PARISH OF POLMONT.
PRESBYTERY OF LINLITHGOW, SYNOD OF LOTHIAN AND
THE REV. JOHN KER, MINISTER.
I.-TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY.
Name, Boundaries, &c.-The etymology of Polmont is uncertain. Most probably,
it is derived from a Celtic word, signifying pool of the moor, in allusion to the ancient
state of the low part of the parish, which, though now highly cultivated and very fertile,
bears abundant traces of its once having been covered with water. Its greatest length is
about six miles and a-half, and its utmost breadth about 3 miles. It is bounded on the
north, by the Frith of Forth; on the east, partly by the river Avon, which separates the
county of Stirling from the county of Linlithgow, and partly by the parish of
Muiravonside; on the south, by Muiravonside and Slamanan parishes; and on the west, by the
parish of Falkirk.
Its general appearance is rich, varied, and beautiful. It is divided usually into two
parts. The lower portion, which forms the Carse, is flat, and too valuable to bear any
thing but grain; but the higher portion, which is termed the dryfield, is undulating,
well-wooded, and adorned with many handsome villas, and mansion houses. The Carse is on a
level with the sea, and would still be flooded by the tide, were it not protected by a
strong embankment. The dryfield rises gradually, till it reaches the extreme height of
about 558 feet, where is obtained a very extensive prospect, and remarkable both for its
beauty and grandeur.
Meteorology.-The yearly depth of rain, on an average of seventeen years,
from 1821 to 1837, is 31.81 inches. The district is very healthy. Though in one part of
the parish, the cottages are far from being comfortable, being built generally of turf and
clay, and the population considerable, if not crowded, there is very rarely any epidemic,
even when prevalent in the villages of some of the adjoining parishes.
Geology and Mineralogy -The minerals are both abundant and valuable, consisting
of freestone, coal, ironstone, with fire-clay.
The freestone, which is the only rock, extends nearly throughout the whole of the
parish. The dip of the strata generally is to the north-east, except when their position
is altered by a dike which traverses one part of the parish, as exemplified in Brighton's
Quarry, when the strata in consequence dip to the north-west. This is the only quarry
which is at present in operation. Recently it has been, and is still wrought to a great
extent, on account of the increase of demand for stone, occasioned chiefly by the
projected railway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The quality of the rock is good, the
colour brownish. Stones of any size can be procured. But preparations are making for
opening another quarry at Battock. The freestone here forms a lower bed than what is found
at Brighton's. It is of a white colour, and is hard and durable. The dip of the strata is
to the north west.
The coal is situated in different parts of the parish. The prevailing dip of the strata
is to the north-east, rising, consequently, to the south-west, with an inclination of 1 in
12. The coal-field is intersected by several slips or dislocations, by which the strata
are depressed in some instances many fathoms. Hence it frequently happens, that the seams
of coal on the one side of a slip are not found on the other, being either thrown off, or
thrown down to so great a depth, as to render the working of them impracticable, while new
seams are often superinduced. Two main slips have been ascertained. These run from
north-west to south-east. Besides, a great number of smaller slips have been discovered in
sinking the coal; yet, on the whole, the coal-field, compared with many others, may be
considered a clear field.
About half a mile west from Brighton's Quarry, one of the main slips is met with, which throws down the coal to the westward about 20 fathoms; and about three-quarters of a mile to the west of the first, is the second main slip, by which the coal is depressed to the westward upwards of 30 fathoms.
The first coal, found to the east of the first main slip, consists of two seams. The upper seam is about 10 or 14 fathoms below the surface, and is of a soft caking quality. Here it is from 34 to 36 inches thick, though, between the two main slips, it does not exceed 21 inches. Beneath this seam about 8 fathoms is the lower one; it is 4½ feet thick, and its quality is inferior, because there are several ribs of stone in it. Immediately above this seam
there are two or three bands of ironstone, which has been long wrought by the Carron
Company and others, and is now nearly exhausted. But, besides these seams, it is proved
that there are other two of considerably greater depth, which have not yet been opened up.
In the part of the field which extends between the two main slips, there occurs above
the seams already described, to the eastward of the first main slip, a seam of soft coal,
and it is the only one, excepting the seam just below the ironstone, which for many years
has been wrought.
To the westward of the second main slip, the first seam, which is limited to this part
of the field, is to be found only in the higher grounds, and is of very partial extent. It
is from 4 to 5 feet thick, of excellent quality, and rarely more than eight fathoms
beneath the surface; but it is now almost wrought out. The second seam, which is also
peculiar to this part of the field, and found from 25 to 35 fathoms below the surface, is
the splint coal; it is 34 inches thick, and the quality is good. Below this seam 14
fathoms is the soft coal, previously mentioned, of 32 inches thick, and likewise of fine
quality. Besides the seams occurring in the eastern part of the field, it is ascertained
that here there is another, 30 inches thick, 46 fathoms under the soft coal ; but to it
there have hitherto been no sinkings.
The coal proprietors are, the Duke of Hamilton; William Johnstone, Esq. of Meadowbank ; and John G. Drummond, Esq. of Abbotsgrange. To the first, belongs the Redding Colliery; to the second, the Middlerig Colliery; and to the last, the Shielhill Colliery. The Redding Colliery is conducted on the largest scale. The coals from the pits are raised by steam-engines, and conveyed to the Union Canal by a railway with inclined planes; one of these being upwards of 800 yards in length, and at which can be let down at one time from 10 to 12 tons. The splint and soft coals are those which are at present wrought, and sent chiefly to the Edinburgh market. The output varies, of course, in amount with the demand. But the quantity must be always very great, as there are employed at the Redding and Middlerig Collieries tip upwards of 400 men,- miners, labourers, and artificers, besides drawers, an office performed usually by boys, and by women or girls. Of the Shielhill Colliery, the Carron Company are lessees; and though at one period it was carried on very extensively, they have removed, meanwhile, their workmen almost entirely to the neighbouring parish of Falkirk.
The soil is of divers kinds. In the Carse, it consists of clay, of great depth, and of fine quality; being entirely without stones, and obviously an alluvial deposit, both from the number of marine shells with which it abounds, and from the general elevation of the surface not being above the rise of the tide. In the dryfield, it is chiefly of a gravelly or sandy nature, though in some places it is composed of clay, and in others of moss.
Zoology.-The population is too dense to admit of game being plenty. But all the common varieties are found, and some of those which might scarcely be expected in this district, such as the red and black grouse, and the wild duck. The squirrel is frequently met with,- more rarely the otter. Besides the more ordinary descriptions of birds, there are the jay, the sparrow-hawk, the common owl, and the water hen, while we have occasional visits of the wild-goose and the heron. In the Avon, numbers of sea-trout of good size are caught in the spring and autumn ; but salmon very seldom.
Botany.-The wild plants are numerous but not rare. I am not aware of one which
is worthy of being specified, except the Osmunda regalis, or flowering fern, which
is found on the banks of the Avon. All the species, both of fir and of hardwood, thrive
well, but the last are chiefly grown. An attempt has been made to introduce some of the
varieties of the Canadian apple, viz. the Pomme grise and the fameuse, by Mr
Logan of Clarkstone, but not with much success, in consequence of our summers being
generally too cold to bring the fruit to maturity.