1. Town Hall spire from the New Bridge. Photograph ©Mike Bailey, April 2010.
Ayr Town Hall, the High Street and New Bridge Street. Photograph ©Mike Bailey, September 2010.
New Bridge Street elevation, with council chamber in upper storey and access to rear court. Photograph ©Mike Bailey, September 2010.
4. New Bridge Street elevation, with main entrance and former entrance below the spire. Photograph ©Mike Bailey, September 2010.
5. Interior view, with main auditorium and balcony. Photograph ©Mike Bailey, September 2010.
6. South face of the concert hall, above the District Court and the Police Cells. Photograph ©Mike Bailey, September 2010.
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Ayr Town Hall
The building is described by Joe Rock as, "... certainly one of the finest classical spires in Scotland". The 225ft steeple provides Ayr's dominant landmark.
Prior to the building of the New Bridge, proposed in 1778 and executed several years later, the link between the burgh and the north bank of the river had been the five-arched 16th century Auld Brig. Close to the Brig Port, on the south side of the High Street, adjacent to the corner of High Street and Newmarket Street, was the Laigh Tolbooth. This was an administrative centre for the Royal Burgh for many years. In 1574 the Laigh Tolbooth was replaced by the Tolbooth constructed at the base of the Sandgate, adjacent to the School Vennel.
The New Bridge linked the Main Street of Newton on Ayr with the Sandgate, entering the burgh on the line of the former Water Vennel. The vennel was renamed New Bridge Street and imposing Georgian buildings were created by Alex. Stevens (builder of the bridge) beside this imposing approach to the burgh. Stevens described as elegant (in) manner which would lend ornament to the bridge.
On completion of the New Bridge, the burgh's Malt Cross was removed from it's historic site at the foot of the High Street since it was impeding traffic. The cross, erected during the reign of Charles II and believed to be a replica of Edinburgh's Mercat Cross, was not retained. Some fragments of the structure are held in the local museum collections. At some point, Assembly Rooms were built on the corner of the High Street and New Bridge Street.
It became clear that the Tolbooth in the Sandgate would have to be demolished, to facilitate better access to the town. In 1824 the town council asked the Edinburgh architect Thomas Hamilton, designer of the Burns Monument in Alloway (1818) to consider a possible site for a new steeple. The new building was to house the services provided in the existing Tolbooth and and public assembly rooms. It was decided that the site of the old assembly rooms would be the most convenient. The contractor Archibald Johnston, began work in 1828 and completed the building at a total cost of £9,965 in time for the inaugural ball to be held in November 1830.
Two bells hang in the spire, one approximately 20 inches in diameter, and the larger one 49' inches in diameter. The smaller bell's inscription is "Soli deo gloria Dalmahoy 1700", the larger bell's "Cast 1830/recast by Mears & Stainbank London June 1897/being the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria's reign/ 1837 (a crown) 1897/God save the Queen!/Hugh D Willock, Provost/James Meikle, Dean of Guild/John Eaglesham, Town Surveyor."
Plaque to building reads "Here in Mid Street stood The Malt Cross, Mercat Cross of Ayr, Removed 1778."
Ref. Joe Rock Thomas Hamilton, Architect 1784-1858 (1984) (p28)
Text based on Historic Scotland Listed Building Register, Historical Guide to Ayr, Prestwick and District Royal Burgh of Ayr (ca 1960) and Historic Ayr AANHS (2001)
Some programme for events at this venue are available.
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The Assembly Rooms and Town Buildings, Ayr (1830 - 1877)
Ayr Town Buildings, reproduced from the post-office directory for Ayr, Newton, and Wallacetown.
Published 1830 by William Macarter
On the 28th of March 182S, was laid by Robert
Mentgomerie, Esq. of Craighouse, Most Worshipful Master of the most ancient Mother Lodge of
Kilwinning, in presence of Provost Fuliarton and
the Magistrates, and an immense concourse of
freemasons, and respectable bodies, and gentlemen of the town, the foundation stone of a new
spire, and buildings, comprising the new Town
House, Coffee Room, Assembly Rooms, &c., of
which we have given an accurate drawing, according to the altered extended plan.
