Records of William Baird & Co Ltd, coal and iron masters, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Board papers 1893-1971
  • Accounts 1891-1942
  • Correspondence 1910-1951
  • Ledgers 1883-1939
  • Journals 1867-1939
  • Stock, share and asset records 1893-1949
  • Wage and salary records 1914-1919
  • Diaries and notebooks 1835-1843
  • Lease book 1898
  • Inventories 1895-1963
  • Plans and tracings 1805-1959
  • Photographs, paintings and prints 19th - 20th centuries
  • Records relating to Eglinton Iron Co 1849-1893
  • Records relating to Carsehead & Kerseland Brickworks , Dalry 1891-1937
  • Records relating to William McCully Iron Foundry , Dalry 1840-1937

Administrative / Biographical History

In around  1816,  Alexander Baird began working coal leases in Lanarkshire, Scotland, and, by  1826,  he and his sons owned numerous coal and mineral leases there. In  1828,  two of these sons, William and James, began to erect the Gartsherrie Ironworks at Gartsherrie, North Lanarkshire, Scotland, and within 15 years the works had grown to be the largest in the country with 16 furnaces. In  1830  , William and James took over all the coal leases and formed the partnership  William Baird & Co . In around  1843,  William and James Baird were involved in the establishment of the  Eglinton Iron Company that managed the Gartsherrie Ironworks, building furnaces at Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, Scotland, and purchasing those at Blair and Dalry, North Ayrshire, in  1852;  Lugar, East Ayrshire, in 1856; and Portland in 1864. Bairds, therefore, became responsible for 25 per cent of Scotland's output making them the largest producers of pig iron in the world.

In 1852, The company was the first to introduce the cylindrical furnace in Scotland and experimented with blast heaters, raising the heat to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Gartsherrie Ironworks gained a reputation for technical sophistication and attracted visitors from England, Europe and America. The Bairds provided schools, churches and recreational institutes for their work force but opposed trade unionism. The Baird brothers also had considerable interests in banking and held 29 railway company directorships and 5 chairmanships.

By the  1870s  William Baird & Co were working mines in the North East of England, in what was the county of Cumberland, and also in Spain. In  1893  , the firm was incorporated as  William Baird & Co Ltd .

In 1931, the company's Ayrshire coal interests were combined with those of the Dalmellington Iron Co, Dalmellington, East Ayrshire, to form Bairds & Dalmellington Ltd. The new company, 75 percent owned by William Baird & Co Ltd, controlled 70 percent of the Ayrshire coalfields.

In around  1938,  the company underwent reorganisation and entered voluntary liquidation.  William Baird & Co Ltd was reconstituted, and the company's Lanarkshire interests merged with the Scottish Iron & Steel Co Ltd, Glasgow, founded in 1912, to form Bairds & Scottish Steel Ltd, pig iron and steel manufacturers. This merger was the idea of Andrew K McCosh, chairman of William Baird & Co Ltd, who saw the mutual benefit in linking up the Northern Steelworks of Scottish Iron & Steel Co Ltd with the Gartsherrie Ironworks of William Baird & Co Ltd.

Between 1946 and 1951, the whole of William Baird's coal, iron and steel interests were nationalised and the company began to diversify into other areas of business, including the textile industry. In 1961, the company merged with Northern Mercantile out of which the groups engineering division was formed. The company acquired the raincoat manufacturing company, Dannimac Ltd, London, England, in 1981 and in 1988 acquired the Windsmoor Group. Between 1992 and 1994, the company disposed of it engineering and building services but in 1994 acquired the Melka and Tenson menswear brands. The company acquired the Lowe Alpine sportswear brand in 1999.

From the1960s, the company had produced clothing for Marks & Spencers but this contracted was terminated in 2000, partly due to Marks & Spencers downward turn in sales. This lead to the dispersal of Bairds menswear brands and also lead to a £50 million court case against Marks & Spencer.

In 2001, Baird's disposed of the Van Gils menswear and Bairds Corporatewear labels and in 2002 the Dannimac label was also sold to the  Signature clothing company, London. In  2002  , William Baird plc still traded as clothing and footwear manufacturer, producing the Windsmoor, Precis Petite and Planet labels of women's clothing and Lowe Alpine and Tenson sportswear ranges.

Source: A Slaven & S Checkland, Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography 1860-1940 , vol 1 (Aberdeen, 1986) and


This material is arranged into series, which consist of numbers of items related by format and/or function. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically.

Access Information

No access for legal, business or commercial purposes without the written permission of William Baird plc. Apply in the first instance to Glasgow University Archive Services.

Acquisition Information

Loan : William Baird & Co Ltd : London: 1982 : ACCN 0036

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

File level list available in searchroom and at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)2473) and London (NRA15635)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Any work based on the use of this material, which is intended for publication must be submitted to William Baird plc for approval prior to that publication and a copy of the final version lodged with them

Appraisal Information

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Custodial History

Held by William Baird & Co Ltd


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Additional Information

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