Name.-The name Larbert
was formerly written Lairbert scheills, Laithbert scheills, and
Lethbert scheills,-which signifies the scheills or huts
of the man named Lairbert or Laithbert. This parish of Larbert
is united quoad sacra to the parish of Dunipace. At present,
we speak of Larbert parish proper, the form of which is nearly
elliptical,-the measures of the transverse anti conjugate axis
being nearly 3 and 2½ miles; .while the superficial extent
is about 4½ square miles, or about 2700 acres.
Carron is the boundary on the S. and S.S.E. for a distance of
2¼ miles. The parish of Dunipace bounds the west and north-west,
to a distance of 2½ miles; on the north, the little river,
the Pow of Airth, pronounced Poo.2 To a distance of
1¼ mile on the north-east and south-east, the parishes of
Airth and Bothkennar form the marches.
Topographical Appearances and Soil.-The
parish slopes gradually from south-west to north-east. The mansion-house
of Larbert, the most elevated point of the parish, and probably
about 100 feet above the sea, is situated on an eminence which
descends abruptly to the Carron, and more gradually towards the
east for 500 yards, when the great body of the land of the parish
becomes a table slightly inclined to the east, terminating in
the lower or eastern part, In a more decided declivity on the
estates of Kinnaird and Carron Hall. From all parts of the parish,
the view is beautiful and commanding. It comprehends that part
of the river Forth which extends from near Stirling as far as
Queensferry; on the south and east, the rids carses of Bothkennar,
Falkirk, and Borrowstowness, containing the opulent towns of Falkirk
and Grangemouth, with numerous thriving villages. The Carron Iron-works
and many other works are finely contrasted with the prospect to
the west of the beautiful range of the Ochills,3 deeply
indented by ravines,-thus presenting so many faces to be dimpled
by the shadows of the passing clouds.
Climate-The climate of Larbert is a mean between that of Edinburgh and Glasgow, from which cities it is nearly equidistant. The prevailing wind, as may he seen by the bent of the trees, is from the south-west; but it is not laden with so much rain as near Glasgow, while the rage of the east wind is somewhat subdued, as compared with Edinburgh. An illustration of this fact occurs at tile time of writing this Account. The continued gales from the east, accompanied by snow, have impeded all agricultural operations in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, whilst in Larbert parish, the sowing of beans has been long completed, nearly all the oats are in the ground, and the land is cloven, and a dry bed is ready for the reception of the barley. This is, however, an extreme case; but as it occurred under our own inspection, and at so opportune a moment, it is recorded. Five days later, a heavy fall of snow covered Larbert to the depth of three or four inches; before noon, we were in Edinburgh, where no snow had fallen. It soon disappeared at Larbert.
It appears, however, that the climate of Larbert
is not so mild as the climate of Edinburgh and the climate of
Greenock, being more inland than these two places, i. e. the
mean temperature of the winter months is probably somewhat colder
at Larbert than the mean temperature of the winter months at Edinburgh
or at Greenock; and this is shown by the growth of plants which
require a mild temperature. For instance, the laurus6nus, (Viburnum
tinus, Lin.), a native of the country near Rome, &c. most
commonly supports the winter's cold at Edinburgh and Greenock,
whereas this shrub is frequently killed by the winter's cold at
Larbert, and I think also at Glasgow.
Harbours, River, and small Streams.-The tide rises in the Carron, as high as the Carron Iron-works, i. e. the surface of high water is nearly on a level with the lowest point of the water-wheels. The village of Carronshore (formerly Qua-role shore) was a port of some little consequence, rising on the ruin of the harbour of Airtli, as it has declined under the more favourably situate Grangemouth. Carronshore is still employed by the Carron Company, for the landing lime and ironstone, and there is a dry dock used by the same company; a double-way iron rail-road connects it with the Carron Iron-works. The river is capable of bearing vessels of 150 tons burden as high as Carronsliore, and even up to the iron-works at spring-tides; but the winding of the river makes the operation of tracking tedious and uncertain. The deposit on the banks is a fat black loam, and sea-dikes are maintained to protect the low land. These are frequently injured at some of the acute windings of the stream, when the spring-tide is accompanied by a gale from the north wind. Above the Carron Iron-works, the bed of the river is rocky, showing sections of the strata of sandstone belonging to the coal-field, covered in many places by grey gravel which has been borne down by the spates. Salmon formerly abounded in the Carron, but that valuable article of food has been banished by the Carron works and other works, which have dammed up the water, and diverted the stream from its natural course, and thereby prevented the salmon from going up the river to spawn. A small stream, the Chapelburn, rising in the centre of the parish, after a run of about a mile and a-half, falls into the Carron, above Carronshore. Even this streamlet is forced into the service of trade, and turns two mills in its course. The small part of the Pow of Airth, which forms, for a short distance, one of the boundaries of the parish, is winding and sluggish. Although not exceeding fourteen feet in breadth, it is only fordable after a long course of dry weather.
