UK Genealogy Archives logo
DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we may receive a commission.

Alloa, Clackmannanshire

Historical Description

ALLOA, a burgh of barony, sea-port town, and parish, in the county of CLACKMANNAN, 7 miles (E.) from Stirling; containing, with the villages of Cambus, Coalyland, Holton-Square, and Tullibody, 7921 inhabitants, of whom 5434 are in the burgh. This place, the name of which, in various documents written Auleway and Alloway, is supposed to signify in the Gaelic language "the way to the sea ", includes also the ancient parish of Tullibody, memorable for the erection of its village, in 834, by Kenneth M'Alpine, on the plain where he encamped the main body of his army previously to the victory which put an end to the Pictish dynasty in Scotland. In 1149, David I. erected, and annexed to the abbey of Cambuskenneth founded by him on the field where the battle took place, the church of Tullibody, which he endowed with land, and with some islands in the Firth of Forth, for the maintenance of the officiating priests. In 1559, the French forces under General D'Oysel, who were stationed on the coast of Fife, on the appearance of the English fleet made a precipitate retreat to Stirling; but being retarded in their progress by Kirkcaldy of Grange, who had broken down the bridge of Tullibody, they unroofed the church, and, converting the timbers into a temporary bridge, effected their escape across the Forth. The church, thus exposed to the injuries of the weather, soon fell into a state of dilapidation; and the parish of Tullibody, about the time of the Reformation, became united to that of Alloa. In 1645, the Earl of Montrose, on the night before the battle of Kilsyth, encamped his forces in the woods of Tullibody, and was hospitably entertained by the Earl of Mar in his castle of Alloa. The family of Erskine, ancestors of the Earls of Mar, were distinguished at an early period for their eminent services; and John, the fifth earl, who became Regent of Scotland, was entrusted with the guardianship of Mary, Queen of Scots, who, during her infancy, remained under his protection at Alloa Castle till 1548, when, by order of the estates of the kingdom, he conveyed her to the court of France. John, the sixth earl, was appointed guardian to the infant monarch, James VI., who spent many of his earlier years at Alloa, and also at Stirling. The castle of Alloa, anciently one of the residences of the Scottish kings, was in the thirteenth century given by David II. to Lord Erskine, in exchange for the estate of Strathgartney, in the county of Perth. Of the ancient edifice, one tower only is now remaining, eighty-nine feet in height, and the walls eleven feet in thickness; the other portions of the buildings which constituted the family residence, were destroyed by an accidental fire in 1800, and a splendid mansion has been since erected by the Earl of Mar. This is a spacious structure, of white freestone from a quarry in the park, beautifully situated on a gentle acclivity, within about 200 yards of the old tower, and inclosing a quadrangular area 180 feet in length, and 120 feet in breadth. The principal front occupies the whole width of the area, forming an elegant specimen of the Grecian style; and the interior contains numerous stately apartments, superbly decorated. Four entrance lodges, also, have been recently built; but the whole of the arrangements are not yet completed.

The TOWN is situated on the Firth of Forth, and, though irregularly built, consists of several good streets. John-street, planned by John, Earl of Mar, in the year 1704, is about eighty feet in width, leading to the quay, and terminating in a gravel-walk, shaded by a row of lime-trees on each side, and forming a pleasant promenade. The old houses in the principal streets have been mostly taken down, and replaced with modern buildings of handsome appearance; and many of the shops display much elegance of style. The streets are well paved, and lighted with gas from works erected in 1821, by a company of shareholders, at an expense of £3000; the inhabitants are also amply supplied with water, conveyed into the town by pipes, from springs in the vicinity. Considerable additions have been made to the town, which is rapidly extending towards the west; and within the few last years numerous villas have been erected in that direction. The Clackmannanshire library, founded here in 1797, is supported by annual subscriptions of ten shillings each, and contains a collection of more than 1500 volumes; there are also a reading and news room, an Odd-Fellows' hall, and an assembly-room. A mechanics' institution was established in 1826, which was for some time well supported, but of late has not been so warmly patronized: connected with it is a library of 470 volumes.

