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Madelvic Carriage Co

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Madelvic Works, 2004
Madelvic Works
© Headland Archaeology Ltd

The Madelvic Carriage Co, or Madelvic Motor Carriage Co Ltd (Granton) Edinburgh, was formed in Edinburgh on January 19, 1898, by William Peck (1862 - 1925), later Sir William Peck. Producing electric vehicles, Madelvic was one of the first Scottish motor marques, the first to have a purpose built car factory in Scotland (which was also the first purpose built car factory in Britain), and the first to go into liquidation.

The factory survived the liquidation, and went on to host a number of other vehicle manufacturing business prior to the outbreak of World War I. After the war, it was taken over by a wire manufacturing business, and remained in use until 2001, when it was sold off, and most of the area razed to make way for redevelopment.

The photograph of the works was provided courtesy of Headland Archaeology:

Headland Archaeology undertook a detailed survey of the Madelvic Works, a Category B listed group of buildings, in advance of refurbishment as part of the Waterfront Edinburgh Project. The works were constructed in the 1890s along with offices and generating blocks. The buildings were purpose built to produce the ‘Electric Brougham’, an electric powered horseless carriage, but in 1900 the Madelvic Motor Carriage Company went out of business. The buildings were used as a car factory until the First World War and, after 1925, became a central component of the United Wire Works until 2001. Changing use throughout the 20th century saw the removal of majority of the internal features associated with car production but the character of the building remains largely intact.

Madelvic vehicles

Sketch of a typical brougham, pd via WP
Sketch of a typical brougham

Madelvic vehicles were all battery powered electrics, and the company produced a small number of variations during its short life.

One of the first was an electric brougham - a brougham being described as light carriage, typically pulled by a single horse. The Madelvic electric brougham replaced the horse by a three-wheeled tractor unit, which was supported by two large undriven wheels set to the outside, with a third smaller wheel, mounted centrally, and just behind the first pair. The tractor unit contained a set of storage batteries and an electric motor. The motor was connected to the third wheel of the tractor unit, and it was this third wheel which actually drew the carriage along, in place of the horse. The third wheel of the tractor unit is also referred to as the fifth wheel, since the electric brougham appeared to have the usual complement of four wheels which an ordinary horse-drawn would have had.

A typical brougham, not Madelvic, pd via WP
A typical brougham
(Not Madelvic)

The tractor unit had the advantage of being able to be fitted to an existing horse-drawn carriage, to replace the horses. This had been one of Peck's original plans, whereby he could take any four-wheel, horse-drawn vehicle, and replace the fore-carriage with his three-wheeled drive unit containing an electric drive motor and storage batteries. Should the tractor unit fail, it could be removed and replaced by a horse.

An alternative design has also been described in some texts, where a similar three-wheeled tractor unit is employed, but with the storage batteries housed separately in the brougham.

To gain publicity for his new vehicle, Peck used it to provide public transport between Granton and Leith, utilising his 1899 electric brougham.

In 1900, shortly before production at the factory ended, the company produced a small number of two seater electric cars. These were of a more conventional design in which the front wheels were driven by an electric motor, so did not follow Peck's original electric brougham concept.

Practical limitations

Although his idea appeared to be visionary, there were two significant problems. Even at that time, the future of the horse-drawn carriage was already in doubt, meaning there was little long term potential. In addition, storage batteries of the period were less than efficient or reliable, and this lack of reliability reflected on the vehicles they were intended to power.

Peck's design may have been seen as as an alternative to cars powered by either steam, or internal combustion engines. At the time, these were both problematic: the steam engine required coal and water, and needed to be fired some time before being used, as steam had to be raised; the internal combustion needed the driver to be an engineer with knowledge of its operation in order to be kept running for any length of time. In each case, the wealthy owner (cars were expensive plaything of the rich) was unlikely to want to get dirty, or understand their vehicle, so maintenance would fall to the chauffeur. By modelling his car on a brougham, and providing them with a simpler electric, battery driven vehicle which did not demand complex mechanical knowledge, and which could also be easily converted from horseless carriage to horse-drawn carriage, Peck may have thought he had a ready made market.

First Scottish motor car company to go into liquidation

(The following is summarised from various articles and snippets found which describe the various finances and companies which followed Madelvic. Apologies if it does not appear to be wholly consistent, however there were small difference between some sources, which we have just had to accept, and write accordingly.)

