On July 10, 1768, just 250 years ago, Sir Lawrence Dundas of West Kerse dug the first spadeful of earth at the point where the Grange Burn met the River Carron, giving birth to ‘the Great Canal’ between Forth and Clyde, and to the settlement which soon developed.
At first called Sealock , then Grangeburnmouth, it settled on its familiar name by the 1790s when it was home to over 400 people.
As the community expanded in the years that followed new industries arose, streets and buildings appeared and schools, churches and all kinds of social groups were formed.
Together they make up the story of Grangemouth and an amazingly rich story it is. Making sure that it is preserved for the pleasure of present and future Portonians is a vital task and one that is too often neglected elsewhere.
Fortunately, the people of Grangemouth (and the rest of us), have a veritable treasure store of memories covering every aspect of the town in the Heritage Trust which for over 25 years has accumulated a huge collection of artefacts, memorablia, documents, maps, plans and paintings and thousands of photographs which are on display at the centre near Charing Cross and La Porte Precinct.
Inside it is an astonishing sight – an Aladdin’s Cave of delights – covering every aspect of local life: work in all its forms, education, religion, sport and leisure, politics and public services. At one end of the room is a large model of the airfield which dominated the Bo’ness Road from 1939 until the 50s; at the other the beautiful stained glass windows which once graced the 1837 West Church, and the date-stone from the top of the old town police station. There are war time uniforms, portraits of provosts, tools and equipment, church cups and plates, and all those photographs: images of men and women at work, school classes from all periods, uniformed organisations, childrens’days, royal visits and much more.
Not surprisingly there are pictures of ships with sails, paddle wheels and propellers as well as timber basins, locks and docks and mighty vessels from all corners of the globe.
The centre was the brainchild of a group of enthusiasts back in 1992 who were concerned to see so much of the town’s history vanishing before their eyes and began gathering whatever they could get their hands on.
The people responded by handing in all kinds of items which form the core of the collection which has continued to grow with each passing year. After brief stops in Abbotsinch and York Place the Trust settled into its present premises in Annfield Place in 1998.
As well as seeing the collection visitors can talk to the volunteers who man the centre and hear at first hand the experience of living and working in the town in past years. I spoke to Maureen Burns, the trustees’ historian, and she stressed one very important aspect of what they do. “We welcome visits from schools and would be delighted to go out to speak to the children in their classrooms to show them items from the collection and tell them tales of Grangemouth’s past”.
You can contact the Trust on 01324 666603 or by email on [email protected] The centre is open from 10am to 2pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10am to 1pm Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 9.30am to 12.30pm on Saturdays.
It should be a ‘must visit’ for anyone interested in Grangemouth’s story and certainly for our children – the past belongs to them just as surely as the future.