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Kilmarnock Gas Works

Text and transcription, Rob Close 2000.

Astute readers of Ayrshire Notes will have noticed the regularity with which Kilmarnock Gas Works has cropped up. In Ayrshire Notes 16, Spring 1999, Stuart Wilson rightly drew attention to the error in James Keith's list of Ayrshire gas works (in Ayrshire Notes 10, Spring 1996). Keith dates the Kilmarnock Gas Works to 1901, whereas the Kilmarnock Gas Light Company was formed in 1822, and the works in Park Street opened in 1823. Further reference to the Company was made in Dane Love's history of W G Walker & Co. (in Ayrshire Notes 17, Autumn 1999), as William Glassford Walker was manager of the Kilmarnock Gas Works from 1849 until it was taken into municipal ownership in 1871. Further information on the Company can also be gleaned from William Gilchrist, 'Kilmarnock Gas Undertaking', in Kilmarnock - Aspects of Local History, c.1980.
What now follows is a transcription of the original contract between the Kilmarnock Gas Light Company, and Robert Galt. a builder in Kilmarnock, for the erection of the gas works. This contract is held by the National Archives of Scotland, under the reference GB 1/89/10. It is printed here in its entirety - itself a comment on the lengthy and voluminous contracts which are standard in the modern building industry - with some extra punctuation and paragraph breaks to improve its readability.


Contract betwixt the Gas Light Company and Robert Galt, 1822

It is contracted and agreed between the parties underwritten vizt. William Brown, manufacturer, Thomas Greenshields, brewer, George Paxton, brewer, Charles D. Gairdner, banker, William Rankine, druggist, Thomas Morton, engineer, James Reid, surgeon, Robert Roger, innkeeper, Robert Thomson, manufacturer, David R. Andrews and Alexander Hamilton, writers, all in Kilmarnock, and James Dunlop of Annanhill, or any five of them subscribing, being the Committee of Management of the Kilmarnock Gas Light Company, and as authorised by said Company to enter into all contracts and agreements relative to the affairs of the said Company in name and on behalf thereof on the one part, - and Robert Galt, builder in Kilmarnock, as principal, and with and for him, Robert Young, schoolmaster in Symington as his cautioner, on the other part, in manner following, that is to say,

Whereas, the said Gas Light Company has resolved to build two gasometer tanks, a gasometer house, a tar vault, chimney stalk, and to sink a well, conform to a plan and state of measurement, designed and drawn by John Neilson, engineer in Glasgow, which plan consists of three different parts, which are all subscribed by the said Committee, or a quorum thereof, and the said Robert Galt as relative hereto: Therefore and in consideration of the price herein aftermentioned, the said Robert Galt and the said Robert Young his said cautioner surety and full obligant with and for him, bind and oblige themselves conjunctly and severally, and their respective heirs, executors and representatives whatsoever, that he the said Robert Galt shall in a good sufficient and workmanlike manner erect, build and finish the said gasometer tanks, gasometer house, tar vault, chimney stalk and well conform to the plan and measurement above referred to, and at his own proper costs and charges shall provide all stones, bricks, sand, lime and all other materials whatsoever, which shall be necessary and fit to be used in and about the said erections, save and except the scantlings of the roof of the gasometer house, which he is to be furnished with free of expence, to be used by him for scaffolding and gangways in building and finishing the said gasometer tanks, gasometer house and tar vault, and that he shall also carry away all rubbish which shall arise by reason of said erections.

And more particularly that the said Robert Galt shall erect and finish the said works in the following manner, vizt.

First, the building of the tanks to commence by a course of headers twenty four inches long by twelve inches thick, with their radius lines running to the centre and laid in good searched lime; another course of the same description to be laid half way up the building, but diminished in length in proportion to what the regular outside batter of the wall may take off. The top course to be finished at twelve inches long, over which the pavement will be laid, finishing with the inside circle of the tank; each of the courses to be in thickness from nine to eighteen inches, with the exception of the heading ones, which are to be from twelve to fourteen inches, and all the stretchers to be wrought true to the radius lines running to the centre; all the courses must be well bedded and square jointed, and the inside face of the circle neatly broached. The bottom of the tanks to be laid with good pavement, closely jointed, on clay and averaging about six inches thick. The balance wells accompanying the building of the tanks to be lined from the bottom to the top by a nine inch brick wall, and laid headers the whole way up. The puddle of the tanks and balance wells to be twelve inches thick, which must come up to the bottom of the pavement, and the clay to be well soured and prepared for the purpose. If the soil in which the tanks are to be cut should not be of solid materials, the strength of the wall must be considerably increased.

Second, the gasometer house to be executed of good strong rubble work, with through bands at every six feet distance in each course, and with hewn corners back filleted three-fourths of an inch deep, and six inches in the head, and finished at top by a hewn plint five inches thick projecting on the house building two and three-fourth inches; the breadth of the plint not to be less than eighteen inches, and to have a header every five or six feet equal in length to the projection and thickness of the wall. The gables of the house to be finished with good skews neatly hewn twelve inches broad by five inches thick. The walls and gables of the gasometer house to be two feet thick, and the foundation walls to be two and a half feet thick. The pavement of the floor of gasometer house to be laid on a bed of sand six inches thick, except so much of it as shall be on the top course of the tanks, which will be laid in lime.

Third, the tar vault to be built of rough ashlar well bedded and laid with good lime; the bottom of the vault to be laid with pavement from five to six inches thick, and the whole inside of the vault to be plastered with roman cement.

