The Ardross-man


March 2018


I’ve published a couple of posts now (Barony St John Photos and Ardrossan Views) which highlight the beauty of the Barony St John buildings – and these are no different;

David Long Photography has produced some wonderful photos which include the Barony St John like this one –

‌Peter Ribbeck Photography has caught the church buildings with Isle of Arran behind in this atmospheric photo…

And James McLaughlin has a close up of the same view but you can see the masts of the yachts in the marina just to the left of the hall building…

And this is a cracking photo of a snowy Barony St. John’s spire by an unknown photographer.

A. Brennan Photography took this cracker

And Peter Ribbeck came up trumps again with this one –

And then there is this cracking, wintery photo from Michael McCulloch

And Marion McGinn took this lovely reflective photo.

This cracking photo showing a light on in the big circular window of our hall was taken by Stephen Huckle.

Have you got a favourite?

Ardrossan 1934

Local historian Helen Abbott has done it again – she has unearthed a fantastic photo from around 1934 which shows the rear of the Barony St John church buildings.

You may remember in a previous post (The Mystery of the Church Hall extension) I was questioning the current layout of the church hall building as there were different types of stone and brickwork on the rear.

Initially, both the church and hall buildings were joined only by a corridor which was recessed. You can see by the brickwork where this has now been made parallel.


And you can see in the close up photos of the 1934 photo that the corridor had been made parallel by then as the brick and cement wall is clearly shown – but there is a wall or a building extending out from the hall corridor area.


If you look at the hall building, you will see that at right angles to it ending, at the rear and to the right of the lawn in the photos above, there is another construction extending down the width of the lawn garden and finishing with another house type structure.

This confirms what I suspected when looking at the current rear of the Training Room (the first modern photo above) as you can see a break in the stone work and a replacement of brick and cement again.

If the buildings and the Training Room (which was originally known as the “Small Hall”) had extended back, it would indeed be large enough to be known as a hall and it would also confirm what a previous Ardrossan resident, Mary Buswell, had said. In a previous post (Sexy Mary), Mary confirmed that although she left Ardrossan in the 1950’s she could remember the Training Room being much larger and extending back into what is now a car park area.


The Barony

I never quite understood why the church changed its name.

You see, when the original Ardrossan Parish Church (built in 1744) in what is now Saltcoats became too small to hold the growing congregation, a new church was built in Ardrossan in 1844 and it was named the New Ardrossan Parish Church – and it kept this name until 1929 when it was changed to The Barony Church.

Apparently, Ardrossan was made a municipal borough or “Burgh of Barony” in 1846.

Now having lived in the Royal Burgh of Dornoch near the Royal Burgh of Tain in the Scottish Highlands, I knew of “Royal Burghs” but I hadn’t heard of “Burghs of Barony”.

After some investigative work, it would seem that “Burghs of Barony” were different from “Royal Burghs” in that the title was granted to a landowner who, as a Clan Chief or Tenant-in-Chief, held estates directly from the Crown.

Between 1450 and 1846, over three hundred Burghs of Barony were created and the last one, in 1846, was Ardrossan.


From 1833, in accordance with the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, residents in Burghs of Barony were allowed to form a Police Burgh governed by elected Police Commissioners. This gave the Burgh the power to create their own policing, road systems, paving, lighting, sewer systems, water systems, etc. and basically improve community life.

In some cases the Burgh of Barony existed alongside the Police Burgh and by 1893 all remaining Burghs of Barony were abolished in accordance with the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1892.

(Just out of curiosity I researched the police situation in Ardrossan and found that Ayrshire Constabulary was set up in 1839 and covered the whole of Ayrshire until it amalgamated in 1975 with others forces to become Strathclyde Police.) 

So although I still don’t know exactly why the New Ardrossan Parish Church changed its name to The Barony Church in 1929, it does explain what the name Barony means and where it comes from.

I’m guessing that it was originally known locally as simply “the Parish Church” and when the parish became a Barony, it was known informally by the locals as “the Barony Church” and eventually, they decided to make that its official name.

The only other change took place in 1985 when St. John’s Church in Ardrossan closed down and was amalgamated with The Barony to become the Barony St. John’s Church – but locally, it has always been known as simply “The Barony”.

When I bought the buildings from the Church of Scotland in 2014, I didn’t really want it to be called the Barony St. John’s Church as I felt that, as it was no longer a church, this would be wrong (the apostrophe “s” basically means that the Church belongs to Barony St John).

I put a post out on Facebook and an article in the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald asking what local residents wanted the hall building to be renamed. The majority said; “It will always be The Barony no matter what you name it” but the second most popular name was the “Liberty Hall”, probably due to the fact that a few weeks beforehand I made public my plans to open a William Wallace Visitor Centre in the Church building.

Somehow, this seemed wrong, and somewhat ironic, to change the historical name of a building I was trying to save because of it’s historical value. So I decided to keep it as The Barony St John although you may have noticed that I no longer refer to it as a church but as a Centre and I have dropped the apostrophe “s” – what I mean by that is that is it is not The Barony St. John’s Centre.

Although it’s a minor point, I was surprised to receive a few complaints from people saying it was Barony St. John’s NOT Barony St. John, with one person saying that dropping the apostrophe “s” was sacrilege.

I wonder what they would have said if I had renamed it The Liberty Hall.

But I think the majority of locals are right, it will always be The Barony and if there wasn’t already a former church and now a museum called The Barony in West Kilbride, I would have renamed it simply that. But I think The Barony St. John Centre is a good compromise. Hopefully you agree.

Until next time,

The Ardross-man

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