McDowall, Steven & Co.

McDowall, Steven & Co., Ironfounders and Iron Merchants, Milton Iron Works.—

    For upwards of fifty-four years the name of the distinguished firm now trading as Messrs. McDowall, Steven & Co. has maintained a position of the first prominence among the many that have from time to time associated themselves with the immense ironfounding industry of Glasgow. This eminent house was established as far back as 1834, by Mr. John McDowall, who carried on the business under the style of McDowall & Robertson for about eighteen years. In 1852 he assumed his nephew, Mr. Thomas Steven, as partner, and the title was then changed to McDowall & Co. A few years later other two nephews — Mr. James and Mr. Hugh Steven — were also assumed as partners of the concern ; the firm’s name was then finally changed to the designation which heads this sketch.

    The house is represented in London at 4, Upper Thames Street, E.C. — opposite the Times Office — where a large warehouse, heavily stocked, is situate, the interests of the concern in the metropolis being carried on by the Messrs. Steven under the title or designation of Steven Brothers & Co., and under the management and supervision of Mr. Alexander Ritchie. This London firm does a very large business as sanitary, architectural, and general ironfounders and merchants, supplying all the various productions of the parent house at Glasgow.

    Messrs. McDowall, Steven & Co. are proprietors of the celebrated Milton Iron Works, an industrial establishment famous in all the last half-century’s annals of Glasgow’s ironfounding enterprise ; and their manufactures embrace practically everything that can justly be expected to emanate from a great representative iron foundry. Of these manufactures the following concise list will here be in order: kitchen ranges, and all kinds of register stoves, Galton grates, and hot-air, slow combustion, and Gill stoves ; rain-water pipes, gutters, ridging, cresting, hip and curb plates, weather vanes, finials ; hot-water pipes, coils, coil-cases, valves ; stable and cowhouse fittings ; balcony and tomb railings ; gates, verandahs, band-stands, straight and spiral staircases, lamp pillars, and every description of architectural and constructional ironwork, whether in plain or highly ornamented designs ; pumps, fountains, kitchen ginks, baths, water and dry closets and sanitary appliances of every kind ; furnace pans, dust bins, and all classes of general castings, large and small, for any of the thousand-and-one uses and purposes to which cast iron in various forms is to-day applied.

    The Milton Iron Works, where all the above and many other incidental and associate goods are produced in great quantities, will rank among the largest of their kind in the United Kingdom; and, indeed, anyone who has made the extensive and very interesting “grand tour” of this remarkable centre of ironfounding activity, with its wondrous labyrinth of busy workshops, its stores, forges, moulding-shops, furnaces, ovens, grinding and finishing shops, might well be excused for venturing the affirmation that there cannot be another such establishment in existence. Such a statement would perhaps be too sweeping in view of the great industrial development of the modem world ; but the Milton Iron Works lose nothing of their magnitude and importance from the fact that they may not be unequalled.

    The area of ground covered by this immense establishment is between nine and ten acres, and the whole expanse almost is closely set with block after block and row after row of buildings of various forms and styles, all devoted to the purposes of the extensive industry so vigorously carried on within their limits. A detailed description of the works is quite beyond the province of this necessarily brief review ; but some idea of the immense size of the whole may be gleaned from the fact that the floors of the moulding-shops alone are between two and three acres in extent.

    The magnitude of this distinctly notable collection of foundries, workshops, storehouses, and offices, is one of its most striking features ; and its equipment throughout, in every detail of plant and machinery, is of the most complete and perfect character. Nearly a hundred tons of metal are melted daily, and about a thousand men find employment in the works, and the variety of their productions, as indicated by the brief list above given, is of the most comprehensive nature.

    The general character and appointment of the public offices attached to the works are suggestive rather of some extensive banking establishment than of the counting-house of a great iron foundry ; and this impression is strengthened by the busy appearance and departmental regularity of a staff of upwards of forty-five clerks, each member of which industrious body is intent upon the duties appertaining to the particular division of office routine with which he has to deal. A very numerous staff of skilled draughtsmen is constantly engaged in the production of those new and attractive designs in constructional and other ironwork with which the firm have so creditably identified their name year after year, and the results of the labours of these designers sufficiently indicate the care and artistic talent brought to bear upon the work with which they are entrusted.

    Many a single branch of Messrs. McDowall, Steven & Co.’s industrial operations has been developed to the magnitude of a respectable business in itself. During the year 1887 the production of kitchen ranges alone exceeded 10,000, all of which were sent out from the works. The manufacture of hot-water appliances embraces every variety of article known to be generally required ; and the output of pipes and connections for hot-water and rain-water work amounts to about 25,000 per week, and in constructional ironwork for all kinds of architectural and building purposes the annual production of the works is simply enormous.

    The trade of the house is world-wide in extent, and of immense volume in the aggregate, and there is probably no quarter of the globe reached by British commerce to which some product of the Milton Iron Works has not found its way. In the colonies the firm’s manufactures, especially in kitchen ranges, are exceedingly popular and are held in deservedly high estimation. Messrs. McDowall, Steven & Co. are large contractors to the War, India, and Prisons Departments, to the Admiralty, the School Board of London, and the Metropolitan Board of Works, and to the Corporation of the City of London, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, and a number of the leading railways.

    At all the great international and industrial exhibitions at which their productions have been displayed they have gained many eminent honours, invariably of the first class and frequently of the very highest order obtainable ; and these well-earned distinctions it is more than likely will be fittingly consummated at Glasgow’s own International Exhibition of 1888, at which the firm are extensive exhibitors. A prominent position in the Exhibition grounds will be occupied by a handsome spray fountain of elaborate construction and design ; the ornamentation over the whole structure is illustrative of marine life — vegetable and animal — taken partly from fresh and partly from salt-water specimens.

    After acknowledging our indebtedness to Messrs. McDowall, Steven & Co., we left the works firmly convinced that there are few iron foundries in this country that bear so bright a record as the one which forms the subject-matter of this article, and theirs in a great measure is attributable to the fact that the proprietors have stuck rigidly to the line they have chosen, and have never swerved from the fundamental business rules of their works.

Back to Index of Firms (1888)