Looking back with Ian Scott on Grangemouth's story in print

As regular readers of this column will be well aware the town of Grangemouth has just celebrated its 150th anniversary as a burgh run by elected representatives of the community.
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As a way of reminding Portonians of this important milestone, the library has hosted a series of monthly talks on different aspects of the town’s history and these have been very well attended. Now Falkirk Local History Society has published a new edition of the journal Calatria, number 37, devoted to the Grangemouth story with a variety of interesting new articles that shed light on the birth and development of the town.

Of course Grangemouth was in existence long before that change in status 150 years ago. It was in 1768 that Sir Laurence Dundas of West Kerse, then residing at Kerse House, dug the first spade of earth that set in motion the creation of the Forth and Clyde Canal or the Great Canal as it was known at the time. The waterway began at the point where the Grange Burn joined the River Carron and soon a small community began to grow up called at first Sea Lock, then Grange Burn Mouth and finally Grangemouth. For the next 104 years the village, and the town that emerged from it, were under the strict control of Sir Laurence and his Dundas family successors. They made all the rules that governed the lives of the growing population including working conditions, housing, water supplies, sanitation, schooling and much more. Most folk now would acknowledge that the family policy on roads, house design and garden spaces put the town in the forefront of urban planning that was a model for many other towns in Scotland. But the 19th century was a time of reform and the idea of one family, however forward thinking, deciding the fate of large number of people was out of favour. Hence the moves that led to the new arrangements in December 1872.

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The new Calatria tells the story of Sir Laurence whose investments made him one of the country’s richest men - the Nabob of the North he was called in England – and of his family’s part in Grangemouth’s story. A major article by Geoff Bailey describes in detail the growth of the town in all its aspects from 1768 to 1872 when the original harbour and basin on the Carron were augmented by a series of new docks as trade flourished. Other contributions cover the history of the local Police force, the Grangemouth Volunteers (1860-1918), the Railway (1860), and the building of the Victoria Public Library in 1888.

Kerse House, GrangemouthKerse House, Grangemouth
Kerse House, Grangemouth

This is the first time that a whole edition of the journal has been devoted to one part of Falkirk district since the first issue back in 1991. At 220 pages it is the biggest ever edition and it is also the first time that a section of the book is in colour to ensure that the article on Stained Glass in the town is properly illustrated. This has also allowed for the inclusion of a series of coloured postcard images of the old and new towns dating back to the period from 1900 to the outbreak of war in 1914.

The talks series continue in the Library until December and details of the topics covered can be found on the Grangemouth Library website.

Calatria 37, Special Grangemouth 150 Edition is available from Waterstones or from the Local History Society on flhs’secretary@yahoo.co.uk

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