What does the future hold for Falkirk’s iconic Steeple

The current Steeple is over 200 years old and is the third one to stand on the site since the 16th century. Picture: Michael Gillen

The current Steeple is over 200 years old and is the third one to stand on the site since the 16th century. Picture: Michael Gillen

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It has served the Falkirk community for centuries but is the Steeple becoming the town’s forgotten icon as times move on?

It is the image on The Falkirk Herald’s masthead every Thursday and the badge of Falkirk Football Club, as well as being the landmark local people proudly associate themselves with.

But newer attractions like the Kelpies and Falkirk Wheel are drawing thousands of visitors to the district and are increasingly becoming the symbols people associate with Falkirk through national media and marketing.

Access is also restricted for the time being before restorations are carried out through Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) funding costing £748,000. It will no longer be Falkirk Community Trust’s box office as it is being relocated to Falkirk Stadium to cut costs.

Historian and chairman of Falkirk Community Trust Ian Scott said the building is the bridge that links the town’s current residents with the people of past ages and it is Falkirk’s “most important iconic building”.

He added: “It is the third one to stand on the site since the 16th century standing at the cross of Falkirk where the business of the town was conducted from the earliest days of the burgh and still does today.

“It will certainly not be neglected or forgotten.

“The decision to withdraw the box office from the shop area is the result of the need to relocate so that the restoration work can go ahead, as well as rationalisation resulting from cuts in the Community Trust’s budget. It has nothing to do with the future of the steeple which is secure.

“My own hope is that after the restoration the building will be open to the public and there will be some heritage related use which will help tell the story of Falkirk town over the centuries. A much better future awaits the Steeple than the recent past.”

A council spokesperson said: “As one of the THI priority projects the Steeple will benefit from comprehensive repair and conservation of the external and internal fabric during the 39 week project.

“Local interest in the project has been considerable with over 200 people attending last year’s open day.”

The earliest mention of a Tolbooth in Falkirk was in 1638. A charter of 1663 indicates that around that time the earlier Tolbooth was replaced by a new one.

It is unknown whether the earliest of these had a steeple attached but the subsequent one had as it was replaced in 1697 when it was then described as being ‘ruinous’.

The specialist restoration work which will start next month includes repairs to stonework, renovation work to clock faces, mechanisms and bells, refurbishment and replacement of timber sash and case windows, louvers, screens and doors, repair and decoration of timber components panels and weather vane.