Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Kames Gunpowder Works

More than two hundred years ago, Argyll, Scotland was famous for its high grade gunpowder. John Turner's father and brother worked at the Kames Gunpowder Factory. His father was a night watchman at the factory in Millhouse.

Kames Gunpowder Factory Watch House in Millhouse;
photograph courtesy of ScotlandsPlaces

Production of gunpowder began in the village in 1839 and continued through 1921 when the factory at Millhouse closed.

Gunpowder is made from saltpeter, charcoal and sulfur -- ingredients that were imported to the factory via the Firth of Clyde and unloaded at the company's pier, known locally as the "Black Quay." Much of the gunpowder made in Millhouse was exported to far away places including New Zealand.

In an article about gunpowder making in Argyll, Kennedy McConnell, described the manufacturing process at a high level and safety precautions taken to prevent accidental explosions.

"The conversion of the raw materials from Kames into gunpowder at Millhouse required to separate processing stages, each accommodated in a specially constructed building known as a 'house.' The names used to identify the various houses were Mixing, Charging, Breaking-down, Pressing, Corning, Dusting, Glazing, Stoving, Heading-up, and Packing. These processing houses were widely dispersed throughout the grounds to minimize the risk of an explosion spreading from one building to another. Trees were planted in the intervening spaces for the same reason. Horse drawn bogeys were used to convey the goods around the works, and these ran on a small gauge railway system. The production machinery was driven by water power, the large volume of water required being drawn from Ascog Loch. A network of channels distributed the water throughout the mill before it was discharged onto Craignafeich Burn."

The valuation rolls indicated John Turner's family lived in company-owned housing when they lived in Millhouse.

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