Visual Arts in Ayrshire  ~  1800 - 2017
Art, Artists and Collections in 19th and 20th Century Scotland

Catalogue Illustration: Henry Moore in his studio.   Magnify

Draped Figure
Draped Reclining Figure at Rozelle, South Ayrshire Council Collection.
Henry Moore O.M., R.A. 1898 - 1986.   Magnify

Underground Bomb Store, 1942 in the Maclaurin Art Collection.
David Bomberg 1890 – 1957.   Magnify

Two mugs by Sir Terry Frost RA 1915 - 2003. Private Collection.

Carnegie Library Art Gallery, Ayr ca. 1935.
South Ayrshire Council Photographic  Collection.   Magnify

Art to Inspire Exhibition, Maclaurin Art Gallery 2015 curated by Mike Bailey.
Elemental Boat by David Nash and Rose Return by Briidget Riley.   Magnify

Dancing Figure in the Maclaurin Art Collection
by Roger Hilton CBE 1911 - 75.   Magnify

Rozelle House Art Gallery (rear view). Arts at Rozelle: South Ayrshire Council with the Maclaurin Trust.   Magnify

Head of a Woman in the Maclaurin Art Collection
Robert Colquhoun 1914 - 62.   Magnify

Staff for the Road to Meikle Seggie from the exhibition 'A Celtic Odyssey' at the Maclaurin Art Gallery, 1996.
Alex Flett b. 1950.

Woman Reading 1922 in the Maclaurin Art Collection.
William McCance 1894-1970.   Magnify

Alan Davie at the opening of his exhibition 'Alan Davie: Paintings from 1956-1988' at the Lillie Art Gallery, Milngavie 1989. (Prior to showing at the Maclaurin Art Galley, Ayr.)
Alan Davie CBE  1920 - 2014.   Magnify   Top

Market Place (Half Church Tower): St Ives: 1950 in the Maclaurin Art Collection
Patrick Heron CBE  1920 - 99.   Magnify   Top

Catalogue Illustration: Bridget Riley in her studio.   Magnify

The Fishers 1972, in the Maclaurin Art Collection.
John Bellany CBE RA HRSA 1942 - 2013.   Magnify

Magnify Memory Mirror
 Memory Mirror (10.6.81) in the Maclaurin Art Collection
John Hoyland 1934 – 2011.   Magnify

Thermidor in the Maclaurin Art Collection.
Ian Hamilton Finlay CBE 1925 - 2006.   Magnify

Mystical Landscape with Snake Mask in the Maclaurin Art Collection.
Alan Davie CBE 1920 - 2014.   Magnify

Art to Inspire exhibition curated by Mike Bailey, 2015.  Gallery 3, Maclaurin Art Gallery.   Magnify

Sculpture in Ayr High Street (Poet and Scholar) commissioned by Kyle and Carrick District Council, 1994.  South Ayrshire Council Collection.
Doug Cocker.   Magnifyb. 1945

Mars Red, Black and White 1961 in the Maclaurin Art Collection
Sir Terry Frost RA 1915 - 2003.   Magnify

Hyphen, sculpture in the Maclaurin Art Collection
Paul Neagu 1938 – 2004.   Magnify

Der Tag Beginnt, 1983 in the Maclaurin Art Collection.
Elvira Bach b.1951.   Magnify

Exhibition of furniture at the Maclaurin Art Gallery.
Tim Stead 1952 - 2000.   Magnify

Lord Eglinton's Dog (1996). Catalogue illustration in the exhibition 'A View From Outside' at the Maclaurin Art Gallery, 1996.
Kevin Harlow.   Magnify

Ayrshire has attracted many artists in the twentieth century and a small number of indigent artists have achieved significant success in Scotland, London and in major centres in Europe.  The work of many of these artists are represented in the key collections in the county.


Rozelle:-  Page Link

The Royal Burgh of Ayr held the Rozelle lands as part of the Barony lands of Alloway until the auction in 1754 to reduce the Burgh debt.   Acquired by Robert Hamilton, formerly of Bourtreehill, for £2,000, the original Rozelle mansion house was commissioned in the classical style of Robert Adam and was finished in 1760. Hamilton had built his fortune in the West Indies.   The House was remodelled and extended by David Bryce in the early 19th century.

Rozelle Estate flourished throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, but by the 1960s times were hard and much of the home farm was sold to property developers.  In 1968 the House, with little of its historic interior remaining and with much depleted lands, was gifted to the Royal Burgh of Ayr for recreational purposes, leading to its status today as South Ayrshire Council's principal Museum and Art Gallery.

