Madelvic Granton, Scottish Car Factory History, Waterfront Edinburgh Building

Waterfront Edinburgh : Madelvic Car Factory

Madelvic, Granton, Edinburgh, Scotland part of Waterfront Edinburgh

post updated 20 April 2024


Waterfront Edinburgh Information

Former Car Factory buildings to find new lease of life

The former Madelvic Car Factory buildings, thought to be the earliest purpose-built motor factory in Britain, are set to find a new lease of life. The factory built electric cars, possibly the first to do so, certainly in the UK. Waterfront Edinburgh Limited has submitted an application to demolish parts of the former factory buildings which were added after the Madelvic company had ceased to trade.

Madelvic Factory

Madelvic Factory

Chief Executive of Waterfront Edinburgh Limited explained: “Our intention is to return the factory building to its original 1899 form by removing outer buildings which had been added by the owners. This will pave the way for the conversion of the former factory as a managed workspace facility.

“We already have planning permission to refurbish the original Madelvic office building and our intention is for it to become the headquarters for Waterfront Edinburgh Limited.

“An interesting feature of the office building is that it has a wheel carved in the stone balustrade above the main entrance. The wheel represents the fifth wheel of the Madelvic brougham which powered the vehicle via a chain drive from the electric motor. A flying sphinx floating on a cloud sits above the wheel – perhaps the company’s emblem?

“It is difficult to believe that as far back as the nineteenth century someone had the vision to create an electric car, or indeed that such advanced thinking was brought to life in Granton when the perception today of the site is one of industrial dereliction. Perhaps the hills in Edinburgh might have acted as an inspiration!”

Waterfront Edinburgh is scheduled to move into the refurbished office building later this summer and is currently based in what is believed to have been the drawing office for the car factory. Located immediately behind the office building, the plan is to develop the space into a marketing and exhibition suite and meeting/conference facility for the company which would also be available for external hire. Planning permission for this will be sought in due course.

Councillor Lezley M Cameron, Chairman of Waterfront Edinburgh Limited said: “This is a very exciting project, taking a virtually unknown part of Edinburgh’s industrial history and transforming it into a key element of our plans to regenerate the Granton waterfront into a major mixed use, urban development of the highest quality and design.

“This is another step forward in the project which marks our commitment to turn this run-down, brownfield area of Edinburgh into a major commercial, residential and leisure quarter for Scotland’s capital city. The Waterfront Edinburgh project has already generated considerable interest and the Madelvic project will undoubtedly enhance that.”

The factory is thought to date from 1899 when the Madelvic Motor Company spent £33,000 on works at the Port of Granton.

Madelvic had been founded the previous year by William Peck, Edinburgh City Astronomer. He had developed a battery-electric carriage in the form of a traditional brougham but with a small central fifth wheel. Shafts were provided in case horse haulage had to be substituted.

Madelvic used the carriages to provide a public service between Granton and Leith; however, as with other Scottish firms, sales did not match the level of capital investment. The works became bankrupt in 1900 and were sold to the Kingsburgh Motor Construction Company which built a number of 12hp internal combustion engine cars for a period of time.

A longer established manufacturer, Stirling’s Motor Carriages Ltd of Hamilton, purchased the work in 1902 and produced a series of vehicles based on bought-in components, including an imported Clement-Panhard voiturette. They produced more buses and lorries than cars and some buses were exported to Perth in Western Australia!

The Granton works were added to on many occasions, some of which may have been undertaken by Stirling or other firms which produced motor vehicles on the site between 1905 and 1912. After being used as a torpedo store, the works was bought in 1925 by United Wire who developed the site over the next 75 years. Waterfront Edinburgh Limited purchased the site from United Wire in March 2001.

Further information from: Christine Cook, Head of Communications, Waterfront Edinburgh Limited, Madelvic House, Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh 0131 476 4828[email protected]

Madelvic Factory information from Waterfront Edinburgh 29 Jan 2002

Waterfront Edinburgh Limited was established in 2000 as a joint venture company by The City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian to procure the redevelopment at the Granton Waterfront.

The Waterfront Edinburgh Project is a major, mixed use. High density, urban development two miles from the city centre and covers some 346 acres. It is being redeveloped in a comprehensive, integrated way to deliver an exciting urban environment where major commercial and business space sits comfortably with balanced and socially inclusive residential communities.

Key components of the development include: 340,000 sqm of office and business space; 27,000 sqm of general industrial space; some 6,500 new homes – up to 20% of which will be affordable housing for sale or rent; the creation of two local centres with retail floor space; a strategic transport link between Edinburgh’s waterfront at Granton and the city centre, local bus networks and new pedestrian and cycle routes; creation of a new marina and leisure facilities; accommodation of a further education institution and the creation of two new primary schools.

Waterfront Edinburgh Limited is one of three major landowners on the site. The others are Lattice Property Holdings Ltd who own the former gas works site to the west and Forth Ports PLC who own the land to be developed in Granton Harbour.

Much of the information contained in this release on the history of the Madelvic Car Factory has been taken from “British Far Factories from 1896” by M Stratton and P Collins, printed by Godmanstone in 1993. The following excerpt comes from “Scotland’s Past in Action – Making Cars” by Alastair Dodds, Curator of Transport at the National Museums of Scotland. We are grateful to Mr Dodds for his cooperation. “Although some of the early experiments with steam driven vehicles had taken place in Edinburgh, it was not until the founding of the Madelvic Carriage Company in January 1898 that motor car production came to the city. More precisely it was to be, literally, a motorized carriage. The company was founded by William Peck (later Sir William) who was the Edinburgh City Astronomer and lived in the observatory house in Calton Hill. His idea was to add a motor to a standard design of carriage, presumably to cater for those who were unsure of the idea of a completely horseless carriage. Certainly the idea must have appealed to the many coachmen who at the time were not only having to learn the new business of being a chauffeur but were in most cases acting as mechanics also. Breakdowns were very common with these early cars and the only way to get home was to get out and make a repair at the roadside. “Not only was the Madelvic novel in having a fifth wheel to provide the drive but it was also electrically powered by what were known at the time as storage batteries. In keeping with the rest of the design based on a carriage, and to cover the possibility of breakdowns, the vehicle was provided with means of fitting shafts for a horse. While the horseless carriage design may have been backward looking the new factory was quite the opposite. The office was built cheaply in brick edged with stone, and featured a central carving depicting the Madelvic’s fifth wheel with chain drive up to the motor. The office itself was not as unusual but the main production block was, in so much as it was completely right for car production. A two-storey brick-built block utilized steel floor supports giving good clear working areas. An adjoining single-storey block was designed to give excellent natural lighting with a glazed roof. Another interesting feature of the site was the inclusion of a test track. “The factory may have been designed well but it was not used properly. A combination of a poor flow of assembly through the building, a poor product, and a huge initial investment ensured that the project was doomed from the start. Certainly Peck must have realised his mistake in trying to use electric power because he went on to patent a number of designs for internal-combustion engines. Within two years the business was bankrupt, and the first British purpose-built car factory was for sale. It was bought by the Kingsburgh motor Construction Company for £13,000; a bargain compared to the £33,000 which the works had cost to build.”

Madelvic, Edinburgh
The company overseeing the regeneration of Edinburgh Waterfront has sought planning permission to demolish parts of the Madelvic factory building at Granton, and return it to its original 1898 state.
Jan 2002


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