The Duke of Portland

The honour of having the first railway in Scotland belongs to Ayrshire. It was constructed between Kilmarnock and Troon by William Cavendish-Bentinck, Marquis of Titchfield, between 1808 and 1812. He inherited the Kilmarnock estate in 1795 when he married Henrietta Scott, the daughter of General John Scott of Balgonie. In a quirk of fate, Henrietta's mother, Lady Mary Hay, was the eldest daughter of the Earl of Errol and granddaughter of William Boyd the 4th Earl of Kilmarnock, who had been executed for the part he played in the Jacobite uprising of 1745. Therefore the estate had been returned to a representative of its ancient owners when she married General Scott.

The Bentinck family had originally been an ancient and noble family from Holland. Hans Bentinck came to England with William of Orange, and had been created Earl of Portland in 1689. William Bentinck, the 3rd Duke of Portland, changed his family's name to Cavendish-Bentinck when, in 1766, he married the Dorothy Cavendish, the daughter of the Duke of Devonshire. The 3rd Duke was an incredibly important nobleman who was Prime Minister in 1783 and 1807. 

An agreement was made that the Kilmarnock Estate could only be inherited by a descendant of Henrietta's. In 1809 the 3rd Duke died, and Henrietta's husband became the 4th Duke of Portland. 

Although he never visited any of his Ayrshire estates after his accession to the title, William took a warm interest in them and was very well informed about their condition. He was noted for his personal interest and knowledge in agriculture and was especially fond of his lands and farms around Troon and to this day many of the street names bear witness to his investment in the town and its surrounding countryside. 

He obtained from Parliament the right to build  the first railway in Scotland "for the improvement of his estates", and construction started in 1808. It took the form of a tramroad or 'plateway' and was nine and a half miles long and ran between Kilmarnock and Troon. The rails were cast iron fixed to stone blocks and the whole thing cost £50, 000. It opened in 1812 with the carriages being drawn by horses. It was in time adapted for locomotive traffic with the first engine being constructed by Stephenson. It was eventually leased to the Glasgow & South-Western Company. 

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