Wandering the highways and byeways of Scotland looking for tales of interest I come upon some amazing facts, some of which could be the basis of a good book.
But then my tales are based on fact, some of which would not be believable in a work of fiction. One such tale concerns Alexandria, a town through which you may have travelled at one time or another and understandably been captivated by the façade of a very ornate and attractive building. It dominates the area with its very imposing frontage length of 540 feet with hand carved stonework and an entrance crowned by a huge clock tower complete with a gold leafed dome. A building fit to grace any European city, an amazing and attractive edifice. You would no doubt be surprised to learn that this was once the frontage of a car factory, the first purpose built car factory in Britain, and the largest car production plant in Europe.
This was the home of the Argyll Motor Works which took just under a year to build and was opened in 1906 by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu . The cars were originally built in Glasgow but as demand grew, new bigger and better premises were required and the then managing director and chief designer Alexander Govan, demanded a factory of such grandeur as to be worthy of the production of his elite motor cars. The site covered 60 acres and in its heyday achieved production of 800 cars per year making it second only to Ford in Detroit. The Argyll was the first car to have brakes on all four wheels and in 1913 a single-seater Argyll broke a number of speed records at Brooklands. Unfortunately Argyll Motors went out of business in 1914 after which the factory was used to manufacture munitions for the war effort. I cannot find any reason for the Argyll car business to cease, except if you consider that this was perhaps one of the top of the range cars, affordable only to the very few.
Car production has increased considerably since these early years with German and Japanese cars dominating the market. However at Alexandria the grand façade, entrance hall and staircase remain as a proud monument of the world’s most opulent car factory and Scotland’s once thriving motor industry. Next time you pass through Alexandria, stop and admire this wonderful façade and appreciate where Scotland once stood in the motor industry. See you next week.