hugh king history

1853 – 1945

Hugh King & Co was established by Thomas King in the rustic surroundings of Harbour Street in Irvine in 1853.

In the middle of the 19th century, Hugh King & Co was primarily a haulage contractor transporting hay, coal and sand using horses and carts. By the beginning of the 20th century, the company had expanded its operations and was removing sand from the beach to satisfy demand from the building and bottle-making industries. With little in the way of specialist equipment, the work was intensive and the resulting sand rudimentary.

1945 – 1980

After the Second World War, Hugh King & Co introduced a degree of mechanisation and the company’s emphasis shifted towards the sand side of the business. Indeed, by the late 1950s, control of the company had been passed to Hugh King who introduced a culture of investment that led to the introduction of dry screening in the 1960s.

Twenty years later, Hugh King & Co relocated to Kilwinning after its home town of Irvine was given new-town status and the harbour area earmarked for redevelopment. Until then, the company had satisfied itself with importing sand from beach areas. The move to Kilwinning – and a white sand quarry – meant the company could diversify its products and expand its remit.

1980 – Present

Hugh King & Co operates and manages three quarries; one producing white sand, and two producing brown – the days of dragging sand off the beach are long gone. The modern facilities produce in excess of 100,000 tonnes of sand annually with a workforce of 30 skilled technicians ensuring standards are kept unwaveringly high.

Graeme King joined the company. As the current managing director of the company, he is the sixth generation of his family to run the business. His objective is to preserve the traditions of Hugh King & Co while continuing the culture of innovation that has secured its leading position for over 160 years.

Read our interview with Graeme King.