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Alva

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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Alva (Gael. ailbheach, 'rocky'), a town and a parish, annexed from Clackmannan to Stirling shire about the beginning of the 17th century, but politically reincorporated with the former by the Reform Act of 1832. By road the town is 2 miles W of Tillicoultry, 3¼ N of Alloa, and 6½ ENE of Stirling: as terminus of a branch of the North British, opened in 1863, it is 3¼ miles NE of Cambus Junction, 5½ from Alloa, 7¾ from Stirling, and (viâ South Alloa) 34¼ NE of Glasgow, 40½ WNW of Edinburgh. A police burgh, and the seat of thriving industries, it lies upon Alva Burn, 45 feet above sea-level, at the southern base of the Ochils, and across the mouth of beautiful Alva Glen: it has a post office under Stirling, with money order, savings, bank, and telegraph departments, a branch of the Union Bank, gasworks, 2 hotels, a town-hall, a Young Men's Christian Institute (1880), public baths and wash houses (1874), and a people's park (1856), 10 acres in extent-the last two both the gift of Mr Johnstone. A hamlet seems to have stood here from the close of the 13th down to the opening of the 18th century, when a village was projected, to have the form of a square. Only two sides of it were built, however, other houses arising on no fixed plan, till about 1767 the village was formally enlarged. In 1795 it contained some 140 houses: between 1798 and 1841 eight woollen factories were opened, causing rapid extension of dwellings and population. Blankets and serges were the only fabrics produced up to 1829, when shawls were introduced: and tartan dress goods, tweeds, handkerchiefs, plaids, and shirtings followed. Nine spinning mills are now at work, with 37 sets of carding engines, driven by steam and water power. The yearly value of raw material used is about £123,000, and of goods manufactured between £200,000 and £250,000: whilst the hands employed number some 220 in the spinning mills, 700 journeymen, 100 apprentices, and 550 female winders and twisters, besides a number of draw-boys. There are, too, a brickfield, and a shuttle, an oil, and an engine factory. The parish church, anciently dedicated to St Serf, and held by Cambuskenneth Abbey, stands on rising ground a little to the E, and, twice rebuilt (in 1632 and 1815), was enlarged in 1854, so as now to contain 700 sittings. Alva has also a Free church, a U.P. church, and 3 schools (Park Place, Infants', and Norton), which, with respective accommodation for 600,226, and 105 children, had a total average attendance of 847 in June 1880, the expenditure for the preceding twelve months amounting to £1059, 9s., and the grants for 1879 to £640, 11s. 7d. Pop. (1791) 600, (1841) 2092, (1851) 3058, (1861) 3147, (1871) 4096 (1881) 4961.

The parish, forming a detached north-eastern portion of Stirlingshire, and lying 25/8 miles N, 3¼ miles E of the main body of that shire, is bounded NW by Ardoch and Blackford in Perthshire, on all other sides by Clackmannanshire, viz., E by Tillicoultry, S by Clackmannan and Alloa, and W by Logie. From NNE to SSW it has an extreme length of 47/8 miles: its greatest width from E to W is 2½ miles; and its area is 5473½ acres, of which 15½ are water. The Devon winds 4 miles westward along all the southern boundary, and midway is joined by Alva Burn, which, rising at an altitude of 1750 feet, runs 4 miles southward, itself on the left receives Glenwinnel Burn (2½ miles long), and in Alva or Strude Glen forms 3 cascades, the largest of them over 30 feet high. The beauties of this romantic glen, steep, narrow, and rocky, have been opened up to lovers of the picturesque by an excellent pathway, constructed by Mr Johnstone (1869-70). Between the Devon and the Ochils is a low, rich arable tract, from 3 to 6 furlongs wide, with first an alluvial soil, next one of stiffish clay, then a moss-stratum resting upon clay, and lastly good hazel mould, intermixed with gravel and small stones. NE of this valley or Hill-foot, as it is called, a bluff, 220 feet high, is finely surmounted by Alva House (1¾ mile ENE of the town), whose ' bonnie woods ' climb far up the slopes of Wood Hill to the rear. The top of Wood Hill is 1723 feet above sea-level, and left of it rise Middle Hill (1436 feet) and West Hill (1682): behind these, Craighorn (1904) and Bengengie (1855). Still further N are Benbuck (2000) and Blairdenon (2072); but the summit of Bencleuch (2363), highest of all the Ochils, falls just within the Tillicoultry border. The rocks of the Hill-foot are chiefly carboniferous, and a colliery-closed in 1879- has yielded some of the finest coal: those of the hills are eruptive, containing cobalt, and lead, copper, and iron ores: and here, in the glen between Middle and Wood Hills, Sir John Erskine, Bart., discovered a silver mine (c. 1712) with this result:-' Walking with a friend over his estate, he pointed out a great hole and remarked, " Out of that hole I took £50,000:" then presently, walking on, he came to another excavation, and, continued he, " I put it all into that hole. " ' Sir John it was to whom ' Alexr. Steuart, found guilty of death for theft at Perth the 5th of December 1701,' was 'gifted by the Justiciars as a perpetual servant,' according to the inscription of a brass collar dredged from the Forth in Logie parish(1784), and now preserved in the Edinburgh Antiquarian Museum: and Sir John's nephew, Lord Alva, a lord of session, presented (1767) two communion cups of native silver to Alva church. The Erskines of Alva, now represented by the Earls of Rosslyn, sprang from the fourth son of the seventh Earl of Mar, and held thee state (before them owned by Stirlings and Menteiths) from 1620 to 1775, when Lord Alva sold it to a cadet of the Westerhall Johnstones. Their present descendant, Jas. Johnstone, Esq., owns 1587 acres in Clackmannanshire, and 5340 in Alva, with a yearly value respectively of £721 and £4504 (including £500 for minerals). Of the latter sum, £2286 is for the seven farms of Alva parish, whose total area comprises 3150 acres in tillage, 2120 in pasture, and 188 under wood. Twenty-three lesser proprietors hold each an annual value of from £50 to £100,32 of from £20 to £50. Alva is in the presbytery of Stirling and synod of Perth and Stirling: the stipend amounts to £228. Valuation (1843) £4853, (1881) £13,971, including £439 for railway. Pop. (1801) 787, (1821) 1197, (1841) 2136, (1861) 3283, (1871) 4296, (1881) 5113.—Ord. Sur., sh. 39,1869.

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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