Shanks & Co. Ltd. (1851 - 1969)

Shanks & Co. Ltd. (1851 – 1969)

John Shanks (1826 – 1895) was the founder of Shanks & Co. Ltd., a business which would become integral to the town of Barrhead and go on to enjoy worldwide success.

John had worked as an apprentice plumber for Wallace & Connell, Paisley. However, from the outset, he was a man of great ambition and in 1851, at the age of 25, decided to set up his own business in the High Street, Paisley.

By 1853, John had opened a second shop in Lowndes Street, Barrhead. Before the year was over, he moved to a much more central location on Main Street, opposite the free-church, and ran both his Paisley and Barrhead businesses until 1855. It was at this time that he made the decision to focus all his efforts on the town of Barrhead and invited his brother Andrew Ferrier Shanks to join him in his venture.

During the 1850s and 60s, there were steady advances in sanitation. Cholera and typhoid were now recognised as the result of poor sanitation, and efforts were being made to prevent outbreaks of these diseases, which had previously caused so much misery in the town. The opening of the Gorbals Gravitational Waterworks allowed a piped water supply to be introduced to Barrhead and was followed by the installation of sewage pipes.

John was extremely inventive and realised that these developments had created a gap in the market. He began to experiment with the manufacture of water closets, and in c.1860 established a brass foundry and finishing shop on the second floor of his workshop. By 1866, he was so committed to this venture that he built a foundry which became known as the Tubal Foundry. This would grow to become the Tubal Works, an expansive factory complex, which sprawled across its Main Street site, on part of which Barrhead Foundry now sits.



The Shanks Family

The passions and dedication of the Shanks family was a key reason for the company’s growth and success.

Staff at Shanks

Many long serving employees contributed to the success of the company over the years.

The Works

The success of the company led to expansion across two sites in the town of Barrhead.

Working at Shanks

Shanks & Co. became a major employer in Barrhead with a workforce of 1600 by 1959.

Design & Innovation

The name Shanks & Co., became synonymous with design and innovation.

Manufacturing Technology

Over the years the factories moved from doing all work by hand to becoming fully mechanised as new technologies were adopted.

Home and Abroad

Shanks & Co. expanded to encompass a network of offices, factories and showrooms across the UK and the globe.

The Marine Trade

Shanks & Co. became the leaders in this field, supplying sanitary fittings for most of the big passenger liners of the early 20th century.

The War Years

Shanks & Co. was affected by the two world wars, both on a business and on a personal level.


Thanks to everyone who helped us to compile all the information and photographs for this exhibition.

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