Ayr History

Ayr Auld Brig image
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Low Green1197 - King William the Lion had a wooden Castle built between the River Ayr and River Doon, by the Beach. This area is now the vast Low Green, next to Ayr Beach, one of the busiest Beaches in Scotland. Large Image

The Town of Ayr grew around the Castle and Harbour, through Fishing, Farming and Trading.

1100s late - St Johns Church was built, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, Patron Saint of Ayr, one of the largest Churches in Scotland at the time.

St Johns TowerThe Tower seen right was added in the late 1300s, all that remains from the Church complex. Tennis Courts are now on some of the Church ground, next to the Tower. The Tower can be found a short walk north of where the Court Building is at Wellington Square. Large Image

1205 - King William the Lion made Ayr a Royal Burgh and Market Town.

1200s early - Newton Castle was built for Clan Wallace on the north side of Ayr, this Castle fell into ruin in the 1700s, little is left today. The Wallace Families around Ayr were probably related to the famous William Wallace from the late 1200s.

1230 - a Monastery of the Dominican (Black) Friars was built by the River Ayr, next to where the High Street is today, nothing is left of that building.

1250 - a Timber Bridge was built across the River Ayr close to Black Friars. People used to cross at a Ford before this Bridge, with some said to have died making the crossing.

1263 - a Viking attack on Ayr was fought off.

1296 to 1312 - Ayr was occupied by English forces during the First War of Scottish Independence, a time Scotland had no King, with a number of Nobles fighting over who should be the next King. The English used this time to take control of Scotland. Ayr Castle was destroyed at this time.

Wallace Statue1297? - William Wallace is reported to have been imprisoned by the English at a Tolbooth in Ayr for a short time. There is a Wallace Statue on a building on Newmarket Street, said to be where the Tolbooth was. Large Image

Wallace led the Scots to victory over a large English Army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in September 1297. He was later captured by the English and executed in London in 1305.

1314 - Robert the Bruce took over from William Wallace as leader of the Scots against the English, leading the Scots to victory over the English at Bannockburn by Stirling. The Bruce was soon recognized as the King of Scotland.

1315 - Robert the Bruce held Parliament at St Johns Church in Ayr. The Bruce's descendants were the Stuart Kings that later ruled Scotland and England. The Bruce was born at Turnberry Castle, 16 miles south of Ayr.

Sundrum Castle1300s - the earliest parts of Sundrum Castle were built for Sir Robert Wallace, Sheriff of Ayr, 4 miles east of Ayr. This Castle was used as a Hotel from the early 1900s to 1970s, then converted to Apartments. One of the Apartments, consisting of the oldest section, is at times available for Holidays.

There are a number of Castles in Ayrshire associated with the Wallace's. Wallace's in Ayrshire

Ayr Old Church1470 - the building of the Auld Brig begins across the River Ayr, replacing the Timber Bridge from the 1200s. Many of the Timber Buildings in Ayr were also re-built in Stone from this time.

Loudoun Hall1513 - Loudoun Hall was built for James Tait, a wealthy Trader in Ayr. This building had a number of owners over the years such as the Sheriff of Ayr, and Provest of Ayr. It is now the oldest Dwelling House remaining in Ayr. Large Image

Situated at the bottom of the High Street and bottom of the Sandgate, at a path leading to the Harbour. Can be visited at times.

Scotland was trading cloth, wool, salt, herring and coal to England and Europe. Wealth from Trading was declining at this time, as England controlled most of the sea routes.

1560 - the Reformation made Catholic Worship illegal in Scotland, leading to St John's being used as a Protestant Church.

1574 - a Tolbooth was built in the middle of the Sandgate to Collect Taxes, serve as a Prison, and where Public Hangings took place between 1809 and 1820.

Lady Cathcart House

The building here in Kings Gold is Lady Cathcart House, built from the 1600s close to the Tolbooth. Large Image

The Tolbooth was demolished around 1825 to be replaced by the Town Hall, with some of its Stone said to have been used as a wall in front of the Gartferry Building on Racecourse Road. That Building was a Private Home, Gartferry Hotel, then converted to the Gartferry Court Apartments around 2011.

Tolbooth Information

Greenan Castle1603 - Greenan Castle was built on the south side of Ayr Beach for Clan Kennedy, relations of the Bruce's and Stuart's, largest land owners in the area with a number of Castles.