The principal manufacture is that of woollens, which, though formerly of very limited extent, has latterly much increased, several additional mills having been erected on a large scale. There are at present six factories, four of which are worked by steam. The chief articles are yarns, plaiding, shawls, tartans, druggets, blankets, and cloth of various kinds, together affording employment to 200 men, seventy-two women, and ninety children; and connected with the factories, is an extensive establishment for the manufacture of machinery. The glass manufacture, for which works, commenced at an early period, were extended by a joint-stock company in 1825, produces glass bottles equal to those of Newcastle in Northumberland. There are eight extensive breweries, five of which are in the town; the ale produced is in high repute, and is sent in large quantities to London, and exported to the continent. North and South America, the East and West Indies, and other places. Large distilleries are conducted at Cambus and Carse Bridge. At that of Cambus, nearly 6000 gallons are produced weekly, consuming about 374 quarters of malt, and feeding 400 head of cattle; there are sixty men employed in the establishment, and the amount of duty paid to government exceeds £50,000 per annum. The distillery at Carse Bridge is nearly equal in extent. Extensive tanneries are carried on at Tullibody, in which leather is made to the amount of £20,000 annually; and there are also works for the manufacture of glue, belonging to the same company, and mills, driven by steam, for grinding bones for manure, together affording employment to about forty men. The iron-foundry, and works for the manufacture of steam-engines, are also very extensive, employing nearly 100 men. There are large potteries for white and coloured earthenware of every kind, and the manufacture of bricks and tiles occupies more than forty persons; the fire-bricks made here are considered equal to those of Stourbridge, and adjoining the works is a commodious wharf for shipping the produce. Ship-building is also carried on; vessels of 300 or 400 tons' burthen are frequently built, and in 1845 a vessel of 800 tons was launched here for the foreign trade. Boat-building is pursued, and there is a dry-dock for repairing vessels; the making of sails and ropes is also considerable, and there are numerous mills, driven by water and steam.

The PORT includes the creeks of Kincardine and Stirling, and is a bonding port. It carries on an extensive coasting, and a considerable foreign, trade, the latter chiefly with Holland and the Baltic. The principal exports are coal, pig-iron, woollen goods, glass, ale, whisky, leather, bricks, and tiles; the chief imports coastwise are grain, malt, wine, groceries, wool, and fullers'-earth, and, from foreign ports, timber, deals, hemp, oak-bark, and bones for manure. The amount of registered tonnage, including the creeks, is about 19,000 tons, of which about 10,000 belong to Alloa; the number of vessels that entered inwards in 1838 was 600, and the number that cleared outwards, 1250. Alloa harbour is accessible at high water to vessels of large burthen, and shipping may lie in safety at the quays, which are commodiously adapted to the loading and unloading of the cargoes, and on which is a custom-house. A steam-boat ferry is maintained across the Firth. It is a singular circumstance connected with the tides in this district, that there are what are called double or "leaky " tides, chiefly observed at high and low water, during spring-tides: when the tide has flowed apparently to its full height, it ebbs and flows downwards, until it has sunk from a foot to fifteen inches perpendicularly; the flowing then returns, and frequently overflows the first flowing, more than a foot in height. The market-days are Wednesday and Saturday, the latter being the principal. Fairs are held on the second Wednesday in Feb., May, August, and November; the August fair, which is the most numerously attended, is for hiring servants, and for general business, and the other three are for cattle. The post-office has a delivery twice a day; and facilities of intercourse are afforded by the Stirling and Dunfermline railway, which passes by Alloa: the Stirling and Granton steamers, also, call here. Alloa was erected into a burgh of barony in the reign of Robert Bruce, and is governed by a baron bailie, appointed by the Earl of Mar; the courts of the sheriff and justices of peace have been transferred from Clackmannan to this town, and a county prison has been recently built here.

The PARISH, which is bounded on the south by the Forth, and on the east partly by the Black Devon, is of very irregular form, comprising about 5000 acres, of which 4375 are arable, 514 woodland and plantations, and the remainder waste. Its surface, though not mountainous, is beautifully diversified with hills of moderate height, and fertile valleys. From the higher of the eminences, none of which exceed 400 feet in elevation above the Forth, are views of picturesque and romantic character; a fine tract of rich carse land extends along the banks of the Forth, and the scenery, enriched with wood, and interspersed with streams, is of very pleasing aspect. The river Devon flows through the south-western portion of the parish, into the Forth, at the village of Cambus, about two miles from Alloa; and the Black Devon, after forming part of its eastern boundary, takes a western course, and flows through the parish into the Firth of Forth at Clackmannan. A large reservoir called Gartmorn Dam, 160 acres in extent, and thirty-seven feet in depth, was formed by John, Earl of Mar, about the year 1700, by throwing a dam-head across the Black Devon at Forest Mill; the bed of that river was thus raised sixteen feet above its former level, and from it he carried an aqueduct of four miles in length, for the supply of this reservoir, which he constructed for driving the machinery of the Alloa colliery, and of several mills.

