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Posts Tagged ‘James Kennedy Hunter’

St John’s Tower in Citadel Place is all that remains of Ayr’s medieval parish church, dedicated to St John the Baptist. The church appears to have been founded in the late twelfth century, and it was enlarged during the following centuries. In 1315 King Robert the Bruce convened a parliament or assembly in the church to decide the succession to the Scottish throne. At some point, a large tower was added to the church’s western gable. The many alterations which it has undergone make it difficult to date, but it seems most likely to have been built during the fifteenth century. Internally the tower has five stages – a ground-floor vault, three rooms and a bell chamber, all accessed by spiral staircases.

Encircled by Victorian terraces, St John’s Tower stands guard in the middle of Ayr’s Fort residential district.

Encircled by Victorian terraces, St John’s Tower stands guard in the middle of Ayr’s Fort residential district.

The series of civil conflicts which swept the British Isles during the mid-seventeenth century culminated in Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Scotland in 1650-52. Ayr was chosen to be the site of one of the garrison fortresses constructed by his occupation army, and St John’s Church was commandeered and enclosed within its walls. (What is now the Auld Kirk was built by the townspeople at this time as a replacement.) The fort garrison divided up the church building for use as a chapel, a mill house and a storehouse, and the tower was used as an armoury and look-out. (Incidents from the Cromwellian occupation will be featured in forthcoming posts.)

Part of the view of Ayr from the north side of the harbour published in John Slezer’s Theatrum Scotiae of 1693. It shows St John’s Church and its tower within the demilitarised Cromwellian fortress.  Slezer, a military engineer, is known to have visited Ayr in 1678, and no doubt sketched the scene at that time.

Part of the view of Ayr from the north side of the harbour published in John Slezer’s Theatrum Scotiae of 1693. It shows St John’s Church and its tower within the demilitarised Cromwellian fortress. Slezer, a military engineer, is known to have visited Ayr in 1678, and no doubt sketched the scene at that time.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660 following Cromwell’s death, the demilitarised fort – including the former church of St John – was gifted by the crown to the 7th Earl of Eglinton as compensation for the losses suffered by his family while supporting the royalist cause. The fort grounds became the barony of Montgomerieston, a private estate lying between the town of Ayr and the sea, where various industrial activities were carried on. By 1726 it was owned by a consortium of Ayr merchants, and around that time the body of the church was demolished to provide stone for the re-building of the High Tolbooth in the Sandgate. (See the previous post The Gibbet Stones from Ayr’s Sandgate Tolbooth.) The tower was left standing as it was an important navigational aid, guiding mariners to the harbour entrance.

The tower as it appeared when it came into the possession of John Miller in 1852. The inverted V on its east wall shows where the roof of the church building had been joined to it.

The tower as it appeared when it came into the possession of John Miller in 1852. The inverted V on its east wall shows where the roof of the church building had been joined to it.

In 1852 gunsmith John Miller returned to Ayrshire from India, where he had made his fortune. He purchased the barony of Montgomerieston, and he thus became known locally as Baron Miller. To provide himself with a suitably baronial-looking residence, Miller set about transforming the old church tower. Architect John Murdoch added extensions to it in Gothic style, creating a mansion which was christened Fort Castle. Keeping a walled yard around his home for himself, Miller disposed of most of the rest of the fort estate as house plots.

Fort Castle as viewed from Citadel Place, on a postcard of the early 1900s. Part of the old tower is visible behind the Victorian Gothic-style additions of Miller and Murdoch.

Fort Castle as viewed from Citadel Place, on a postcard of the early 1900s. Part of the old tower is visible behind the Victorian Gothic-style additions of Miller and Murdoch.

‘Baron’ John Miller at the entrance to his residence of Fort Castle.

‘Baron’ John Miller at the entrance to his residence of Fort Castle.

Following John Miller’s death in 1910, Fort Castle was acquired by the 4th Marquess of Bute. He had inherited the enthusiasm of his father the 3rd Marquess for using the family fortune to preserve and restore historic buildings. He engaged architect James Kennedy Hunter to return the old tower to its appearance when John Slezer sketched it in the seventeenth century.

One of J. K. Hunter’s 1913 drawings for the restoration of the tower following the demolition of the Victorian additions.

One of J. K. Hunter’s 1913 drawings for the restoration of the tower following the demolition of the Victorian additions.

St John’s Tower photographed immediately after the completion of the 1913-14 reconstruction which gave it its present appearance.

