Elmbank House, a large villa built in 1792, was previously located on this site and the property gave its name to the street. In the late 19th century, the house was the residence of the Sheriff. Following the erection of a new Sheriff Hall in the centre of burgh, the Burgh Council decided to house a bequest of books in the villa.
James Dick gifted the funds for the new building, and some of the collection in memory of his brother. Dick was the successful son of a Kilmarnock merchant. Together with his brother, he had established a very lucrative business that manufactured longer-lasting rubber boots.
The Dick Institute was built at the turn of the 20th century, to designs by Robert Samson Ingram (1841 - 1915) of the W. and R. S. Ingram partnership , to house both a library and a museum for the burgh. In 1909 the building was damaged by fire and much of the collection, including material from the Hunter Selkirk Collection, was lost. Rebuilt in 1910, to a classical design by Ingram and Brown, the building was re-opened in 1911.
In 1917 the building was requisitioned for use as an auxiliary hospital. Three rooms and two galleries were used as wards and the art gallery was utilised as a games room. Following the end of the First World War, it resumed its intended function.
Within the building there is a square stairwell with tiled entrance floor; timber panelled corridor leading to libraries to left and right; art galleries behind; museum space at 1st floor.
The architect, R S Ingram, was the eldest son of James Ingram, a very popular and successful Kilmarnock architect. Robert Ingram was born in 1841. He received his training with his father before eventually succeeding to the family practice in 1879.
Other works by Robert Ingram in the area include the Kilmarnock Academy and Loanhead Street School. He was a very prolific architect in Kilmarnock in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The Dick Institute is a B listed building together with properties at 10, 12 and 14 London Road. Date of Listing 09-MAR-1971.
Note. It was believed that the entire Hunter Selkirk Collection had been lost in the fire in 1909. However, in 1980, an extensive herbarium and other materials were found in storage at the Carnegie Library in Ayr, together with material from the Alexander Collection that had been displayed at Belleisle House.. It is not known how the material reached Ayr.
It is difficult to gather information on Dr Hunter Selkirk although limited material can be found on the Future Museums website. McNair's book on the History of the Geological Society of Glasgow includes a biographical note. The library chronicle for 1897 contains the following details of the Hunter Selkirk donation to the library at Elmbank.
THE LIBRARY CHRONICLE.
KILMARNOCK.—A new library and museum for Kilmarnock, to be
erected on the site of the present library at Elmbank, and to cost .£8,000,
has been given by a native of the town whose name is not disclosed.
The architects are J. and R. S. Ingram, of Kilmarnock, who have, prepared
plans for a building in the classic style, the leading features being
imitated from the Paris Louvre.
At a meeting of the Kilmarnock Town Council on June 9th, Provost
Mackay intimated that another splendid gift had been made to the town,
Dr. Hunter-Selkirk, of Braidwood, having presented the whole of his
unique antiquarian and geological collection to Kilmarnock Museum.
Another native of Kilmarnock, Mr. James Thomson, F.G.S., had previously
presented to the town his unequalled collection of corals conditionally
on proper housing being found for them, and this will now be
secured by the handsome building for which plans have been prepared.
Dr. Hunter-Selkirk's museum, which is henceforth to be incorporated
with that of Kilmarnock, is well known as one of the most valuable and
extensive in the possession of any private individual in the kingdom.
Among its treasures are 30,000 old coins, mostly British, but including
many rare foreign specimens.
There is also a very remarkable collection
of old Bibles, among which is a manuscript of the 13th century, while
many are dated early in the 15th century. Old swords and guns, relics
of Drumclog, Bothwell Bridge, and other Covenanting battles, are
numerous, as are also articles illustrative of civilisation in the past, and
curiosities in the shape of old watches, watch-keys, snuffboxes. One
of the finest sections of the collection is the old pottery, which includes
many examples of rare Wedgwood ware.
The geological section is of
great interest and value, containing the best examples of the Leadhills
minerals ever brought together, a splendid array of Silurian exhibits from
the Logan Water, and a very extensive series of carboniferous specimens,
rich in fish shells and crustacean corals, and with an almost complete
representation of the lower forms of carboniferous life
[Text based on
History of the geological society of Glasgow, 1858-1908,
Glasgow : The Geological Society, 1908. ]
For further information about the Hunter Selkirk Collectionon the Future Museum website, please follow this LINK
For further information about the Dick Institute please follow this LINK