PRESERVING THE PAST . . . . FOR THE FUTURE
SMITHS MAUCHLINEWARE FACTORY - MAUCHLINE, AYRSHIRE
MAUCHLINE BOXWORKS ARTICLE FROM 1891 ARDROSSAN & SALTCOATS HERALD
Thought to be the most important find of recent years, the only decent
photograph available of the well known Smith's Mauchline Boxware Factory,
home to the phrase Mauchline Ware. This image was found in Willie's
collection of glass negatives and processed by ayrshirehistory.com
in late 2002. The view is taken from the roof of Mauchline Parish
Church, and dates back to the late 1800s. In the full image on the
left, Burnbrae House behind the Town Hall is still the older thatched
building. The current large double storey sandstone building dates
Click on the images to view a high res image, and BACK to return to this page
Staff members of the Smith's boxworks.
W & A Smith’s Box Works Site, New Road, Mauchline
From the recollections of the late Mrs Euphemia Smith who was in charge of the showroom, and was also a Packer, the business of W & A Smith was beginning to run down by the time the fire which destroyed the main part of the factory complex occurred in 1933. The firm however struggled on until 1937, when it went into voluntary liquidation.
Smith recalls that ‘five young men’ took over, but it
didn’t last long. The ‘five young men’ who took
over the business were;
The new company operated under the name W & A Smith (1937) ltd, and the above named were first directors. The objects for which the company was established on 22nd March 1937, were to carry on the business of W & A Smith, Box Manufacturers, and many other pursuits.
While wooden articles were produced, the venture did not flourish, and the advent of the 1939/45 was saw the demise of the business.
During the years of the war, and for some time afterwards, part of the premises was used as a potato store; part as a milk marketing board store for dried milk powder produced at the local creamery, and a small part was even used by a local ‘bookie’.
One of the directors, Alexander Anderson built a small factory on the site in the 1950s. He produced steel and timber girders or beams for the building trade in an effort to overcome the timber shortage at that time. The escalating cost of the steel element in the beam and the increasing availability of timber caused this venture to become unprofitable, and this too ceased.
Thereafter the buildings gradually fell into a state of dereliction and the whole, except that which had been the showroom and offices, was demolished to make way for the new fire station, which came into use in December 1963.
The shop currently occupied by Iain Cowan, whose wife is a daughter of Alexander Anderson, was formed from what had been the showroom, and the house above from what had been Mr William Smith’s offices. He died on 13th July 1949.
The attached sketch gives some idea of the layout of the factory complex during W & A Smith’s occupancy. There is no claim as to its accuracy. It is, as stated on the sketch, based on recollections. It is possible that more detailed information may be forthcoming, when a more detailed and accurate sketch could be produced.
Sources: Miss Phemie Smith, William Anderson, James B Jamieson, and John Bushell, all of Mauchline.
Courtesy Alex Wilson
A cutting from THE SCOTSMAN 1959 about Smith's, and an old poster. NB The high res versions of each of these items are 3 and 4 meg.
FURTHER READING: CLICK HERE FOR AN INFORMATIVE ARTICLE FROM THE 1977 BURNS CHRONICLE BY BUIST.
Davidson, Wilson & Amphlet
Victoria Works, which as can be seen here was at one time used as part of Kay's curling stone works, where it still operates today. The large 3 storey building was taken down in the early 1960s. Before this building was a curling stone manufacturers, it was a box works. The company was at one time Wilson, Davidson & Amphlet. An undated newspaper cutting refers to a fire on the premises of Wilson, Amphlet & Co, which is now incorporated within Alex's text.
Davidson, Wilson and Amphlet / Wilson and Amphlet
Text via Alex Wilson
Wilsons were always involved with the Mauchline Box Works Industry. It started with Robert Wilson, known as "The Gallant Weaver", from the song Robert Burns wrote about him. According to research carried out by his descendant, John Wilson, he was living in Loudoun Street, Mauchline, in the early 1800’s and married to Margaret Thomson of Maybole, Ayrshire. They had nine children.
researches say Robert Wilson the Gallant Weaver's second eldest child
John did marry and had eight children. The eldest of these, another
Robert, started up in partnership in 1855 with John Davidson, manufacturing
Snuff Boxes, Tartan and Fancy Woodware at Grey’s Bridge, Back
Causeway (Castle Street), close to the Burns House Museum, Mauchline.
