Statement of Special Interest
The bridge and store were built about 1820 when the canal was under construction. The bridge is number 23 in the series of 62 fixed masonry bridges of plain but elegant design on the Union Canal, numbered from east to west, most carrying minor roads across the water. They were built between 1817 and 1822.
Although one of a series it is relatively unusual because while many have iron railings, this bridge has solid masonry parapets. It is also rare because apart from the re-surfacing of the road, it remains largely unaltered. In addition, a storehouse with good simple detailing is built into the wing wall on the north side. By no means every bridge along the canal has an associated building of this sort. The store was possibly for the feed for the horses which pulled the barges, suggested by the presence of oval ventilation openings in the walls. A number of stores for building materials were constructed along the course of other Scottish canals but the small size of this one would have made it impractical for use as such.
The Ordnance Survey 1st edition map (1856) indicates a further building stood to the north of the bridge and store and may well have been stabling. This had disappeared by 1897 (Survey 2nd edition map). A small basin lies to the east of the bridge and confirms that this was a passing and turning place for barges or for off-loading goods and a resting place for the animals.
Together the bridge, store and basin make a good group and a significant addition to the landscape at this point on the canal.
The canal was the brainchild of the surveyor and civil engineer, Hugh Baird, with advice from the eminent Thomas Telford. Hugh Baird (1770-1827) succeeded his father as surveyor to the Forth & Clyde Canal in 1807 and in 1812 was appointed resident engineer to the Forth & Clyde Canal Company. He was involved with schemes as early as the 1790s for a canal which would link Edinburgh with Glasgow but these were not carried out. In 1813 he was commissioned to draw up plans for a canal linking Edinburgh to the Forth & Clyde Canal. At a meeting of the subscribers at the Star Inn, Glasgow on 21 September 1813, the plans were 'highly approven of'.
Although he had worked on the Ulverston Canal in Cumbria and the Forth & Clyde Canal, his major work was the Union Canal. He is credited with the design of the structures along the canal including the three major aqueducts as well as the technical engineering work such as the canal feeder system.
The canal system in the United Kingdom was developed in the late 18th and early 19th century to satisfy the demand by industrialists for an economic and reliable way to transport goods and commodities in large quantities. The canals played a vital role in the Industrial Revolution at a time when goods carried by sea were subject to a duty thus making them very expensive and bad roads hampered the hundreds of pack horses and carts that trundled into the industrial centres each day.
The Union Canal was authorised through Act of Parliament of 1817 and completed in 1822. It is therefore the last of Scotland's great canals to be built and benefitted from the experience gained from building the other canals. Its purpose was to bring principally coal but also limestone, ironstone and sandstone into Edinburgh from the rich deposits of these minerals in Falkirk and West Lothian. It was also hoped that the canal would also attract passenger traffic. It was funded through a combination of subscriptions collected before the project began and shares sold afterwards. The eventual cost was almost double Baird's original estimate. It is Scotland's only contour canal following the ground at a height of 240 feet above sea level for its entire 31½ miles until it reaches the west end where there was a series of (now buried) locks near Port Downie on the Forth & Clyde Canal. A year after its completion the canal was extended westwards to reduce the distance passengers were required to walk between the two canals. (The locks were replaced by the Falkirk Wheel in 2000). Although the canal was a commercial venture, it struggled to pay its way.
Because of its relatively late date, the Union was barely 20 years old when the railways took away much of the passenger traffic and other functions and by 1849 it was in the ownership of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway Company.
Statutory address and listed building record updated as part of the Scottish Canals estate review, (2013-14).
Ordnance Survey. (1856) First Edition map, Linlithgow, surveyed 1854. 25 inches to the mile. London: Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey. (1897) Second Edition map, Linlithgow, surveyed 1895. 25 inches to the mile. London: Ordnance Survey.
Massey, A. (1983) The Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal. Falkirk: Falkirk District Council, Department of Libraries and Museums
RCAHMS. (2002) The Union Canal, RCAHMS Broadsheet 8, Edinburgh: RCAHMS.
Skempton, A. et al. eds. (2002) A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland. Volume I 1500-1830. London: Thomas Telford.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/canmore.html CANMORE ID 49288
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Printed: 18/01/2019 09:54