Carronshore was once Falkirk’s place to be

This old photograph shows how the Carronshore's harbour looked when it was operational
This old photograph shows how the Carronshore's harbour looked when it was operational

Once upon a time the village of Carronshore was one of the busiest and most important in the whole Falkirk district.

In the early 1600s the little harbour on the north bank of the great loop in the river was the entry point for imported goods of all kinds, as well as the loading port for raw materials going in the other direction.

The most important export was coal and many boats loaded with the black diamonds sailed to England and the Low Countries from ‘Quarrolshore’ as the place was known at the time.

Tobacco was another product that found its way through the harbour to the continent and by the early 18th century the local merchants and ship owners were growing in prosperity and erecting fine houses.

The harbour facilities were extended and the village developed services like shipbuilding, repairs, rope making and, to combat smuggling, a customs house known as the King’s Cellar.

The opening of the Carron Iron Works in 1759 changed everything. With roads almost nonexistent the Carron and Forth rivers were the key avenues for raw materials in and finished goods out, so money was poured into the village renamed ‘Carronshore’, which the partners thought sounded easier for foreign customers.

A substantial stone wharf with cranes appeared to the east of the existing harbour along with many new stores including the ‘granary’ warehouse, workshops, a smithy, a pitchworks, a dry dock and a grandiose mansion house for the man in charge – the famous Charles Gascoigne, later to be Carron Company’s most powerful manager, who controlled the new shipping company that was formed.

The mansion, Carron House, was damaged by fire but elements of it have survived and, with its classical features, forms a picturesque ruin facing the river. Another survivor is the octagonal brick doocot, though it may not last much longer.

By the 1780s there were over 700 people living in the houses built by the company to the north of the harbour and village life got a bit livelier with the influx of skilled and relatively well paid workers. As early as 1762 the Kirk Session of Larbert had noted the activities of one “Robert Turnbull, Innkeeper at Quarrolshore . . . his endeavouring to seduce some young girls into the company of some rude people from the Carron Company”. And no doubt the explosive mixture of money, sailors from foreign parts and young workers away from home kept the local elders busy at their fortnightly meetings!

At different times during the 18th century the River Carron was engineered to make it straighter and wider downstream so that much bigger vessels could reach Carronshore.

As the works prospered so did the village but the construction of the Forth and Clyde Canal from the 1770s on sounded its death knell.

A new port at Grangemouth meant that the lucrative west coast trade to and from Glasgow now by-passed Carronshore and soon Carron Company began using the canal to carry some of its materials.

Though the harbour declined it did continue to handle a considerable amount of shipping throughout the 19th century, but by the 1850s Carronshore’s glory days were over.