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Alloa

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Alloa, a river-port, a seat of manufacture, and the chief town of Clackmannanshire, lies on the N bank of the tidal Forth, which, here emerging from its winding Links, has a width of ¼ mile.* It has since 1815 held steamboat communication with Leith (28 miles) and Stirling (10½), and a steam ferry since 1853 has plied to South Alloa, which, as terminus of a branch of the Caledonian (1850), is 6¾ miles E by N of Larbert Junction, 28¾ NE of Glasgow, and 35 WNW of Edinburgh: whilst by two sections of the North British (1850-71) Alloa itself is 6½ miles E of Stirling, 13½ W by N of Dunfermline, 17 WSW of Kinross, and 32 WSW of Ladybank. The situation is a pleasant one-in front the Lime-tree Walk (planted 1714), leading up from the harbour: eastward, close by, the old grey tower and modern mansion of the Earls of Mar: westward the bonnie Links of Forth, with Stirling Castle beyond: and for a background the Ochils, with Dumyat (1375 feet), Blairdenon (2072), Bencleuch (2363), and King's Seat (2111), all within 6 miles' range. And Alloa yearly assumes a more and more prosperous aspect, its filthy ' Old Town ' now being almost a thing of the past-its ' New Town,' founded in 1785, having of late years been greatly extended by the erection of blocks of dwelling-houses and numerous tasteful villas. Lighted with gas since 1827, and supplied with new Gartmorn waterworks in 1867 at a cost of £3000, it has a post office,with money order, savings' bank, and insurance departments, a railway telegraph office, branches of the Clydesdale, Commercial, National, and Union banks, two hotels, a masonic lodge (1757), a Volunteer corps (1859), a Scottish Games Club (1864), etc: and publishes three papers, the Saturday Advertiser(1841) and Journal(1844), and the Wednesday Circular (1868). The County Court House, erected in 1863-65 at a cost of £8793, is a two storied Flemish Gothic pile, with clock-tower and a courtroom, 45 by 28 feet, and 23 feet high: adjoining it is the County Prison, with 22 cells. The Corn Exchange (1862: 84 by 34 feet, and 22½ feet high) is Scottish. Baronial in style, and accommodates 700 persons, being also used as an assembly hall. Other edifices are the handsome Municipal Buildings (1872), the Custom House (1861), the Hospital (1868), with two wards, each containing six beds, and the Hall and Museum (1874), in Grecian style, of a Natural Science and Archæological Society, founded in 1863: at the head of the Walk stands an ornamental drinking-fountain (1869). The parish church, erected in 1817-19 at a cost of £7000, and restored internally in 1875 at a cost of £500 more, is an imposing Gothic structure, 124 feet long and 78 feet wide, with 1561 sittings and a spire-surmounted clocktower 207 feet high. It took the place of an ancient church, whose tower alone remains, and whose site is partially occupied by the Erskine mausoleum. Of two Free churches, East and West, the latter is a good Gothic erection of 1856: and there are also two U.P. churches-Townhead, or First (rebuilt 1851: renewed 1874), and West (rebuilt 1864 at a cost of £3000), this being Early Gothic in style, with a tower and spire of 115 feet. The fine Episcopal church of St John the Evangelist (1867-69: enlarged 1872) cost over £5000, and consists of nave, chancel, and N aisle, with a SW tower and spire, 112 feet high, in which hang six good bells: it has, too, a splendid organ, a number of stained glass windows, a mosaic reredos by Salviatti, and monuments of Bishop John Alexander of Dunkeld (1694-1776) and members of the Erskine family, including a marble recumbent effigy of the late earl, designed by Mr Anderson, the architect. The former Episcopal church (1840) was converted in 1869 into St Mungo's Roman Catholic church: an Established mission station was opened in 1880: and a new Baptist chapel was built in 1881. The Academy was erected in 1825, the Burgh School at a cost of £3600 in 1876. Greenside School, founded and endowed by Alex. Paton at a cost of £5000 in 1865, was closed in 1879, when the other five board schools (Burgh, Infant, Academy, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic), with respective accommodation for 500, 314, 78, 279, and 180 children, had an average attendance of 345, 268, 52, 268, and 76, and grants of £334, 10s. 6d., £177, £41, 18s., £239, 5s., and £33, 8s. 6d.

