The Townhouse

Occupying a prominent position in the town at the foot of the Strand, the Townhouse stands on the site of an earlier¬†building, built in 1636, which downstairs housed the tollbooth or jail, and upstairs the original parish school. By 1768 the old building was in such poor state that both the school and jail were transferred to Braehead. The building fell into further decay and for a time was used as stabling for the Saracen’s Head Inn.

The present Townhouse was built using public subscription raised from the heritors and local merchants. A Mr William Wilson was the main supporter of the scheme, and the foundation stone was laid on 22nd May 1817. It was owned by the subscribers until 1929 when ownership was transferred to the County Council.

Due to its architectural importance the building is listed Grade B by Historic Scotland and it is a key feature of the Beith Conservation Area. The ground floor was originally two shops and the income from the rents was used for public purposes. One of the premises was an ironmongers operated by George B Inglis from 1862 to around 1900. The room above served as the Courthouse being used as a J.P. court and a Sheriff small debt court. For a long time after its construction, the only Jail in Beith was a small cell under the stair of the hall. This was used to hold prisoners  prior to their appearance in the upper hall. The upper room was also used for public meetings and as a newspaper reading room. The bell was donated by George Shedden of London, in 1823, and cast by Thomas Mears.

In more recent times the building was used as Council offices until the late 1980s when it became surplus to Council requirements. Apart from occasional meetings the building remained empty until the beginning of the 21st century when it was used as a temporary location for the post office, pet shop and florists while refurbishment of those properties was carried out.

North Ayrshire Council carried out repairs to the exterior of the building in 2004 but water ingress to the upper floor continued to be a problem until this was finally sorted in 2014.