Although being one of the first Scottish car makes in existence made it noteworthy, Madelvic was also notable as being the first such make to go into liquidation when its short life came to an end.

During its existence the company attracted only one major contract, in May 1899, when the Postmaster General of Edinburgh employed Madelvic to carry the mail between the General Post Office and Leith, but this was a fairly short-lived success.

The financing of the business is interesting. While Peck originally raised some £25,000 to fund the venture in 1898, it is reported that he spent £35,000 on the purpose built factory and test track at Granton, near Edinburgh. Then, by the summer of 1899, he was reported to have been attempting to raise a further £25,000 to support his venture, but was unable to attract any further subscribers on this occasion, and had gone into liquidation by December of the same year.

The Madelvic factory was sold almost immediately to the Kingsburgh Motor Co, or Kingsburgh Motor Construction Co Ltd, which was formed on October 18, 1900, and which would also survive for only two years, during which which it built a number of cars powered by a 12 hp internal combustion engine. Originally costing William Peck £33,000, the works changed hands for £15,000. The seller was a director of both companies, and is said to have "cleared £2,000" on the deal. Kingsburgh's capital was given as £50,000 in 5,000 shares of £10 each, and with each subscriber holding 500 shares. By 1904, only 4,270 shares had been received, with only a handful of cars ever being built.[1]

In 1902, the factory was taken over by Stirling's Motor Carriages Ltd of Hamilton, a longer established company, which mainly used the factory to manufacture lorries and buses using bought-in components, although it did also manufacture a lesser number of cars, including an imported Clement-Panhard voiturette. Some of its buses were even exported to Perth - Australia, not Scotland. --- until it also closed, in 1905. (One account reported that Stirling followed the same path as its predecessors, to liquidation, in November 1907.)

Stirling's Motor Construction Co (1903) Ltd had been formed with capital of £120,000 but had only called and received £657 by December 1904, and was sold to the Scottish Motor Engineering Co Ltd on November 3, 1905, for £17,500 (£10,000 cash and £7,500 in £1 shares), and had capital of £40,000 (on paper, in shares of £1 each).

The next vehicle business which appears to have occupied the Granton works is the Scottish Motor Works, which manufactured the 16 hp Caledonian taxi-cab.

On March 30, 1910, William Peck took over the assets of the Caledonian Company (presumably this is the Scottish Motor Works) for £36,000 (31,000 preference shares of £1 plus 10,000 ordinary shares of one shilling, or 5 pence, each). The plan appears to have been to manufacture commercial vehicles and a revised 16 hp taxi-cab, built to a specification drawn up by Peck. There had been mention of a purchase order in December 1909, for 200 16 hp Caledonian taxi-cabs, due for almost immediate delivery to London, but Peck took over before that happened.

A resolution to wind up the Caledonian Company was made on June 9, 1910, and the company was dissolved in October 1911.

This appears to have signalled the end of William Peck's involvement with the motor industry of Scotland, and of vehicle production on the site,

Sir William Peck

Sir William Peck (1862 - 1925) was born in Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway.

Although he appears to have had no formal education in astronomy, by 1833 he was giving lectures on the subject of astronomy in Edinburgh, being elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1885.

He was described as an ingenious maker of telescopes and scientific instruments, who carefully documented his work, and was also a fine author and draughtsman. His works include the Popular Handbook and Atlas of Astronomy (1890).

Prior to his appointment as Director of Calton Hill Observatory William Peck was observer at the private observatory of Robert Cox, a glue manufacturer from Gorgie (Edinburgh), and Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South from 1895 to 1899.

In 1896, Edinburgh city council appointed Peck as the first Director of the City Observatory on Calton Hill, when he became the City Astronomer, and ran the observatory until his death in 1925.

William Peck was knighted in 1917, and elected Honorary President of the Edinburgh Astronomical Association in 1924.

Sir William Peck died in Edinburgh, in 1925, and was buried in Warriston Cemetery.

While it would appear that William Peck was an able astronomer for the city of Edinburgh, and did much to attract young people of the city to the science, it also seems that although he had many ideas with regard to motor vehicles, few of them were of any practical value. Although his electric vehicle failed, it seems that Peck learned from this, and is understood to have gone on to patent a number of internal combustion engine designs.

Madelvic Motor Carriage Works

First British purpose built car factory

The Madelvic Motor Carriage is believed to have been the first purpose built car factory to have been built in Britain, complete with its own vehicle test track on the roof - an idea which preceded the now famous rooftop test track of the Fiat car factory in Italy, which would not be completed until 23 years later.

