The foundation stone for the first pier was laid in 1808 at Ardrossan Harbour, with works commenced in 1806 by the 12th Earls of Eglinton. It was a natural harbour, greatly improved by the implementation of a design by Thomas Telford, who also planned to create a canal running from Glasgow to Ardrossan, via Paisley, Johnstone and Kilwinning, linking in with the harbour and thus facilitating the export and import of goods to and from the Irish market (lack of monies meant that this scheme was never completed). Work on the harbour halted on the death of the 12th Earl, standing in abeyance until much later.
Between 1886 and 1891, the Eglinton Dock, an outer basin, and a new breakwater were constructed by the Ardrossan Harbour Company. At its peak there were three basins, one locked, but the latter has been filled in. The harbour has been the subject of a painting by the 19th century English landscape and marine painter William Daniell, who featured it in his book 'A Voyage Around Great Britain'.
Civil engineer and architect (1757 - 1834), Thomas Telford was born in Eskdale. He was a noted road, bridge and canal builder. After establishing himself as an engineer of road and canal projects in Shropshire, he designed numerous infrastructure projects in his native Scotland, as well as harbours and tunnels. His report in 1805 established the scheme that was to deliver the canal from Glasgow to Ardrossan. He also developed the plan for the harbour at Ardrossan at the same time.
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