The Carron Iron Works, which heralded the start of Scotland’s Industrial Revolution, was set up in 1759 and as its reputation grew, it even developed into something of a major tourist attraction.
One of the big opportunities of the time was in the manufacture of cannon. In 1764 the company secured a contract from the Board of Ordnance, but the quality of the guns then being produced by the works was extremely variable.
The result was that, initially at least, the company’s reputation as far as guns were concerned was poor and that lack of quality saw the contract withdrawn in 1773.
It was the development of new, shorter and lighter, cannon in 1778 that finally swung things back in the company’s favour. The new gun, known as the ‘carronade’, fired heavier ammunition over a shorter distance which made it perfect for newly developed naval tactics and so its place in history was assured.
By the end of the 18th century the works was producing a host of iron goods including domestic pots and pans, parts for steam engines, agricultural tools, stoves etc as well as cannon and carronades.
Carron guns had certainly impressed the Duke of Wellington, as he is on record complaining about defective guns and asking for Carron replacements.
Wars invariably brought about increased trade and, during the Boer War, the company was engaged in the supply of armaments and with the outbreak of the First World War it continued to produce ordnance, this time with the help of a largely female workforce.
In 1942, despite never having used the material before, it began making steel products such as tank tracks. The company also played its part in aviation, with many of the famous British aircraft of the period using Carron-manufactured parts. One of the Carron's later customers was the British Post Office, with the UK’s iconic red post boxes having been made there since 1860. Later, red telephone booths also became a major part of the Carron’s output. Look at the base of some of the older post and telephone boxes and you will often see that they were manufactured at the Carron Works.