William Dixon (1753-1822), a Northumberland miner, became lessee of the Govan coalfields in 1770-1771; becoming a part owner in 1813 and the sole owner in 1819. He purchased the failed Calder Ironworks, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, for £400 in 1801 and went into partnership with David Mushet, discoverer of the blackband ironstone, to run the works and exploit the Monkland coalfields. The partnership lasted only 2 years after which William Dixon bought the works again for £19,000.
He purchased Palacecraig Estate, Coatbridge, in 1803 and Faskine Estate, Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, in 1819. He founded the Govan Ironworks, Crown Street, Govan, Glasgow, in 1837 for the manufacture of bar iron, the production of iron castings for steam-engines and general engineering products. These works were popularly known thereafter as ‘Dixon Blazes’. William Dixon died in 1822 and was succeeded in business by his youngest son, William Dixon (1788-1859). By this time the business was the second largest coal and iron concern in Scotland.
He purchased, in 1824, the estate, collieries, blast furnaces and malleable ironworks of Wilsontown, South Lanarkshire. The ironworks closed in 1842 but the collieries remained in operation until the 1950s. William Dixon, the second, subsequently purchased numerous estates, including, Carfin, Motherwell, South Lanarkshire; Crosshill, Broomelton, Larkhall, South Lanarkshire; Earnockmuir, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire; Mosesfield, Springburn, Glasgow. He spent over £250,000 on litigation and on his death in 1859 was not insolvent but seriously illiquid.
When his son, William Smith Dixon (1824-1880), inherited the business outside involvement was already established in the day to day management of the business, which was firmly in the hands of the Calder Ironworks and Govan Ironworks. The overall financial affairs of the business was in the hands of trustees. The business by then operated 8 collieries and 2 ironworks and was the fourth largest coal and iron concern in Scotland. The business was incorporated as a limited liability company in April 1873 as William Dixon Ltd. with John Mann Thomson, William Smith Dixon’s cousin, as chairman. The company’s registered offices were at 1 Dixon Street, Glasgow.
In March 1906 the company was liquidated and reconstructed as a new limited company with the same name. The company’s works were situated at Glasgow; Govan, Glasgow; Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire; Blantyre, South Lanarkshire; Calder, North Lanarkshire; Fauldhouse, West Lothian; Carfin, North Lanarkshire; Wilsontown, South Lanarkshire; and Garturk, North Lanarkshire. The Calder Ironworks closed in 1921. In 1922 the company abandoned the use of splint coal and reverted entirely to coke fuel, obtained from their Wilsontown colliery and from other coke makers. In 1934 a modern coke plant was laid down at Govan. By 1936 the company was fast becoming a satellite of the Colville Group of steel companies which had become its major customer. Colvilles Ltd acquired the company from the Iron & Steel Holding & Realisation Agency in 1953, keeping the blast furnaces and coke ovens in operation until the recession of 1958 when the works closed and the company ceased to trade. It went into liquidation in 1960.
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