On 26 October 1976 Cunninghame District Council (CDC) met for the first time in their new headquarters at Friarscroft. Amongst other things, they discussed the Arran Clearances Memorial, tree planting at the Low Green and welcomed the Dowager Countess of Eglinton presenting the Eglinton Trophy into the care of CDC. Firstly, however, the Chair, David White, thanked the council workers for getting the new building, Cunninghame House, ready for use.
It was not always certain that Cunninghame House would be the permanent headquarters of the new council. Cunninghame District was unique amongst the fifty-three district councils and three island councils in having no obvious headquarters and money would be available from the Scottish Office to build one.
Before CDC came into being (it was created on 7 May 1974 and ran in parallel with the burghs until they were abolished on 16 May 1975) the Cunninghame District Advisory Committee decided that CDC would rent offices from Irvine Development Corporation (IDC) at Bridgegate House, Irvine. The rent of £6,400 per year would be met initially by Ayr County Council.
At a CDC meeting on 19 September 1974 they agreed that the new headquarters should be built on the north side of the Stevenston/Kilwinning road (A78) east of Stevenston. But at their 17th October meeting they were told that there were problems getting the site. They decided, while still looking for a new site, to look into leasing the Dundonald Army Camp before renting the new office block being built by IDC at Friarscroft. And this they did much to the horror of many staff at the thought of working at the remote Dundonald Camp.
In January 1976 a list of possible sites for the new headquarters was drawn up and included; land at the Townshouse, Irvine, the former Caledonian Railway Station, Kilwinning, and Main Street/New Street, Stevenston.
Then in March 1976 CDC entered into a 21 year lease of Cunninghame House (as it was now being called) from IDC. It would cost more than £256,000 per year to run out of the council's £800,000 budget for general expenses.
Cunninghame House also housed Irvine Branch Library and the Municipal Bank, both on the ground floor. On the third floor were the council chambers and committee rooms along with the Eglinton Trophy.
Up on the fifth floor the staff and members canteen supplied subsidised meals at 40p for three courses. The press and public took issue about this as lunch at a local hotel or restaurant cost £1.60 to £2 at that time.
A typical canteen menu was: Starters; grapefruit segments, egg mayonnaise, fruit juices or soup. Main course; Scotch eggs, braised steak jardiniere, spaghetti bolognese, chicken supreme or corned beef salad, all with chips or potatoes, cauliflower with cheese sauce, green beans and carrots. Sweets; fiesta, cream gateau, peach custard meringue, ice cream and fruit or biscuits and cheese.
In November 1978 CDC decided that they would remain in Cunninghame House and not build a new suite of offices. This was due mostly to the cost of £3 million. The then owners, Ravenseft, offered to let two additional floors for a nominal sum of £100 per year. They also offered to sell the building to CDC at that time or in the future.
On 1 April 1996 the district, island and regional councils of Scotland were replaced by single tier authorities with CDC being replaced by North Ayrshire Council (although they ran in tandem since the local elections in April 1995). North Ayrshire Council remained in Cunninghame House and bought the property in 2005 making it their permanent headquarters.
Today the Irvine Branch Library has relocated to the High Street and the Municipal Bank to Bridgegate House. The council chambers are now on the ground floor along with the Eglinton Trophy and the Burgh Provost Chains on public display at the reception area.
The photograph below shows Cunninghame House from the Low Green at dusk.
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