The Industrial Revolution

The 18th and 19th centuries saw south west Scotland becoming an industrial heartland of the growing British Empire. In addition to a textile industry of world significance in the Irvine Valley, coal mining and other mineral extraction was important throughout the region. Iron production developed at Dunaskin in the Doon Valley and the railway rolling stock manufactured in Kilmarnock was exported worldwide.

The cotton market slumped in the 1860s due to the American Civil War causing a decline in the region's textile production. The introduction of steam-power to many processes ensured the survival of heavy industry in the south west. Engineering companies such as Glenfield and Kennedy and Barclay's sprang up in the 19th century and the first railway in Scotland (initially horse-drawn) ran between Kilmarnock and Troon. The railways in the area rapidly expanded and became part of the main factor which transformed the region - improved transport. It was now possible to move coal around the area in large quantities via the rail network to feed local industry. Farmers too were able to move produce around more quickly allowing them to produce more than they could before and to distribute it out with the local area. Roads too were improved by the innovations of an Ayrshire man, John Loudoun Macadam. MacAdam set up a company with the Earl of Dundonald and successfully introduced new techniques in road building.

The Doon Valley's main industrial strengths changed drastically with the establishment of the Dalmellington Iron Company. The large-scale mining of ironstone and coal now displaced the area's previous major industries, most of which had been formerly based around farming and weaving. Other new products were manufactured in the south west and exported globally; dynamite was made at Alfred Nobel's factory at Ardeer in North Ayrshire, whisky from 'Johnnie Walker's' and footwear from Saxone in Kilmarnock became household names worldwide. Quality steel was manufactured at Glengarnock, and ceramics and textiles were produced throughout the region.

As the south west of the country became more industrialised the land-owning aristocracy who had first established the area as agriculturally important became less important. However the improved transport links to Glasgow and further afield, coupled with the increased industrial activity in the area, meant that other professional magnates moved in, bringing their own expertise to further enhance not only the new industries and therefore the wealth of the region but also the cosmopolitan nature of the towns and villages. It also created another new industry - tourism. Places like Troon, Ayr and Girvan became popular places for day-trippers from Glasgow to visit.

As a result, the population grew and because of the sheer diversity of industry in the area the south west of Scotland had a booming economy right into the twentieth century, and companies like Strangs of Hurlford were able keep Britain's war effort supplied with much needed components during the 1939-45 conflict as well as the coalmines in the south west supplying much of the fuel so desperately in demand during those years. Since the end of the Second World War however, many of the main industries in the south west, such as mining, have rapidly declined in output and demand. 

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