Defoe wrote early in last century that ' a merchant at Alloway may trade to all parts of the world as well as at Leith or at Glasgow: ' and since his day the harbour has been much improved, in spite of one great disadvantage, the ceaseless lodgement of mud. The water rises at neap tides from 14 to 16 feet, at spring tides from 22 to 24, yet the bed of the harbour is nearly on a level with the top of Leith pier: another noteworthy feature is the double or ' leaky ' tide at every spring ebb and flow. By Acts of 1754,1786, and 1803 the harbour trustees were empowered to rebuild the pier and execute new works: and the Big Pow was converted (1861-63) into a wetdock, 450 feet long, 137 broad, and 24 deep, with a dock gate 50 feet wide, and a steam crane (1867), a substantial high-level loading berth having also been formed in 1862. A ' creek ' of Bo'ness from 1707 to 1822, and next of Grangemouth, Alloa was made a sub-port in 1838, and an independent port in 1840, its district extending along both sides of the Forth from the new bridge of Stirling to Higgins Neuk on the S, and the new pans of Kincardine on the N. On 31 Dec. 1880, it had on its register 16 sailing vessels of 4907 tons and 10 steamers of 226 tons, against an aggregate tonnage of 18,672 in 1845, 14,904 in 1853, 10,512 in 1863, and 5527 in 1873. This shows a falling-off: but another tale is told by the following table, which gives the tonnage of vessels that entered and cleared from foreign and colonial ports and coastwise, with cargoes and also—except for the three first years—in ballast:—

Entered Cleared
  British Foreign Total British Foreign Total
1845 5921 679 6600 65,879 5446 71,325
1853 9295 3836 13,131 32,405 25,113 57,325
1863 11,385 13,979 25,364 16,546 23,225 41,771
1873 65,288 64,765 130,053 68,863 68,738 137,601
1876 90,538 71,284 161,822 99,769 71,378 171,147
1879 95,900 46,281 142,181 93,260 51,866 145,126
1880 85,024 55,695 140,719 86,363 53,613 139,976

Of the total, 1087 vessels of 140,719 tons, that entered in 1880, 327 of 44,281 tons were steamers, 457 of 71,678 tons were in ballast, and 737 of 78,423 tons were coasters: whilst the total, 1090 of 139,976 tons, of those that cleared included 326 steamers of 41,560 tons, 353 vessels in ballast of 36,565 tons, and 626 coasters of 52,627 tons. The trade is mainly, then, an export one, and coal is the chief article of export, 159,780 tons of £52,940 value having been shipped to foreign countries in 1879, besides 15,236 coastwise. The exports (comprising also ale, whisky, pig-iron, glass bottles, bricks, leather, and woollen goods) amounted in that year to £57,067, the imports (grain, timber, iron ore, hides, etc.) to £112,260, and the customs to £23: the foreign commerce is principally with Baltic, French, German, Dutch, and Belgian ports. Shipbuilding has been carried on since 1790, and the graving dock, then constructed, can now receive vessels of 800 tons, though only five sailing ships of aggregately 1605 tons were built here during 1875-80, nor does fishing employ more than twelve persons, with six boats of 48 tons. But ' as the virtual capital,' says Mr Lothian, ' of a county which, though small in geographical extent, contributes from the Excise duties levied on spirits, malt, etc., about a seventieth part of the revenue of the United Kingdom, Alloa assumes a position of considerable importance. ' Its earliest brewery was started in 1774, and at the eight existing now more than 100,000 barrels of strong and pale ale are yearly produced: whilst of two whisky distilleries, Carsebridge (1799) and Cambus (1806), the former alone has in a single week yielded as much as 48,000 gallons. The spinning and manufacture of wool, dating from 1813, engage six factories, where fully 11,000 tons of wool, mostly home grown, are annually wrought into knitting, hosiery, and tweed yarns: and there are further 2 cooperages, 2 glass works, 5 saw mills and timber yards, 6 iron, copper, and engineering works, 3 rope-walks, 2 brick and tile yards, etc.

Camden identified Alloa with Ptolemy's Alauna, which Skene rather places at the Allan's confluence with the Forth. Twenty cinerary urns, supposed to be Roman, were discovered at Marshill in 1828, along with two stone coffins and a pair of gold penannular armlets: a sandstone block on Hawkhill, 10¼ feet high, and sculptured with a cross, was found the year after to mark a very early Christian cist. But apart from its Tower the town has no memories beyond its pillage by Montrose's Highlanders in 1645. A burgh of barony and regality, it adopted the General Police Act in 1863, and is governed by a senior and 2 junior magistrates, and 9 commissioners. Sheriff county courts sit during session time every Wednesday and Friday, sheriff small debt courts every Wednesday: and quarter sessions are held on the first Tuesday of March, May, and August, and the last Tuesday of October. Saturday is marketday, and fairs are held on the second Wednesday of February, May (cattle), August (hiring), and November (cattle), and on the second Saturday of October (hiring). Valuation (1879) £38,983. Pop. (1784) 3482, (1831) 4417, (1841) 5443, (1851) 6676, (1861) 7621, (1871) 9362, of whom 7511 were in the police burgh and 934 belonged to New Sauchie in Clackmannan: of police burgh alone (1881) 8812.

