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53 and 55 Main Street, the Smugglers Tavern

A Category B Listed Building in Beith, North Ayrshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.7519 / 55°45'6"N

Longitude: -4.6315 / 4°37'53"W

OS Eastings: 234944

OS Northings: 654081

OS Grid: NS349540

Mapcode National: GBR 39.BQ5W

Mapcode Global: WH2NB.TPQD

Entry Name: 53 and 55 Main Street, the Smugglers Tavern

Listing Date: 2 December 1980

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 331376

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB931

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Beith

County: North Ayrshire

Electoral Ward: Kilbirnie and Beith

Traditional County: Ayrshire

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Beith

Description

Mid to later 18th century. 2 storeys, 6 bays plus central 2-bay nepus gable with corniced apex stack. Mid 19th century 3-bay pub frontage to centre ground with pilastered segmental-headed openings (central window flanked by doors) recessed within pilastered entablature with consoled cornice; flanking paired windows to L, single window and door to R (later alteration). 6 windows to 1st floor; nepus gable with angle pilasters and 2 small square windows. Modern harl (replacing traditional lime harl or limewash); raised painted margins, band course between 1st and attic floors; moulded eaves course.

N (REAR) ELEVATION: central stair tower; later 2-storey flat-roofed brick addition to R.

INTERIOR: nothing original survives to ground floor; 1st floor and attic not seen (2003).

UPVC windows (replacing traditional timber sash and case 4-pane windows, possibly originally lying pane). Grey slates laid in diminishing courses; straigh skew to R with scrolled skewput; cans lost from apex stack.

Statement of Interest

In the mid to late 18th century Beith prospered not only from industries based on textile production and finishing but from a significant illicit trade in tea, tobacco and spirits. Smugglers took refuge in the town on the way from the coast with the goods to the larger centres of Paisley and Glasgow. Many of the buildings on Eglinton Street are said to have cellars to the rear (where ground falls away steeply) where the contraband was stored and it is possible that the inn was frequented by smugglers during the period.

The architectural significance of this nepus-gabled building is given added weight by its very prominent location at the centre of the town. Looking down from the Strand, at right angles to Eglinton Street, the Saracen's Head hotel terminates the view. It is also in close proximity to the Cross, at the historic heart of the town, which has another very good nepus-gabled building at Nos 24-28 (separately listed). Other comparable examples in Beith include the adjoining 14-16 Eglinton Street (though unfortunately this is less well preserved); 2-6 Reform Street; the Smuggler's Tavern at 53-55 Main Street; and 26-30 Main Street. Beith still has a fairly good proportion of these buildings, common in Ayrshire, giving the town a very distinctive character and contributing greatly to the townscape. These are important survivals of an early period of building in the town relative to the 3-bay 2-storey villa form more prevalent in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Sadly, a number of these buildings have been demolished such as in New Street or have had the nepus gable removed such as at 21-23 Main Street (see Reid, The Story of Beith's Newspaper (2000) pp71,106 for old photographs). 19th century dormers are a common addition to this building type and are in themselves of interest being of appropriate traditional materials and scale.

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