The end of March, in time for the Easter holidays, saw the grand opening of the brand new £23.8M Clydebank Leisure Centre at Queens Quay, the former site of the world-famous John Brown Shipyard, which had operated there from 1871 until 1971.
Although the shipyard built the greatest number of warships and battle ships during both the world wars, it is probably most remembered for its Cunard White Star Line Mail Ships (ocean passenger ships), the RMS Queen Mary, her sister-ship, the RMS Queen Elizabeth and, latterly, the QE2.
Our first known association with John Brown’s shipyard was through an order placed on 8th September 1921 by another shipbuilder, Harland & Wolff of Belfast, ‘for J Brown, Clydebank’. Subsequently, some orders came directly but may also have come again via Harland and Wolff, who we continued to supply until, at least, the early 1970s.
There’s a slight chance, therefore, that Horne supplied steam control valves for the Queen Mary, but we really can’t be sure. However, alongside our valve business, we also ran a jobbing foundry and, anecdotally, passed from founder to son to grandsons; our claim to the Queen Mary’s fame is that her brass port holes were cast and turned in our foundry and machine shop at Pitt Street, Glasgow. Sadly, the records of this and other ‘jobbing’ contracts have not survived.
In 1968, due to declining demand and a need to rationalise the industry, John Brown shipyard merged with four other Clyde shipyards (most of which we’d also supplied since 1912) to form Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS). Interestingly, our records show a spate of orders from UCS for our Standard Steam Control valve in December 1971 and January 1972 (see picture), 6 months after the consortium collapsed, most likely as a result of the Shipbuilders Union 'work-in' strategy to complete the orders the shipyards still had on their books.
In 1972, John Brown’s yard was sold to Marathon Oil and began fabricating oil exploration rigs. The site finally closed in 1998 and then began a period of decontamination and regeneration of the area by Clyde Re-built, one of Scotland’s first urban regeneration companies. Clydebank College, Titan Enterprise Pavilion and the A-listed Titan crane heritage centre opened in 2007.
The 2017 Clydebank Leisure Centre, situated West of John Brown’s Slipway and designed by Belfast-based Kennedy Fitzgerald Architects, is truly striking. It shows a clear and deliberate homage to the industrial history of the location. Limited to a small triangular site, the building’s shape is strongly reminiscent of a ship’s prow. Clad in metal plate, a concept developed by John Brown himself (rolled plate armour), and glazed brick, it sparkles in bright sunlight. The cantilevered first floor hangs over the preserved slipway, as a ship would have done 100 years ago.
We are delighted that our connection to the site is maintained, almost 100 years on, through the inclusion of our 21st Century products in the new building. Today our core range of products concerns thermostatic controls that mix hot and cold water to produce safe and comfortable warm water. Our Duŝo sporting shower column, a timed flow controlled shower, features in the communal areas – poolside, wet and dry. It’s fitting that a striking building should select an equally striking design for its shower provision. The dark matt tiling provides a strong contrast – showing off the smooth and tactile matt aluminium body and accentuating its shapely reflective chrome head. Ahead of the official opening we were allowed in with our cameras to picture the smart and inviting installation.