Grahamston was Falkirk’s industrial heart

Grahams Road circa 1890 with the prominent Grahams Road Church towering over the street
Grahams Road circa 1890 with the prominent Grahams Road Church towering over the street
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When my book about Falkirk was published in 2006 a few folk in Grahamston and Bainsford gave me a hard time for ignoring their communities while I had plenty to say about Camelon, Polmont, Bonnybridge and the rest.

This was only partly true, but the two suburbs certainly have their own historic tales to tell so I will make a start with Grahamston.

In the medieval period Grahamsmuir was the common land of the Barony of Abbotskerse held by Holyrood Abbey, which owned much of the land north of the Parish Church. The muir was used by locals to graze their animals and gather fuel.

Most people associate the name with Sir John de Graeme who fell at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 because the battle was fought on the muir, but these days we are pretty sure the armies met elsewhere as well as the fact there is no evidence linking Sir John with this area.

More likely the name refers to David Grahame who was granted land belonging to the church in 1253. Over the following centuries Grahamsmuir was used for agriculture but the arrival of Carron Company in 1759 and the cutting of the ‘Great Canal’ a few years later helped transform the growing village of ‘Graham’s Town’ into an industrial centre with a rapidly growing population.

Falkirk Iron Company opened in 1810 near Bainsford Bridge and expanded quickly to rival even the mighty Carron. Workers flocked to the area and, as the century progressed, land along the road north from Falkirk filled up with sawmills, firebrick works, railway marshalling yards and foundries like Cockburns (1864) and Mitchell’s (1868) – two of the most successful.

By then Grahamston extended from the railway line north to the canal though most of the land to the east and west of the main road was still used for agriculture by the scattered population.

The people were not long in seeking out the two symbols of community, a church and a school. A ‘subscription school’ had opened as early as 1810 not far from Falkirk Iron Works but by the 1870s it was inadequate. Following the new education act of 1872 it was replaced by the building many of us remember as the Northern School.

Around 1875, the Church of Scotland erected what later became Grahamston Parish Church as an extension of the Parish Church in Falkirk and, not to be outdone, the rival United Presbyterians moved in 1879 from the Tattie Kirk to the building that became Grahams Road Church.

From the 1880s a private house building programme to the west of the main road created Russel Street, Alma Street and the rest with a view to encouraging the skilled foundry workers to become part of the property owning democracy. The main street filled up with shops, pubs and fine buildings like the Graeme Hotel, the Co-op and Oddfellows Hall and at the turn of the century Grahamston was the industrial heart of Falkirk.

The decline in heavy industry in the 20th century hit the village hard but it is still a bustling place with the huge Central Retail Park at its modern heart.

The glory days of manufacturing may be gone but few will mourn the ending of the hard toil that was the daily lot of Grahamston folk for over a century.