(written 1951,final revision 1961)



by the Late REV. HUGH R. THOM.

Part 2 - Landward Area


Landward Area: Place-names. As is common in Scotland, many of the names in Grangemouth parish are purely descriptive: Shieldhill, the sheltering hill, Skinfiats, from the Gaelic sceithin, a bush, and 'flats' or meadows, and Polmont, a stream on the moor; others are named after parsonages, as in Redding and Brighton(')s and history, both early and comparatively recent, is reflected in some other name& Wallacestone, for example, derives from a stone erected in 1810 to replace an earlier one commemorative of the national hero, Sir William Wallace, who is said to have watched the baule of Falkirk of 1298 from the prominence on which the stone is sited. The whole southen area of the parish, indeed. abounds in legend of Wallace. On the other hand, Bothkennar, home of the drover, recalls the more recent history, the time when local trysts brought flocks and herds from the north and the Borders.

Village Population. According to the 1951 census returns the population of the landward area was 9,767 persons; in the larger villages the population totals were: Brightons, 2.073: Westquarter. 1,610; Shield-hill, 1,296; Redding, 1,289; Polmont, 1,106; and Carronshore, 1,095. This left a scattered population of some 2473 persons, most of whom lived in the smaller villages of the parish. The 1961 census return has indicated a total population in the landward area of 10,255.

Agriculture. Farming in Grangemouth parish is mixed, but there is a preference for grain crops in the regions of the carse of Sirling The total farming area of 4,368 acres is divided into 68 farms, most being under 50 acres in size and only two being over 300 acres. Two of the holdings are of heathland only, and the remainder produce, as main crop, oats of high quality, with wheat and some barley. About 1.000 beef and 500 dairy cattle are kept on the farms of the parish. which also supports 500 sheep, and some 10,000 head of poultry as well as about 500 pigs. Like most of its neighbours, however, Grangemouth parish has lost many of its horses- only 18 remain, where there were more than 100 some ten years ago. Regular farm labour, too, has dropped noticeably. In 1945, 151 full-time and casual workers were employed; only 84 remain to-day.

Industry. In the landward area, the only employer of any size is I.C.I., whose factory at Westquarter employs about 500 girls, mostly between school leaving age and the early twenties, and upwards of 50 men, in the manufacture of electric detonators and plastic-covered wire.

With the closure of the local pits. employment for men has been very scarce in the parish, and there are only small and isolated local industries to provide employment within the landward area. Polmont has a large dairy, a bacon-curing factory, three small vehicle depots, and a fairly large nursery. Redding has Meadowbank brickworks. Generally, some eighty people are employed on the land, and there is a little railway and road maintenance work.

As a consequence, most villagers are obliged to seek work outside their immediate area. A very high proportion is employed in the oil, chemical, shipping and associated industries in the burgh of Grange-mouth. It is estimated that some seventy-five per cent. of the working population of Redding and Westquarter not employed in I.C.I., West- quarter, is employed in the industries of Grangemouth itself. Other employment for people in the landward parish is found in the British Aluminium factory at Bainsford, and Carron Iron Works employs most of the workers in Carronshore, as well as several from farther afield.

Religion. The Church of Scotland is represented by several churches. Polmont North Church has a roll of nearly 900 members and has a Sunday school, a Bible class, a Boys' Brigade company and a Woman's Guild. Polmont South Church, in Brightons. has some 600 members, and the same organisations as has Polmont North. Services are held on Sunday mornings in the parish church at Redding, and in Westquarter Church hall in the evening. There are upwards of 600 members, and this active church runs two Sunday schools, a Bible class, Boys' Brigade and Girls' Guildry groups, Youth Fellowship, Woman's Guild and Men's Fellowship. Bothkennar Parish Church and Carron shore Church are linked. with a joint roll of between five and six hundred members supporting a Sunday school. Bible class, Boys' Brigade and Woman's Guild. Until July of 1961, Shieldhill Church was linked with Polmont South Church. having lost its original full status some years ago. In July 1961. however. Shieldhill became linked for one year with Polmont North, after which it is hoped that Shieldhill Church will be reinstated.(2) At present the Woman's Guild is the only active organisation.

(1) Shieldhill Church has been reinstated. The minister is also responsible for the care of the congregation at Blackbraes.

Roman Catholics in the area are obliged to travel. Carron or Larbert provide facilities for worship for the northern part of the parish, Falkirk and Grangemouth for the central region and for much of the south-west. and most Catholics in the south~ast attend the chapel at Rumford. There is a Methodist Church in Reddiugmuirhead. called Wallacestone Methodist Church. a Church of God in California, and a Church of Christ in Wallacestone.

