson agent in Belfast.

Below – 02/05/1857 -The Advocate – Henry Perrin, Ireland agent for Garnkirk Fire Clay Company.

Below – 1858 –  Garnkirk Fire Clay Works.

Garnkirk Fireclay wORKS 1864

Below – 24/07/1858 – Aberdeen Herald  – Garnkirk Coal Company. G Duncan, Netherkirkgate – Agent.

Below – 28/09/1860 – Belfast News  – Garnkirk fireclay goods for sale in Belfast

Below – 1861  – Advert Garnkirk Coal Company and Brickworks, Glasgow

1861 advert Garnkirk Coal Company and brickworks Glasgow

Below – 28/02/1863 – Coleraine Chronicle – Garnkirk Fire Clay and Terra Cotta Works show off drawings and designs.

04/07/1865 – Belfast News – Scotch Fireclay goods – Scottish fire clay goods. Builders, Contractors, &c., will find the largest and most varied Stock of the above Goods kept in Ireland at my Depots- Queens Quay, Belfast and 56, North Wall, Dublin The Goods are second to none in the market and at lowest rates, white bricks (extra finished), for Facing, Buildings, in great variety. Also, glazed sewerage pipes, with Patent or Socket Joints. Robert Brown.Belfast Depot- Queens Quay. Dublin Depot-56 North Wall. Works Paisley. N.B.- Goods can be sent to any Port in Ireland, either by Sailing Vessel or Steamer, direct from the Works. 4235

The subscribers have for sale :-Garnkirk fire brick and clay; Allan & Mann’s white building brick (the best brick manufactured); J. & M. Craig’s brick, 1st and 2nd qualities; Do, white and red glazed tiles; Sealy’s Bridgewater tiles and Bath brick; Staffordshire black brick, various shapes; Chester tiles and brick
Architectural Pottery Company’s ornamental tiles, cement, London, Portland, Roman; Hydraulic limes, &c.; chimney cans, water pipes, &c., &c., &c.
W.D.Henderson & Sons. Office-14 Corporation Street. Yard – Albert Square. 4113.
02/10/1865 – Glasgow Herald – Patents recently applied for – Sept 19 – James Gillespie, Garnkirk – brick and tiles.

Below – 14/07/1866 – The Sydney Morning Herald – Balmain Firebricks – Bradford & Co

Sydney Morning Herald 14-07-1866 - Reference to Garnkirk bricks

Below – 1867  – Advert Garnkirk Fire Clay Co

1867 Garnkirk fire clay co Glasgow

1868 – Garnkirk Coal Company, Garnkirk Brickworks, Moodiesburn, Glasgow.

Below – 23/04/1868– Falkirk Herald – H. Hume appointed an agent for Garnkirk Fire Clay Company.

Below – 28/11/1868 – The Scotsman – An article on the background to brick making and highlighting the Garnkirk Fire Clay Company.

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1869 – Garnkirk Fire Clay Co. Manufacturers of fire bricks & blocks tor the highest heats for iron blast furnaces; forge, rolling, puddling, and steel furnaces; pottery, bottle and flint glass furnaces; copper calcining, roasting, & refining furnaces; chemical Works, coke ovens, locomotive bricks, &c. ; special bricks for Siemen’s patent regenerative gas furnace; Glazed sewerage pipes, ornamental vases, fountains, and all kinds of terra-cotta work. Registered trademark, ” Garnkirk.” Office & showrooms, 243 Buchanan St; works, Garnkirk, near Glasgow.

23/08/1870– Glasgow Evening Citizen – Garnkirk Fire Clay Company showrooms – 243 Buchanan Street, Glasgow. Garden vases, fountains and other ornaments. Cheap durable and beautiful.

26/10/1870 – Londonderry Standard – M. McClelland. Londonderry, Agent for the Garnkirk Fire Glay Company’s celebrated fire clay goods.