The perennial springs in the parish are naturally
good, but the surface springs, and those near the surface, have
been in many places cut off, in the lower part of the parish,
by the coal-workings. There can be little doubt, that a supply
of water might be obtained by boring below the floor of the deepest
pits, when water might be found, whose spring-heads lie in the
Geology-Alluvial Deposits-The Carron, from Dunipace to Dorrator and Stenhouse, runs in a flattish haugh, which varies in breadth in different places. This haugh is bounded on each side by sloping banks of sand. The inclination of these banks is various The top of the banks near the Carron Iron-works is about 75 feet above the level of the sea. From the top of the bank, the surface of the ground extends, in some places nearly level, in others at different angles of elevation, to the low hills which bound the valley. These banks are the section, or, in other words, the face of the alluvial deposit which, on the left bank of the river, extends back to the sandstone heights of the Torwood. In some parts of the Torwood, the sandstone is at the surface and bare. The sand-stone is also bare and comes to-day in some parts of the bed of the river, as at Larbert bridge. This alluvial deposit, of which the haugh is an excavation, was probably formed in the sea, at a remote period, anterior to all historical record; the land, as several geologists maintain, having been afterwards heaved up to its present height, by the action of the melted matter in the interior of the globe. Such elevations of the land in some cases happen very slowly and gradually, as the elevation of the land of Sweden on the shores of the Baltic, which is now observed to be going on. That an elevation of the land has taken place in Britain, at a period subsequent to the deposition of alluvium, is inferred from the ancient sea-beaches or sea-strands, marked by oyster and other shells, which are found 30 or 40 feet, or more, above the level of the sea at many places of the coast.
After the sand and other alluvial matter was deposited by the sea, forming an alluvial bank, part of it has been carried away by the stream of the river and the tides, so as to form the haugh at the Carron, and through this haugh the river now runs. The river, in the course of ages, has gradually changed its course to different parts of the haugh, according to the various obstacles which the stream met with. At Dunipace, the river has worn away much of the alluvial deposit, so that the haugh at that place is a pretty extensive piece of level ground. In this piece of level ground, the river has left two insulated mounts, which are part of the alluvial deposit.
Sand.-In some of the sandy
parts of the alluvial deposit, the sand is in fine grains without
admixture of small stones. This fine sand is employed for sand-moulding
at the Carron Iron-works. Other parts of the alluvial deposit
consist of coarser sand, of small gravel, of mixtures of clay
and sand called till, and in some places of clay.
Boulders.-Boulders, i. e. large stones rounded by attrition i~ water, are found, but not in great number. Most of them are of rocks belonging to the trap formation, fragments probably of the rocks of the adjacent Kilsyth bills, in which bills the Carron has its source. There occur a few quartzose boulders from primitive schistose rocks, but these are much fewer in number than the boulders of trap formation. Near Stenhouse, Carronhall, and Kinnaird, the alluvial banks of sand lie upon the extensive alluvial deposit of clay, of which the carse of Bothkennar and of Falkirk consists. This deposit of clay is of considerable depth in some places, and lies upon coal measures, the coal of which is worked in different places A few feet under the surface of the ground in the carse, is found a stratum of shells of oyster, mussel, and other species, similar to the species of shells found in the adjacent seas.
At Stenhouse, Carronhall, and Kinnaird, which overlook
the carse, the aspect of the alluvial banks is towards the Frith
of Forth; and from. the situation of these banks it may be conjectured,
that they were formerly the shore of the frith, at a time when
the flat surface of the carse was covered by the sea, and when.
the haugh of the Carron was a bay, estuary, or. tide-river.
Sandstone and Coal-measures.-Under the
whole of the alluvial deposit is sandstone and the accompanying
coal-measures; and in these coal-measures, several valuable seams
of coal are worked at Carronhall and Kinnaird. The coal-measures
also contain strata of balls of clay ironstone, which are worked.
