The Ardross-man


December 2016

Happy Hogmanay – 100 years on


As I have previously mentioned, hidden behind an old cupboard in the Barony St. John’s main hall room was a pile of papers, books and memorabilia which dated back to the early 1900’s (some 1906, 1907, 1909, 1916, 1921, etc.)

In amongst this paperwork was a small card about 3″ x 2″.

It is pink in colour and displays the original name of the Barony St. John’s – the New Ardrossan Parish Church – and is some kind of admission ticket to the Sabbath School New Year’s Treat.

As it was with a similarly designed card which I’ve fairly conclusively dated back to 1916, I’m assuming that this card dates back to then too….

…..and so from the end of 1916 to the end of 2016, I wish you all a fabulous Hogmanay and a very Happy New Year when it comes.

I hope the next 100 years at the Barony St. John will be as exciting as the last.

Best wishes.

Alan – the Ardross-man



My church – The Barony St John Centre in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, Scotland (courtesy of Peter Ribbeck and the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald).

Hope you all have a very merry Christmas.


Merry Christmas 2016

img_2316When we dismantled the hat cupboard from inside the main hall room of the Barony St. John’s Church hall building in Ardrossan, we came across this wonderful old drawing of the Nativity scene.

It reminded me that this time of year is all about helping one another, giving presents and sharing what you’ve got.

I feel very privileged to be renovating the former Barony St. John’s Halls – and hopefully soon, save and renovate the church building too.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very peaceful and Merry Christmas.

Alan Bell

The Ardross-man


A Lot of Bottle

If you climb up the rickety old internal ladder in Barony St. John’s church building, you’ll come out onto the parapet which then leads into the clock tower and belfry.

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Surrounding the hatch that leads from the ladder to the parapet is a water gully and drain which frequently blocks with bird droppings causing the parapet area to flood with rainwater and subsequently leak into the church, bringing down ceiling plaster as it flows.

The reason why there is so much bird droppings is that there are a lot of birds!

And the reason why there are a lot of birds is because the doors to the clock tower have long since rotten away and now this area has become a sanctuary for flocks of pigeons, starlings and even the odd seagull or two.

Since buying the buildings in December 2014, I regularly managed to wedge the rotten plywood “door” back into place but every gust of wind (for which there are many on this North Ayrshire seafront) sees my makeshift mend blown back down and the entrance to what is now a bird haven is once again opened.

Now, when I took the above photos back in the Spring of 2016, I remember taking an almost full black bag of bird droppings out of the clock tower area – and as you can see by the photo, there was not much evidence left of the birds presence once I’d cleaned it up (okay there is – but believe me, compared to what was there, this is not much left). 🙂

Since then though, I gave up my fortnightly trips to the clock tower and left the birds to their own devices until builder extraordinaire, Paul Marchetti, could come and provide me with a more secure door frame and closure that would stop birds nesting in this area.

Today, Paul managed to get up on the parapet and seal the doorways (both sides) after arranging for the room to be cleared……

Eight bin bags of bid droppings later – yes, EIGHT full bin bags – and it was finally cleared!

And hidden near the clock mechanism were these old bottles;

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This first one is a milk bottle which says Ross’s Ideal Milk followed by a picture of a cow and a baby and the strap line Justice to both.

I’ve searched the internet and cannot find any reference to Ross’s Ideal Milk so if any readers know anything of this maker or a rough age of this bottle, please let me know.

The second bottle was this bleach bottle;

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All-White Bleach seems to have been manufactured by Ailsa Drysaltery Co. Irvine.

As well as the warnings of not to use on woollens, silks or leatherwork, the label displays the price of 6D (sixpence).

Again, although I found out that a “drysaltery” dealt in a range of chemical products including glue, varnish, dye, colourings and bleach, I couldn’t find anything about Ailsa Drysaltery Co. in Irvine. So, if anyone can help with information, I’d appreciate it.

Finally, we found this bottle with only a partial label;

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You can just make out a drawing of what looks like thistles with a castle ruins blow them and the words Kilbirnie Castle below that. And although partially missing, I’m sure the lettering spells “Burdock” making me suspect that the plants are not thistles but burdock (a similar looking plant) and that this bottle contained Dandelion and Burdock.

The manufacturer’s name at the base of the bottle is Turner & Ewing Ltd. Kilmarnock.

A search of the internet and Companies House showed that Turner & Ewing (Kilmarnock) Limited were “Lemonade Manufacturers” founded on 31st January 1984 and had its Registered Office at 36 West Portland Street in Troon and then at Tannock Street in Kilmarnock.

