Celebrating bi-centenary of a great Falkirk firm

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One important Falkirk anniversary which has passed almost without notice is surprisingly being celebrated over in Stirling.

Falcon Catering, which left Larbert in 2004 for new premises near Stirlng University, is the direct descendant of Falkirk Iron Company, once second only to Carron in size and importance.

Falcon has acknowledged this debt to history with an exhibition at the works tracing their story which began in 1819 in Grahamston.

For nearly 50 years after Carron began smelting iron in 1759 the company remained unchallenged but in 1804 a former Carron employee, George Sherriff, opened Dalderse Foundry at Abbotshaugh on the Bainsford side of the canal.

It was not a great success and after six years it closed.

However the idea of a new company didn’t die. Not long after Dalderse closed a group of “gentlemen” also with Carron connections led by John Hardie decided to give it another go. This time the site acquired was on the Falkirk side of the canal at Bainsford Bridge.

And this is where the dates get a bit muddled.

The new firm, named the Falkirk Foundry Company, was formed in 1810 but it would appear that nothing significant happened until 1819 when the first products reached the market in the form of cast iron columns for a local timber works.

What was going on in the meantime is anybody’s guess.

Like Carron and all the foundries which followed, they made anything they thought they could sell and, with a world-wide demand for cast iron, there was no real need for specialisation.

Early success caught the attention of outside investors and in 1830 the Kennard family from England bought into the business, a connection that lasted for well over a century.

For decades the firm was called Kennard’s and the name lived on long after it became Falkirk Iron Company in 1864.

The Crimean War in the 1850s gave the firm a great boost and, to meet the demand, Castlelaurie Foundry was built on the north side of the canal.

Cannons and huge quantities of shot and shell were turned out and in 1854 the company manufactured 1200 ‘‘Canada stoves’’ for the Government in two weeks and exported another 3000 to France produced at an astonishing rate of 400 a day!

By this time the company had scaled up its plant to allow for the casting of huge articles like the 12 foot high ornamental gates for the palace in Lima, Peru.

And to prove that size isn’t everything the works turned out thousands of the little pots marked ‘‘Falkirk’’ for export to the plantations in the USA.

The First World War was another period of high demand and three million bombs, shells, grenades and mortars were supplied to the military.

The company produced a fantastic book of pictures showing the war workers including the famous ‘‘munitionettes’’ drafted in as the men left for the front. My copy of the book is in the Stirling exhibition.

By this time there were well over 1000 workers and the firm had expanded to cover 40 acres. But the ending of the profitable war work and a general fall in demand for cast iron eventually led to mergers and in 1929 the firm became part of Allied Ironfounders.

In 1964 the company was taken over by Glynwed and 16 years later the original works closed. Manufacturing moved to Larbert where it remained until the move to Stirling. Nothing remains of the Falkirk operation beyond the fine Art Deco office building next to Bainsford Bridge but we can still celebrate the memory of a great Falkirk company as our Stirling friends are doing throughout this year.