These strata of ironstone contain impressions of the trunks and
stalks of various fossil plants of extinct species, amongst which
are found several of the species described in the fossil flora
of Brongniart, and in that of Lindley and Hutton; amongst which,
are plants analogous to the tree-fern of the West Indies and to
other tropical species, and which, together with the other plants
of which the remains form the coal seams, grew, it would
appear, at or near this point of the earth's surface, at a remote
geological period, before the globe had cooled down to its present
temperature, and when the temperature at this place was as warm
as it is now within the tropic
It was the abundance of coal and ironstone in the
adjacent country which, in 1766, induced Messrs Roebuck, Garbet,
and Cadells,. the original proprietors of the Carron Company,
to establish the. extensive iron-smelting works of that C6mpany
in this parish..
Coal-Measures.-. The whole
of the eastern part of tile parish is well stored with coal. Five
seams have been discovered, and more or less worked. The lowest
of these seams crops out in tile western part of the Kinnaird
and Carron Hall properties. The dip is usually to the north-east,
and the coal field is intersected by several dikes; one large
one runs through whole fields.
The following is a list of the seams of coal and
stone, as they occur. Under from 6 to 16 feet of slate clay, called
in the country Blae,, (probably from its colour,) and a post of
sandstone rock, lies the Jar, two feet coal, about 2 feet in thickness.
This seam is not valuable in itself, but has frequently been wrought
on account of fire clay of excellent quality, which lies near
it. Passing through nine fathoms of different stone metals, and
a white free sandstone above the coal, is,. 2d, the crow
coal, of three feet in thickness, of the sort named cubical, a
valuable, clear burning, house-hold coal. Again, nine fathoms
of mixed metals occur, and under a strong freestone is, 3d,
the main coal, of three feet two inches thickness. The upper
part of this seam is fine splint. The lower part 15 strong cubical
coal mixed with ribs of splint. Fourteen fathoms lower, is 4~A,
the Cox road coal; and 5th, the lower Cox road, at a farther
depth of ten feet. But these two seams are very irregular. In
some places, the two are found distinct, and of a thickness of
from eighteen to thirty inches each. In other places, one of the
seams is lost. Above the higher seam of Cox road, some ball-iron
stone of excellent quality is found. The 3d, or main coal, is
well adapted for cooking, as is one of the Cox road seams, although
it is of less value, from its being frequently intersected by
horizontal lamina of very hard sandstone. This coal has been worked
from the crop from time immemorial, but it was not till the establishment
of Carron Iron-works that it was worked from the dip.
The first steam-engine on this coal-field was erected
by Mr Dundas of Carron Hall, in the year 1760.4 The
collieries of Carron Hall and Kinnaird are now in the hands of
the Carron Company, who employ about 150 mining colliers.
Sandstone-A fine freestone, i. e. sandstone, was formerly obtained at Carron Hall, situated considerably above the highest seam of coal. This quarry bas been filled up. The stone found under the seams of coal, that is, in the western part of the parish, is of a very inferior nature. The stone for building is therefore brought from a considerable distance.
Ironstone-Several strata of ironstone are found in the coal. measures in this parish, and in the adjacent country ; and the ironstone from these strata is wrought and smelted at the Carron Iron-works. The ironstone of tile coal-measures is arranged by some chemists under the name of amorphous lithoidal carbonate of iron.
This kind of ironstone has long been smelted with coke in Staffordshire, Shropshire, and other parts of England and Wales, and at Carron, in this parish, since 1760. But the iron in other parts of Europe is obtained by smelting other kinds of iron ore, and not from the ironstones of the coal measures.
The smelting of the ironstone of the coal-measures has been only recently introduced into France, namely, about 1816, when a blast-furnace, after the model of the English ones, was erected at St Etienne, by a company of proprietors there, to smelt in the English way the ironstone which is found in the coal-measures at St Etienne. English blast-furnaces, however, were erected at Creuzot, 12 miles south of Autun, by the brother of the great English iron-master, John Wilkinson, about 1780; but they did not use the ironstone of the coal-measures.
in the east end of the parish is, for the most part, good. It
may be rated at a rent of from six to eight bushels of wheat per
acre. A belt of above a mile it) breadth crosses the centre of
the parish, nearly from north to south. This is of a light sandy
nature, with a subsoil of till, a most untoward association, white
sand and till. The land again improves to the westward.
Draining of Arable
Land. -- The modern improved method of draining is
now, in 1837, 1838, 1839, 1840, &c. much practised in the
parish, and all the country round. The drain is made as deep as
the declivity to carry off the water, will allow. One of these
drains is made in each furrow of the ploughed field. A line of
tiles is placed at the bottom of the drain to form the channel,
in which the water runs. About 1837, a considerable tile-work
for making drain tiles was established by Mr Stirling of Glenbervie,
on the beds of clay in the low ground near the Poo. Two or three
years after, another tile-work for making drain tiles was established
near the same place by Mr Bauchop.