A third partner Samuel Amphlet of Birmingham joined the business about
1856. On 1st April 1859 the firm now Davidson, Wilson and Amphlet, moved
to a new factory at Victoria Works, Barskimming Road, Mauchline. The
move to the new factory was well timed as the Great Mauchline Flood
of 1859 extensively damaged the empty manufactory. It is reported in
the 1861 census, held in the Register Office Edinburgh that the firm
employed 47 men, 31 women, 20 boys and 10 girls.
August 1867 Robert Wilson, with the consent of Samuel Amphlet transferred
his share of the business to his 35 year old nephew Edward McEwan. Robert
Wilson died a bachelor age 54 in 1871. He was highly regarded and The
Ayr Advertiser said in his obituary “Mr Wilson did a great deal
to extend The Fancy Wood Trade. He was highly respected for the interest
he took in the working classes, and for the unostentaneous manner in
which he rendered to the poor. Out of respect for his memory all public
works and shops in Mauchline closed at the time his body was conveyed
to the churchyard”.
THE AYR ADVERTISER REPORTED:
MAUCHLINE EXTENSIVE FIRE - £1000 WORTH OF PROPERTY DESTROYED
In a short time, the flames got into the adjoining building, and raged fiercely for about two hours, completely destroying the whole three flats, which were occupied as turning, varnishing, and finishing shops. By the help of Catrine fire engine, the south portion of the work was saved, the communication being cut, and water freely played on the doors, windows, and gable. Great praise is due to the inhabitants, both male and female, for their exertions to extinguish the fire, which is the largest we have had for many years. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt. The loss, which is partly covered by insurance, will amount to upwards of a thousand pounds. The property destroyed consists chiefly of machinery, manufactured goods, &c.
No one can say how the fire originated, as the buildings are all heated by steam, and the resident partner, Mr McEwing (Edward McEwan) saw the premises locked up, and all right, about ten o'clock. A large number will be thrown out of work for some time by the occurrence. It was a somewhat striking coincidence, that the funeral of Robert Wilson, Esq., the head partner of the firm, and who was for many years its manager, took place on the same day that the fire broke out. Mr Wilson did a great deal to extend the fancy wood trade. His death, which was very sudden, was caused by the bursting of a blood vessel. He was highly respected for the interest he took in the working classes, and for the unostentatious manner in which he rendered assistance to the poor. Out of respect for his memory, all the public works and shops in town were closed while his remains were being conveyed to the churchyard.
It is not
known what affect the fire had on production and the Partnership continued
to trade until 1885. For 25 years they produced a wide range of high
quality Mauchline Ware, held a Royal Warrant and for a while were the
main competitors of W and A Smith. Edward McEwan was in charge of the
factory and was responsible for the sales operation in Scotland where
he had many highly regarded sales outlets including The Burns Monument
Trust Alloway, Anderson Bookseller Dunkeld (see needle case below),
Shearer Stirling and James Soutter of Princes Street Edinburgh. Sammy
Amphlet covered England and Overseas from the Birmingham office. He
was a very lively and creative character, and had many patents registered
in his name. The Birmingham branch turnover was larger than that of
the head office in Mauchline. The firm also made other products such
as fastenings for belts and bands patented in 1856 by John Morrison
and Samuel Amphlet. Morrison a brother in law of Robert Wilson was a
superintendent of a steel pen manufactory in Birmingham.
John Davidson / John Davidson and Sons
1864 until 1885 there were three” Box Works” in Mauchline:
W. and A. Smith, Wilson & Amphlet and John Davidson and Sons. Much
has been written about the Smiths and Wilson & Amphlet's products
have been identified many times. John Davidson and his sons thrived
for forty years making snuffboxes, Tartan and Fancy Wood Ware, yet little
is known about the firm’s high quality products.
company was mentioned in the Ayr Advertiser of 7 July 1853: "The
checkers and others in the ornamental department of Messrs Clark, Davidson
& Co. have received an addition to their wages of 10% owing to the
increased prosperity of trade generally throughout the country and of
the Scotch Tartan Fancy Works in particular."
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