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- Category: A
- Date Added: 10/01/1980
- Local Authority: South Ayrshire
- Planning Authority: South Ayrshire
- Burgh: Ayr
National Grid Reference
- NGR: NS 33709 22080
- Coordinates: 233709, 622080
Thomas Hamilton, 1827-32; James Sellars (Campbell Douglas and Sellars) 1878-81, extension into High Street; J Kennedy Hunter, 1901-3, interior reconstruction. 9-bay, 2- and 3-storey Town Buildings with 225ft 5-stage steeple. Ashlar; channelled to ground floor entrance porch. Base course; ground floor frieze and cornice; banded frieze and dentilled cornice; balustraded parapet with dies; pilasters delineate bays; pilastered, round-arched 1st floor windows (except to steeple).
NW (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: grouped 2-1-3-3. Advanced pedimented entrance at 1st stage of 5-stage steeple with spire; 2-leaf timber door; lantern beneath pediment. Giant pilasters frame 2nd and 3rd stages; apron to round-arched window at 2nd stage; cill course to 3rd stage; anthemion and palmette motifs to central roundel; trigylph consoled frieze. Octagonal belfry to 4th stage; coupled Doric columns to splayed sides; arched belfry openings over clock faces; swagged bases link seated gryphons bearing torches at corner angles. Small square-headed belfry openings to 5th stage; Corinthian capitals to distyle columns flanking; urns to blind splayed sides; cornices bear scrolls clasping obelisk spire base. Slim obelisk spire with weathervane at apex; carved palmette over roundel at base. 2 display windows at ground to recessed 2 bays to outer left; regular fenestration at 1st floor. Central 2-leaf timber glazed door to 3 recessed bays to right; flanking display windows; regular fenestration at 1st floor. Advanced dentilled, pedimented bay to outer right; 3 pairs of bipartite windows at ground floor; panelled aprons to regular fenestration at 1st floor.
NE (HIGH STREET) ELEVATION: 11-bay, grouped 3-5-3. Slightly advanced central 5 bays; 2-leaf glazed timber door at ground to right; letterbox fanlight; 4 display windows to left; Ionic colonnade at 1st floor; double pilasters to flanking bays; consoled keystones and swags to windows; deeply recessed 2nd floor windows; double pilasters delineate bays; iron balustrades; cartouches to outer bays. 2-leaf glazed timber door; letter fanlight to recessed entrance to outer left of 3 bays to left; 2 display windows at ground to right; regular fenestration at 1st floor. Central entrance to shop at ground floor to 3 bays to right; glazed timber door; flanking display windows; regular fenestration at 1st floor.
Predominantly display windows at ground; round-arched small-pane timber sash and case windows at 1st floor. Grey slate piended roof to High Street elevation (remainder of roof unseen); corniced wallhead stacks; circular cans.
INTERIOR: Thomas Hamilton, 1827-32 and J Kennedy Hunter 1901 (after fire). Tiled floor to entrance hall; timber handrail to stairs leading to main assembly room; decorative gilding to cornices; coffered ceiling; decorative iron radiator grilles; stained glasswork to doors and window. Main assembly room: timber panelling, floor and organ casing; deeply recessed openings; bowed gallery; mutuled cornice; Burgh Arms to central gallery panel.
Statement of Special Interest
The 225ft steeple provides Ayr's dominant landmark with outstanding quality interior work. The building is described by Joe Rock as, "... certainly one of the finest classical spires in Scotland" (p28). When it was clear that the old tolbooth in Sandgate would have to be demolished, the town council in 1824 asked the Edinburgh architect Thomas Hamilton to consider a possible site for a new steeple. (Hamilton's commission is probably due to his earlier work at the Burns Monument in Alloway, 1818). 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. The principal assembly room retains the main features of Hamilton's design, but the coffered ceiling with central domed cupola was altered by Sellars, who raised the wall-head by about 1.4m. At the same time, the pairs of timber Corinthian pillars in the end-walls, and the simpler pilasters in the angles, were raised above a dado. 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."
John Robertson's plan for a new Assembly Room (1802) (2 parts, SRO RHP 2563); John Wood's Plan of Ayr, 1818 (earlier structure evident), Ordnance Survey map, 1858 (Hamilton scheme evident), Ordnance Survey map, 1896 (all evident); AYR ADVERTISER 3.4.1828 and 31.3.1904 (information courtesy of Robert Close); James Paterson HISTORY OF THE COUNTY OF AYR, Vol 1 (1847), p178; F H Groome ORDNANCE GAZETTEER OF SCOTLAND, Vol 1 (1882), p98; Ranald Clouston "The Church Bells of Ayrshire" in AYRSHIRE ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND NATURAL HISTORY COLLECTIONS (1947-1949), pp210-211; THE THIRD STATISTICAL ACCOUNT OF SCOTLAND: AYRSHIRE (1951), pp534, 545; Ronald Brash and Allan Leach ROUND OLD AYR (1972), (unmarked pages); William Dodd "Ayr: A Study of Urban Growth" in AYRSHIRE ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND NATURAL HISTORY COLLECTIONS, Vol 10 (1972), pp 340, 344, 358; Ian Fisher 'Thomas Hamilton' in THE SCOTTISH GEORGIAN SOCIETY, No 11 (1984), pp36- 42; Joe Rock Thomas Hamilton, ARCHITECT 1784-1858 (1984); John Strawhorn and Ken Andrew DISCOVERING AYRSHIRE (1988) p102; Rob Close AYRSHIRE AND ARRAN (1992), p8; Howard Colvin A BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF BRITISH ARCHITECTS 1600-1840 (1995, 3rd edition), p454; Dane Love PICTORIAL HISTORY OF AYR (1995), pp11, 51; TOLBOOTHS AND TOWN-HOUSES: CIVIC ARCHITECTURE IN SCOTLAND TO 1833 (1996), pp18, 40-42; NMRS Photographic Archive, (AYD/113/38/P, AYD/113/1-24, AYD/113/29, AYD/113/25-8.
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