Nithsdale Tile Works

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Meikle Westland and River Nith ( Robert Guthrie)

I. Archibald Brown (b.1817  d. 1897) and Jane Richard (b.1837 D. 1916)

Children: 1. Robert (b.1863), 2. William (b.1865) & Marion (b.1865), 4. Archibald (b.1867), 5. George (b.1872),  6. Marion (b.1874)

Archibald Brown was born c.1816 at Muirkirk, son of Robert Brown, farmer and Mary Lorimer. By 1841 he had moved to New Cumnock to live and work as a tenant farmer at Meikle Westland farm on the east bank of the Garepool Burn before it joins the mighty  River Nith in the east side of the parish.

In November 1862, 46 year-old Archibald married 26 year-old Jane Brown Richard, resident at Bank House at that time. The marriage was conducted by the parish minister Reverend Robert E. Murray and was witnessed by John Hyslop, Laird of Bank. Jane, like her new husband, was Muirkirk-born, the daughter of William Richard, farmer at Middlefield and Marian Wilson.

All six of their children were born at Meikle Westland but sadly three of their children died, all of croup, 5 year old  Robert died in 1868 and his sister Marian (twin of William) died two days later. Some ten years on another daughter named Marian, died aged 4 years old. The surviving children were William, Archibald and George.

Archibald Brown “a farmer of 1400 acres (with 200 arable) and employing 2 men and 2 girls” farmed Meikle Westland for the rest of his days until his death in 1897. During most of which time Thomas McMichen Craufurd Esq, of Grange, Maybole was the proprietor but latterly it was owned by Henry Percy Sterndale an Englishman living in Assam, India.

Archibald’s widow Jane and their youngest son George continued to farm Meikle Westland while eldest son William,  farmed at the neighbouring farm of Blackwood on lands owned by the Marquis of Bute. By 1905, middle son Archibald had returned temporarily from Liverpool and purchased the lands and farm of Meikle Westland, while he himself started farming at Blackwood.

II. Archibald Brown (b.1867 d. 1935)

1. Annie  Steele (b.1870 d. 1900) |

Children: 1. Muriel (b.1893), 2. Jane (b.1894) 3. Annie (b.1896)

2. Ada Steele (b.1876 d.1923)

Children: 1. Ada (b.1906)

Archibald junior had left the farming life and New Cumnock behind to earn his living as an ironmonger at Bootle, Lancashire. In 1891 he married local lass Annie Sophia Steele daughter of John Steele, marine superintendent and Mary Ann Vaughan. Together they had three daughters – Murie,  Jane and Annie.

In 1899 Archibald set up his own company in Liverpool – “Archibald Brown & Co. Ltd, coppersmiths and brassfounders”.

A. & R. Brown Ltd (later Archibald Brown Ltd) of 18-22 Porter Street, Liverpool, specialised in carrying out coppersmithing and brass founding for a wide range of industrial plant including sugar refining and industrial equipment, as well as marine work. The company merged with C. & H. Crichton Ltd., ship repairers and engineers in the early 1960s and this firm joined with Sandhills Engineering to form C.B.S. Engineering in 1972. [1]

Tragedy struck the family the following year when Archibald’s wife Annie died, aged 30 years old. Three years later he married his late wife’s sister Ada Steele and soon after the couple moved to Blackwood Farm. It was here in September 1906 that their daughter Ada was born, the family now extended to four daughters.

It was during this period that the Nithsdale Ornamental Tile and Pottery Company was formed on the lands adjacent to Meikle Westland farm

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Nithsdale Ornamental Tile & Pottery Works  (Courtesy of National Library of Scotland)

  • Ayrshire Sheet XLII.SE (includes: Kirkconnel; New Cumnock)
    Publication date: 1911   Date revised: 1908 / tile works

The exact date of the formation of the company has proved to be elusive so far, however it appears that it had a rocky start as in July 1906, reassurances were given in the press that it would “carry on”.

“The Nithsdale Ornamental Tile and Pottery Company, to carry on the business of  manufacturer of pottery, brick, terra cotta earthenware and fireclay goods of every desription. Capital, £10,000 in shares of each £1 each.”

The Scotsman July 7, 1906

However, three years later the same newspaper was reporting that the  company was  in liquidation.

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The Scotsman, July 21, 1909

Soon after Archibald Brown returned to Liverpool with his family to manage his coppersmith and brass founders business. His mother Janet passed away in 1916 and the farms of lands of Meikle Westland were sold off, although his brother William continued to live and work there as the tenant farmer until the 1930’s .

At the conclusion of the Great War, Archibald Brown contacted Mr J. A. Wales the headmaster of his former school at New Cumnock to express his desire to see a memorial tablet in the school to former pupils that had fallen in the war.  He was provided with a list of their names which were engraved on a  grand brass mural tablet that his company had manufactured.

On October 1921, Archibald Brown attended the school for the unveiling of the memorial which included in the sixty-two names that of his nephew George Brown,  son of William Brown, farmer at Meikle Westland and his wife Jane. [3]

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Achibald Brown passed away in May 1935 aged 67 years old.

archibald_brown_probateThe Nithsdale Ornamental Tile and Pottery Company

Although little remains of the Nithsdale Ornamental Tile and Pottery at Meikle Westland farm a climb up to the higher reaches of the Garepool Burn reveals an unlikely memorial to the Browns of Meikle Westland and Archibald Brown’s venture. The remains of a water wheel that carries the name –

“Arch. Brown & Co. Engineers” and the address “14 Barton Street, Liverpool”

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Photo Robert Guthrie

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Photo Robert Guthrie

There are lots of fragments of the equipment associated with the wheel scattered on the banks of the Garepool Burn. Donald McIver explains their role in his book “A Stroll through the Historice Past of New Cumnock” [2].

There is a clay mine just below the antimony mines. Clay was extracted and taken to the edge of Garepool Burn, where machinery operated by a water wheel was used to crush it. The wheel drove a long horizontal shaft that in turn  – through a series of teeth and pinion gear wheels drive a large paddle type mixer. Clay was emptied into the paddle tank and the paddles, in turning, broke it up and liquified it so that a pump, also geared off the shaft, could pump it down to the drying sheds at Meikle Westland. Once there it was directed to a drying shed with a special type of floor tile designed to drain off excess water. The clay was left in a plastic state, and was coloured according to the orders needed, cut to shape and fired in the kiln. All that remains at the farm is the drying floor. The works were known as the Nithsdale Tile Works.”

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Postscript

The late Donald McIver was the president of the New Cumnock Local and Natural History Society when I joined in 1974, knowing very little about the history of the parish. In a relatively short space of time society members visited the Covenaneters Grave on Carsgailoch Hill, the site of Waterhead Castle and then here at the waterwheel on the Garepool Burn – on that day part of our journey was on back of a tractor and trailer.

Life changing – RIP Donald.

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Donald McIver “A Stroll through the Historical Past of New Cumnock”

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

[1] National Museum Liverpool

[2] Donald McIver “A Stroll through the Historical Past of New Cumnock” (2000), New Cumnock New Cumnock Environmental Regeneration Volunteers.

[3] Richard Bain, “New Cumnock War Memorials”.

Maps

  • National Library of Scotland
  • https://maps.nls.uk/
  • Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’
  • Ayrshire Sheet XLII.SE (includes: Kirkconnel; New Cumnock)
    Publication date: 1911   Date revised: 1908 / tile works

Scotland’s People