Additions to Eglinton Foundry

M205 Additions to Eglinton Foundry

Address: 96, Kilbirnie Street, Glasgow G5 8HS
Date: 1902–5
Client: Robert Maclaren & Co.
Authorship: Authorship category 2 (Mackintosh and Office) (Mackintosh and Office)

Photograph of machine shop at Eglinton Foundry from S.E.

According to sales particulars published in 1854, the Eglinton Foundry had been established within the previous three years and was specially equipped for the manufacture of cast-iron pipes. 1 By 1857, it had been taken over by Robert Maclaren & Co., formerly of the Globe Foundry, Washington Street. 2 Under Maclaren's it grew into one of the largest pipe-manufacturing operations in Glasgow, and by 1888 it was said to employ between 600 and 800 men. By 1901, it was producing 30,000 tons of water and gas pipes annually, with a major export trade. 3

Various buildings were spread across the seven-acre site: pig iron was kept molten in a number of 'cupolas', or furnaces; casting took place in 'pits' (the word seems to have denoted not just the excavated hollow where the molten metal was poured, but also the surrounding walls and roof ); and sheds and other structures were used for machining, testing and storing the finished pipes. 4 Situated in the industrial district of Tradeston, the foundry was surrounded by railway lines, which facilitated the delivery of raw materials and the distribution of finished goods.

Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh were responsible for several additions between 1902 and 1905, but due to later demolition and redevelopment, and a lack of drawings, it is difficult to know what these buildings looked like and where on the site they were located. The architects' job books record that their first, unspecified addition was built and paid for between 1902 and 1903. Then, between 1903 and 1904, they raised the foundry roof and designed a new Blower House (electric blowers were used to maintain the temperature of the cupolas). Finally, in 1904–5, they added a new Foundry Pit. It seems not all these works needed the approval of the Glasgow Dean of Guild Court. Only two petitions were submitted to the Court. The first, granted on 24 April 1902, was for a three-storey building on the N. side of Crawford Street (now renamed Kilbirnie Street), 336,000 cubic feet (9514.5 cubic m) in size. The second, granted on 30 July 1903, was for a four-storey building of 53,055 cubic feet (1502.35 cubic m). 5 The Court's record of inspections made while the second building was under construction describes it as 'new offices'. 6

The drawings submitted to the Court are missing (2011), and the only surviving drawing relating to Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh's additions is a tracing made in the 1930s by Ronald Harrison from a sheet dated April 1902. 7 Its style is consistent with its being based on an original drawing by Mackintosh. It identifies the first phase of the firm's work as a Machine Shop. A three-storey block attached to its W. end may have been intended for offices.

The three-storey block has been demolished, except for part of the wall facing the street, but photographs taken in the 1980s record its appearance. It was of brick with a roughcast finish. Unlike The Hill House, the roughcast was not carried over the tops of the gables and parapets. Instead, the wall head was protected by a simple stone coping.

Photograph of Eglinton Foundry from S.W., 1980sPhotograph of offices, Eglinton Foundry, 1980s

The Machine Shop appears to be the only one of Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh's buildings to survive. Although altered both externally and internally, it is immediately recognisable from Harrison's drawing. It is a lofty brick-built shed, 140 feet (42.7 m) long and 45 feet (13.7 m) wide, where sections of pipe were machined to achieve an air-tight or water-tight fit.

Photograph of machine shop at Eglinton Foundry from S.E.

The interior was illustrated in an account of the foundry published c. 1910, in which its state-of-the-art equipment was also described: 'the lathes, drills, boring, milling, cutting machines and other tools of precision are the very latest word in engineering science materialised and installed, whilst overhead are electric-power cranes which lift and transport huge weights with the ease of a Titan'. 8

Photograph of interior of Eglinton Foundry Machine Shop, c. 1910

The Shop consists of a main hall with a narrower aisle along the N. side. The hall, now horizontally subdivided, was originally a single space, the same height as the adjoining three-storey office block. The aisle is lower, and divided into two floors. The asymmetry is reflected in the roof, the N. slope of which is more steeply pitched towards the ridge, shallower towards the eaves. This slope was originally largely glazed, and the different pitches were presumably designed to light the main hall and the upper floor of the aisle in different ways. The lightweight steel roof trusses are supported on steel-lattice stanchions, which originally also carried hoisting equipment.

Photograph of machine shop interior at Eglinton FoundryPhotograph of stanchion in machine shop at Eglinton Foundry

The asymmetrical roof gives the cliff-like E. gable an unusual silhouette. Its strangeness brings Mackintosh to mind, as does the attention to detail in the way the coping snakes over the rounded apex and softens the change of pitch on the N. slope into a slight curve. However, although Mackintosh used asymmetrical gables in a number of buildings, including the original designs for the Glasgow School of Art, there is no exact parallel for the Machine Shop gable elsewhere in his work.

Photograph of E. gable of machine shop at Eglinton FoundryPhotograph of detail of E. gable of machine shop at Eglinton FoundryPhotograph of machine shop at Eglinton Foundry from S.W.

The N. elevation facing the yard was originally clad in corrugated iron, with large, gridded windows (an industrial equivalent of the N.-facing studio windows at the Glasgow School of Art). A later building now abuts this side.

No trace survives of Honeyman Keppie & Mackintosh's Blower House or Foundry Pit, but photographs suggest they were probably utilitarian.

Photograph of interior of Eglinton Foundry Blower House, c. 1910Photograph of interior of Eglinton Foundry Casting Pit, c. 1910

A report on the condition of the former Eglinton Foundry was produced as part of the Mackintosh Buildings Survey, led by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and carried out between 2015 and 2016. 9


1: Glasgow Herald, 27 November 1854, p. 3.

2: Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1857–8.

3: Glasgow of To-Day, London: Historical Publishing Company, 1888, p. 119. Angus McLean, ed., Local Industries of Glasgow and the West of Scotland, Glasgow: Local Committee for the Meeting of the British Association, 1901, pp. 80–2.

4: Engineering Review, 20 December 1894, Supplement, p. 11. J. G. Ketchen, The Manufacture of Cast Iron Pipes: Robert Maclaren & Co., Ltd., Glasgow, reprinted from The Gentleman's Journal and Gentlewoman's Court Review, no date.

5: Glasgow City Archives Collection: Glasgow Dean of Guild Court Proceedings, D-OPW 19/19, p. 46; D-OPW 19/20, p. 33.

6: Glasgow City Archives Collection: Glasgow Dean of Guild Court, Register of Inspections, D-OPW 25/60, p. 82.

7: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: GLAHA 52340 (M205-001).

8: J. G. Ketchen, The Manufacture of Cast Iron Pipes: Robert Maclaren & Co., Ltd., Glasgow, reprinted from The Gentleman's Journal and Gentlewoman's Court Review, no date, pp. 14–15.

9: A copy of the report (MBS31) is held by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, Mackintosh Queen's Cross, 870 Garscube Road, Glasgow G20 7EL. The Mackintosh Buildings Survey was funded by The Monument Trust.