Given the importance of Carron Iron Works in our history it is disappointing that we have so few tangible reminders of the days when Dr Roebuck and his partners kick-started the industrial revolution in our backyard.
Even the bits that survive are neglected and allowed to deteriorate when they could be part of a revival of interest in this key part of our local history.
Fortunately things seem to be changing for the better and this is well illustrated by the current interest in the famous ‘furnace lade’ which still survives.
Brian Watters, the historian of Carron Company, has researched the history of this amazing civil engineering work and I am grateful to him for much of the information in this article.
Back in 1759 the partners needed a source of power to supply the blast to the furnaces and to drive the hammers of the forge and plans were made to construct a watercourse from the River Carron below Larbert Parish Church to the works at Stenhouse.
This would in turn fill great reservoirs, the famous Carron Dams, which would provide power to the works.
The planned route of the ‘furnace lade’ as it was called ran for nearly a mile and a half close to the river through lands belonging to local farmers who made it as difficult and costly as possible.
The ‘feuars of Broomage’ like James Hodge and James Heugh, and other men like William Lamond and John Melvin drove hard bargains before the first spade of earth was lifted in 1760.
A weir was constructed west of the existing Larbert viaduct and the lade cut eastwards by nearly 60 men, some of them soldiers from Bo’ness who were employed to lay the foundations of the reservoirs.
The lade was a substantial structure, 14 feet wide and five deep with at least two points where it had to cross existing burns.
In addition several footbridges were demanded by landowners requiring access to their fields and properties.
The first water wheel was driven directly by the lade and was in place in time for the opening of number one blast furnace on Boxing Day 1760.
Soon the first reservoir, the Furnace Pool, was completed and, in the years that followed, two more including the giant Wester Dam which was operational by 1775.
They were all filled and maintained by water from the lade which was kept free of weeds by women working from wooden rafts.
There has even been speculation that it was used to move finished products from the works to the west where mills were engaged in finishing work on the castings.
It might well have offered a better option than the dreadful roads of the period.
Long after the age of waterpower ended the lade continued to be used by the company and in the 1950s it was extensively repaired.
However, from the 1970s on it fell into disuse and was eventually cut off from the river. Since then it has grown stagnant and overgrown, but at least it is still there.
The LASER group in Larbert and Stenhousemuir is making strenuous efforts to have it cleaned up and made a major feature on the pathway from Larbert viaduct via Carronvale to Stenhouse.
If you haven’t walked the length of the lade then give yourself a treat.
Step out from Larbert and travel back in time to the great days of Carron supremacy when all the world paid heed to what happened in this small corner of our district.
What is Falkirk area’s oldest golf course?
The Tryst at Stenhousemuir was opened in 1885 long before Falkirk, at Carmuirs (1922) or Glenbervie (1932). The nine-hole course at Bonnybridge dates from 1925 and the Grangemouth course at Polmonthill opened in 1975 at roughly the same time as the Polmont golfers moved to Maddiston.
However, there is some evidence that people were playing golf where the Cladhan is today way back in the 1600s!
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