The parish of Alloa contains also the villages of Cambus, 2½ miles WNW of the town: Tullibody, 23/8 miles NW: and Collyland, 2 miles N. It is bounded N by Alva, the Sauchie section of Clackmannan, and Tillicoultry, E and SE by Clackmannan, S by Airth and St Ninians, W and NW by Logie. From E to W it has an utmost length of 4½ miles: its width from N to S varies between 13/8 and 3¼ miles, and its area is 6186¾ acres, of which 3¾ are in Perthshire, 3131/3 foreshore, and 371 water. The Forth winds 4¾ miles along all the southern border, and here contains two low islets, Tullibody and Alloa Inches, the second and larger of which is a valuable farm of 80 acres. The Devon traces 4 miles of the Alva and Logie boundary, next striking 1¾ miles through the western interior to the Forth: and the carse lands of the latter and vale of the former consist of alluvial flats, with a fine rich soil incumbent on strong clay. The district between, though somewhat undulating, nowhere attains 300 feet above sea-level, and, with soils ranging from loam-covered gravel to thin earth resting on a cold till bottom, is all of it arable, and has been greatly improved by draining. The formation is Carboniferous, and coal has been mined in great abundance since 1519: sandstone and ironstole also have been worked. Gartmorn Dam, 2 miles ENE of the town, is an artificial lake, measuring 6 by 2½ furlongs, and fed by the Black Devon. Natives were Jn. Erskine, sixth Earl of Mar (1675-1732), leader of the rebellion of 1715: David Allan (1748-96), the 'Hogarth of Scotland,' born at the Shore of Alloa: and Rt. Dick (1811-66), the Thurso geologist, born at Tullibody. Sir Ralph Abercromby (1734-1801), the hero of Aboukir Bay, attended Alloa school. Alloa Tower, built about 1223, was in 1360 bestowed by David II. on Sir Robert Erskine, Great Chamberlain of Scotland, whose seventh descendant, John, sixth Lord Erskine, was in 1565 created Earl of Mar-a title which, forfeited in 1716, was restored in 1824, and with which that of Earl of Kellie (cre. 1619), was united in 1828. Their present holder is Walter Henry Erskine, who, born in 1839, succeeded his father in 1872 as thirteenth Earl of Kellie, and in 1875 was declared also fourteenth Earl of Mar by judgment of the House of Lords (Rev. A. W. Hallen's Mar Peerage Case, 1875). The tower is square and of great strength, the walls 11 feet thick, the topmost turret 89 feet high and this strength it was that saved it from the great fire of 28 Aug. 1800, which destroyed all the later additions, along with a portrait of Mary Queen of Scots. Mary spent much of her childhood here, as also did James VI. and Prince Henry: and the latter's golf-club and James's cradle are still preserved. The modern house (1834-38) was much enlarged between 1866 and 1872, when its gardens, with terrace and lawns sloping down to the river, were likewise greatly improved. The four chief mansions in the parish, with distance from the town, proprietors' names, and the extent and yearly value of their estates within the shire are:-Alloa Park, 3 furlongs E (Earl of Mar and Kellie, 6163 acres, £8256 + £1260 for coal): Tullibody House, 1¼ NW (Lord Abercromby of Airthrey, 3707 acres, £5199): Schaw Park, 2½ miles NE (Earl of Mansfield, of Scone Palace, 1705 acres, £1751 + £1866 for coal): and Cambus House, 2 miles W by N (Rt. Moubray, 76 acres, £641). In all, 8 proprietors hold in the parish an annual value of £500 and upwards, 44 of between £100 and £500, 59 of from £50 to £100, and 134 of from £20 to £50. Alloa is in the presbytery of Stirling and synod of Perth and Stirling: the living is worth £537. Two landward schools, Alloa Colliery and Tullibody, with accommodation for 291 and 186 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 234 and 205, and grants of £191,2s. and £179,7s. 6d. Valuation (1860) £26,927, (1881) £55,341, 8s. 5d. Pop. (1755) 5816, (1791) 4802, (1831) 6377, (1841) 7921, (1851) 9493, (1861) 8867, (1871) 9940, (1881) 11,638.—Ord. Sur., sh. 39,1869. See Jas. Lothian, Alloa and its Environs (3d ed., Alloa, 1871): Jn. Crawford, Memorials of Alloa (Alloa, 1874): and various papers in the Procs. of the Alloa Soc. of Nat. Sci. and Archæol. (11 vols., 1865-75).

* Proposals to bridge the river at this point have been entertained ever since 1817. The latest was put forward by a company ' ineorporated by Act of 11 Aug. 1879 for the construction and maintenance of a railway from the South Alloa branch of the Caledonian to Alloa, with a bridge across the Forth. Length, 3 miles (?). Period for completion. 5 years. Authorised capital, £60,000, in £10 shares. working arrangements with the Caledonian Co., which, by Act of 26 Aug. 1880, was authorised to contribute any sum not exceeding £40,000 ' (Bradshaw's Railway Manual, 1881).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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