1871 – International Exhibition, London – Pottery – Terracotta, Stoneware, firebricks – page 70 states – The Garnkirk clay (near Gartsherrie, Scotland) is bituminous and mixed with some sulphur and almost free of sand. After weathering for 2 or 3 years, it is used almost dry and without the addition of burnt clay. It is the most refractory clay known.

Page 72 states – … the burning takes place at Garnkirk, in rectangular kilns; the flame enters and ascends at the side, between the bricks, descends in the centre and thence enters 2 chimneys.

Below – 1871 Liverpool Shipping Guide

1871 Garnkirk advert

May 1871 – Garnkirk Fire Clay Company advertise a new design for a chimney top.

17/05/1872 – Belfast News – Fire bricks, pipes, tiles  – we are now discharging a cargo of the celebrated Garnkirk fire bricks, blocks and clay; also glazed sewer pipes, chimney cans, white and glazed tiles, wall coping, troughs, jaw boxes etc from J & M Craig, Kilmarnock. Slates, cement, alabaster, flagging etc in stock, all at low prices. W.D Henderson & Sons, 12 Victoria Street, Belfast.

In 1878 the principal overseas markets were in France, Germany, Russia, and the East and West Indies.  Products are also noted as being shipped to New Zealand.  By the 1860s the company was the largest fireclay firm in the world covering six acres, employing 300 men and boys, and manufacturing 200 tons of fireclay products each day.

By the late 1860s, the firm was surpassed by J. & M. Craig of Kilmarnock, which in turn was surpassed by the Glenboig Union Fire Clay Company in the 1880s.  The Garnkirk fireclay pits were finally exhausted around 1895.

Apparently the company went out of business around 1898 and the buildings were being advertised for sale in the spring of 1901. By 1979 the land previously worked by the Garnkirk Fireclay Works was lost under a new housing scheme

27/07/1872 – Dundee Courier – Dundee town council have met and the offer to erect the fountain in the New Park at a sum of £105 by the Garnkirk Fire Clay Company has been accepted.

Below – 18/08/1877 – The Coleraine Chronicle – Advert for Garnkirk goods in Coleraine. Agent D.A Williamson & Co.

1878 – Garnkirk Fire Clay co -243 Buchannan Street, Glasgow. Works – Ganrkirk. Deport  St Rollox.

03/09/1878 – Cork Constitution – Wrixon and Weir agents for the Garnkirk Fire Clay Company Cook Street, Cork

12/10/1878 – Northern Constitution – Special notice – We are at present discharging ex ship “Mary” a cargo of the celebrated Garnkirk Fire Clay Goods, consisting of sewerage pipes, chimney tops, feeding troughs, flue linings, bricks, tiles and garden vases … Coleraine 31/08/1878.

1880 (?)- Fire clay goods, slates and cement. W.D Henderson & Sons, 12 Victoria Street, Belfast. (Scottish Amicable Buildings)
Always supplied with Garnkirk and Kilmarnock best Tiles, Fire and Facing Bricks, ‘Cans, Vases, Glazed Sewer Pipes, Troughs, and all Articles made in Fire Clay and Terra Cotta, including Staffordshire Blue Bricks, Plain and Encaustic Tiling, Field Drain Pipes, Roofing Tiles, etc., also White Bros’, celebrated London Portland Cement, Lias Lime, Alabaster, Slates, Flagging, Newton’s Patent Gullies, Allan & Mann’s Patent White Bricks, Oven Tiles, Laths, Buchan’s Traps etc.
Yards – Albert Square, foot of Waring Street and Corporation Square, next to Harbour Office.

Below – 28/02/1880 – Staffordshire Sentinel  – Registered pottery trademarks.

1882 – Garkirk Fire Clay Co – Terracotta manufacturers, fire bricks, blocks for glasshouses, blast, cupola, coke and other furnaces, gas retorts, kiln tiles, flue covers, chimney cans, vases, balustrades, fountains, vent linings, glazed sewage and water pipes. James Gillespie Manager. Office 243 Buchannan Street, Glasgow

Below – 1886 – Advert Garnkirk Fire Clay Co, Near Glasgow.