St John’s Tower photographed immediately after the completion of the 1913-14 reconstruction which gave it its present appearance.

In 1913-14 Miller’s additions were torn down, and extensive restoration work resulted in St John’s Tower as it stands today. The 5th Marquess of Bute gifted it to the town of Ayr in 1949, and it is now in the care of South Ayrshire Council. The tower and its grounds are normally closed to the public, but each year on Doors Open Day, on the first Sunday in September, it is usually possible to gain access and enjoy the spectacular views from the roof parapet.

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When it came to selecting images from our files for a seasonal post, a set of winter scenes from the collection of the late Jean Kennedy was an obvious choice. These photographs are printed on cards bearing the inscription ‘Bara, Ayr & Troon, N.B.’.  (N.B. standing for North Britain.) Evidence in the images dates them to between spring 1902, when the tram line was extended to Alloway, and 1909 when Ayr Grammar School was extensively altered. In fact, they are likely to have been taken during the winter of 1902-03, as Bara’s Troon studio seems to have closed around that time or soon after.

4-6 Citadel Place, Ayr, designed by James A. Morris as a photographic studio for Ambrose Bara and built in 1883.

4-6 Citadel Place, Ayr, designed by James A. Morris as a photographic studio for Ambrose Bara and built in 1883.

In 1876, John Joseph Ambrose George Barat married Eliza (Lily) White in Kensington, London, and soon afterwards they moved to Ayr and took over a photography business in what is now Citadel Place. It was as Ambrose and Lily Bara that they chose to be known. In 1883 a photographic studio, designed by the distinguished Ayr architect James A. Morris, was built for Ambrose Bara in Citadel Place. Ambrose’s principal assistant for nine years was Alexander Monnickendam, who set up his own photography business in Ayr around 1893. At the age of only 36, Ambrose died in December 1890 as the result of a tragic accident. Having been overcome by a fit while passing through Prestwick on horseback, he fell to the ground and sustained fatal injuries. Lily carried on the business for a time. By 1911 she had moved to Devon (where she died in 1936) but the Bara photography business in Ayr continued in existence until the beginning of the 1920s.

The essential starting point for research on early photographers in Ayrshire is the data assembled by Rob Close, which can be viewed here:

http://www.ayrshirehistory.org.uk/Photographers/photographers1.htm

Apart from the long-vanished riverside structures on the left, little has changed in this view of Ayr’s 1878 New Bridge, and the buildings flanking its southern end which form a gateway to the town centre.

Apart from the long-vanished riverside structures on the left, little has changed in this view of Ayr’s 1878 New Bridge, and the buildings flanking its southern end which form a gateway to the town centre.

Activity in the High Street south of the Wallace Tower has turned the snow to slush, but icicles still hang from the eaves. To the left can be seen the butcher’s shop of Andrew Climie and the Sun Inn Bar, and further along on that side of the street is Matthew Dickie’s Ayr Arms Hotel. On the right, the cooperage of William Mair & Son sits above the shop of William Higgins, boot and shoe maker. Although no trams are visible, their tracks and the poles supporting their power cables are in evidence.

Activity in the High Street south of the Wallace Tower has turned the snow to slush, but icicles still hang from the eaves. To the left can be seen the butcher’s shop of Andrew Climie and the Sun Inn Bar, and further along on that side of the street is Matthew Dickie’s Ayr Arms Hotel. On the right, the cooperage of William Mair & Son sits above the shop of William Higgins, boot and shoe maker. Although no trams are visible, their tracks and the poles supporting their power cables are in evidence.

Ayr Corporation Tramways commenced operation in September 1901 and ceased in 1931. As seen here, the track south of the town centre changed from double to single at the junction of Carrick Road and Midton Road. Ayr Grammar School appears here with James A. Morris’s 1882 extension to its original 1868 building. The school took on its present appearance in 1909 when it was considerably enlarged by architect James Kennedy Hunter.

Ayr Corporation Tramways commenced operation in September 1901 and ceased in 1931. As seen here, the track south of the town centre changed from double to single at the junction of Carrick Road and Midton Road. Ayr Grammar School appears here with James A. Morris’s 1882 extension to its original 1868 building. The school took on its present appearance in 1909 when it was considerably enlarged by architect James Kennedy Hunter.

Snow lies thickly on Carrick Road. The original southern terminus of the tramway was at St Leonard’s Church, the spire of which can be seen in the background, but in May 1902 an extension to Alloway was opened.