However, things could not have gone well for Turner & Ewing because by 24th December that same year, 1984, an Extraordinary General Meeting was held in Glasgow at which it was duly passed; “That the Company cannot, by reason of its liabilities, continue to carry on business and that it is advisable to wind up and accordingly, the Company be wound up voluntarily” and liquidators were called in.

I did however find a lovely photo of the ruins of Kilbirnie Castle which lies just west of the town of Kilbirnie in North Ayrshire, Scotland.

Kilbirnie Place - viewed from the south.JPG


Bell wringer

img_1656Work began this week to clear out the small hall room in the Barony St John’s Hall building.

The room had been used as a bit of a dumping ground for rubbish as we renovated and set up the main hall, so it was over three quarters full.

Builder Paul Marchetti had come to my aid once again and arranged for the debris to be picked up and disposed of.

He also arranged for the rest of the wooden wall cladding, the carpet and the 1970’s style kitchen cupboards to be taken out too before he pulled up some floorboards to check on just how bad the dampness and water ingress problems are.img_2655

It was while he and his assistant Peter were pulling up the floorboards that they came across this old Victorian leaflet advertising a Home Washing Machine & Wringer.


Although faded, water marked and difficult to make out, the illustration shows three women – one stout woman in maid’s clothing, one young woman in more refined red dress and bonnet and one older woman (perhaps the lady of the house) in an elegant blue dress. Behind this woman is a young girl, perhaps her younger daughter, and the whole scene seems to be set in the kitchen or washing area of the house of a well-to-do family.

The young woman is putting clothes through a hand wringer on top of a barrel of soapy water with the words “Home Washer” on it.

This could very well be one of the very first washing machines, although it bears little resemblance to any “washing machine” I have every seen – but what a wonderful discovery. 😀

Obviously, I had to check the internet to see if anything could be found out about this leaflet.

My investigations showed that this advert had been used in various colours and forms (although I couldn’t find one exactly like the one we found) since around 1869 –

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The hall building was built in 1889, a bit later than the church building (1844), and so I’m surmising that, as it was first produced twenty years prior, this “Home Washing Machine & Wringer” must have been quite popular with those who could afford it as it was still being sold decades on.

Those who couldn’t afford this fancy washing machine no doubt relied on a large bucket or barrel to wash clothes in, stirring them with a large wooden stirrer and with a washing board to scrub the clothes on and a separate wringer to dry them out – so I’m unsure as to what makes this machine different.

Maybe it is plumbed in to allow hot water to go straight into the tub?

Or maybe, as it was described as a “machine”, it had a hand crank for stirring the washing once it was in the tub?

This photo shows a very similar product complete with a large wheel crank for stirring or tumbling the washing in the tub. I’m wondering if this wheel was hidden from view on the reverse side of the Home Washer in the illustration?

Something else that sparked my curiosity is that I would have called the wringer a mangle.

It seems that the word “wringer” may originally have been an American word for this hand cranked, clothes drying device whereas in the UK it would have more commonly been known as a “mangle”.

The American connection would also link with the address on some of the internet images –

Depot 24, Cortland Street, New York


Depot, 13 Barclay Street, New York

This raised another question, “Is this an American product?”

I’m afraid I cannot conclusively say that it is or it isn’t.

It may have been produced in the USA and shipped worldwide or if it may have been produced in the UK and shipped to the USA and other parts of the World.

wringerOne thing I can be sure of, in 1862 a patented “compound rotary washing machine, with rollers for wringing or mangling” was shown at the London Exhibition by Richard Lansdale of Pendleton, Manchester.

By 1904, electric washing machines were being manufactured particularly in the USA but, since electricity was not commonly available until at least 1930, the hand cranked Washing Machine & Wringer was still being used by many households albeit the tub may have changed from wooden to metal as shown in this photo.

With the outbreak of war and a reduction in electricity supplies, the Washing Machine & Wringer was still being used in the UK well after the Second World War – in fact, I was brought up in a tenement flat in Clydebank (near Glasgow) and all the flats had access to a wash house where there were large sinks and wringers to wash your clothes before hanging them out to dry on the washing lines… a variation of the Washing Machine & Wringer was around even when I was a lad.

Fingers crossed we continue to find more memorabilia from days gone by as we renovate more and more of these iconic Victorian buildings. 😀

I’m hoping that this small hall room can be repaired and renovated into a Training Room for my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety.

Eventually, it will house a conference table and chairs, a SMART Board and a small break-out area.

I’m planning to provide classroom based personal safety, conflict resolution, lone worker and first aid courses from here as well offering the room to our partners for child protection, violence against women awareness and anti-hate crime training.

Turning this room from the dumping ground it currently is, into a modern training facility, will cost £25,000 including the equipment and we have submitted various funding applications to hopefully help us achieve this goal – but if you would like to help, please check out our website and click on the “Donate” button.

