Irvine Townhouse: People and Place


Irvine Townhouse Jane Hunter

When I was commissioned to create a piece of artwork to hang in the newly restored Irvine Townhouse, I took a slightly different approach than to my previous work.

In addition to researching the physical shapes and make up of the landscape, I also looked to the human history of the town to create a map which speaks of the people as well as the landscape.  

Glasgow Vennel Robert Burns

The development project integrating the historic Townhouse and the new modern Portal leisure facility, references a link between the old and the new in it’s concept and architecture.

 Irvine Townhouse and Portal Leisure Centre

Irvine Townhouse Frontage

Portal Leisure Centre Irvine

This link is strong in Irvine. Designated one of Scotland’s ‘New Towns’ in 1966, to improve housing and employment, Irvine has in fact been settled since the 12th century and was given Burgh status in 1140. 

The River Irvine played a large part in the success of the town with the port being the third largest in Scotland up until the 18th century. Many local industries, mills, shipbuilding, export and engineering, thrived here until the mid 20th century.

River Irvine

River Irvine Reflections

I felt the river should be the starting point for my artwork, the focal point from which the town has grown. Cutting the shapes of the landscape from Harris Tweed, a cloth with a history and heritage of its own, following the twists and turns of the river flowing through the town. Embroidering the streets, I thought about the people who have lived, worked and travelled through this place. 

Jane Hunter Studio Drawing

Jane Hunter Studio Making of River Irvine Map

Jane Hunter Studio Making of River Irvine Map

Jane Hunter Map River Irvine Townhouse streets

There are many famous names associated with Irvine and I discovered that each room in the Townhouse has been named after one of these people. Scotland’s national bard Robert Burns, poetess Jean Kelly, Christian poet and hymn writer James Montgomery, author and entrepreneur John Galt, businessman and philanthropist John Ferguson, Ross Tollerton and Captain Harry Sherwood Ranken both recipients of the Victoria Cross. 

Irvine Townhouse Ross Tollerton

Robert Burns Glasgow Vennel Irvine

Ross Tollerton Kirk Vennel Irvine

On reading further I learned of the global reach from Irvine through just these seven individuals. Careers, lives and achievements that stretch from the town to many other parts of Scotland, France, Canada, South Africa, New York and Asia, to name a few. 

I have represented each person on the map with a different coloured thread, rooted in Irvine but reaching, stretching and connecting around the globe. 

Jane Hunter River Irvine Map Embroidery Threads

The colour palette I chose for the threads in the map takes inspiration from the original mosaic floor at the entrance to the Townhouse, shades of blue, yellow, russet, and white. Striking against the contemporary grey blue tweed, a palette drawn from the silver birch and waters of the new pool. 

Irvine Townhouse Mosaic Floor Colour Inspiration

Jane Hunter Embroidery Irvine Map Townhouse

I hope to achieve in this artwork a feeling of history and heritage, the cloth, craftsmanship and story, within a dynamic contemporary image. Celebrating the joining together of the old and the new. 

River Irvine Map Close Up Jane Hunter Townhouse
River Irvine Map Close Up Jane Hunter Townhouse
Irvine Map Townhouse Portal Jane Hunter Scottish Artist
I would like to thank North Ayrshire Council and in particular Lesley Forsyth, Cultural Development Manager, for the tremendous honour of commissioning me to make this artwork. It has been a pleasure to work with you and see the stunning restoration of the Townhouse building, I am thrilled that my work will hang here. 
Jane Hunter Lesley Forsyth Irvine Townhouse Map
Irvine Townhouse

3 comments


  • Don

    Brilliant, beautiful, majestic – mere words do not do justice to this amazing piece of work. Art that has the power and ability to evoke emotion is key. Tears running down my cheeks prove the point.


  • Kay Hall

    Delighted to see this lovely piece belonging to North Ayrshire


  • liz lawrie

    I am in awe. To see how you o your work makes it even more jaw-dropping. Great Work.


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