Housing. Before the war of 1939. Stirling county council built or reconstructed in Carronshore 114 houses; in Skinflats 56; Polmont, 34; Brightons. 118; Redding, 50; Shieldhill, 86; California, 58; and nine houses were provided in Reddiugmuirhead. Westquarter, perhaps, deserves special note, because the entire village of 450 houses was built on the hills of Westquarter estate, in 1936. Westquarter is a 'model village.' well laid-out from a central avenue of elm trees and grass verges dotted with rhododendron bushes. Unfortunately. much of the former beauty has been destroyed by the carelessness of local children. Since the original building, only eight houses have been added.

Elsewhere. since the last war, the county council has added to Skinflats, 59 houses; to Polmont, 152, while two houses have been built there by the Scottish Special Housing Association; to Brightons. 154; Redding, 299; Reddingmuirhead. 34; Shieldhill. 263; California. 102; and a further group of 14 houses has been added to the Whiteside Loan scheme at Brightons. Besides these, some eight agricultural cottages have been built, and 114 houses of a temporary nature. 'prefabs.' So far, 29 in Newlands Road, Brightons, have been replaced, and some at Shieldhill are being replaced at the moment. Part of Rumford village was brought into Grangemouth parish when a street of 14 houses was built there after the war.

The latest available figure of occupied private houses is 953. At present. there is only a limited amount of private building going on in the landward parish. The largest scheme is Millfield estate at Polmont, and there have been a few additions to a small one at Brightons. Cranshaws Drive, in Redding. consists of modern private houses and there is nearby a new 'all-electric' house. Two bungalows are under construction at Reddinginuirhead. and three 'prefabs' are being re-erected privately. One house is being built in Skinflats In general. the only private work is in modernisation and very large increases in valuation have taken place, particularly in Wallacestone, which is the village in the parish with the highest valuation.

The effect of council post-war building has been to add. by May 1961 1.099 houses to the original 1,007. so that. with existing private houses, there are now more than 3,000 houses in the landward area.

Public Services. There are no branches of the county library in the area, but the Mobile Library visits the villages twice each week. There are also small lending libraries in certain community centres in the parish. Skinflats and Carronshore are served by one doctor and two district nurses. The five doctors in Brightons cover most of the remaining area, with the aid of a doctor from Laurieston, who is also the medical officer of Westquarter factory. Village community associa tions throughout the parish co-ordinate the activities within particular local areas and most villages have a community centre, often the former miners' welfare hall. Old people's welfare work is usually the concern ofa village old folks' committee, and all services are guided and assisted by Stirling county council's welfare department.

In the landward area. sewage disposal, carried out at numerous small sewage farms. has been hitherto adequate, but as a result of the recent increases in the size of most villages, the system is becoming over- loaded. Plans exist, however, for an enlarged system. Tapped water supplies are available everywhere. Almost all houses in the parish have electricity. Gas is now supplied from Falkirk, the former plant in Red- ding being used for storage only. Postal services arc excellent. There is no house which is not within walking distance of a post office, and there are public telephones in all villages. Roads are fair, but there is an apparent reluctance on the part of the autbi~ties to spend money on their repair. W&th the development of Grangemouth, however, roads to and from the south will have to be considerably improved. Bus services operating to Falkirk are, from some areas, adequate and from some, excellent. Rail travel is open only from Polmont station.

Carronshore Many of the inhabitants of Carronshore are employed m the nearby Carron Iron Works. others at the British Aluminium Company's factory at Bainsford, and still others in Grangemouth.. Although the main shopping centre for Carronshore is Falkirk, a short bus journey away, local facilities are provided by a dozen shops. two of which are no more than wooden huts. In addition, there is a post office, a hairdresser's shop. a garage and a small bakery. Two of the shops are those of licensed grocers. One doctor is resident in Carron shore and he, together with two resident district nurees, works in Carronshore and neighbouring Skinflats and Bothkennar. This, also. Is the area patrolled by the police operaring from Webster Avenue.

Apart from providing the Mobile Library, the county library main tains a library for the pupils in Carronshore Secondary &hool in the parish of Larbert. There is another small lending library in the Co~perative Hall.

Besides this hall, there is the Liberal hall and the attractive hall belonging to the Carronshore Workers' Welfare Society and Social Club, (where 'bingo' is played twice a week), and the hall attached to Bothkennar Parish Church, and these provide ample accommodation for all types of community entertainment within the village. In addition full use of the company's social amenities is made by the Carronshore employees of Carron Iron Works. Falkirk. however, provides in addition to a shopping centre, much of the entertainment of Carronshore people and the danoes in Larbert are very popular with the young. For those who require less organised entertainment, Carronshore supports four public houses and a licensed betting office.

