Allandale immortalised by Steins’ legacy

Stein's works with the village of Allandale in the background
Stein's works with the village of Allandale in the background

Speaking last week to my Larbert friend Jim Jamieson it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to his beloved home village of Allandale.

Jim, like so many former residents, is fiercely proud of the place he was brought up and his book of reminiscences has done much to keep the Allandale story alive.

Many of our villages have interesting histories and Allandale is no different. Two things make it extra special - its appearance, which has hardly changed since it was built on an empty site a century ago and the fact that it was created and sustained by one company - Steins - one of Scotland’s most important and successful firms.

By the 1900s John Gilchrist Stein was already well established as a manufacturer of bricks, both common building bricks at the Anchor Works in Denny and fire bricks at Milnquarter.

The iron industry’s growth increased demand for fire bricks and the rich seam of fireclay which runs across the district offered the opportunity of expansion. The result in 1904 was the opening of the Castlecary works on the south side of the Forth and Clyde Canal to the west of Bonnybridge.

The company realised that to attract workers they would need to provide accommodation and the result was a new village which gradually appeared along the line of the B816 road not far west of Underwood Lock.

Two rows of single storey terraced houses with distinctive Locharbriggs red sandstone were built facing one another. By 1912 there were 55 and after the disruption of war the rest were completed to make up 80 homes.

The houses were strictly for employees of the works which lay a little further west on the south side of the railway line. They were remarkably well equipped for the time having electric power generated at the works and supplied as Direct Current! This was switched on at 5 a.m. and off at 11 p.m. which is not too bad, especially since the works manager was willing to allow variations for the likes of illness.

John G Stein decided his new village needed a name and wanted to commemorate sons Alan and Norman in an unusual way. Though the spelling is not the same, Allandale (with the extra ‘l’) looked better and is forever associated with the young man who went on to be Colonel Alan Stein, head of the firm and great supporter of local worthwhile causes.

He lived at Millfield in Polmont. His brother fared less well in the name-a-village stakes. Despite ‘Normandale’ originally being applied to one side of the street, it did not come into common usage and is seldom heard today. Nowadays the land on which Stein’s Castlecary works stood lies empty and the company is now but a part of our rich history.

But those handsome cottages remain, quite a surprising and welcome sight for a stranger approaching along the Bonnybridge road. And the village and its characters live on in Jim Jamieson’s excellent book Allandale Cottages which is available in our local libraries.