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British Industrial History

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George Smith and Co

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George Smith & Co Ltd, Sun Foundry, Glasgow 1858 - 1899 Ironworkers

Founded in 1858, George Smith and Co Ltd were very much contemporaries and therefore business rivals to Walter Macfarlane and Co. In the 1870's and 1880's they were of comparable size to Saracen, although Walter MacFarlane and Co Ltd eventually outstripped them in terms of production and sales.

Founded by George Smith at 64 Port Dundas Road in Glasgow, the company quickly expanded, moving to Parliamentary Road in 1875 where they remained to 1896.

Interestingly, Sun Foundry initiated two other ironfounding legacies. George Smith's son Alexander Smith left the Sun Foundry and founded Star Foundry in Kirkintilloch during 1861. They specialised in rainwater goods and pipes, and were taken over by Cameron and Roberton in 1867 to become the prolific Southbank Foundry. Cameron & Roberton existed until 1981 when the Southbank Foundry was closed.

Colin Stewart left Glasgow and his position in the Sun Foundry to travel to Australia. It seems likely that Stewart bought out the Fulton Foundry in Adelaide, and with a Mr Harley established the Sun Foundry of Harley and Stewart around 1867. AC Harley bought out Harley and Stewart in 1910, but retained the foundry name, becoming Forwood Down & Co Ltd in 1924. It is not known if this was undertaken with the blessing of George Smith & Co Ltd, but an excellent Australian reprint of the Harley and Stewart catalogue is littered with the Glasgow foundry's designs.

The Glasgow Sun Foundry produced a range of excellent designs for gates, railings, bandstands, and their speciality, ornamental fountains. One of the best examples of Scottish architectural ironwork is their fountain in Fountain Gardens, Paisley, complete with cast iron walruses and rocks !

The extraordinary bandstand / shelter / clock tower at Bridgetown cross is also their work. A number of small drinking fountain canopies which are often mistaken for Saracen's work are also examples from George Smith & Co Ltd, identified as Pattern No.3. The Sun Foundry examples have a solid domed roof and have alligators to the internal four corners. Examples are found in Portmahomack, Dornoch, Burntisland, Newcraighall and ironically outside Alexandra Park in Glasgow, the location of the Saracen Fountain. Unusual drinking fountains by Sun are still found in Edzell, Angus, and Elie in Fife, cast in 1869.

Much of the decorative ironwork in the Glasgow Necropolis is the work of Sun Foundry, along with a superb bandstand on the Links in Nairn, and an early example in the Lincoln Arboretum, recently restored. Smaller ornamental fountains are found in Denbigh, Wales, and one which we were pleased to discover in Crieff Cemetery, Perthshire. An excellent pair of ornamental fountains are also found in the Peoples Park, Dunlaoghaire just outside Dublin, in beautiful condition and much appreciated locally. Splendid runs of railing are found adjacent to Albert Bridge in Glasgow, now in a precarious condition.

In 1896 Sun Foundry relocated from Parliamentary Road to Clippen in Linwood, suggesting that the company were starting to struggle. They closed in 1899, only three years later. It is somewhat curious that Sun Foundry did not appear to embrace the constructional opportunities of cast iron for building which Saracen and Lion did with much success.

In March 2004 we discovered that George Smith relocated to Alloa just before the main company went out of business in 1899 and established the Sun Foundry, Alloa - the archive extract which confirms this is this extract from The Alloa Journal dated April 27th 1889 : 'The Alloa Sun Foundry, pleasantly situated on the north shore of the Forth, is well worthy of notice as an extensive and very important local industry, which, in the last two years, has developed into imposing dimensions. The buildings in which the work is carried on were erected about 20 years ago, and although at one time a very large trade was done in them, this place of business, which was known as the Albion Foundry, stood empty from the year 1878 until 1887. In March of the latter year, Mr George Smith (Senior Partner of the present firm and formerly of the Sun Foundry, Glasgow) took over the foundry, and set about reviving the industry. He soon had a number of workmen busily employed. The work gradually increased as the labour put forth by the firm began to be known and appreciated, and within the space of two years this large foundry, covering as it does an area of between 3 – 4 Acres, has been almost entirely utilised for carrying on the work required of it, and will soon, as we understand, be taxed to it’s utmost extent'. At this stage further research is required to identify how long this arm of the business lasted for.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • [1] Scottish Iron Work