(The Lingotto Building was once a massive car factory constructed by Fiat. Built by Giacomo Mattè Trucco and completed in 1923, its design was unusual in that it had five floors. Raw materials entered at ground level, and cars were built on a ramp which went up through the building, towards the roof. Finished cars emerged at rooftop level, onto the oval test track. At the time, it was the largest car factory in the world.)[2]

The site of the Madelvic Works was formerly occupied by the house and gardens of Broom Park, dating from the 18th century, which can be seen in 1855 survey map of Granton.

The factory was completed in 1898, and comprised of both office and manufacturing buildings, together with a generating block, all described as symmetrical rectangular blocks, comprising flat roofed brick built buildings with good lighting. The office block had two storeys, with the appearance of a red facing-brick double-fronted house with dressed sandstone margins and a balustrade at first floor level. A stone pediment above the main entrance depicts a chain-driven wheel representing the driving wheel of the original Madelvic electric brougham or carriage. A flying sphinx floating on a cloud is positioned above the wheel, and may have been a Madelvic emblem. The factory comprised of a number of brick-built steel-framed buildings, being a mixture of one and two-storey structures, with other buildings on the site which provided accommodation for other services such as joiners' and blacksmiths' shops. The central area of the works block is believed to have been open when first built, but was then enclosed at some time between 1902 and 1906.

The works had served as the manufacturing facility for a number of vehicle manufacturing businesses until shortly before World War I.

During the conflict, the unused works was used as a torpedo store, bat appears to have been abandoned and left unoccupied once the war ended.

United Wire Works

In 1925, the former car factory was acquired by the United Wire Works and become its Granton Factory, remains part of that operation until its closure and sale in 2001. Although the interior of the works changed as its operation changed from vehicle manufacture (with some of the original being said to have survived in small parts), the overall structure of the original buildings remained essentially unchanged, although numerous other building were constructed around it. Since 1925, United Wire had been using the works for the production and finishing of wire cloth on broadlooms for the Scottish paper industry. However, production in the works ended in 2001, following a sharp decline in demand for the product. Production of wire cloth was relocated on another part of the site, where the operation could be scaled down and continue on a more economic basis.

The former Madelvic works site was then sold, with the office block being retained for reuse as the offices of Edinburgh Waterfront Ltd.

A historic survey of the site carried out during 2001 concluded that much of the factory was likely to be demolished as part of the Edinburgh Waterfront scheme planned for Granton, however, this referred to the production buildings, as the scheme planned for the retention of the original Madelvic office block. The plan will restore the office block by demolishing and removing all of the ancillary buildings and extensions that were added over the years, as the various owners modified it to suit their purposes, then bringing the restored block up to modern standards and using it to provide accommodation and facilities for present day businesses.

The Madelvic

The Madelvic is part of the Waterfront regeneration. Created to the fore of Edinburgh's first car factory on Waterfront Avenue, Madelvic is destined to become a sought after address. The developments mix of new build apartments, live/work mews houses and commercial space will be released for sale.
- The Madelvic - The latest development by BUREDI.[3]

Edinburgh Waterfront

Edinburgh Waterfront is large regeneration project involving three companies - Waterfront Edinburgh Ltd, Forth Ports PLC and National Grid Property - over a period of 15 years between 2003 and 2018, in a £1 billion redevelopment of a 345 acre brownfield site on the shores of the Firth of Forth, which includes Granton and the former Madelvic site, intended to transform the former industrial area into a new urban quarter and tourist destination for the city, including residential, leisure and business facilities. The area lies only 3 kilometres from the city centre, and will be connected by the city's tram system, taking 16 minutes

The Llewelyn Davies masterplan includes 30,000 new homes, 3.6 million square feet of commercial space, eight new schools, a marina, together with a proposed deepwater ocean liner terminal at Leith.

The massive project has not been without criticism, particularly among the local community, with web sites and other articles being published which question the allocation of funds and where the money is going, and claiming that cash is being squandered and overspent on events and meetings.T


1 Motor Trials and Tribulations. A History of Scottish Motor Vehicle Manufacture. George Oliver. HMSO. ISBN 0114951713.

2 Aerial view of Lingotto, former Fiat factory

3 The Madelvic

External links

Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-



Aerial views



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