Although extremely cold and windy today, I decided to pay another visit to the belfry of the former Barony St. John church.

DSC01392Climbing the rickety old wooden ladders to get to the hatch which leads onto the parapet is bad enough but once inside the cock tower there is another wooden ladder and an extremely small hatch which takes you into the bell tower.

What seemed like 101 pigeons flew out past my head as I entered and the entire area is inches thick with pigeDSC01253on droppings, feathers, broken egg shells and the remains of some dead birds. Yuck!!

The bell itself is huge and the fixings, as I mentioned in a previous post “Hogmanay Bells – Wedding Bell to Wedding Belle?“, are very rusty but I was drawn to an inscription on the bell itself.

It’s a bit difficult to read but it says;


Thomas Leadbetter & Co.


IMG_0515      IMG_0514

A check of the internet showed that the firm of John Leadbetter & Co. appeared in the “Glasgow Directory” of 1815 – perhaps Thomas took over his father’s company (?)

A further internet investigation revealed a 1938 document titled “History of Ardrossan Fire Brigade” in which one of the paragraphs reads;

Accordingly at a meeting held on the 4th June, 1869. Provost Barr produced drawings and prices of Fire Engines by London and Glasgow makers and it was agreed to recommend the “Patent Curricle Fire Engine” made by Shand Mason and Co., London. Of the size suitable for Twenty two men to work, price Seventy Three Pounds Sterling complete with hose, implements, etc., as specified in printed list. The Committee also agreed to recommend the pattern of Fire Plug Cocks as made by Thomas Leadbetter & Co., Glasgow or the number I.C. (?) pattern made by Glen field Company, Kilmarnock which the Committee understood are the same kind of Cocks on the Ardrossan Harbour.

Does this ring a bell with anyone?

It definitely proves that Thomas Leadbetter & Co were still selling brass devices in 1869 – twenty five years after installing the bell in the bell tower of Barony St. John.

If anyone knows anything more about the Barony’s bell or Thomas Leadbetter & Co. or indeed if Ardrossan Fire Brigade actually did buy its fire plug cocks from Thomas Leadbetter & Co. instead of the Glen field Company, then please let me know.

I hope you enjoyed this little historical dalliance. 🙂

If you would like to know more about my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, please look us up on Facebook or peruse our website

Until next time, stay safe.

Alan Bell

The Ardross-man