Curling stones and rinks

Throughout the 1800s the game of curling developed both in its organisation and rules and also in the technical aspects of stones and rinks. In the early years stones were still of locally occurring rock which was hammer dressed into roughly circular shape and the lower surface honed and polished to make a single playing surface or sole. Handles were permanently fixed on the upper surface. At this time most curlers played on naturally occurring ice with a single stone rather than a matched pair. In 1830 the price of a well made curling stone was that of a cheviot ewe or 20 days wages for a labourer. Illistration of various stones

In 1833 John Cairnie of Largs published his "Essay on Curling and Artificial Pond Making", in which he sets out an argument for the standardisation of curling stones and rinks. Cairnie had returned to Scotland after service in India in the course of which he had lost an arm. He settled at Curling Hall, Largs with the intention of spending his summers sailing and his winters curling. His ideas for the standardisation of the game found favour amongst Scottish curlers and in 1838 he was elected as the first President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

Silver medal, Penpont Curling Society, 1849 The engraving shows a matched pair of single soled curling stones with fixed handles By the 1850s, due to these influences, most Scottish curling matches were played on similar rinks to similar rules using matched pairs of stones of regular size and shape.

From 1850 onwards curling stones were made with detachable handles. This meant that the stones could have two playing surfaces or soles, a larger one for keen ice and a smaller one for soft ice with the handle fitted to whichever surface was not in use.

John Cairnie was also a pioneer in the development of artificial curling rinks. Throughout the Little Ice Age of the 17th and 18th centuries there was plenty of opportunity for curling on natural ice. As the climate gradually became milder, natural ice could not be guaranteed. Artificial ponds had level surfaces and when flooded with a few inches of water would freeze over more readily. These became known as Cairnie ponds and ensured that the game of curling continued to prosper throughout the 1800s.

The development of tar macadam curling rinks in the early years of this century secured the future of the game into the era of indoor rinks and artificial ice. Tar macadam formed a level and impervious surface which could be flooded with less than an inch of water and could therefore be played on almost anytime the temperature fell below freezing point. Curling at Stranraer, c.1930 Showing curling on the tar macadam surfaced rink at Stoneykirk Road.

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