The erection of these stately buildings indicate the good
taste, enterprising zeal, and liberality of the Magistrates of
Ayr. "the site of the new buildings is close to that of the former
steeple, and exactly upon the site of the late Assembly Rooms including two other buildings immediately to the south, it
takes up the angle formed at the cross, by the junction of the
Main Street and Sandgate, another street running from this
point to the New Bridge, and is thus in the greatest thoroughfare of the town. The buildings in whole form an oblong
square, 110 feet in length by 50 in breadth. The main body
of the structure ia composed of two stories, and forma in appearance of two distinct buildings. The building at the south
end, wherein is the grand assembly room, is elevated five feet
above the height of the main body. The front of this part
stands towards the west, and is 32 feet by 52, and its elevation
from the base to the top of the pediment 45 feet. The others
or larger parts of the buildings, presents two fronts, one towards the north, or High Street, and the other towards the
west, or Sandgate Street; the former beings 36 feet, and the
latter 78 feet in length, and the elevation of both being about
33 feet. The spire is placed near the centre of the large building, forming a part of the grand front to the west, and is
raised to the great height of 225 feet being, it is believed higher than any steeple in Scotland.
The buildings are of the Grecian style, and of the composite
order. They are composed of a massive basement, surmounted by a cornice, &c. The front of the principal story is formed of pilasters, with compost mouldings, circular-headed windows, with archivolts, &c., and the whole is finished with a
massive entablature, dentile cornice, blocking course, &e.
The base of the spire is rustic, on which is the basement, composed of massive pilasters, surmounted by a massive entablature and cornice, and an elegantly enriched blocking-course,
on the external angles of which stand four large eagles. Two
stories are thus raised in the form of a square. The next, or
third story, is brought into an octagonal form, and is of the
Tuscan order, and composed of columns, entablature, &c.
above which are the dials of the clock, surmounted by eight
fancy columns, upon the entablature of which stands a lofty
and elegant obelisk, supported by massive consols, and crowned with a beautiful fancy capital, and the whole is surmounted by a gigantic figure of Triton.
The ground story of the interior is divided into shops, a
guard-room, an entrance-hall, stair-cases, a kitchen, and
other smaller, but no less necessary, apartments; and in the
principal story, there are a large Assembly Room, a Coffee
Room, a Card Room, a Supper Room, an Anti-Room, &c..
The whole buildings cost between six and seven thousand
pounds, and do great credit to the Architect and Contractors.
The tout ensemble forms a beautiful specimen of elegant and
substantial modern architecture, worthy of the taste and genius
of the present flourishing state of the arts and sciences, and
a handsome ornament to the town of Ayr.
The Coffee Room
Intended to be removed from Harbour Street to a spacious room in the new Town Buildings, is
conducted on the most liberal principles. Here
the stranger may peruse an immense collection of London and provincial newspapers, from the Star of Brunswick to the Clyde Shipping List, without
fee, for a month. On the table are to be found, also, Magazines, Reviews, Almanacks, &c. and
several of the periodicals of the present day. The
subscription is only one guinea a year.
In New Bridge Street, there is another Readings
Room, belonging to William M*Carter, which is
connected with his circulating Library, conducted on the same scale of liberality, with this difference,
that the papers here are let out. Any newspaper may thus be had for a couple of hours.
Extracted from Brief historical reminiscences of the county and town of Ayr, from its earliest period to the present day, to which is added a correct list of the lieutenancy, freeholders, commissioners of supply of the county, magistrates of the town of Ayr, Newton, Prestwick, &c. &c., in the shape of a post-office directory for Ayr, Newton, and Wallacetown, &c by a Burgess.
Published 1830 by William Macarter in Ayr . p97 - 100
In 1878 the town buildings were reconstructed and extended, after an architectural competition. Design work was allocated to James Sellars 1843 - 88 (of Campbell Douglas and Sellars), who was a runner up in the competition. The early history of the town hall is covered by a note published by South Ayrshire Library Service.
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Note: The Star of Brunswick newspaper
was established by the Brunswick Constitutional Club in order to prevent Catholics sitting in parliament. The Club, an ultra Protestant group of Irish loyalists, was opposed to catholic emancipation.