24/07/1886 – London Daily News – Prospectus for Thomas Carr and Son, Fireclay manufacturers … The new gas process is already in operation in some of the largest Fireclay and Brick and Tile Works in the Kingdom, amongst which are the following: Glenboig Star and Cumbernauld Fire Clay Works of the Glenboig Union Fireclay Company and the Garnkirk Fireclay Works …

25/08/1888 – Lennox Herald – International Exhibition, Glasgow – Sanitary section – The Garnkirk Fire Clay Co, Glasgow, have a display of sanitary pipes, with all their latest improvements. They have also a good number of artistic articles, such as statues, vases, and a sun-dial, all in fire clay. Also, chimney cans and fire bricks for furnaces and ornamental building

1890- 91 – William Burnside – Depot Manager, Garnkirk Fire Clay co, Head of Glebe Street, Glasgow

1891 –  The Garnkirk Fire Clay Company, Garnkirk Works, near Glasgow.

The founder of this — the largest concern of the kind in Glasgow or for many miles round — commenced business some sixty years ago. (1831) The Company engages extensively in the manufacture of fire bricks and blocks for the highest heats, for iron blast furnaces ; forge, rolling, puddling, and steel furnaces ; flint and bottle glass furnaces ; pottery, copper calcining, roasting and refining furnaces ; chemical works, coke ovens, locomotive bricks, gas retorts, flue covers, ornamental chimney cans, vases, figures, fountains, and every description of terra-cotta work. For the whole of the long period during which the Garnkirk fire clay has been known throughout the world, its supply has been inexhaustible. This clay differs from that from which other Scotch fire clay goods are made in being comparatively free from iron, the presence of which in quantity is not only dangerous as a flux but wasteful, as owing to its power as a conductor it causes great heat radiation.

The Garnkirk Works, which cover an area of thirty-five acres, is situated, in near proximity to the Caledonian Railway system, at a distance of about six miles from Glasgow. The Company was originally formed for the purpose of working coal, but, finding that extensive beds of fire clay existed on their property, the Company took to manufacturing that material which now almost exclusively engages their attention. The principal seam of clay is seven feet in thickness and lies at an average depth of twenty-eight fathoms. Its quality is considered by competent connoisseurs to be equal to that of the very best of the Stourbridge clays. The works of the Company are intersected by branch railway lines, between three and four hundred men and boys are employed. The clay is of a dark colour, owing to the presence of a small proportion of carbonaceous matter, but which is expelled by the action of fire, silica and alumina only remaining, and it is the presence of these substances in certain proportions that decides the value of the clay. As it comes from the pits the clay is entirely devoid of cohesion or plasticity; and, in order to bring it into working condition, it has to be ground and then mixed with water. Several powerful mills are used for this purpose. They consist of great iron rollers which travel around a circular trough and pass over the clay.

The Garnkirk Company do not work in common clay, but they have an extensive trade in the manufacture of glazed fire clay sewage and water pipes. The terra-cotta work of the Company is unsurpassed by that of any other enterprise of the kind in the Kingdom. Terra-cotta is an Italian term signifying baked clay, but it is commonly employed to designate such articles formed of clay as are used in architectural embellishments. It is if properly made, one of the most durable materials that can be used in building, and was so employed by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The articles made at Garnkirk Works in terra-cotta are chiefly statues, fountains, vases, brackets, pedestals, and chimney pots.

There are many indications that the developments of this great concern will be continuous. All who have used the various productions of the Garnkirk Fire Clay Company pronounce them in every respect unequalled in the market, and the judicious and, withal, enterprising policy pursued by the Company in the management of the business encourages the belief that the achievements of the house in the past are but antecedent to the attainment of still higher future ends in the industry, so admirably illustrated at Garnkirk Fire Clay Works, and at the extremely commodious offices and showrooms of the Company at the corner of Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street, and at the fire brick depot at the head of Glebe Street, St. Rollox, Glasgow.

Below – 06/04/1892 – Glasgow Herald – Garnkirk Fireclay Co advert.

Below – 1893 – Advert – Garnkirk Fire Clay Co

Below – 1893 – 1896 – Advert – Garnkirk Fire Clay Co.

