Falkirk's lost heritage is gone but not forgotten...
Next week sees the opening of the latest in a series of pop-up exhibitions in the Howgate inspired by the restoration work in the town centre.
One of the secondary aims of the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) is to focus attention on Falkirk’s history and these exhibitions are the result.
The title this time is Lost Falkirk but, just in case you think it might be a lament for the Bairns’ early season form, it is subtitled Gone but not Forgotten.
Images of lost streets, closes and wynds, demolished buildings and old places of work and entertainment, will help remind those of us of a certain vintage what our town was like in our childhood and how it has changed in the last 60 years or so.
Take the buildings for example. Next year brings the 50th anniversary of the demolition of Falkirk Town Hall in Newmarket Street.
I certainly can’t think of another building that was better loved or more lamented than William Black’s 1879 masterpiece with its classical façade and clock supported by a lion and a unicorn.
It was the centre of so much community activity, including drama festivals, political meetings, dances, boxing and wrestling matches, school concerts and prizegivings, that most Falkirk folk spent at least a part of their lives within its walls.
Following the opening of the new Town Hall, the old favourite was deemed surplus to requirements but the demolition damaged the Parish Church and the site has remained unused for half a century since. Then there was another of William Black’s designs, the former police station on the Tanners’ Brae which was also a very handsome, classical building – but that didn’t save it from the bulldozers despite our loud protests.
I’m sure that Aitken’s massive red brick brewery in Newmarket Street will feature in the exhibition.
It dominated the town centre for more than 200 years and even today in my mind’s nose (if there’s such a thing) I can smell the lovely aroma that cloaked the town on brewing days.
And who could possibly forget the dozens of iron foundries which brought prosperity to some and hard graft to many more?
For centuries the town centre followed a herringbone pattern with many closes and wynds leading off to north and south from the High Street.
The names tell us much about the early life of the burgh and the people who made it.
Swords Wynd, Buchanan Court, Burns Court, Braids Close, Roberts Wynd and Wilsons Close, for example, recall some of our prominent forefathers while Bean Market Close, Cistern Lane, Post Office Close, Baxters Wynd and Wooer Street remind us of the trading life of the community.
A few of these have survived but most have disappeared beneath big new developments.
Today we have to look into King’s Court to see what they were like in past decades.
Finally, there is my favourite lost street, Silver Row, home to the Roxy Theatre, Smellie and Weir’s Pawn Shop, the Masonic Arms (the ‘Gluepot’) and St Francis Primary School.
It survived until around 1960 before disappearing under the ill-fated Callendar Centre.
The exhibition is located near the café and will be open from September 12 for a couple of months.
Julia Branch, who is responsible for staffing the event, is looking for some help with the stewarding.
If anyone would like to help out for a couple of hours she’d be glad to hear from them. Call 01324 614061 or email [email protected]