Kilmarnock & District History Group · Kilmarnock · Ayrshire · KA1 3HY

John Finnie and John Finnie Street

John Finnie involvement and development of the Street which bears his name in Kilmarnock.

Although John Finnie was a native of Kilmarnock being born there/here in 1790 he was to leave Kilmarnock in 1807 when he was 17 and never to return permanently dying at the age of 85 in Bowden Cheshire about 8 miles from Manchester and that is where he is also buried.

John Finnie Street when it was first contemplated was called “New Street” as it was part of the 1802 Act of Parliament obtained by the Marquis of Titchfield who acquired The Kilmarnock Estates by marrying Henrietta Scott, a local heiress, in 1785. The Marquis was to become the 4th Duke of Portland when his father died in 1809 so initially he was the Marquis of Titchfield for some 14 years.

At the time the “New Street” was being actively pursued John Finnie was aged 71 retired/semi retired a highly successful business man whose claim to fame was “agent to Rothschild in Brazil” and living in Bowden Lodge ,Bowden , Cheshire having spent most of his working life with Finnie Bros in Rio de Janerio (arriving there in 1810 and appearing back in Britain on the 1851 Census at Bowden Lodge Cheshire) At that time his nephew Archibald Finnie (age 48) was completing his 3 year spell of Provost of Kilmarnock a post which automatically made him also the Chairman of The Kilmarnock Town Improvement Trust and successfully raised the money and built Duke Street in 1859 which was now complete with many buildings in the stunning variety of Victorian Times. Some saying that it was the “The Finest Street in Kilmarnock “  TheTrustees were now eager to build the last Street which was permitted by the 1802 Act. There were some obstacles however no Government funding or preferential interest rates at banks and it was so soon since Duke Street and Union Street had been built it may have been thought that subscriptions from the general public would be hard to find and besides although the line of the “New Street” had been drawn out there seems to be an almost insurmountable problem the Trustees could not purchase an estate (“Langlands”) which was situated nearly at the start of the proposed Street. Although it was in 1861 the Trustees started to actively seeking` the funding to install the New Street it was not until two years later in 29 June 1863 that Archibald Finnie was to read to the Trustees a letter bearing date 25 June 1863 addressed to him by his Uncle Mr John Finnie of Bowdon Lodge Manchester where he says  “ I am glad you have succeeded in securing the property (meaning Langlands House) which stood in the way to carry out the plan of the new street. I wish you to go on with the work in the most vigorous manner and not lose a day in getting on. Of course the purchase will be made in the name of the Trustees for carrying out the Act of improving the town of Kilmarnock and all other properties necessary to complete the work. The money required to do all this work I will provide and I think the sooner you commence the better. And in connection to the letter it was stated by Mr Finnie he had purchased Langlands House at the price of £1150 to form part of the improvement. The Trustees feel called upon to express their sincere thanks to Mr Finnie. It was decided that William Railton and Robert Blackwood be used again (Civil Engineer and Architect) following their involvement in Duke Street and Union Street. The Committee unanimously elected Mr John Finnie as a member of the Committee. ( and therefore as a fellow Trustee).

Owners in line of the New Street would be contacted to find out if they would accept compensation for their property as it would need to be demolished to make way for the new throughfare. They need not settle on compensation and the majority  tended to go to the next stage, arbitration. After that the only course was compulsory purchase and hardly any chose that route.

The first Proprietor who accepted the compensation was Thomas Gregory for his property in Dunlop Street at the price of £480. He did not occupy the property and this was true of most the Proprietors. Agreed John Smith Bookseller. Some Property Owners preferred to go to Arbitration as in the case of James Crawford, John  Smith Edinburgh Advocate Edinburgh, John Smith, Windyedge and James Smith the same address, Mrs Hunter, Nelson Street, Mrs Adams Nelson Street,  Sawyers George Sawyers Glasgow, William Macgregor, Nelson Street, James Muir, Nether Raith , Fenwick, Hugh Stevens Toy Merchant, Cuthbert and Taylor carpet merchant.

17 July 1863   Martha Hunter Nelson Street, accepted £130, 30 December 1863 John Fulton Edinburgh agreeing to sell his property at College Wynd for £340

1st February 1864 Certain properties in line of New Street not yet purchased in Nelson Street Cuthbert and Taylor and seven others.

17 June 1864

It will run from the Court House in St Marnock Street in a direct to the lower end of Langlands Street and the approach to the Railway Station. Encouraged by the Liberality with which were met when we projected the opening of the Street from London Road to the Cross now forming Duke Street we afterwards had the line of the proposed new street surveyed as being the only one remaining unexecuted of all those for which the Act for the improvement of Kilmarnock gave us power in carrying out this great undertaking we are entirely dependent on the liberality of the Public the Statutory powers of raising funds having ceased many years ago. The New Street will be460 yards long and 60 feet wide.  



 Probably because John Finnie was underwriting the venture some buildings were bought demolished and the land not used to build the New Street. When the 1802 Parliamentary Act was completed in 1870 and the new Parliamentary Act started in 1871. The Improvement Trustees handed their cash and title deeds to the new Streets Committee all except the extra land not needed for John Finnie Street this they gave to John Finnie and he in turn passed the land to his nephew Archibald Finnie. Ironically Archibald Finnie in 1874 was made an offer by the Streets Committee for some of the land which he got in connection with College Wynd from John Finnie as they were planning to build another New Street “John Dickie Street” .  Instead of   settling straight away he negotiated with the Committee and settled at the last moment as he wished to make College Wynd at right angles to John Finnie Street which probably would suit any future building project. He got his way but in due course the Town Council and Archibald received injunctions from the Roman Catholic Church as the original St Joseph’s College was in College Wynd close to the Laigh Kirk and Finnie’s works probably severely affected their access.