I can hardly believe that it’s September already. It seems like no time since we were waving goodbye to Santa and here we are getting ready to open the doors of our historic buildings as part of our annual nosey behind the scenes.
All across Scotland Open Doors lets us into places we are not normally able to visit and our district is no different. Even more buildings are involved this year and on the weekend of September 20-21 they will be waiting to welcome you.
There are several fine churches: the beautifully refurbished Trinity Church (formerly Falkirk Old and St Modan’s), the marvellous Scottish Episcopal Christ Church (1864) in Kerse Lane and the striking red sandstone St Andrew’s Church in Upper Newmarket Street.
St Andrew’s was opened in 1896 as the new home of Falkirk Free Church whose growing congregation moved from their previous building in Garrison Place where the Post Office stands today.
The Gothic style building was designed by the famous Falkirk architect James Strang and, like the other two churches, has many fine decorative features inside including fine stained glass.
In Tamfourhill Road you will find Watling Lodge sitting alongside the Antonine Wall. It was built in 1883 for the manager of one of the nearby Camelon chemical works, Mr Fairley, and is a lovely example, both inside and out, of the popular Arts and Crafts style. The building is now owned by Barnado’s but it is not used as a residential children’s home.
Elsewhere you can pop down to Kinneil where the historic house of the Dukes of Hamilton will be open to show visitors the amazing 16th and 17th century religious murals in the Arbour and Parable Rooms.
Back in the town, on the other side of Newmarket Street from St Andrews, stands the old Burgh Buildings designed in Scottish Baronial style by Alexander Black and opened in 1879 as the new home of Falkirk Burgh Council and the various town officials. Today it houses the Registrar’s Office and the marriage room.
Probably the highlight of Doors Open for many will be the chance to see the inside of the two jail cells in Falkirk Steeple on this its 200th birthday.
On both days there will be an array of entertainment in High Street as part of the ‘birthday bash’ and small groups will be guided up the stone spiral stairs to see the gloomy place where some of our badly behaved ancestors passed many an unhappy night.
You can book in advance for this through the box office in the Steeple shop. Unfortunately it is not possible to get beyond the second cell to the room with the round-headed windows as the stone steps are replaced by a precarious wooden flight which is considered too risky.
Still, it’s the first time for decades that public access has been granted and that is really down to the beginning of the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) which will transform the historic town centre, both outside and in, holding out the prospect that it will be open all the time for visitors.
Not all these buildings are open on both days and the times do vary so best to check up by visiting the Falkirk Community Trust website, or you could pick up an Doors Open booklet at Callendar House, the libraries or the steeple.