When the property was transferred to the Royal Burgh the former owner, Commander Hamilton, retained a small number of family portraits.    These were gifted to the Maclaurin Trust on his death and now form part of the Maclaurin Art Collection.  The house was partially restored to the 19th century format utilising period doors and windows from an Edinburgh New Town property.  Outbuildings were left in their dilapidated state until the next decade.

In 1975–1976 the servant's quarters and stable block were converted into the Maclaurin Art Gallery with funds from the bequest of Mrs Mary Ellen Maclaurin.  For several years, management of the property was in the hands of the Parks and Recreation Department, who maintained the extensive grounds.  However, by the late 1980's management of the house had passed to the District Library Service, with the building housing the main activities of the Museum and Gallery Service, operating alongside the Maclaurin Trust.


Carnegie Library:-  Page Link

Although the Ayr Library Society was founded in 1762, Ayr‘s first Public Library was not established until 1870, when it inherited the book stock of other local libraries.   Like its predecessors, this Public Library was privately organised, and financed by subscription: the Public Libraries Act had empowered local authorities to provide a free library service from public funds, provided the ratepayers voted in favour.  There was no support for such action in Ayr.

To keep down the subscription fees, money was raised from public lectures and in 1890, the library committee invited the Scottish-American steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to be one of their speakers. Mr Carnegie declined due to prior commitments, but further correspondence led to an offer from him of £10,000 for a new building if the town would adopt the Public Libraries Act.  The move was supported by ratepayers and the plans were made for a new library building.

The winning design for Carnegie Library came from the firm of Campbell Douglas and Morrison of Glasgow. Built in 1893, the original two-storey building fronting on to Main Street is of red sandstone in late Victorian Renaissance style.   The left of the building was originally home to the Carnegie Librarian.  This was closed in 1925 and the exterior was brought into harmony with the rest of the building.

Until the 1970s’ the Carnegie Library was used as an Art Gallery for the Burgh, enjoying substantial support and engagement with Ayr Sketch Club.  There were annual exhibitions by members of Ayr Sketch Club in addition to a variety of open exhibitions alternating with displays from the permanent collection.  The A A Alexander museum collection, previously shown at Belleisle House, was +stored in the Carnegie Library for a number of years prior to removal to Rozelle.  The art collections at the Carnegie attracted numerous loans and gifts, notably works by the Colourists Peploe and Fergusson.

The downstairs lending area was extended rearwards to Garden Street in 1932, and a further extension at the rear accommodating a spacious lecture room/reference library was designed by the distinguished Ayr firm of James Kennedy Hunter (Hunter himself had died in 1929). This was opened on 22 January 1934 by Flight Lieutenant David McIntyre, who spoke about his pioneer flight over Everest the previous year. (McIntyre would later take a leading role in establishing Prestwick Airport.)


Ayr Town Hall, the Assembly Rooms and Council Chambers:-  Page Link

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 new buildings were created by Alex. Stevens (builder of the bridge) as part of this imposing Georgian approach to the burgh.  

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.  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, at the foot of the High Street, 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.

Today, the view down Sandgate towards the New Bridge and the Town Buildings, dominated by its spire, is an unforgettable image of Scottish townscape at its finest.  The area around the former Malt Cross is designated a conservation area, with numerous listed buildings. The 'A listed' Town Buildings lie at the core of the group, dominating the varied townscape.  (In 2017, work on the redevelopment of the north side of the High Street was initiated.)

The demolition of the New Tolbooth and the creation of the town buildings saw some of the burgh's administrative and ceremonial functions relocated to the new structure.  In addition to shops at ground level, some of the town's administrative offices were located in the Sandgate at street level.  Ayr Burgh Police Force was established in 1839 and served the town until the amalgamation with Kilmarnock Burgh Police and the Ayrshire Constabulary in 1968. 

Post Office Directories for Ayr show a Police Office at 29 and 25 New Bridge Street, below the council chamber.  The reconstruction in 1881 provided an extensive police station and court facilities.  The police cells constructed at this time are still in existence.  For many years they were used for storage of Library material.  There has been a recent proposal to explore a conversion to an arts facility.

