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THE CARRON COMPANY

The Carron Company was an iron works set up by members of the Roebuck, Garbett and Cadell families in 1759, on the north banks of the River Carron near Falkirk, Stirlingshire. It took time and a substantial investment to develop the business and train the new workforce in the technique of iron working.

Initially air furnaces were used but the quality of the products made in these furnaces was unsatisfactory. The owners changed to the new method pioneered by Abraham Darby at Coalbrookdale using coke from the coal mines as fuel instead of the customary charcoal. By December 1760 the first blast furnace became operational producing pig iron but the resulting cast iron goods were fairly poor quality.

Nevertheless, the company was granted a lucrative contract in 1765 to supply armaments to the British Navy. The Carron Company’s fortune was on the upturn. Charles Gascoigne became a partner in 1765. He improved production techniques and the quality of the products, taking over management of the company in 1769. With Carron Wharf nearby and work beginning on the Forth and Clyde Canal the company was ideally placed for transporting goods to Glasgow and the south.

The company received a royal charter in 1773 and was by now known as a major manufacturer of guns. Then the Royal Navy cancelled its contract due to poor quality and Carron cannons were removed from all naval vessels.

Under the leadership of Charles Gascoigne a new cannon was engineered, known as the Carronade. The Carronade had the same calibre as a long gun, but was much lighter due to having a shorter barrel, making it possible for naval vessels to carry many more Carronades than long guns. It was very successful and remained in production from 1778 until the 1850s. The quality was so high that the Duke of Wellington would only use cannons manufactured by the Carron Company in his army. By the early nineteenth century the Carron Company was one of the largest iron works in Europe, employing over 2,000 workers. It continued to produce pig iron through the 19th century, together with many other cast iron products.

Around 1965 the company diversified into plastics and stainless steel but went into receivership in 1982. The Company still exists, over 250 years on, under the brand name of Carron Phoenix, part of the Franke Corporation, making sinks taps and waste disposers.

Carron Company THE PEOPLE

The Carron Company nurtured the genius of individuals like John Smeaton, James Watt, William Symington, Henry and William Haworth and the 3 Adam Brothers to name but a few. It fuelled their imagination and allowed their flair and creativity to come to fruition.

John Smeaton was already a hugely talented engineer before he became consultant at the Carron Company. He built the first stone Eddystone lighthouse and was responsible for designing the Forth and Clyde Canal. He also built the Iron Works mill in 1769.

James Watt experimented on his steam engine in a workshop at Carron in 1766. Inspired by Smeaton, and with backing from Dr John Roebuck, he was to succeed later that year in producing the earliest steam engine.

William Symingtoncame to Carron in 1788 to supervise the construction of a steam engine to propel a vessel which was duly launched at Bainsford producing a speed of 5mph. Around 1789 he came to the company as consulting engineer. Engines for both steamboats, the Experiment and Charlotte Dundas, were made at the works.

James Blaikie, a patternmaker at the Carron Iron works, was involved in making the engine for Symington’s 1801 boat. He was also responsible for assembling a working model of the same boat in 1802 for Symington, in case the Canal Company forced Symington to surrender the boat. Symington married Elizabeth, twin daughter of Carron foreman William Benson. William Benson is remembered for his verse relating to Robert Burns who turned up at Carron Works one Sunday morning and was refused permission.

John, Robert and James Adam designed and crafted elegant jewel dog grates while the Haworth brothers, William and Henry, were responsible for designing firegrates, panels for grates and balustrades.

The first shrapnel shell was made at Carron works in 1803 and tested under supervision of its inventor, Major-General Henry Shrapnel.

THE PRODUCTS

Over the years Carron has produced some of the very finest products in the world including iron ovens, balustrades, firegrates, the Carron bath, UK pillar boxes, red telephone kiosks, cannons, engine components, munitions for both World Wars, cast-iron rings for both the Clyde and Tyne Tunnels. The list is endless.

In the late 18th Century the Carron Company issued its own currency, such was its status, and this was accepted as legal tender until banks became more available. It also ran its own shipping line.