A sense of community in Westquarter

Westquarter School is still considered one of the area's prettiest buildings
Westquarter School is still considered one of the area's prettiest buildings
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A few weeks ago I wrote about the fine 17th century doocot in Westquarter which is one of the last surviving links with the original mansion and estate.

For centuries the Livingston family, close relatives of the Earls of Callendar, owned the glen and parklands and lived in Westquarter House which was rebuilt as a great baronial mansion in 1884.

Twenty-five years later the estate was sold to James Nimmo who owned and operated Redding Colliery then the biggest pit in the Falkirk area.

The miners who worked for Nimmo lived throughout the Braes area and housing conditions were appalling especially in the village of Standburn where three-quarters of the 170 houses were condemned as unfit for human habitation in the early 1930s.

Nimmo was unwilling to spend the necessary money to make repairs and Stirling County Council was faced with a major problem.

This was a time when social planners thought that by providing people with decent living conditions you were not only doing the right thing but also helping to make them better citizens with higher standards of behaviour and fewer problems.

This kind of social engineering was behind the idea of the model village which the County authorities decide to create and in 1934 they purchased half of the estate for £3000 and appointed the architect John A Grant to design a village of 200 houses.

The work began in 1935 and cost around £70,000. It was a design of true genius with beautiful houses spread throughout the parkland keeping many of the trees and open spaces.

There were little squares each with its own village green and at the bottom end of the estate the valley park became a recreation space for the families who began arriving from Standburn and Redding at the end of 1936.

By then the Westquarter House had been demolished, a matter of regret to the villagers who believed that it could have served as a community space with a doctor’s surgery and a clinic.

Instead they had to wait for many years for such facilities.

The plans did include a new school which was completed in 1940 and immediately taken over by the military authorities. During the war it was home to airmen of many nationalities based at Grangemouth Aerodrome and the children had to wait for their school until 1944.

It was surely worth that wait because the school was remains one of the most beautiful buildings in the district.

By the time the model village was complete there were around 500 houses and a fast growing population.

Many of the older residents remember the excitement of living in beautiful new houses with all mod cons surrounded by a wonderland of burns, trees and woods. But it was not all plain sailing. Costs were much higher and one man reported that the expensive electric light was great for letting you see to light your oil lamp!

Lack of proper facilities like shops, churches, halls and places of entertainment plagued the village just as the closure of mines and foundries pushed unemployment to record levels.

Times were hard in the 1960s and 70s but in adversity a community spirit was born which is still strong today.

The Redding and Westquarter Community Project members have done a great job in bringing the people of all ages together and their book ‘Westquarter Memories’ tells a story of courage and determination, of good times and bad and of a community proud of its short but fascinating history.