Other municipal facilities that have been located at the town buildings include Ayr Water Office (Town's Buildings, High Street), Registrar of Births, Marriages, and Deaths for the Parliamentary Burgh of Ayr (1 High Street) and Ayr Corporation Tramways (which occupied 1 High Street after the Registrar moved to Buttermarket Court.)  The Burgh Fire Service was also located at 29 New Bridge Street, with extensive facilities in the courtyard adjacent to the concert hall.  It is not clear when the Burgh Fire Service was established but a Firemaster was in place in 1909.

Among the traders occupying premises within the town buildings were J KIllen, Family Linen Warehouse (at 25 New Bridge Street) and James Campbell. Draper (at 5 High Street.)

The Town's Buildings, erected in 1828, at the junction of High Street and Sandgate - the latter in a line with the New Bridge - were originally a tasteful structure, surmounted by a beautiful spire 226 feet high, and were greatly enlarged and improved in 1880-81 at an estimated cost (considerably exceeded) of £19,952, by the addition of a fine new police court and a town-hall with stained-glass portraits of Wallace, Bruce, John Welsh, Burns, Scott, and Shakespeare, and with a powerful organ. At the end of 1881 the new Town Hall was opened with a performance by the Ayr Choral Union of Handel’s Messiah.

This addition to the premises was burnt down in 1897 and was not rebuilt until 7 years had elapsed, by which time the Carnegie Library had opened.

On 31st March 1904, the choir was once again accorded the honour of formally opening the new Town Hall with another performance of Handel’s Messiah.   In September 2006, the Town Hall was closed for much needed refurbishment including the rebuilding of the three manual organ. Once again, Ayr Choral Union had the pleasure of performing Handel’s Messiah at the formal re-opening of the Town Hall on 7th October.

Some programme for events at this venue are available.  A small collection of paintings and photographs are displayed within these premises. Works include portraits of 18th and 20th century Provosts and other significant figures associated with the Royal Burgh. A commission by the Edwards bequest, dating from the early 1990's shows Provost Danny McNeill, of Kyle and Carrick District Council, within a panoramic view of Wellington Square painted by by Johnny Warrender.

The Provost's Room within the building includes facsimiles of some of the ancient burgh charters and a carved panel by Sandy Caldwell. This replaces the original plaster medallion (now in the museum stores, removed during renovations in the 1980's under Provost Macdonald.   Unsatisfactory restoration work by an unqualified employee on the carved panel has resulted in the gold leaf being over painted with 'gold' lacquer.


County Buildings, Ayr:-  Page Link

Ayr County Buildings were built on the site of the former Ayr Prison during the 1930's.  They are situated on the seaward side of Ayr Sheriff Court and County Hall , a building dating from 1822.

The original County Buildings were constructed between 1818 and 1822 (designs by Robert Wallace, a London-based architect of Scottish extraction) at a cost of £30,000. They included the administrative offices, the Sheriff Court and, at the western end, the County Gaol. In 1929 the prison was demolished and work began on a large extension to the Courthouse using designs by Alexander Mair, a successful architect working from a Wellington Square Office in Ayr.. The foundation stone of the new structure was laid on 10 July 1931 by the Duke of York (later King George VI), accompanied by his wife (the late Queen Mother). The remains of the original building were thereafter was devoted to Sheriff Court functions.

The main entrance on the west front is surmounted by a carved Coat of arms with the Motto of the County 'God Schaw The Richt'.  The Hall also contains the War Memorial and the portraits of Col. John Ferrier Hamilton of Cairnhill and Archibald William Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton. The portraits on the north stair are George, 4th Earl of Glasgow and C.G. Shaw, while on the south are those of Rt. Hon. Sir James Ferguson, 6th Baronet of Kilkerran and Hugh Montgomerie, 12th Earl of Eglinton.

The portraits on the first floor are of Lieut. Col. W.K. Hamilton-Campbell of Netherplace, John Hamilton of Sundrum, Mrs Peter Simpson, Skelmorlie, Col. H.R. Wallace of Busbie and James E. Shaw. A small number of portraits relating to Ayrshire County Council are displayed within the premises, mainly on the main staircase and in the upper floor corridor.

Works from the South Ayrshire Collections are displayed in the committee rooms together with artifacts relating to Strathclyde Region (Ayr Division) and South Ayrshire Council.  Occasional temporary exhibitions are presented within the County Hall.

[Text based on material published by South Ayrshire Council, Directory of Scottish Architects and the Scottish Courts Administration.]


Craigie College of Education, Ayr:-  Page Link

Craigie College of Education was established in 1964 in response to increasing primary school rolls and a shortage of primary school teachers.