Mosses in Pasture-That
species of moss, called by botanists Hypnum squarrosum;
and some other species of Hypnum, alt which mosses
are named fog in this part of the country, are very frequent
in our pastures. They abound on dry sandy soils, as well as on
moist ground. These mosses are not nutritive to cattle. It is
said that black-cattle and sheep, when they have taken a mouthful
of grass mixed with moss, reject the moss, and throw it out of
their mouth, and swallow the grass and other nutritious plants
The seeds of these hypna are very small grains, which
have the appearance of a fine dust or powder. These seeds are
shed and widely diffused by the wind. They (all everywhere, and
spring up into mosses in every field.
The mosses increase in quantity as the pasture gets
older, and after some years have elapsed, the quantity of moss
in the pasture is greater in weight than the quantity of grasses
and other nutritive plants. The pasture now contain little grass,
and is unfit for feeding cattle advantageously.
To destroy the moss, and bring the field again into
good pasture, the ground must be ploughed and subjected to a rotation
of crops for five or six years, and at the end of that time again
laid down in grass. It thus happens, that in our climate old pastures
are unfit for feeding cattle advantageously, being overgrown with
mosses, and containing little grass, whilst in different parts
of England, some degrees farther south than our parallel, the
warmth, and other circumstances, being less favourable to the
propagation of mosses, and more favourable to the growth of grass,
an old pasture Is composed of spontaneous grasses and other nutritive
plants, affording abundant food for cattle. With us, the spontaneous
plants in an old pasture are chiefly mosses, and the pasture affords
little food. There, the spontaneous plants are grasses and other
nutritive species, affording abundance of food. In Holland, also,
in parallels 3½ and 4 degrees south of our parallel of 56o
1', the old pastures give abundance of food fit for fattening
Forest Trees.-The district,
of which Larbert forms a part, is not considered to be highly
favourable to the growth of timber. On the table-land of the parish,
there is a young wood of some 40 acres, and some smaller plantations.
The fir seldom attains sixty years on that soil, and there are
no trees of a large size. In the lower part of the parish, are
some trees of a very large size, in the Park of Kinnaird. Near
the House, are some oaks of a large girth, and a fine avenue of
limes. Near the House of Carron Hall, stands a Wych elm, of singular
beauty, which, at 54 feet from the ground, girths 166 inches,
or nearly -14 feet. There are also several Huntingdon willows5
of nearly 12 feet girth. The timber of the Huntingdon willow is
of great value, combining toughness with lightness; and, in the
deep soil of the Carse, the growth is so rapid, that a willow
having been cut down in the year 1806, two shoots were allowed
to remain till the spring of 1821. The remaining tree now girths
70 inches, and contains at least 45 feet of timber. In the light
soil of the upper part of the parish, the Huntingdon willow does
not grow to so great a size as in the Carse. We subjoin a note
of the growth of six trees, measured at different periods, to
ascertain the rate of increase
Note of Trees growing at Carron Hall. Girths
|Measurement of at
5½ feet from the ground
|Wide topped oak||48||53¼||54||56¾||64½|
|Beech No 1||56||65||66||69½||76½|
|Beech No 2||50||54||54½||55½||60|
|Plane or Sycamore||118||120|
It is worthy of remark, that the two beeches stand within 20 feet of each other, and that No.1 continues to thrive, whilst its neighbour has a less healthy appearance.
Bishop Watson says, as soon as a tree is worth a guinea, the most profitable plan is to cut it down. This we may suppose to have been an oak of seven to eight feet, solid measure; and such the Bishop, who took great pleasure in his woods, deemed ripe for the axe.
The oak in this climate does not grow to the size which it attains
in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, and other
parts of England. There was, however, 50 years ago, a remarkable
oak in this neighbourhood on the lands of Blairs, two miles north
of Larbert. It was called Wallace's tree, When I saw it about
1794, there remained only a part of the outer shell and a branch
with a few green leaves on it. The tree had been long hollow.
The capacity of the hollow might be such as to contain a man or
two. As the time when Wallace lived was about 500 years before
1794, and the lifetime of a very old oak may be considered to
be not above 500 years, it follows that the tree, if it existed
in his time, must have been then very young, and therefore, it
had not at that time formed a large and hollow trunk in which
Wallace might conceal himself, as the popular story asserted that
he did. The great hollow oak of 1790, if it was in existence in
1290, was then very young.