Wayfarer Column- The ever changing buildings of Ayr High Street

Last week whilst travelling down Ayr High Street I mentioned two classic buildings which were worthy of further research.

Before we go into that have you considered what it would be like to go back in time to when certain events were happening and watch without being seen.

It would be amazing to see these tall buildings being erected without the use of cranes and all the modern equipment that is available today. The ingenuity of the builders makes you appreciate how capable they were in erecting such distinguished and attractive buildings.

However to get back to our tale, the first building we come to is the Wallace Tower which stands in the middle of the High Street, the original having been erected sometime in the fifteenth century. During its early years it had been used as ‘Ane correctione house’ then becoming a goal and the first reference to it being named the Wallace Tower was in a council minute of 1774. However the tower became unsafe and was demolished in 1830 to be replaced by the present tower built in 1832 to the plans of Thomas Hamilton.

That building stands to this day protruding on to the wide thoroughfare of Ayr High Street. Proceeding down the High Street we come to the Ayr Tolbooth dating from 1575 at the end of the Sandgate which at one time was the sole street in Ayr.

The site of the original old tollbooth was at one time thought to be in the High Street but wherever it stood it was the original old tollbooth that was reputedly the place where William Wallace was held prisoner for a time. He was so badly treated that his captors thought him dead and his body was thrown into the yard to be dealt with later. He was found their by his old nursemaid who took him home where she nursed him back to full health. The rest you know so I will return to the tollbooth at the High Street Sandgate corner. This building had many alterations and additions made to it over the years and in 1615 a public clock, an ornamental spire and a weather cock were added as no town of note could be without these attributes. Times change and the old building was demolished in 1826 to widen the Sandgate. However it was decided that a new tollbooth was required and at the corner of the High Street and Sandgate a new classical building with a steeple rising to 225 feet high was erected to the plans of Thomas Hamilton.

See you next week.