The soil of the lower lands is richly fertile, but of the higher, thin and light, on a cold tilly bottom; the principal crops are wheat, barley, beans, peas, and oats, with the various green crops. The system of husbandry has been much improved under the auspices of the Clackmannanshire Agricultural Society; the lands have been well drained and partially inclosed, and many of the farm-buildings are now of a superior description. The cattle are chiefly of the Ayrshire breed, with a few of the short-horned, though no great number are reared; and a few sheep, of various kinds, are fed for the butcher. Very little of the ancient forests of Clackmannanshire is now remaining; the principal woods are those of Tullibody, in which are many stately trees of venerable growth. The plantations consist mostly of oak and other hard-wood trees, intermixed with firs; they are regularly thinned, and are in a thriving state. The substrata are, sandstone of different colours, clayslate, limestone, and coal, which last occurs in seams varying from a few inches to nine feet in thickness. Of the sandstone two quarries are wrought, to a very moderate extent, one affording stone of white, and the other of a reddish, colour. The coal is extensively worked in three several fields, the Coalyland, the Carse Bridge, and the Sauchy, which extends into the parish of Clackmannan; the average quantity annually raised amounts to nearly 80,000 tons, which are conveyed to the harbour at Alloa. The annual value of real property in the parish is £21,951. Tullibody House, the seat of Lord Abercromby, and the birth-place of General Sir Ralph Abercromby, is pleasantly situated on the bank of the Forth, in a richly-planted demesne abounding with fine old timber, and surrounded by thriving plantations. Shaw Park House, a seat of the Earl of Mansfield's, formerly the property of the Cathcart family, is a handsome mansion on elevated ground, about two miles to the north of the Forth, and commanding a very extensive view embracing the windings of the river, with the castle of Stirling, and the mountains of Ben-Lomond, Ben-Ledi, and Tinto in Clydesdale.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes Alloa is within the bounds of the presbytery of Stirling and synod of Perth and Stirling; patron, the Crown. The minister's stipend is about £300, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £63 per annum; there is also an assistant minister, who receives the interest of two bequests, one of £800, and the other of £500. The parish church, erected by the heritors and feuars, in 1819, on a site given by the late John Francis, Earl of Mar, is a handsome structure in the later English style, with a square embattled tower surmounted by a lofty spire, together 207 feet in height, and contains 1561 sittings: the steeple of the old church is still remaining, and near it is the mausoleum of the Erskine family. The ancient church of Tullibody, which had been in disuse from the time of the Reformation, was restored about fifteen years since, and again appropriated to the purposes of divine worship. There are also places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Church, Independents, Wesleyans, and Swedenborgians; and an episcopal chapel, erected in 1840 from a design by Mr. Angus. The parochial school is well conducted; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with an allowance of £16 in lieu of house and garden, and the fees average £25 per annum. The Alloa academy was erected in 1824, by subscription, and for some few years a salary was received by the rector, whose present income is derived solely from the fees, of which a portion is paid to an assistant; the course of studies is extensive, and the fees vary from 5s. to 11s. 6d. per quarter.

In repairing the road, in 1828, about twenty sepulchral urns of Roman pottery were found, containing burnt bones, placed in an inverted position, on a flagstone; also two stone coffins, about three feet in length, in each of which was a pair of bracelets of pure gold, highly polished, but without ornament: one of the two pairs was purchased from the workmen by Mr. Drummond Hay, and deposited in the Antiquarian Museum, Edinburgh. Several Roman coins have been discovered in different parts of the parish; and a few years since, a brass coin was dug up, having the letters S.C. on the one side, and on the other the legend "Augustus Tribunus". About a mile eastward from the town is an ancient upright stone called the Cross, near which, about forty or fifty years since, human bones were found, and a coffin of flagstones, three feet in length, on which were cut two small figures of the cross.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis


Online maps of Alloa are available from a number of sites:

Postal districtFK10