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 Iron & Steelworks in Coatbridge

David Mushet  1772 - 1847

  • Industrialist and metallurgist. Born in Dalkeith (Midlothian), Mushet joined a Glasgow ironworks at the age of nineteen. In 1801, he discovered black iron-stone near Coatbridge (North Lanarkshire) in conjunction with Englishman William Dixon (1753 - 1822),
    Mushet moved south to England in 1805, settling at Coleford in the Forest of Dean in 1810, where he established an ironworks. He is buried nearby in Staunton Churchyard.

  • Mushet left school at the age of 19, but did not go to work at his father's foundry. Instead, being good at mathematics, he began work as an accountant at the nearby Clyde Iron Works. Alongside his bookkeeping duties, he read extensively on the subject of iron making and, after a staff reduction was made in 1793, he began a series of experimental researches.

  • At first, these were encouraged by his employers, and he even taught assaying to the manager's son; but later, and without reason given, he was prohibited from experimenting during work hours. Forced to continue his experiments outside office hours, he frequently worked until the early hours of the morning and in just a few years he became an established authority on the manufacture of iron.

  • In 1800, he patented a process to make cast steel from wrought iron, which he then sold to a Sheffield firm for 3000. His employers, becoming jealous of him, dismissed him from the Clyde Iron Works in the same year.

  • The following year, with the help of partners, he bought and rebuilt the Calder Iron Works, where he continued his experiments. It was here he made he made his second great discovery; In 1801, he demonstrated that 'Black-band Ironstone,' (also known as 'wild Coal') could be used to economically produce iron. Previously, this abundant resource had been viewed as a useless form of coal, and while the discovery brought little financial reward to Mushet personally, the use of Black-band Ironstone was to lead to a remarkable expansion of the Scottish iron industry and eventually brought millions of pounds profit to Scottish industrialists.[5]

  • By 1805 Mushet had published some thirty papers in Philosophical Magazine. In his book, Man of Iron - Man of Steel, historian Ralph Anstis writes that Mushet was now "looked up to as an authority both at home and abroad on matters connected with iron and steel making. Not unnaturally, perhaps, he was becoming dissatisfied with the limitations imposed by the Calder Iron Works and, restive for wider experience and greater opportunities, decided to move on".

  • The early history of the Calder is not known but it seemed to have had a short life before it failed in 1800.
    William Dixon (1753-1822), a Northumberland miner purchased the failed Calder Ironworks in Coatbridge for 400 in 1801 and went into partnership with David Mushet, discoverer of the blackband ironstone, to run the works and exploit the Monkland coalfields.
    Mushet developed the Calder Ironworks to exploit his discovery which led to a remarkable expansion in the iron industry in Scotland.

  • Mushet experimented with new processes in a search for better and cheaper iron. Amongst his numerous innovations he made steel from iron by adding carbon and discovered that manganese oxide improves the quality of both metals. He later showed for the first time how this mineral could be smelted using James Neilson's new blast furnace

  • The extraordinary expansion of the Scottish iron trade of the 19 th century was mainly due to the discovery by David Mushet of the Black Band ironstone in 1801, and the invention of the Hot Blast by James Beaumont Neilson in 1828.

  • Ironstone is a fine-grained, heavy and compact sedimentary rock. Its main components are the carbonate or oxide of iron, clay and/or sand. It can be thought of as a concretionary form of siderite. Ironstone also contains clay, and sometimes calcite and quartz. Blackband ironstone is a carbonate of iron, laminated with coal, generally in sufficient quantity for calcination without further admixture of coal

  • Hot blast refers to the preheating of air blown into a blast furnace or other metallurgical process. This has the result of considerably reducing the fuel consumed in the process. This was invented and patented for iron furnaces by James Beaumont Neilson in 1828 at Wilsontown Ironworks, near the village of Forth, in Scotland, but was later applied in other contexts, including bloomeries (a type of furnace once widely used for smelting iron from its oxides).

  • Calder Iron Works were situated in a gorge of the North Ca1der Water. The blast furnaces were located on the north bank, with their tops practically level with the top of the gorge. The blowing engines were located on the south bank. Thus the furnaces could be charged without resorting to use of a hoist or a rump,

  • The outstanding attraction of the site was that it was close to a branch canal, along which raw materials could be brought in and iron sent out.

  • The first blast furnace in the Coatbridge area was erected here. Mushet's Blackband ironstone was first used successfully without adding a mixture of other ores.

  • Here in January 1829 hot blast was first tried in a full-sized blast furnace.

  • Here in 1831 raw coal was first substituted for coke in a blast furnace.

    The partnership lasted only 2 years after which William Dixon bought the works again for 19,000.

  • He purchased Palacecraig Estate, Coatbridge, in 1803 and Faskine Estate, Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, in 1819. He founded the Govan Ironworks, Crown Street, Govan, Glasgow, in 1837 for the manufacture of bar iron, the production of iron castings for steam-engines and general engineering products. These works were popularly known thereafter as 'Dixon Blazes'. William Dixon died in 1822 and was succeeded in business by his youngest son, William Dixon (1788-1859). By this time the business was the second largest coal and iron concern in Scotland.

  • He purchased, in 1824, the estate, collieries, blast furnaces and malleable ironworks of Wilsontown, South Lanarkshire. The ironworks closed in 1842 but the collieries remained in operation until the 1950s. William Dixon, the second, subsequently purchased numerous estates, including, Carfin, Motherwell, South Lanarkshire; Crosshill, Broomelton, Larkhall, South Lanarkshire; Earnockmuir, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire; Mosesfield, Springburn, Glasgow. He spent over 250,000 on litigation and on his death in 1859 was not insolvent but seriously illiquid.

  • When his son, William Smith Dixon (1824-1880), inherited the business outside involvement was already established in the day to day management of the business, which was firmly in the hands of the Calder Ironworks and Govan Ironworks. The overall financial affairs of the business was in the hands of trustees. The business by then operated 8 collieries and 2 ironworks and was the fourth largest coal and iron concern in Scotland. The business was incorporated as a limited liability company in April 1873 as William Dixon Ltd. with John Mann Thomson, William Smith Dixon's cousin, as chairman. The company's registered offices were at 1 Dixon Street, Glasgow.

  • In March 1906 the company was liquidated and reconstructed as a new limited company with the same name. The company's works were situated at Glasgow; Govan, Glasgow; Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire; Blantyre, South Lanarkshire; Calder, North Lanarkshire; Fauldhouse, West Lothian; Carfin, North Lanarkshire; Wilsontown, South Lanarkshire; and Garturk, North Lanarkshire. The Calder Ironworks closed in 1921. In 1922 the company abandoned the use of splint coal and reverted entirely to coke fuel, obtained from their Wilsontown colliery and from other coke makers.

  • In 1934 a modern coke plant was laid down at Govan. By 1936 the company was fast becoming a satellite of the Colville Group of steel companies which had become its major customer. Colvilles Ltd acquired the company from the Iron & Steel Holding & Realisation Agency in 1953, keeping the blast furnaces and coke ovens in operation until the recession of 1958 when the works closed and the company ceased to trade.

  • It went into liquidation in 1960.





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