Carswell Company Glasgow, Architect, Photo, Scottish Architecture, Project, Scotland

James and William Carswell

James and William Carswell Architect : Scottish Buildings

1 Apr 2011

James and William Carswell Construction


Information from Bob Carswell, Toronto, Canada

You will not hear a lot about Carswell Company. It was active in Glasgow from somewhere in the 1790s until some time in the 1830s.

Any information about it came from a Glasgow Herald obituary for James Carswell published on February 25th, 1856. His older brother and lifelong business partner William died in 1851 and is remembered by a three line entry achnowledging his death with a promise of a larger obituary to follow. It has never been found. Who were James and William Carswell and what did they contribute to Glasgow that would go virtually unnoticed until this day?

Before we try to answer that it is important firstly to tell you a bit about the Carswell brothers and where they came from. Originally, their father Allan Carswell was born into a farming family in the Parish of Mearns. All indications point to the Carswell owned farm of Duncarnock which the family farmed for some two and a half centuries, first as tenants and then as owners, according to the 1791 First Statistical Account of Scotland.

The Carswells had been around the Glasgow area for some 8500 years according to recent yDNA tests of direct descendants. Before the west opened up and there was mass migration, the name was very common around Neilston, Mearns, Glasgow, Paisley and other areas in the same vicinity. Like most descendants of the family, Allan Carswell got married and began to look for a farm of his own.

His wife, Catherine Ferguson, was a member of the Fergusons and Jamisons of the Darnley Estate, in Eastwood where they were married in 1750. Finding an opportunity in Symington, Ayrshire they moved to Spittalhill Farm where Allan would farm for the rest of his life. During that time, he and his wife would raise four children to adulthood, albeit, born up to 20 years apart. The eldest named Catherine like her mother, was born in 1851. In due course she would marry Alexander Guilliland of Kilmarnock and because of him, the future of the Carswells would change forever.

The second born was Agnes who arrived in 1760. Never married she would be the one the least is known about in the family. William was born next in 1764 and finally James came along in 1771. Nothing is known of or if any children were born in between this birth years. The boys grew up on the farm helping there father toil the soil and raised the livestock. He knew how difficult it was for anyone on a farm in those days and looked for a better opportunity for his own sons.

Alexander Gulliland was a wright by trade. It is believed that he did a lot of work on large mill and warehouse projects in addition to private residences throughout the countryside. An apprenticeship, as was the common practice back then, bound the new worker to a master craftsman for a period of seven years. William probably came first, then James followed. In time they would learned their trade and learn it well. In addition to being very skilled in that regard, Carswells have always seemed to have an unusual ability to work with numbers and over the generations produced many accountants, other wrights, a professor of mathmatics and offsprings who just generally were good at numbers, right down to this very day. Family intelligence has always fallen in the top 5% of the population and many could be considered as MENSA material.

It was in the 1790s that the Carswell brothers arrived in Glasgow. It was a period of outstanding population growth and the demand for suitable residences for the middle class and buildings for larger warehouse and factory operations created many opportunities for the two brothers. James was more the inside fellow while his older brother seemed to spend more of his time working at the actual sites overseeing operations there on a day to day basis.

So what was it that put the Carswells in a class of their own when it came to construction in Glasgow. Firstly, they proceeded everyone else in two key facets of construction. They were the first to introduce iron girders in the construction of their factories and warehouses. Secondly they were credited by the Water Company of the day as being the first to add indoor plumbing to the residences they built in Glasgow and setting a whole new trend in the welfare of the public.

The Carswell brothers did well in their lifetime. William Carswell (1764 – 1851) lived to be 88 years old, spending a lot of his life at Provanside on Stirling Road. He married twice and with his two wives fathered 20 children. However, only eight lived to adulthood. His descendants, like those of his brother James Carswell (1771 – 1856), span a number of continents of the world. James married Barbara Glasgow, the daughter of an Anderston manufacturer named Alexander Glasgow.

Together they would have eleven children. Unfortunately, the eldest, Allan, named after his grandfather, would die at the age of 23, possibly as a result of a construction accident. The eldest daughter would marry into the Gow family, famous for their Glen Line of ships that travelled throughout the world. James Carswell lived in one of the terraced homes he had built at 10 Canning Place in Glasgow and spent his weekends in the summer at Rothesay, a favourite summer vacation place on the Isle of Bute for his children and grandchildren alike.

His grandson, a Presbyterian minister who graduated from the University of Glasgow with a Master of Arts degree would settle there for a number of years and his two children would be educated at Rothesay Academy. In the generations that followed there would be many university graduates, a number of Phds, several successful corporate executives and various types of writers. A family of many talents, its offshoots today have enjoyed a number of firsts in their own fields and shown they were able to succeed at their preferred professions.

James and William Carswell information from Bob Carswell in Toronto

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photo courtesy of UoG
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image courtesy of Drum Property Group
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image courtesy of Rangers FC
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Buildings / photos for the James and William Carswell Architecture page welcome.