For the youthful, there are Boy Scouts and Wolf Cubs, Girl Guides and Brownies, Girls' Guildry, who meet in the Co-operative hall, and a local football club, Gairdoch Juveniles, who have a field in the village.

SkinfIats-Bothkennar. Near to Carronshore is the small village of Skinflats, set in the rather indefinite area known as Bothkennar. Bothkennar itself is made up of a few small farms. but most of the working inhabitants of Skinflats are employed in the industries of Grangemouth burgh. Glensburgh adjacent to Grangemouth, is now no more than a dwindling row of dwelling-houses.

Education is provided by a staff of two in the pleasant new wood and red-brick school, Bothkennar Primary, which was opened on 13 September 1961. During the year prior to its opening, classes for the fifty pupils were held in Bothkennar Church hall.

The Bothkennar miners' welfare hall in Skinflats provides the only community centre there and a small store which, being open outwith the hours of the Co-operative Society shops, which provide almost the only alternative, offers, for all its size, a valuable service. Bothkennar post office stands on the northern outskirts of Skinflats, next to the only public house. As in Carronshore, the people of Skinflats-Bothkennar are driven afield for their entertainment and shopping to Falkirk and Grangemouth. The Carronshore-Skinflats-Bothkennar area has been described by an authority as 'peaceful and law-abiding.' Gone, apparently, are the days when 'Ye think because 1 come f'ae Carronshore 1 canna fecht?' was the prelude to an inevitable brawl!

Polmont. The village of Polmont lies on the Glasgow-Edinburgh road some three miles from Falkirk, but in spite of the busy traffic the village is a quiet place. Most of the men are employed in Grangemouth. but there are several small firms in and around Polmont. Two bacon- curing factories, one quite large, a market garden, from the greenhouses of which come tomatoes and cut flowers, another enterprise known locally as 'the berries,' which provides some seasonal employment in fruit picking, a pig farm, two motor deputs, one bclonging to a wholesale potato merchant, the other to a frozen fish firm' and two clay mines, are all to be found in the area.

Polmont Primary School has 68 pupils ann a staff of three. Shops are scarce in Polmont, there being only two and a Co-operative department. One of the shops is post office and licensed grocery. There is one public house and two fully-licensed hotels, one recently extended to house a public bar and ten-pin skittle alley.

Polmont North Church has a recreation hall, where youth organisa-' tions and the Old People's committee meet. The only other hall is a new wooden construction owned by the W.R.I. There is a flourishing horticultural society, and outside the actual village is the nine-hole Polmont goff course. Falkirk, again, provides this village with shops and entertainment, but there is much coming and going with neighbouring Brightons. Most organisations in Brightons - Toc H, British Legion. Masonic Lodge, Bowling Club, Scouts and Guides have members from Polmont.

Two of the local estates have been broken up, that of the late Captain Harvie of Weedingshall being now used by Stirling county council as a children's home, and part of the estate of the late Colonel Alan Stein is now a private housing scheme, Millfield estate.

Brightons. Brightons is built around a cross of roads going to Falkirk, Maddiston, Polmont and Shieldhill. It is unfortunate that many of the institutions associated with Brightons bear the name Polmont. because this constantly leads visitors astray, to what is often called, to distinguish it, 'Old' Polmont. Few of the local people are employed in the immediate area. Amongst its several shops, Brightons numbers those of a pharmacist, two butchers, a licensed grocer and a hairdresser. There is a post office, one public house and one garage but Falkirk is once more the shopping centre. The nearest school is Wallacestone Primary, a, little way outside the village, with a staff of eight and 242 pupils. The railway at Brightons is noteworthy, as the 'high' and 'low' lines meet just west of Polmont station, and there' are few regular travellers to Glasgow or Edinburgh who have not stood on its platform waiting for a connection. Near the junction are engine sheds and a marshalling yard which provide some local employment. A large borstal institution provides local suppliers with demand for produce'.

At the roadside opposite the station entrance stands a war memorial to the fallen of both world wars. Each face of its octagonal base is given to one of the local villages, so that it forms a joint memorial for most of the villages of the southern part of Grangemouth parish, although many have individual memorials either in the street as in Shieldhill, or within the church.

Brightons is an active community where, besides church organisations, there are branches of the W.V.S. (which runs the local Darby and Joan Club), Toc H and British legion, each with a hall, the Marchmount Club, a recreational club for men, and several Masonic organisations - Lodge Polmont No.793, Polmont Chapter No.147 and. of the O W S J Mount Olivet Shrine No.98. There is one Masonic hall. Two Guide companies share a hall near the Forth and Clyde Canal which bisects the village, and a Boy Scout troop was established a. few years ago. The cinema recently degenerated into a 'bingo' hall.