Every little helps.

Many Thanks and I hope Santa is good to you when he comes. 😀

Feasibility funding

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I am delighted to announce that my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety (ScotCPS), has been awarded funding from the Big Lottery Fund Our Place and The Architectural Heritage Fund to undertake a feasibility study for the redevelopment of the former Barony St John’s church building in Ardrossan.

We secured £8,556.00 from the Big Lottery Fund Our Place and £3,000.00 from The Architectural Heritage Fund through their Project Viability Grant Scheme.

The funding will enable us to engage consultants and building professionals to undertake a condition survey, development study and options appraisal which will provide my charity with:

  • A business plan;
  • Indicative capital & revenue costs;
  • Analysis of strategic business opportunities;
  • Assessment of and report on the asset/fabric of the church building;
  • And an outline development cost appraisal and a final report with recommendations.

If the redevelopment of this Category “B” listed church is successful, the number of people who will use the completed buildings will be dependent on the final option chosen for the redevelopment i.e. which option for the future use of the church building will be the most viable and sustainable in the long term.

Options which could be considered include an Events Centre similar to St. Luke’s (a converted church in Glasgow which now hosts live bands, weddings and functions);



Or the church building could link in with Ardrossan’s clipper ship and sea port history and become a Maritime Heritage Centre;

Or it could be developed into a residential dormitory offering bunk-house style accommodation and/or become a Respite Care Centre supporting the charity’s service delivery outcomes (we provide personal safety training to businesses and groups but particularly female and child victims of violence).

bunk1 bunk2

Whichever is chosen, the main area of benefit will be the North Ayrshire Our Place area of Ardrossan Central and North East however this area may well increase depending on which final option is chosen for the building’s future use.

Some of the questions that we (ScotCPS) are looking to be answered from the feasibility study are –

  • Can this beautiful iconic building, the Barony St John’s Church, be saved?
  • If so, what could it be used for?
  • How will this benefit the community?
  • How much would it cost to save and convert the building?
  • Who will fund this?
  • And also whatever the options maybe, what is the viability for the long term?

ee2a15db-fa10-4022-a9b0-1d4478bb67e3-8944-000006d3f01ecdc5_tmpThe Barony St John’s Church also holds a significant position in the history of Scottish religious buildings. Built in 1844, New Ardrossan Parish Church, as it was known then, became the first parish church in Scotland to become “Quoad Sacra” in 1851 following the New Parishes (Scotland) Act of 1844.

This effectively meant that New Ardrossan Parish Church was not a civil parish, unlike all preceding parish churches, and therefore had ecclesiastical functions but no local government functions (such as educating parish children). This had been a requirement of all parishes under “Quoad Omnia” up until the introduction of the new act in 1844.

The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety and myself would like to thank everyone involved in the application process and special thanks to the wider Ardrossan community who attended the Our Place Large Forum events and gave their support to this application.

Now we plan to engage with the community via events, focus groups, surveys and public consultation and we are keen to speak with as many members of the community from all ages and will be having our first event very soon with details to follow.

In the meantime, if you have an idea as to what you would like to see the church building used for, please get in touch either by leaving a comment or by contacting me via the charity website

Many thanks once again to all the Ardrossan residents who came along to the Our Place Large Forum, supported us and voted to fund this feasibility study.


Pennies from Heaven

This was my first day back in the Barony St. John after my hand operation so I obviously had to do the full tour of both buildings – the church and the halls – in case of any damage, vandalism, leaks, etc.

As I expected, the turn in the weather had caused some of the plaster work to collapse in the church building where there is no heating. Previously, this had occurred in the upper gallery area, the front door area and the side of the alter.

You see, when the church building closed, the person in charge forgot to drain the radiators and the ones in the gallery froze during a particularly bad winter.  This caused the radiator pipes to burst and the subsequent downpour caused the plaster to collapse from the gallery to the ground floor.

DSC01712In early 2015, once I had taken over the Barony St. John’s Church and Halls, I decided to clean up the mess of fallen plaster and you may remember I posted a blog about some Victorian papers including a wonderful sermon pamphlet titled “Life & Work with the sub-headingArdrossan New Parish Church which I found in the fallen rubble.

The documents must have fallen under the floorboards of the gallery and remained hidden until the plaster collapsed.

Amazingly, the pamphlet was dated 1893 and some of the other papers looked even older. What a great find!

Today though, I found that more plaster had collapsed from around about the same area – the ceiling below the gallery where the leak had occurred.


The floorboards were covered in debris…..

img_2541But in amongst the plaster, wood, dirt and grime I glimpsed treasure. 😀img_2542

Sifting through the debris, I found five coins in total – three Victorian pennies and two smaller coins. One of which had a figurehead I had never seen before.