Fourth, the foundation of the chimney stalk to be executed in three courses of large stones, first course sixteen inches thick, second course twelve inches thick, and the third course ten inches thick. The bottom course to be ten and a half feet square, second course to be nine and a half feet square, and the third course eight and a half feet square; the stones to be selected to suit the band from three to four and a half feet long, and from twenty four to thirty inches broad. The brick work to be executed according to the plan given for regulating the height, the thickness and the outside decline.

Fifth, the well to be twenty seven feet deep, its diameter to be eight feet within the wall till within six feet from the top, when it will be tapered to seven feet; it must be finished with a ring pen at the mouth in the same manner as the top of the gasometer tanks. The craddling to be fifteen inches thick, and the stones to be got either from Hurleford or Kilmaurs quarries. Should it be necessary to make the well deeper than twenty seven feet, the price for the extra depth to be in the same proportion with the rest of it. The well to be covered with Woodhill hard flags six inches thick having an oak beam eight inches square to support them, and the flag stones to project six inches over the diameter of the wall.

Which said gasometer tanks, gasometer house, tar vault and well, the said Robert Galt binds and obliges himself to finish betwixt and the nineteenth day of October next, and the chimney stalk betwixt and the [blank] day of [blank], also next, and that under the penalty of four pounds sterling for every day after said period that the said works are not finished. And it is hereby agreed that the said Gas Light Company shall be at liberty to inspect the said works by tradesmen whom they shall appoint for that purpose on all occasions when they may think proper.

Farther, it is hereby understood and conditioned that if any part of the said plan shall not be built or executed, the expence of such part shall be deducted from the price, and in the event of more mason work, brick work, joining or other kind of work herein referred to being necessary than what is above described, or laid out in the plan, then the said Robert Galt shall be paid for such work as shall be executed according to the kind and additional extent thereof at a price to be fixed and ascertained by men who are mutually chosen by the said parties.

For which causes, and on the other part, the said several persons above named composing the Committee of Management of the said Gas Light Company, or any five of them subscribing, bind and oblige the said Gas Light Company to make payment to the said Robert Galt or his heirs, executors or assignees whomsoever, of the following sums for the different pieces of work before specified, vizt., the sum of four hundred and eighty four pounds sterling for making and erecting the said gasometer tanks, gasometer house, and tar vault. Item, the sum of one hundred and twenty three pounds for erecting the said chimney stalk. Item, the sum of seventeen pounds for the said well, being the agreed-on prices of the said works; and that at the terms and by the proportions following, vizt., the sum of one hundred and sixty seven pounds sterling when the tanks are finished to the surface, the like sum of one hundred and sixty seven pounds sterling when the gasometer house is ready for the roof, and the sum of two hundred and ninety pounds sterling in full of the remainder of the price, when the whole buildings are finished and taken off the said Robert Galt's hands, with a fifth part more of the said stipulated payments of penalty in case of failure, and the legal interest of the said several payments from and after the respective terms of payment during the not payment of the same, and in case any difference shall arise with respect to the true meaning of the present contract or the execution of any part of the work hereby contracted for, the said parties hereunto submit the same to the determination of John Neilson, engineer, Glasgow as sole arbiter, and bind and oblige themselves and their foresaids to abide by and acquiesce in such decision as the said John Neilson shall pronounce on the matters hereby submitted to him, and the said Robert Galt binds and obliges himself and his foresaids to free and relieve the said Robert Young of his cautionary obligation for him in the premises, and of all damages and expences he may any way sustain or incur thereanent, and both parties bind and oblige themselves and their foresaids to implement and perform their respective parts of the premises to each other under the penalty of one hundred pounds sterling to be paid by the party failing to the party observing the contract or willing to do so besides performance, and both parties consent to the registration hereof in the books of Council and Session or others competent therein to remain for preservation, that letters of horning on six days charge, and all other necessary execution may pass hereon in common form, and thereto constitute [blank] their procurators. In witness whereof [blank]

Each of the four pages of the contract is signed by R Galt, Robt Young, William Brown, Robt Thomson Jr, Robt Roger, Wm Rankin and Thomas Morton. On the final page, these names are witnessed by A Hamilton, Robt Smith, David Love, and William Walker.

Besides giving us an insight to the methods of construction employed in this early gas works, the contract also reveals other information not to be found in Gilchrist. The plans of the works were drawn up by John Neilson, engineer in Glasgow. He is probably the John Neilson, engineer, who occurs in Glasgow Directories in the early 19th Century: in 1807 his address is given as 'near the Canal Old Bason'. It is not clear whether he is related to James Beaumont Neilson, the inventor of hot blast iron smelting, who had been engineer to the Glasgow Gas Light Company, established in 1817.1

The works were built by Robert Galt. He can be tentatively identified as the Robert Galt, mason and builder in Content, Ayr, who died in March 1865, and is buried in Ayr Auld Kirkyard, along with his spouse, Margaret McSkimming.

The Contract, as transcribed above, is not complete. The space between 'whereof' and the signatures should be completed by a proving clause, where the dates and places of signing, and descriptions of the witnesses are recorded. That the document includes witnesses' signatures would seem to indicate carelessness on the part of whoever drew up the contract, probably Alexander Hamilton, writer and town clerk of Kilmarnock. He is one of the witnesses: it is also worth noting that the witness signatures have abbreviated dates along them: '20 Sep' in the case of Hamilton and Smith, '10 Oct' in the case of Love and Walker. The proving clause could not have been completed until the final signatures were collected: presumably Hamilton never got round to completing it.

Rob Close

1. See John R Hume, Industrial Archaeology of Glasgow, Glasgow, 1974, pp 137-138.

This article was first published in Ayrshire Notes No. 18 (2000).

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