Redding and Westquarter. Redding and Westquarter are joined physically, socially and by the church so that the two villages can be considered as one. Again, the villages are dormitories, much of the working population being employed in Grangemouth.

Westquarter Primary School, with a staff of twelve, caters for 401 pupils from Redding and Westquarter. Redding Secondary School draws 307 pupils from a wider area. It has a staff of fourteen teachers.

There are four shops in Redding, one of which is also a post office. and only two in Westquarter, where the Cc-operative Society has charge of the post office. Westquarter has no public houses, but Redding has three, including the new 'Red Lion,' opened on 6 November 1959 to replace the former building which was demolished to make way for part of the great housing developments which have altered the shape and appearance of the erstwhile mining village. Near the cross-roads stands a large wooden building, formerly a billiard hall, but a licensed betting office since the new Act came into effect.

Redding and Westquarter Parish Church has two halls, one in Westquarter, where Sunday evening services are held, and one behind Redding Parish Church. This second hall was built a few years ago entirely by the effort of members of the congregation. Westquarter boasts another small hall, formerly used for dancing, but now given over to 'bingo,' and a fine school hall, which was conceived as, and was for some time, the social hub of Westquarter. It is still used by the First Redding and Westquarter Boys' Brigade company, and by an education authority youth club. Other youth organisations include Army cadets at Redding, the Girls' Guildry in Westquarter, the church youth fellowship there, and Westquarter Cricket Club, which has a field and pavilion at Brightens.

There is less to occupy the older people. Redding and Westquarter Tenants' Association is the former village committee, and there is a Men's Guild and a Woman's Guild as well as the Old Folks' committee. A children's home is in the area, at Redding House; it is run by Falkirk town council. The name of the village of Redding became widely known as a result of the mining disaster which took place in 1923 at Redding Colliery. Forty men lost their lives when great volumes of water entered the pit from old workings and even from the surface.

Reddingmuirhead. This is a small village a few hundred yards uphill from Redding. It contains a large Co-operative Society building, the shops of which provide most everyday requirements, one small general store, and one licensed grocer who also looks after the post office. The church is Wallacestone Methodist Church.

Wallacestone. High on the moor between Brightons and Redding muirhead, Wallacestone gives a prospect of the north, east and west that extends over a truly vast area. The only buildings which are not houses here are the Church of Christ and the 'Wallace Tavern,' while the Wallace Stone itself is perhaps the sole item of interest. Here, each summer, the 'Free Colliers' hold a simple ceremony before setting off with bands, banners, dress-clothes and mounted swordsman, for their annual tour of the local area. Wallacestone has a good pipe band.

Shieldhill. The village of Shieldhill, perched above the two-mile climb from Falkirk, provides little or no internal employment; a small Co-operative Society shop and three others supply only limited needi. There are two public houses. Shieldhill Primary School has a staff of five and 172 pupils. Besides the Church of Scotland there is a small hall in which services are held and a Sunday school meets. The community centre is the only other hall, and this large building is used for 'bingo,' and by a badminton club. There is a band, Shieldhill Silver Band, a football team, Shieldhill Thistle, and a Guide company. An education authority youth club was started, but it is now defunct, as is the short-lived Army Cadet Force platoon. Almost all entertainment, therefore, has to be sought elsewhere.

California. Set rather untidily on the moor south of Shieldhill, California is a mixture of old houses and new housing schemes. Most of the local people work in the towns of Falkirk and Grangemouth or in mining in surrounding areas. The Church of Scotland has a church and the Church of God is represented. A Co-operative Society branch and one or two small general shops provide service. The school has 101 pupils and a staff of four teachers. Local activities are not numerous. There is an active committee to look after the welfare of the older people, however, and a football club was recently formed.

General. The villages of the parish, in general, tend to look to the towns nearby, Grangemouth, Falkirk, Bathgate, for recreation, amuse ment and shopping. The people in the smaller villages tend to be reserved and inclined to keep themselves to themselves; this is a characteristic often found in mining villages. They are friendly to newcomers, however, although they may not accept strangers completely for some time; and they are very independent, again a characteristic of mining communities. With the possible future expansion of Grangemouth to the south and the slow growth of Falkirk it is possible that many of the parish villages will become more completely absorbed by these towns; nevertheless, it is likely that, even in the event of such happenings, the identifying character of the villages which go to make up the landward area of the parish of Grangemouth will long remain.

Written. 1961.

Tom Paterson (last updated 25th Oct 2020)