In 1871, at the age of seven, Grace Givens (Govans), my great grandmother, was living in Crookedholm with her father, Hugh, mother Grace and siblings Robert (10), Helen (5) and Hugh (2). The census does not give any address but has 'Landward' written at the top. It is most likely that Grace was living in the clutter of houses seen below that surrounded the mill initially powered by the River Irvine as it winds its way around the back of the houses, creating a small peninsula of land, giving the village its name - Crookedholm.
Crookedholm, a village in Kilmarnock parish, Ayrshire, on the right bank of the Irvine, 1½ mile ESE of Kilmarnock town, and ¾ mile N of Hurlford Junction. At it are a public school and a worsted spinning-mill, in connection with carpet factories in Kilmarnock. Pop. (1861) 620, (1871) 770, (1881) 657.
Families were closely packed into the collection of building shown above. Many of the men were miners in the nearby Wellington and Potland Pits, where Hugh Givens was an Engine Keeper. He and his wife, Grace, had moved to Crookedholm from Gilmour's Land in Hurlford where they had been living in 1861 with their two year old daughter, Grace who died in infancy.
Many of their neighbours were Irish such as Michael Flin and his wife Ann, Joseph and Sarah Kidd from County Down, and Hugh and Elizabeth McIlroy.
"Carpet-weaving is the principal and oldest manufacture in Kilmarnock. The first firm engaged in it began in 1777; and the value of the manufacture in 1791 was estimated at £ 2 1,000. After that date the trade took rapid strides; and between 1820 and 1827, a dozen firms were engaged in it. The value of the carpets manufactured in 1837 was £ 150,000. Previous to 1848 the number of firms had dwindled down to five (the present number in 1869), and the annual value of the produce has since been about £ 100,000.
Steam-power was first introduced into the works of Messrs Gregory, Thompson, & Co., for the manufacture of Brussels carpets in 1857. This firm are the most extensive manufacturers of Brussels carpets in Scotland. The other firms confine themselves to Scotch carpets. The average wages of the men engaged in the carpet factories range from 15s. to 18s. a-week. The five carpet firms have spinning-mills of their own (three of them in Kilmarnock, and two in neighbouring villages), and spin entirely for their own looms. Besides, there are in town two other small mills — one for supplying the carpet works chiefly, and the other for the supply of tweed manufacturers. In the latter there are twenty-two men employed, and five sets of carding-machines. In each of the other works there are four sets of carding-machines. A more extensive spinning-mill is situated at Crookedholm, two miles off. Crookedholm Mill employs about sixty men, women, and girls, whose wages are about £.1200 a-year. Their labour produces 187,200 of worsted annually, the value of which is about £ 15,000. The machinery is driven by steam. "
In 1881, young Grace and her sister Helen both worked in the wool mill in Crookedholm at a time when Kilmarnock was famed for its carpet manufacturing. The tall chimneys in the photo must have belched out smoke to power the coal fired and steam driven machinery as it clattered and clanked throughout the day in the mill. I'm sure the noise was deafening - a noise I experienced in 1978 when I visited the BMK carpet factory in Kilmarnock. The machines then looked ancient to me and the noise was unbelievable. It's said locally that this is why Kilmarnock folk talk so loudly!
In the near 60 years that my parents have lived in Crookedholm, they have cared for the land and created a beautiful garden around the house. In the late 1980s, my father was also able to purchase the land behind the house down to the river from the estate of Howard De Walden.
John Osmael Scott-Ellis, 9th Baron Howard de Walden, 5th Baron Seaford (27 November 1912 – 10 July 1999) was a British peer, landowner, and a Thoroughbred racehorse owner/breeder. He was the son of Margarita van Raalte and her husband, Thomas Scott-Ellis, 8th Baron Howard de Walden and was educated at Eton. He inherited Dean Castle in Kilmarnock, which, along with his father's collections of arms and armour, and his grandfather' collection of musical instruments, he gave to the people of Kilmarnock in 1975.
My dad has devoted the last 35 years to turning what had become an industrial wasteland where tons of soil and rubble were dumped during the 1970s when the Glasgow to Ayr M77 was built into nine acres of parkland. This has been a labour of love and is now home to many different species of trees, shrubs and plants as well as an abundance of wildlife.
How much more fitting that the land is now owned and looked after by Grace's descendants! I think she'd like that.