1603 - King James VI of Scotland, son of Mary Queen of Scots, also became King of England and Ireland after the death of Queen Elizabeth I.

The Stuart's ruled Scotland, England and Ireland off and on up to 1714. The three countries had different religious set ups, leading to a number of Wars such as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Bishops War and English Civil War.

Ayr Old Fort1650 - during the English Civil War, that had spread into Scotland, as Scotland had a lot to do with the start of that War, forces of Oliver Cromwell took control of Ayr, building a large Stone Fort with walls about 14 feet high.

This Fort covered about 16 acres, between the Harbour and St Johns Church. The best preserved sections of the Fort are at the Harbour by the large Citadel indoor Swimming Pool. Large Image

Ayr Auld Kirk1654 - the Auld Kirk of Ayr was built on the site of the former Black Friars Monastery between the High Street and River Ayr, now a popular attraction. Oliver Cromwell funded the building of this Church. Large Image

Cromwell died in 1658, leading to King Charles II Stuart returning to the throne in 1660. Charles II had Cromwell's body exhumed from Westminster Abbey in 1661 to be Posthumous Executed by having his body cut into pieces. Cromwell’s Trunk was thrown in an unmarked Pit beneath the Gallows at Tynburn in London. His Head was displayed on a Spike for 28 years.

1707 - the Act of the Union was passed, leading to England, Scotland and Wales joining as the United Kingdom. This lead to Great Wealth for much of Scotland, as they were then free to Trade with America and the West Indies, with routes from Scotland to America by Sail Ship being many days shorter than from English Ports. The top Trade then was with Tobacco, Cotton, Sugar, and Slaves.

Craigie House1730s - Craigie House was built on the north side of the River Ayr, a short walk east of Ayr centre. This was built for the Wallace's of Newton Castle, as that Castle had started to fall apart. Now a nice Riverside Walk from Ayr to view the House and Gardens. Large Image

Tam O Shanter Inn1749 - the Tam O Shanter Inn was built on Ayr High Street, said to have been a favourite place for Robert Burns the Poet to drink, and incorporate in his famous Poem of Tam O Shanter, set in Ayr, Alloway and Kirkoswald. This Inn still serves drinks and meals. Large Image

Rozelle House1754 - Rozelle House was built for the Hamilton's on an Estate on the south side of Ayr. Since 1968, the House and Estate have been owned by the Council with an Art Gallery, Ponds, Walks and Kids Play. The Hamilton's were related to the Kennedy's.

Robert Burns Cottage

1759 - Robert Burns was born in Alloway village on the south side of Ayr, in a Cottage preserved as a Museum. Burns became the top Poet in Scotland, with Burns Clubs around the world. Alloway is an extremly scenic village.
Alloway Page . Large Image

1760 - the Industrial Revolution began with the United Kingdom one of the top Industrial countries of the time. Ayr Port transported Coal from the many Mines in Ayrshire. Ayrshire Coal also powered the Steal Works that became the top employers in Ayr, with the last Steel Works such as James Dickie Forging closing in 1995, and Ayr Stampworks closing in 2009.

Large Houses built from wealth from Trading with the US, and later the Industrial Revolution, are mainly on the south side of Ayr, between Ayr centre and Seafield Football Fields. Some were converted to Hotels in the mid 1900s, many others converted to Apartments.

Large Banks were also built around Ayr centre with no expense spared.

1771 - the first official Horse Racing takes place at the Old Racecourse on the south side of Ayr where Seafield Football Parks are now, next to Belleisle Estate. These early Races were normally held for Rich Landowners around Ayrshire.

Belleisle1787 - the Hamilton's of Pinmore acquired Belleisle Estate on the south side of Ayr, extending the original House on the land into a grand Mansion. Since 1926, this Estate has been run by the Council with 2 Golf Courses, Walks and Kids Play.

New Bridge in Ayr1789 - Ayr New Bridge was completed by Alexander Stevens a few hundred yards west of the Auld Brig, leading to the Town Hall and Sandgate. This Bridge was re-built in 1877 after becoming unsafe due to floods. This is a twin lane Bridge, built to take the larger carriages of the time, still used today for cars, buses and trucks. Large Image

Royal Scots Fusiliers

1795 - the Royal Scots Fusiliers Barracks were built on the south side of Ayr Harbour where the large Citadel Swimming Pool is today. They recruited young men around Ayrshire to fight in Wars in the Far East, Middle East and Africa such as the Zulu Wars from 1879. The Barracks were demolished in the 1950s, with the Citadel Pool being built in 1972.

