Picture found on the internet and I’m not sure when it was taken, but Benslie Square (sometimes Bensley Square on the census) were purpose built miner’s cottages that were demolished in the 1930s. I suspect the picture was taken not that long before then. They were situated off the B785 east of Kilwinnning, next to Benslie Wood, where there is now a small cul de sac called Benslie Row, and were owned by the coalmaster company Archilbald Finnie and Son. They were built in the early 1840s.
An article written by Chris Hawksworth for Ayrshire Notes volume 41 says about Archilbald Finnie, born 1783 at Kilmarnock, “He had taken over the tack for the Fergushill pits near Kilwinning by 1836, and by 1841 he had started building miners rows at Bensley to accommodate his workers at the expanding Fergushill pits, which were a quarter mile from the rows” and that “The Bensley miners’ rows were expanded in 1857 as Archibald’s mining interests in the Fergushill area flourished. In 1854, he also arranged with the owners of the adjacent Doura mine to work the particular coal seams he had started mining at Auchenwinsey into the Doura estate property”. He encouraged good upkeep of his rows by awarding prizes to the families who had the best-kept cottages, but in 1861 dismissed and evicted those miners who went on strike and made other coal masters agree not to house them. But he also built the Fergushill Church, a school and the Sprinside Institute, and started a savings bank for miners.
A report into miner’s rows produced in 1913 says this about Bensley or Benslie Row: “(Owned by) Messrs. A. Finnie & Son. Benslie is a village about 400 yards further up the main road, belonging to the same colliery company as Fergushill. There are 57 houses in all, stone built, with an earth-closet for every four houses. There are neither washing-houses nor coalhouses. There are two double apartment houses at 1s 6d a week rent; the other double houses are 1s 3d per week. There are 14 single apartment houses at 1s a week rent. All have a small garden in front, but few cultivate them. There is but one pump of spring water, which is said to be good. The paths are unpaved, with the consequent muddy fronts.The village is about 67 years old.”
In the 1861 census my great-grandfather Joseph Strachan was the tenant at 34 Bensley Square. He was a coal miner age 28 with his wife Jean and children Amelia age 6 and Robert age 1. There had been a daughter Margaret Haggerty Strachan born in 1857 but she had died at less than one month old. They hadn’t been there long as son Robert was born at Kenneth’s Row, Kilwinning and they wouldn’t stay there long as their next child, Flora, was born at Lamont’s Row, Kilwinning.