Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

William Baird and Co

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Iron founders of Scotland; at one time the largest makers of pig-iron in Scotland.

1816 Alexander Baird leased the coalfield at Rochsolloch (New Monkland); one son, William, aged 20, managed it, and another, Alexander, was responsible for sales.

1822 Took a lease at Merryston but in the boom of 1825 the landlord reclaimed it

1825 The brothers opened a new pit on the estate of Gartsherrie.

1828 James Beaumont Neilson patented the Hot-blast process; the brothers erected the first Gartsherrie furnace which commenced production on 4th May 1830.

1830 William Baird and Co was formally established when Alexander Baird made over to five of his eight sons the non-agricultural leases he held in the Monklands iron and coalfield[1].

By 1843 the works had 16 furnaces and a capacity of 100,000 tons per annum, making them the largest single pig-iron producing unit in the world. They had also acquired control of the lion’s share of the vital splint coal and blackband ore needed to feed these furnaces.

1845 Construction of a new works started at Eglinton; over the next twenty years extensive mineral leases were acquired and the ironworks at Blair, Muirkirk, Lugar, and Portland were purchased and operated as the Eglinton Iron Co.

Between 1878 and 1896 all 16 furnaces at Gartsherrie Iron Works were replaced and by-product recovery plant was installed (the invention of John Alexander and A. K. McCosh the Gartsherrie managers who were two of the new management team which had taken over following the deaths of the original brothers).

Mines were purchased in Santander and in 1893 the company became the first foreign firm to become involved in southern Spain when it purchased the Monte de Hierro (mountain of iron) mineral field. The development of their coal interests was an even more significant departure, as the company expanded its sales, instead of restricting itself to supplying its own furnaces.

1910 Lanarkshire output reached a pre-war peak of 1,737,584 tons in 1910,

1913 Estimated Ayrshire output was 1,640,000 tons in 1913.

Post WWI: Colvilles rose to dominate the Scottish industry as steel took over from iron. Only Bairds, thanks to their financial strength, were able to hold out against this.

1931 the company’s Ayrshire coal interests were combined with those of the Dalmellington Iron Co in Ayrshire, to form Bairds and Dalmellington Ltd. The new company, 75 percent owned by William Baird and Co Ltd, controlled 70 percent of the Ayrshire coalfields.

1938, the company underwent reorganisation and entered voluntary liquidation. William Baird and Co Ltd was reconstituted, and the company’s Lanarkshire interests merged with the Scottish Iron and Steel Co Ltd of Glasgow, to form Bairds and Scottish Steel Ltd, pig iron and steel manufacturers.

1939 Bairds and Scottish Steel linked their Gartsherrie works with the Northburn Steel Works.

Between 1946 and 1951, the whole of William Baird’s coal, iron and steel interests were nationalised and the company began to diversify into other areas of business, including the textile industry.

The nationalised enterprise, still under McCosh management, finally began rebuilding but only one furnace was constructed.

1961, the company merged with Northern Mercantile out of which the groups' engineering division was formed.

William Baird and Co declined the chance to buy the works back on denationalisation and, when a consortium bought it in 1963, the old Baird management withdrew. It was no longer viable and the new owners closed it in 1967.

The company continued to diversify and acquired the raincoat manufacturing company, Dannimac Ltd, London, England, in 1981 and in 1988 acquired the Windsmoor Group.

Between 1992 and 1994, the company disposed of its engineering and building services.

1994 acquired the Melka and Tenson menswear brands.

1999 The company acquired the Lowe Alpine sportswear brand

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Based on The Bairds of Gartsherrie by Robert D. Corrins [1]
  • William and James Baird[2]
  1. http://www.monklands.co.uk/coatbridge/bairdsofgartsherrie/