The monument for the Royal Scots Fusiliers is at the top end of Burns Statue Square, giving information on the Battles they were involved in. Large Images

Ayr Wellington Square1822 - Ayr Sheriff Court was built, with Wellington Square laid out in front of the Court around the same time. Large Image

The Low Green is next to the Court with the Beach next to the Low Green. St Johns Tower is about 100 yards to the right of the Court in this image.

Ayr Town Hall image1828 - Ayr Town Hall was built with a 225 ft high Spire where the High Street and Sandgate meet, the two main Shopping Streets in Ayr. Large Image

The Town Hall can hold up to 640 people for events through the year such as Comedy and Music. Events List

1839 -the Railway reached Ayr with the First Station at the Harbour, you can see blocks in the River Ayr by the New Bridge where the Railway Bridge crossed the River. The new Ayr Railway Station opened in 1886, at the top end of the High Street, connecting to Glasgow with stops at Prestwick, Troon and Irvine, running past a number of top Golf Courses.

Ayr BeachThe Railway led to Ayr becoming one of the top Beach Resorts in Scotland, with a large number of Hotels, B&Bs and Guest Houses. As well as the vast Beach and Low Green, there are a number of top Golf Course such as Belleisle, Old Prestwick, Royal Troon and Turnberry in the area. All Golf Courses. Large Beach Image

Inexpensive Package Holidays to sunny Spain from the 1970s led to a decline in tourism to Ayr, leading to a number of Hotels being converted to Apartments and Old Folks Homes.

Sea Angling was also extremely popular with Holiday Makers, with a number of Angling Boats operating out of Ayr, catching up to 5 Mackerel at a time, and Cod up to 20 pounds. Over fishing by Trawlers in the Sea off Ayr led to a decline in catches. The last Sea Angling Boat named Kingfisher, stopped operating in the early 2000s?

Wallace Tower Ayr1858 - the Wallace Tower was completed on Ayr High Street at 60 ft high, the Wallace family Coat of Arms can be viewed above the entrance. This was built in honour of William Wallace that fought the English in the late 1200s. Large Image

1879 - Ayr Football Club was founded, it merged with Ayr Parkhouse in 1910, becoming Ayr United. Ally MacLeod was their most famous Player and Manager who went on to manage Scotland in 1977, a time Scotland probably had their best pool of players ever. This Scotland team, packed with some of the top players in the World, went out in the first round of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, with Ally MacLeod and a few top players taking most of the blame.

Sir Alex Ferguson CBE, played for Ayr United between 1973 and 1974.

Robert Burns

1891 - a Monument to Robert Burns was built at Burns Statue Square by the local Burns Club. This is said to be the top Statue of Burns with replicas made in Melbourne 1904, Detroit 1921, Vancouver 1928, and Montreal 1930. Burns died in 1796 aged 37. Large Image

Image from the early 1900s that you can Zoom into for a real large image with a Tram, Horses and Early Cars.

Racecourse 1907 - the new Ayr Racecourse was built on the north side of River Ayr, hosting the Scottish Grand National in April, and Ayr Gold Cup in September.

1946 - Butlins Holiday Camp opened 4 miles south of Ayr, now named Craig Tara. Sundrum Castle Holiday Park opened in the 1980s? 4 miles east of Ayr.

Ayr Harbour image1996 - Ayr Fish Market on the south side of the River was closed after a new Market was opened at Troon 8 miles north. This led to a number of Flats being built along the Harbour and round to the Beach. Large Image

The Waverley Paddle Steamer, seen here by the new Flats, began running on pleasure trips out of Ayr and Glasgow to the Islands of Arran, Cumbrae and Ailsa Craig in 1975. This Steamer was originally built in 1946 as a Ferry, before being gifted to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society in 1974.

Ayr University2011 - The new University of the West of Scotland building was completed in Craigie Estate, a short walk along the Riverside from Ayr centre. The Mansion House serves as offices for the University. A nice Riverside Walk. Large Image

See also Ayr Pubs for more history of present Pubs, Pubs that have closed, and Hotels that have closed.

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