The policies and the associated Craigie mansion house and outbuildings, then in the ownership of the Royal Burgh of Ayr, provided a good location for the college intended to meet the needs of Central and Southern Scotland when the demand for primary education was developing along revised patterns with a national curriculum.  A new style of teaching was introduced to meet the needs of the 'Primary Memorandum', a scheme adopted by Scottish Government, and the demands of a more individual approach to education. 

While offering places primarily to students from the South West, Craigie became both a significant local and a national resource under the direction of Dr Ethel Gray, the first principal.  Under her leadership the college made substantial contributions to the cultural life of the district which attaining the highest standards of adult education.

Craigie College flourished from the time of it's foundation in 1964 until the rationalisation of teacher training in Scotland after 1993, when the college becaime part of the Univeristy of Paisley.  Despite the short period of activity as a teacher training college, staff showed an ability to work with the various Manpower Services programmes introduced by successive governments.  Cooperative ventures were established with the University of Strathclyde and Ayr Technical College.  Subsequently, in 1993, Craigie became a campus for Paisley University.  The site is now occupied by the University of the West of Scotland, in new building, with an emphasis on media and cultural studies.  The timber framed buildings have been demolished and replaced by more modern and durable facilities.

Craigie house is thought to be the work of architect John Smith. The building follows the classical line, with the central block dating to around 1730. This building was built as a replacement home by Sir Thomas Wallace of Newton Castle and was named Craigie House after Wallace's ancestral seat of Craigie Castle.   In 1782/3 the estate was purchased by William Campbell whose family retained ownership until 1940 at which time Ayr Town Council purchased the estate for the sum of £12,500. The house was requisitioned during the Second World War by the Army, it later became a luxury restaurant, part of the Craigie teaching college, and is now used as a business centre.

This web site includes a comprehensive review of Drama activity within the College from 1964 to 1991.

[The Ayr and Alloway pages draw. in part, on material published by the Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society [Ayrshire Monographs 20 and 24.]]


Ayr Academy Page Link

The school has existed, in various guises, since 1233 although it did not come to be known as Ayr Academy until 1796. It moved from the Sandgate to its present location on Fort Street in 1800.  The main block of current building dates from 1880 (designs by Clark and Bell), with further extension to the building added in the the early 20th century.  Notable enhancements were the purpose built art school by James A. Morris, added in 1909.

The school is situated near the now demolished Ayr Castle. A public school dating from circa 1233 century, it was connected until the Reformation with St John's Church, passing thereafter under the town council's management. Reconstituted under the name of Ayr Academy in 1794, it received a royal charter in 1798.  The first school standing on the present site was erected in 1810 at a cost of £3000. The present school constructed in 1880, at a cost of £10,000.

The portico in the main 1800 block is adorned with medallions of Sir David Wilkie, James Watt and Robert Burns, representing Art, Science and Literature. Internal reconstruction of main building 1911-12 saw the creation of the central hall by William Reid.  This central hall is of double height with gallery arcade and decorative tilework. Outstanding detailing to Science and Art Department includes timber panelled doors; dado panelling to art rooms and timber fixtures; master's observation point.

Ayr Academy has a work attributed to Sir Henry Raeburn (1756 – 1823) in the school collection.  During the 1980s collaboration with Kyle and Carrick Distrait museum service saw a number of temporary exhibitions within the central hall and the Art Department.


Burns Cottage and Museum, Alloway Page Link

The celebration of Robert Burns as the so called national bard, has brought increasing interest in Alloway and the structures erected in his memory.  The early preservation of the birthplace cottage and the building of the Monument leads to the eventual development of the tourist facility at the Land of Burns Centre and, within the past ten years the opening of the Burns' Heritage museum.  This latest development is a collaboration between the Robert Burns Trustees and the National Trust for Scotland.

The Burns Museum held numerous books, illustrations, objects and ephemera relating to the life and works of Robert Burns, although much of the material has been on long term loan to the National Library of Scotland.  The new museum in Alloway mounts regular exhibitions of contemporary art and provides lectures and interpretation of various aspects of Robert Burns 's life. It is both a study centre and a tourist attraction, forming an important dimensions of the tourist strategy for the district.

Facilities in Alloway are, in part, mirrored by developments in Dumfries where Burns spent his later years.



Culzean Castle:- Page Link

Constructed by order of the 10th Earl of Cassilis, on the site of an earlier castle. this Robert Adam designed house is one of the finest country houses on the West of Scotland. to be the seat of his earldom. The castle was built in stages between 1777 and 1792, incorporating a large drum tower with a circular saloon inside (which overlooks the sea), a grand oval staircase and a suite of well-appointed apartments.