The dates were hard to make out so I washed the three pennies with oven cleaner and they came up a treat  – but a phone call to my dad, who collects coins, revealed that you’re not supposed to clean old coins….Oops. :-/

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Now, I don’t know a lot about old coins (hence the washing them in oven cleaner) so I did a little internet research and discovered that there is a tradition going back to the time of Charles II (1630- 1685) that the figurehead on a UK coin will alternate face between one monarch and the next.

But this, to me, seemed incorrect because here I now had two coins which must be from a similar era but they both faced the same way!

I knew that one is a young Queen Victoria – but who was this Roman guy?

vicWell, Queen Victoria reigned from 1837–1901 and her head faced to the left on coins.

wilPrior to that, King William IV reigned from 1830–1837 and he faced to the right.

Prior to that, King George IV reigned from 1820–1830 and he georgefaced to the left.

coin-queen-2And it turns out that monarchs traditionally appeared on coins wearing a laurel head wreath, as can be seen from this early Queen Elizabeth II (our current monarch) coin.

So the bloke on the church coin was not a Roman after all, but King George IV.

The next thing to find out was what exactly were these coins? The big ones I recognised as old pennies but the two smaller ones, well I had no idea what they were.

An internet search showed that all bronze George IV coins from that time looked exactly the same back and front – and I had never even heard of most of them –

third-farthing-front third-farthing-back This is the Third Farthing and is 16mm in diameter.

half-farthing-front half-farthing-back This is the Half Farthing and is 18mm in diameter.

farthing-front farthing-back This is the Farthing and is 22mm in diameter.

hapenny-front hapenny-back This is the Half Penny and is 28mm in diameter.

penny-front penny-back This is the Penny and is 34mm in diameter.

As they all look exactly the same, I took to measuring the church coins. The two small ones were 22mm in diameter – which makes them both Farthings.          img_2546 img_2547

There were apparently 4 farthings in a penny, 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings, or 240 pennies, in a pound. A third farthing was therefore one twelfth of a penny.

It all sounds very confusing to me. :-/ Thank goodness for decimalisation. 🙂

Out of curiosity, I measured the Victorian pennies and noted that they were actually 31mm and not 34mm.

Back to the internet again and I found out that between 1839 and 1860 the penny was made of 18.8 grams of copper and was 34mm in diameter but from 1860 onwards, pennies were made of bronze (95% copper, 4% tin and 1% zinc).

The bronze penny weighed 9.4g and was 31mm in diameter. 😀

But again, this is a bit strange, as the two pennies with the young head of Queen Victoria came up really bright and copper coloured when I cleaned them but the penny with the older Queen Victoria head didn’t clean up so well.

Now knowing that there was a point where pennies switched from copper to bronze, I’d have bet money that the switch took place between the making of these young and old Victoria figurehead coins – hence the cleaning problems and the difference in feel (the other two feel smoother, possibly lighter). But the two young Victorias are dated 1888 and 1891 and the older Victoria is dated 1898 or 1899 – so well past the 1860 date of changing to bronze. Perplexing. :-/

Anyway, I’m delighted with my “pennies from heaven”.

I’m not sure if they are worth anything and I will probably try to put them on display once we figure out what the final use of the renovated church will be. But if anyone has any idea of value, please get in touch. It would be good to know if I am holding a small fortune (as unlikely as that may be). LOL

Victorian adverts 1

As I am convalescing after my hand operation, I thought I would do some research into some Victorian adverts.

In previous posts (Life & Work, Sale of the Century) I mentioned that I had found a pamphlet dated May 1893 containing sermons and advertisements in rubble that fallen from the gallery area of Barony St. John’s church.

Included in the adverts were this wonderful coloured leaflet for Cadbury’s Cocoa plus a mass of smaller ads on the rear of the pamphlet including one I’ve heard of  – Callard’s & Bowser’s Butterscotch sweets.

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Spite’s Teas were produced by Francis Spite & Co. Ltd. at St Enoch Square in Glasgow from 1876 – and that’s all I could find out about them…..unless you know different. 🙂


Putz Pomade is apparently still being made today in various forms – I’ve included a photo of it to show how it’s production changed.

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And finally, The Arran Dress Skirt is not actually from the Isle of Arran as I thought (seeing as Isle of Arran is just off the coast of Ardrossan). The Arran Dress Skirt was actually manufactured by Arran & Co. of Leeds.


I have a funny feeling that The Arran Dress Skirt was trying to take advantage of the hugely popular Arran wool products and with that in mind, they may have fallen foul of The Trades Description Act of 1968.