Sites and Monument Record: Westquarter Works (SMR 1116)

An explosive works. The buildings were often built of wood so that they would not contain an explosion and kill anyone inside. Some were surrounded with earth mounds covered with closely cropped turf to stop the blast of any explosion, and concrete blast walls were common. The area was planted with trees and shrubs which were carefully trimmed so that there was little wind. Wooden gangways, latterly with brass rails, connected the buildings and allowed trolleys to be used.

Object detail

Site type
Site history notes
In 1873 the Westquarter Chemical Company supplied the new dynamite factory at Ardeer in Ayrshire with sulphuric acid. George McRoberts was one of the three partners at the Westquarter Chemical Co, and in that year he became the chief chemist for Ardeer. Shortly thereafter, Nobel bought out McRobert's two partners, and it was decided to start detonator production on a site to the west of the chemical works. So in 1876 a small factory was opened on the 2.5 acres of land bounded on the south by the Union Canal and on the north by the Edinburgh/Glasgow Railway. It consisted of a gatehouse in which employees changed their clothing, four wooden huts about 200 yds apart from each other, and a magazine some 100 yds away. All interconnected with wooden platforms. There were only 6 workers, and materials were imported and assembled on site. In 1878 work moved to a new site on the south side of the canal and production of fulminate of mercury began. The following year George Smith was appointed the first of many managers. As demand for explosives grew, and technology developed the range and output of the works increased. In 1882 manufacture of Abel's electric powder fuses commenced, and the works continued to keep pace with progress on electric fuses. Between 1896 and 1912 the works expanded to cover an additional 10.5 acres. Shift work had to be introduced during the First World War as demand from the military soared. By the end of the war Westquarter had grown to occupy 45 acres and employed an average of 800 people. After the war demand lessened, and in 1936 the Nobel Explosives Co decided to rationalise its works by transferring detonator production to Ardeer. Plant and personnel were transferred, and Westquarter reduced to testing and production of fulminate of mercury and lead Azate. The advent of the Second World War reinvigorated Westquarter. New plant was installed and up to 1,700 people were employed in three shifts. Even after the war civilian demand continued and Westquater specialised in the production of plastic covered wire. However, the works did finally close towards the end of 1965. Summary: 1876 2.5 acres 6 workers: 1909 15 acres 350 workers: 1914 19 acres 450 workers: 1952 45 acres 710 workers .
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Site grid ref
NS 910 779
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