In 1945, the Kennedy family gave the castle and its grounds to the National Trust for Scotland (thus avoiding inheritance tax). In doing so, they stipulated that the apartment at the top of the castle be given to General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower in recognition of his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War. The General first visited Culzean Castle in 1946 and stayed there four times, including once while President of the United States.

A wide variety of period works from the National Trust for Scotland's collections are on display at Culzean Castle. This venue houses craft events throughout the tourist season and in the pre-Christmas period.

The nearby Croy House presents exhibitions and workshops, notably during the Open Studio Ayrshire Weekend in March.



The Dick Institute:- Page Link

James Dick gifted the funds for a new building to replace the former Sheriff House and to house some of the Burgh's collection collection of books 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 or dispersed. Rebuilt in 1910, to a classical design by Ingram and Brown, the building was re-opened in 1911.

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 and further galleries at the 1st floor.

The Dick Institute is a B listed building together with properties at 10, 12 and 14 London Road. (Date of Listing 09-MAR-1971.)

Originally, the Dick Institute housed the Braidwood Collection, assembled by Dr Hunter Selkirk, together with the Burgh's collections of books and the fine art collections that include a strong element of Scottish Genre works and material by Robert Colquhoun added during the latter part of Ute 20th century.



McKechnie Institute:- Page Link

A bequest by a local businessman. Thomas McKechnie. resulted in the creation of the McKechnie Institute

Built in the Scottish Baronial style. with some Renaissance detailing. the facility that opened in 1889. 

The ground floor originally contained a Library, Reading Room and Ladies Room. On the first floor was a billiards room and beyond that the Librarian’s House. A contemporary report states 'Every evening the places are all but crowded with labouring men, fishermen, tradesmen and others…'

After the transfer of the library to a new building in 1975, the McKechnie Institute was unused for a number of years and the collections. now in very poor condition, were dispersed.  However, after restoration of the building by a Manpower Services Scheme in the 1980's there was new life as popular community venue, showing exhibitions of items from the former McKechnie and the South Ayrshire collections, extended by a variety of local and incoming exhibitions.  This rebirth was overseen by the Depute Director of Parks and Recreation, without any contributions from the established museum service of the District Council.  Indeed, the re-opening of the gallery and museum, was achieved by stealth, carried forward by many hours of voluntary work by Dr Margaret McCance.

In the early 1980's the District Museum Service had realised that the former burgh held a variety of paintings, many by significant Scottish artists.  There were a number of oil paintings by local baker Thomas Muir, predominately landscape depictions of local interest.  (It is possible that these were derived from engravings by William Bartlett (1809-1854). 

Today, the McKechnie is the venue for many local group meetings, Councilor's surgeries, art classes and similar activities.  Paintings from the former Girvan Burgh Collection are usually on display, with artifacts reflecting life in Carrick.


Stumpy Tower:- Page Link

Occupying a key position at the junction of Girvan's Knockcushan Street and Dalrymple Street, Stumpy Tower was purpose built as the Town Jail in 1827. A Grade B listed building, Stumpy and the adjacent properties enclosed the town's market with a square of buildings which included the town hall erected around 1822.

The original Stumpy, built in 1789, was a two storey thatched roof building in the former market place and had to be replaced because of the prisoners often making good their escape through the thatched roof.  In January 1825 the Burgesses decided rebuild the two houses on the Town’s property adjoining the King’s Arms and erect, another house on the front leading to the shore, with a jail and Steeple adjoining the existing market house to complete the square.

The jail was in use from April 1827 and a marked decrease in crime in the town was recorded; this continued for the next 34 years of operation.  When the jail was closed in 1862 the tower remained to serve as the Clock Tower for the burgh.

In 1908 the Buildings around Stumpy were demolished to make way for the McMaster Hall that opened in August 1911.  The McMaster Hall was given to the town by John McMaster, a local banker from Kirkoswald then resident in Canterbury. The Hall was primarily the Town Hall, serving purposes such as Town Council meetings but more recreationally as a Dance Hall. It also housed the Burgh's developing Art Collection which included substantial gifts from Richard Edmiston and Thomas Davidson.  Happily, the bulk of this collection was saved when, in 1939, the McMaster Hall was destroyed by fire.

In the mid 1950s the shell of the McMaster Hall was removed leaving the tower as the only relic of the civic buildings.


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