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Ayr, Sandgate, High Tolbooth

Jail (16th Century), Steeple (18th Century), Tolbooth (16th Century)

Site Name Ayr, Sandgate, High Tolbooth

Classification Jail (16th Century), Steeple (18th Century), Tolbooth (16th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Ayr, Over Tolbooth; New Tolbooth

Canmore ID 41766

Site Number NS32SW 13

NGR NS 3366 2206

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2021.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council South Ayrshire
  • Parish Ayr
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Kyle And Carrick
  • Former County Ayrshire

Archaeology Notes

NS32SW 13 3366 2206.

(NS 3366 2206) Tolbooth (NR) (site of)

OS 25" map (1961)

The New or Over Tolbooth was where the town's business was conducted and the jail was below. It crowned the rising ground in the centre of the Sandgate. It was built in 1574-5 on the site of its predecessor and in 1614-5 a belfry was erected on it. A steeple was projected for it in 1697, but was not completed until 1726. It was removed about 1823, at which time it was replaced by the new Town Hall (at NS 3370 2208) (c/f NS32SW 17; NS32SW 51).

W Dodd 1972; J Stillie 1864

This tolbooth has been completely removed. A plaque on the wall opposite states; "In the Mid Street stood the Tolbooth or old Gaol".

Visited by OS (JLD) 28 December 1955

The plaque at NS 3367 2206 states, "Here in Mid Street stood the Old Jail and Tolbooth".

Visited by OS (MJF) 29 October 1980

Architecture Notes


Architect: Robert Adam designs for alterations (probably not carried out).

Demolished 1825


Publication Account (1977)

The completed building which stood opposite the entrance of Academy Street had several levels, the courtroom located on the secotid storey, the cells on the ground floor (Carrick, 1913, 52). Both Tolbooths were removed in the early nineteenth century... the Over Tolbooth in 1825 (Paterson, 1863, i, 60).

Information from ‘Historic Ayr: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1977).

Publication Account (1996)

This building, also known as the 'Dungeon Clock', is recorded in several early views and in floor-plans of 1754, which correspond closely with a description of 1812. The steeple was a prominent feature on the axis of Robert Adam's New Bridge, and in 1785 Adam drew elevations as it existed, and with proposed classical embellishments. It comprised a six-stage tower 8.2m square and 25m high, carrying a tall square belfry whose ogivaI roof supported an open pillared octagon with a small ogival spire, 40m in overall height. A straight forestair and balustraded platform, on which executions were held, gave access to the first-floor entrance, and two of the upper floors contained prison-cells.

The three-storeyed main block was of the same width as the steeple and 16.5m long, with a lower three-storeyed annexe against the S gable. The ground floor was divided into four vaulted rooms, probably let as shops, and the first floor contained a stair-lobby entered through the tower, and two vaulted cells adjoining a vaulted corridor which led to the debtors' room at the S end. The court-room occupied the main part of the second floor, with a room having a fireplace in the S annexe, whose lower floors had no communication with the main block.

Information from ‘Tolbooths and Town-Houses: Civic Architecture in Scotland to 1833’ (1996).


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