North Ayrshire Heritage Trails

North Ayrshire Heritage Trails

North Ayrshire Heritage Trails

Kerelaw Castle

North Ayrshire Heritage Trails

North Ayrshire Heritage Trails

Nobel's Explosive Factory

North Ayrshire Heritage Trails

North Ayrshire Heritage Trails

Stevenston Nelson's Folly, Cannon

Stevenston - Explore high explosives and deep mines

Seabank House and Nelson's Tower, built c.1812

On the site now occupied by Harvey's Leisure Centre, Auchenharvie House was also known as Seabank over its long life. The original house was erected around 1708 by Robert Cunninghame, who had established the biggest, most productive colliery in Ayrshire but had incurred increasing debts in doing so.

Seabank was probably a replacement for the ancient Auchenharvie Castle, which stands in ruins near Torranyard, three and a half miles to the north east of Irvine. After the death of Robert Cunninghame in 1715, the family were faced with a long series of debt-related court cases and effectively lost control of the coalfield and harbour that he had established. It was not until Robert Reid Cunninghame (1744-1814) took over the running of the estate in 1770 and formed a partnership with the Rev. Patrick Warner of Ardeer as the Stevenston Coal Company that the family's fortunes really improved.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, Robert Reid Cuninghame rebuilt the house as his profits from mining grew. 'Sheltered, and sweet, and cheerful, Sea Bank presents itself on the west, with its green fields and woody braes, and Martello tower, and mounted battery', is the description given by Rev. David Landsborough in the 1834-45 Statistical Account. The tower was Nelson's Tower that had been erected prior to 1812 when invasion from France was feared. Now demolished, this was a circular tower with splayed base, the upper portion adorned with a corbelled parapet.

The house passed to new owners after the death of Robert Cunninghame in 1868 and the house was rebuilt once more, taking a low baronial appearance, with addition of corbie-stepped gables and bay windows. The house was probably renamed Auchenharvie at this time. The last private owner of the house was James Kirkland, a Saltcoats solicitor. In 1947, the house was sold to the council who converted it into an experimental school for girls which operated until around 1972, when it closed and the building was demolished. By this time Auchenharvie Academy had been erected in the grounds.

Sources

  • Eric J. Graham, Robert Reid Cunninghame of Seabank House, Entrepreneur and Life Time Manager of the Stevenson Coal Company 1770 - 1814, Ayrshire Monographs No 19, Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 1997 (Appendix A, page 44)
  • Dane Love, Lost Ayrshire: Ayrshire's Lost Architectural Heritage, Birlinn 2005
  • Statistical Account of Scotland 1834-45 Volume 7
  • Three Towns Local History Group, The Auchenharvie Colliery: an early history, Richard Stenlake Publishing, Ochiltree, 1996 (pages 4-12)

North side of Seabank House.
Front entrance to Seabank House on the west side.
Looking up the path to Nelson's Tower.
Nelson's Tower from the rear.
In situ cannon on top of Nelson's Tower.

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