Middle Ages to Post-Reformation.        Back to History Menu

(updated 14/01/2006)


After the Romans left things remained quiet until the Middle Ages (around the 11th and 12th Centuries).

At this time a special type of defensive castle was built at Seabegs called a 'motte and bailey' castle.

It would have looked like this but probably much smaller.

Notice the ditch surrounding the higher land in the middle.

The castle would have been built on top surrounded by a high fence.

Both the castle and fence were made of wood and can no longer be seen, but the hill can still be seen near Singer's Place. It is only about 9 feet high now, but used to be over 20 feet and was at least 60 feet long and 40 feet wide.

The hill used to be called Chapel Hill as it was near the site of the first Catholic Chapel in Bonnybridge - called St Helen's.


You can see where the 'motte' is from this map - it is just behind Antonine Primary School - in fact it lies within the school grounds!












St Helen's Chapel was probably built about the year 1200 and was used for 300 years until the end of the 16th Century. After the Reformation (around 1560) the church fell into disuse and was finally demolished in 1967 - more than 750 years (and one Reformation) later! The large stone building had been a ruin long before then, however, and some of its stones were used to build Bonnymill at the Radical pend - which is now part of the Old Mill Garage. The old stones are probably still there today in the walls of the garage!

Near the old Chapel was a burial ground called 'Chapel Yard' next to Bridge Street and burials took place there right through until the year 1900. Someone even wrote a poem called 'Bonnybridge' which had the lines:-

"The little churchyard, desolate and lone - But dotted oft with Monumental stone. Names sculptured there enquiring vision greets, Of those who once with pride traversed the streets - of Bonnybridge."

The old burial ground was not very well looked after and, by 1870, nobody knew who owned it, and everyone had forgotten it belonged to the old church of St Helen's. It was very small and had been used over and over again - so much so that when new burials took place old human bones were often dug up and not re-buried. It was said that local children used to play with them! The old burial ground was officially closed in 1915.

But that was not the end of the story! In 1970 the Council proposed to build the new Community Centre over the site of the old graveyard! The ground was cleared and the remaining grave stones buried under the earth - one was dated 1717 and another 1893. So the next time you borrow a spooky book from the new library - look out! You never know who might be looking over your shoulder!

Recently, following representation from local councillor Billy Buchanan, a memorial stone and plaque was raised to commemorate those buried there - particularly "Wee Willie Wyse", a blind boy fiddler who fell into the canal and was drowned and whose body was dug up by grave robbers and taken by canal to Glasgow. However the police were tipped off, the 'resurrectionists' captured and Wee Willie finally laid to rest.

The memorial stone and plaque at the opening ceremony. The plaque was unveiled by Councillor Jim Johnston, Provost of Falkirk in the presence of Cllr Buchanan, Mr Dennis Canavan, MSP and a large number of local people.

Click on the thumbnail pictures to see  larger versions.

The words on the plaque contain a verse written by a local poet
The site of "Wee Willie Wyse's" grave is also marked by a plaque inscribed with a poem by Cllr Buchanan
A short service of dedication was led by Fr Paul Kelly of St Joseph's RC Church and flowers were laid by pupils from the three local primary schools - in this picture Rachel O'Hare from St Joseph's Primary.

After the Reformation there was no other church in Bonnybridge until 1877 when the present Church of Scotland was opened on the 11th November. More information about the Bonnybridge Church can be found HERE.

It is interesting to note that, after a series of name changes, Bonnybridge Parish Church is now known as Bonnybridge St Helen's Church, linking its name back to the old pre-Reformation church up by the motte and bailey castle.

(Click on picture to see large version.)


The Motte and Bailey Castle was the most important building in the whole area and it is said that Robert the Bruce stayed there and visited the old Roman Fort at Rough Castle. When he saw the holes which the Romans had dug and filled with sharpened stakes he thought it was such a good idea that he used it to help defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Another story is that Robert the Bruce was nearly killed by one of the wild white bulls that roamed free around the woods of Castlecary!

Later still the old castle was used as a court - mainly for settling disagreements about who owned the land round about.

In 1553 Mary Queen of Scots granted a charter to Mr Alexander Livingstone of Denny which gave him ownership of the lands of Seabegs, its mill, St Helen's Chapel, Castlecary and Walton - from Rowantree Burn to Cumbernauld. Mr Livingstone was known as the 'Baron of Seabegs!'

Another medieval building in this area was 'Bankier Castle' which once stood on the site of Bankier School in Banknock. Not much is known about this except it was enclose in a round enclosure which was later planted with trees. There is no sign left of the old Bankier House or Castle but some medieval pottery was found when the housing estate was being built around the school.


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