The Village

Heritage of Sandbank
Sandbank is steeped with history and change. The village has been host to an array of industries and has largely been influenced by various incomers into the area. It has a varied and interesting past, with distinguishing features of which give the village a nostalgic virtue.

Ardnadam is considered a continuation of Sandbank although old records of community activities are listed under Ardnadam not that of Sandbank. Ardnadam was most likely named after the prehistoric pagan altar that sits on the hillside above the pier, on the pasture of Arndadam farm. Ard-na-Tuam means the height of the grave.

Along the shore road moving towards Dunoon is Lazaretto Point, here stands a tall tower, a war memorial to the dead of both World Wars. This point takes its name from the quarantine station and storage houses that were build in 1807, during the Napoleonic Wars. Lazar House, or Lazaretto, was the name for a hospital, first established by the Order of St. Lazarus. People suffering from leprosy, the plague and other infectious and contagious diseases were taken care of at this site. The Ships from foreign ports would ride out the period of quarantine, while their cargo would be discharged on to the station.
Sandbank was at one time known as Cladyhouse, meaning house of the stony beach.

One of the oldest buildings in Sandbank was the Argyll Hotel. Dugald McKinlay purchased the land in 1819 from Alexander Campbell of Ballochyle. The Argyll Hotel was a Ferry inn, which it is suggested that the charter probably read at the sand bank on the Holy Loch” from which the village would have taken its name. Unfortunately the Hotel was destroyed by fire and demolished in the 1980’s.

The gunpowder mills, established by Robert Sheriff in 1838, were situated on the south side of the B836 road at the lower east end of Glen Lean (just west of Dalinlongart farm). Mr. Sheriff soon sold the powder works in Glen Lean to Curtis and Harvey, the Kent manufacturers. The original work force consisted of about thirty men, but greatly increased during the Crimean War. As production at the Glen Lean mills increased, so did the population. Local businesses were set up to service the increase in population and to cater to the demands of the growing community.  One such business still thrives today, the local smiddy established in 1851, kept busy with shoeing the 100 horses and carts that would pull the barrels of gunpowder down from the mills to the boat dock. They also made the iron rings that fit around the barrels. Many of these workers lived in Sandbank and their children attended school at Dalinlongart, where Sunday worship was also held. It was reported in 1855 that “a great many new first-class powder mills, driven by water power, have been erected… a neat school-house, used on Sundays as a preaching station, has been built, while several cottages for the workmen have also been thrown up.”  John Taylor ran this schoolhouse at Dalinlongart, in which five languages were once taught.

With the increase in population in the second half of the 19th century, the demand for a new Church was obvious. In 1868 construction of the Sandbank Church of Scotland began at a cost of £934. The local people, the Duke of Argyll and the Church of Scotland Woman’s Guild all donated to the funding for the new church. The Church was designed by Mr. Andrew Kerr of Edinburgh and can accommodate up to 360 people. Rev. Gavin Mason, the first minister of the Church, was buried on the church grounds and his gravestone still stands today At that time there was also the need for a new schoolhouse. This new educational building was constructed in 1864 and was the Sandbank Community Schoolhouse up until 1977 when a new primary school was built.

The mid 1870’s brought with it an increase in tourist and weekend visitors from Glasgow. Wealthy families built holiday homes and villas in Sandbank and surrounding areas. The village itself carries a nostalgic image of its strong Victorian past. Many of the homes still stand today and are being restored.

In 1868 William Inglis established the Argyllshire Standard and Advertiser for the coast called the Cowal Watchman, which was the predecessor of today’s local paper the Dunoon Observer.

In 1876 the boatbuilders Robertson & Kerr (Robertson & sons) were founded.  They were to become famous for their expertise in boat and yacht building. Alex Robertson and Daniel Kerr founded the company but the Robertson & Kerr partnership was dissolved in 1878 when Daniel Kerr left to become a lighthouse keeper, and Alexander Robertson continued on his own.  Daniel Kerr’s son later began work in Robertson’s yard as an office boy towards the end of the century and he remained in the business until his retirement in 1963, at age 81.  In 1886 a second boatyard, Morrris & Lorimer was also founded in Sandbank.  In 1958, David Boyd who assisted the family run business was chosen to design a challenger the “Sceptre” for the America’s cup. This was quite an honour for Robertson’s as well the village of Sandbank. In 1964 Robertson’s yard was once again chosen to design a craft for the America’s cup called The “Sovereign”. In 1980 Robertson’s yard went into liquidation, unable to keep up with the modern mass production of fibreglass boats.  For a fuller history of Robertson’s boatyard go to Alexander Robertson & Sons

In March 1961, the first American submarine squadron arrived in the Holy Loch. The U.S originally planned to base fifteen hundred men on the depot ship USS Proteus and at least 400 were expected to bring families. No special houses were built for the military families at first. Eventually the military occupation grew to over 3000 military personnel plus their families. Housing was constructed at what is now called Sandhaven. The children attended the local schools. In 1991 the military announced that the base would be closing down, and by March 1992 the last ship sailed out of the Holy Loch. It was estimated that the departure of the U.S Navy would cost the area approximately £11million a year in lost revenue; that of which Sandbank and the surrounding areas have never fully recovered.

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