Snow lies thickly on Carrick Road. The original southern terminus of the tramway was at St Leonard’s Church, the spire of which can be seen in the background, but in May 1902 an extension to Alloway was opened.

The old churchyard at Alloway, made famous by Robert Burns in his poem Tam O’Shanter as the scene of Tam’s encounter with the witches. Part of ‘Alloway’s auld haunted kirk’ can be seen on the left, and the new parish church of 1858 is on the right.

The old churchyard at Alloway, made famous by Robert Burns in his poem Tam O’Shanter as the scene of Tam’s encounter with the witches. Part of ‘Alloway’s auld haunted kirk’ can be seen on the left, and the new parish church of 1858 is on the right.

At Alloway, the tram line passed the birthplace cottage of Robert Burns to terminate at the Burns Monument Hotel (now Brig o’ Doon House Hotel).

At Alloway, the tram line passed the birthplace cottage of Robert Burns to terminate at the Burns Monument Hotel (now Brig o’ Doon House Hotel).

Longhill Avenue in Alloway still looks the same today. If you look closely enough you can see the snow covered Burns Monument in the distance.

Longhill Avenue in Alloway still looks the same today. If you look closely enough you will see the snow covered Burns Monument in the distance.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all our of customers and readers of our blog a most enjoyable festive season.

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The burgh of Ayr has had a library for many years. The Ayr Library Society was founded in 1762, but it took until 1870 before Ayr ‘s first Public Library was established, inheriting the book stock of other local libraries to its collection. Like its predecessors, the Public Library was privately organised, and financed by subscription: the Public Libraries Act had empowered local authorities to provide a free library service from public funds, provided the ratepayers voted in favour, but in Ayr no such consent was forthcoming. To keep down the subscription fees, money was raised from public lectures and in 1890, the library committee invited the Scottish-American steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (then residing at Cluny Castle near Kingussie) to be one of their speakers. Mr Carnegie declined due to prior commitments, but further correspondence led to an offer from him of £10,000 for a new building if the town would adopt the Public Libraries Act. Posters and handbills urging acceptance were printed, and this time a majority voted for the Act and the plans were made for a new library building.

One of the designs submitted for the new library.

One of the designs submitted for the new library.

This design was submitted by Messrs Morris and Hunter

This design was submitted by Messrs Morris and Hunter

The images above were submitted as part of a competition to design the new library, but the designs were considered too elaborate.

The winning design for Carnegie Library came from the firm of Campbell, Douglas and Morrison of Glasgow.

The winning design for Carnegie Library came from the firm of Campbell Douglas and Morrison of Glasgow.

Built in 1893, the original two-storey building fronting on to Main Street is of red sandstone in late Victorian Renaissance style. If you look closely you can see the front of the building has changed.  The left of the building was originally home to the Carnegie Librarian.  This was closed in 1925 and the exterior was brought into harmony with the rest of the building. It is now home to our computer department.

Until the 1970s' the Local and Family History Library at Carnegie was used as an Art Gallery

Until the 1970s’ the Local and Family History Library at Carnegie was used as an Art Gallery

Garden Street, before the rear library extension.

Garden Street, before the rear library extension.

The downstairs lending area was extended rearwards to Garden Street in 1932, and a further extension at the rear accommodating a spacious lecture room/reference library was designed by the distinguished Ayr firm of James Kennedy Hunter (Hunter himself had died in 1929). This was opened on 22 January 1934 by Flight Lieutenant David McIntyre, who spoke about his pioneer flight over Everest the previous year. (McIntyre would later take a leading role in establishing Prestwick Airport.)

The Librarian and staff of the Carnegie Library in July 1904. Left to right: Miss Gordon; Miss McIIwraith (Senior Assistant); David Duff; Miss Morton and Miss Briggs

The Librarian and staff of the Carnegie Library in July 1904. Left to right: Miss Gordon; Miss McIIwraith (Senior Assistant); David Duff; Miss Morton and Miss Briggs

Mr James Nicol Walker, was well know in Ayr as a photographer. He was frequently seen in the Carnegie Library browsing through a book or scanning newspapers or periodicals.

Mr James Nicol Walker, was well know in Ayr as a photographer. He was frequently seen in the Carnegie Library browsing through a book or scanning newspapers or periodicals.

Do you have any memories about visiting the Carnegie Library in Ayr? If you do we would love to hear from you. Just send us an email: localhistory@south-ayrshire.gov.uk

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