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Furniture Manufacture

The History of the Owners and their Factories

By 1911 the old industries were declining and Lochwinnoch was becoming a centre for furniture manufacture. Shipbuilding was at the heart of these businesses supplying furniture for the Lusitania, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. The Klondyke supplied chairs for the ill-fated Titanic. It was reported in an article in Lochwinnoch Online that the penultimate owner of the Muirshiel Estate, Sir Lionel Fletcher, was Chairman of the White Star Shipping Company, owners of the Titanic. It is also said that his father in law Gilbert Bates was Chairman before him. This makes a convenient link between furniture making in Lochwinnoch and the Titanic. My own research concludes neither was Chairman of the White Star Line. Fletcher's father in law, Gilbert Thomson Bates, was nonetheless the owner of a shipping company and Fletcher married his daughter, Mary. Fletcher was however a senior manager in the White Star Line at the time of the Titanic sinking. A nephew of Bates did become Chairman of Cunard which took ownership of the White Star Line in the 1930's. The Lochwinnoch annual sports day became known as the “Furniture Sports” and attracted the top class competitors of the day because of the high value placed on the furniture prizes. 

Hunter, Hamilton and Crawford were the first to establish furniture making in Lochwinnoch. They came from Beith where furniture making was already an established business. They started the Calder Cabinet Works in 1881 and the partnership lasted around 15 years. On 17th December 1897 it is reported that the new Lochhead Cabinet Works is almost in full working order under the ownership of Hamilton and Crawford. It became known locally as the Klondyke because of the gold rush (1896 - 1899) going on at that time. Earlier that year on Monday 17th May 1897 the Calder Cabinet Works was destroyed by fire. Hunter rebuilt these works in 1898 and continued on his own as James Hunter & Sons.

Joseph Johnstone came to Lochwinnoch in 1882 to work at the Calder Cabinet works, he started his own business in 1888 which was blown down on 22nd Dec 1894 killing 4 men and badly injuring 14 others. He rebuilt in 1895 but it was subseqently burnt down in 1908 and rebuilt again! He went on to establish "Joe's" as the largest and most prestigious cabinet works in Scotland. Joseph Johnstone eventually took over the Lochhead Cabinet Works, (The Klondyke).


My Dad (John Smith) and our Uncle Tom served their time as cabinet makers at Joe’s and my Uncle Pat (Pat's Dad) served his time as an upholsterer. Our Uncle Robert served his time as a chair maker and our Auntie Annie as a French Polisher at Hunters.


Hunter's was taken over by a larger firm and operations moved to Beith. In 1958 the Clyde Cooperage came to Lochwinnoch and acquired the site of Joe's and the Lochhead Cabinet Works (The Klondyke) for its operations and that was the end of furniture making in Lochwinnoch.

As on previous pages by clicking on the link (underlined word) a map will appear showing the location of the cabinet works. Clicking on the photograph will enlarge the image and provide further information about it.

The first set of photographs taken in 1984 are of the former Lochhead Cabinet Works. These were known locally as the Klondyke. 

The second set are of James Hunter and Sons which rose from the ashes of the Calder Cabinet Works which previously occupied this site. The left hand photograph was taken in 1979 and the other in 1983.

The final set are of the Viewfield Cabinet Works known locally as Joe's. The top left photograph was taken from the Burnfoot road in 1977. The area across the river is just being cleared for the housing that now occupies that land. Immediately on the opposite bank was the site of the piggery owned by Mr Taylor. The sluice which diverted water to the Calderhaugh Mill was located at this point in the river. The final pair show Joe's after the 1894 gale and 1908 fire.

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