1893 Garnkirk fire clay co

14/03/1895 – Glasgow Herald – Garnkirk Fire Clay Company, 243 Buchanan Street, Glasgow – Garden vases. Catalogue free.

Below – 1896 – Advert  Garnkirk Fire Clay Co.

1896-garnkirk-fire-clay-advert

Below – 1896 – Advert  Garnkirk Fire Clay Co.

1896-advert-garnkirk-fire-clay-works

Below –  1897  –  Garnkirk Fire Clay Works.

Garnkirk Fire Clay Works 1897

1898? – Garnkirk Fireclay Company goes into voluntary liquidation as the clay reserves are depleted. Source Kenneth Sanderson.

01/06/1899 – Dundee Advertiser – Garden vases, fountains, ornaments, garden borders etc  Catalogues free. Garnkirk Fire Clay Company, 243 Buchannan Street, Glasgow.

11/12/1900 – Banffshire Journal – The Garnkirk Fire Clay Company are reducing their stock of glazed sanitary pipes and ar reduced prices. Quotations are given on receipt of specifications. 243 Buchanan Street, Glasgow.

Below – 16/03/1901 – The Scotsman – Garnkirk Fire Clay Works for sale. In existence for over 70 years.

30/10/1901 – The Scotsman  – To architects, gentlemen and slaters – 200 high-class cans must be removed from the Garnkirk Fire Clay Works; all patterns. Brand, Willison Street, Dundee.

06/11/1901 – Kirkintilloch Herald – The 3/4″ water meter at Garnkirk Fire Clay Works situated at their pit is not required and has been removed. the 2″ and 3″ meter will remain for the time being.

08/01/1902 – Kirkintilloch Herald  – Review of the year …..The fire clay industry which is the most important in the district has been in a very depressed condition. 1901 witnessed the permanent closing of the very well known Garnkirk Fire Clay Works. This work is being converted into a tube work.  During the year foreign labour was introduced into the fire clay pits, the result of a strike which took place early in the year. This strike was the cause of many exciting incidents, prominent among which was the eviction of strikers.

Below – 29/04/1908 – Kirkintilloch Herald – discussion and description regarding houses built for Garnkirk workers 80 years ago.

Below – a selection of Garnkirk products sold by Christie’s.

A pair of Victorian Terracotta Garden urns possibly by Garnkirk of Scotland. Late 19th century. 28 in. (71 cm.) high; 23 in. (59 cm.) diameter.

Garnkirk urns

A pair of Scottish fluted terracotta pedestals by Garnkirk, Lanarkshire. 31 in. (79 cm.) high.

Garnkirk pedestals

1901 – Garnkirk Fireclay Company closed and part of the area was taken over by Henry Bros of Saracen for the manufacture of tubes. Source

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The Garnkirk Colliery and Brickfield Company started exploiting the Glenboig / Garnkirk fireclays and making firebricks around 1831.  The partnership was made up of Thomas Sprot, Mark Sprot, and James Murray.  By 1833 the company was advertising a full range of products including firebricks of every descriptions, tiles, gas retorts, crucibles, water pipes, ornamental vases and chimney cans.  In September of 1849, Murray severed his connection with the company.  For most of its life, the company was noted as having an immense wholesale home and export trade.

By 1860 the company had agents in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.  In 1878 the principal overseas markets were in France, Germany, Russia, and the East and West Indies.  Products are also noted as being shipped to New Zealand.  By the 1860s the company was the largest fireclay firm in the world covering six acres, employing 300 men and boys, and manufacturing 200 tons of fireclay products each day.

By the late 1860s, the firm was surpassed by J. & M. Craig of Kilmarnock, which in turn was surpassed by the Glenboig Union Fire Clay Company in the 1880s.  The Garnkirk fireclay pits were finally exhausted around 1895.

Apparently the company went out of business around 1898 and the buildings were being advertised for sale in the spring of 1901.  Garnkirk Fireclay Works noted as being built over by 1979.

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