The Pouther House in Irvine is a small, octagonal building which stands on the Golffields. It was built around 1642 for the storage of gunpowder, as a result of an edict issued by King James VI instructing all Royal Burgh’s to provide ‘pouther magazines’. This order proved fruitful as records show that orders for large quantities of gunpowder were met in 1643, 1644 and 1646.
The gunpowder was made from ‘saltpetre’ or more properly, potassium nitrate, and was created by mixing dry soil with dung and urine. As a result, various livestock facilities were an excellent source and it was thus gathered local byres, stables and doocots. Saltpetre was a highly valuable commodity, with successive British Governments demanding huge quantities even as recently as the First World War.
As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, plans were made to rebuild the Pouther House in 1781 and this was completed in 1801 and it was used consistently until 1880. After this, the building was repaired three times. In 1924 the wash-house on the Golffields was demolished and the slates from the roof were saved in order to restore the Pouther House. It was repaired again in 1961 and once more in 1992 by the Irvine Development Corporation. Today it stands as the best (and oldest) surviving example of its kind in Scotland.