Once a feature of the town Falkirk’s East Burn is now unseen

One of the features in Callendar Park which often intrigues visitors is the dried up valley of the old East Burn of Falkirk which lies to the south and west of the house close to the golf course.

Saturday, 1st August 2020, 7:30 am
Marion's Well at the East Burn
Marion's Well at the East Burn

Today it is an attractive grassy feature crossed by an old stone bridge though here and there are swampy stretches which gobble up golf balls and act as mud baths for nice clean puppies.

The burn is fed by springs which were used to create the artificial Callendar Loch by the Forbes family in the 19th century.

From here its three mile course to the Carron runs like a thread through the history of Falkirk although today much of it is hidden from sight.

The bridge over the old East Burn in Callendar Park

There are a few places where the sluggish waters are still visible but they mostly lie below the surface in pipes and culverts

Near the park boundary at Kemper Avenue there is an ornamental stone cascade now in a dilapidated condition and not far away the burn was crossed by the East Bridge.

The street of the same name was once the main entrance into the town before Callendar Road was built around 1830.

Not far from there was Marion’s Well, a familiar Falkirk watering place named after a young lady of the Livingston family who had become a nun and regularly used the waters for medicinal purposes.

Here the waters of the burn supplied one of Falkirk’s tanneries in the 19th century when leather manufacture was one of our most important industries.

A similar situation existed at the west end of the town where the West Burn serviced the works at the foot of the ‘‘Tanners Brae’’ more correctly known as West Bridge Street.

It’s not that many years since the broken down tannery buildings were removed when the new Tanners Road was created.

In the medieval period both East and West Burns provided the people of the town with their main water supply which often failed during dry spells.

After crossing beneath Callendar Road the stream enters the grassy valley of Bell’s Meadow and here its local name became the ‘‘Meadow Burn’’. Thirty-odd years ago stretches of the burn were visible behind the slaughterhouse not far from the next important port of call at Ladysmill where the waters once turned the wheel of the baronial corn mill of Callendar.

Ladysmill is an interesting name. Does it refer to one of the Livingston ladies?

Or is it possibly ‘‘Our Lady’s Mill’’ from some pre-Reformation religious devotion?

Millburn Street recalls another local name for the burn which skirts Victoria Park and Middlefield before heading north towards Abbots Road where it runs under the Forth and Clyde Canal in a culvert.

After merging with the Bainsford Burn flowing from the west it once powered Dalderse Mill before entering the Salt Pow a little to the east of the great loop on the Carron.

In the 17th century the Pow was Falkirk’s legal port where goods were landed from ships arriving via the Forth from the Continent.

Carting goods from here was a slow and difficult task and, a few years ago, John Reid suggested that to improve things the burn may have been engineered to form a continuous canalised waterway from Callendar Estate to the Carron.

It is a very persuasive idea and, if true, then for decades afterwards goods landed at the Pow would have been carried in small vessels all the way to the town while coal for export made the reverse journey.

That would surely make it Scotland’s first ever canal.