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Gartsherrie by Night by Caleb Robert Stanley (1795-1868), 1853
This oil painting of William Baird and Company’s Gartsherrie Iron Works shows the furnaces lighting up the Coatbridge sky.
By the 1840s Gartsherrie was one of the biggest ironworks in the world. The founding of this works led directly to the growth of the town of Coatbridge. The painting shows the 16 blast furnaces arranged in two rows, left and right. Hidden between them is the Gartsherrie Branch of the Monkland Canal. The railway bridge in the left foreground crosses Gartsherrie Road. In the centre of the picture is a house known as the ‘Coal Hole’, on the near side of the road. This is where the Baird brothers would stay and entertain guests while overseeing operations at the works.
The painting is unusual as a large-scale depiction of a Victorian ironworks. It follows a tradition of dramatic views of ironworks at night dating back to the Sublime Movement of the 1700s. Such scenes would aim to inspire awe or dread in the viewer. A famous example is ‘Coalbrookdale by Night’, a patriotic painting of blazing furnaces during the Napoleonic Wars. In the mid-1800s central Scotland was still mostly rural, making a dramatic contrast between the hellish fires of the iron furnaces and the still beauty of nature.
Summerlee Museum: Exhibition Hall
1853 · Gartsherrie Iron Works · owner: Baird, William · Coatbridge · Gartsherrie Iron Works was owned by William Baird and Company. First blast furnace opened in 1830. The second was one of the first to incorporate Neilson's Hot Blast system. By the 1840s it was the biggest ironwork in the world with 16 blast furnaces in operation. As a very rare, contemporary large scale depiction of a major mid-Victorian ironworks at the height of its existence, this painting is of national importance. An anecdotal account from an ex-manager of Gartsherrie Ironworks (to Allan MacKenzie in 1992) stated that this painting originally hung in the boardroom at Gartsherrie. When the works closed in 1967 it was donated to the Burgh of Coatbridge. Burgh of Coatbridge