Bonnybridge -Then and Now

A Series of Photographs Illustrating Changes in the Village over Time

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The Radical Pend - named to commemorate the Battle of Bonnymuir in 1820

This is how it was before the bridge was built over the canal and (below) as it looked in 2010.

The Pend was the only way to get from High Bonnybridge to 'low' Bonnybridge for many years - and must have been a real inconvenience.

It is still passable today and some brave (or foolhardy) motorists drove through when the new canal bridge was closed for repairs in October 2010 - a bit risky as a stream also uses the Pend to reach the Bonny Water!


More pictures here.

The Canal Bridge

The first bridge to be built was a lifting 'bascule bridge' in the year 1900 - 110 years before the modern photograph below. The bridge tilted up on both sides to let boats through.

It was a great boon to Bonnybridge as can be seen by the enormous crowds gathered for the opening. Fortunately the bridge was strong enough to take the weight of the crowds - otherwise there could have been quite a disaster.

The modern bridge - built as part of the Millennium Canal development (exactly 100 years later!) is also a 'lifting bridge' - but this time the section of roadway across the canal lifts vertically to allow boats to pass through.

Central Station and Wellpark Terrace.

Bonnybridge Central Station was on the Kilsyth to Bonnybridge railway line and was situated behind the Royal Hotel. The line ran for 14 kilometres, parallel to the Forth and Clyde Canal and the main Edinburgh Glasgow railway - it opened in 1888 and closed in 1964.

The old station has been replaced by very nice gardens (apart from the occasional 'Bucky' bottle!) and the houses of Wellpark Terrace are hidden by the trees. (October 2010)

In the distance (fortunately!) the Royal Hotel is easily seen - but see later photos!

There's more information in the Bonnyfield Nature Reserve Newsletter here.

The Bridge over the River Bonny (cue for a film?)

The Bonny Water runs through a steep gorge at this point and clearly needed to be bridged - possibly as long ago as 1682. There have been several extensions and repairs to the bridge since then - including the repair in 1904 shown in the top photograph.

The modern photograph (October 2010) is quite different with much more traffic and Cowden Hill in the background partly hidden by the growth of mature trees.

The Ford Bridge

Apart from the main road bridge there are a number of footbridges crossing the Bonny Water. The Ford Bridge is one of the earliest and presumably replaces an original 'ford' across the river (a shallow part of the river that could be waded across on foot.)

The bridge lies just below the Memorial Park in the centre of the village and offers quick access to the shops at the Toll. (October 2010)

In the past this area has flooded several times to the extent that the Ford Bridge was actually under water!

The Larbert Road

The older photo has been hand-coloured and shows the road between Bonnybridge and Larbert at the foot of the Drove Loan.

It's easy to see that, apart from a number of 'loft conversions', the buildings and walls in 2010 have remained essentially the same.

The Royal Hotel

There have been at least three different 'Royal Hotels' on this site - basically doing business with passengers from the Central railway station which was situated right behind it. There is a small group of children gathered outside - possibly waiting for a train to go on a trip.

There has been very little change to the structure of the building - a missing 'Royal Hotel Sign' and an extra 'Tennent's Lager' 'T' sign.

However, in all honesty the modern hotel (photographed in October 2010), despite its coat of white paint, looks in much worse condition than in the old photograph - quite a shame, really.

Smithfield, Bonnybridge

This part of Bonnybridge got its name from the fact that the local Smithy was situated across the road from this building. You can find it on this map.

The building to the right of these photographs must be one of the oldest in Bonnybridge - and with one of the worst reputations!

The story goes that there was an alehouse in the building which was frequented by the navvies who built the canal.

They were a rough lot, apparently, and drunkenness and fighting in and around the alehouse were regular occurrences!

Fortunately it's quieter now with fast-food restaurants occupying the ground floor.

The Toll looking along Bridge St towards the canal.

In the past people had to pay to use certain sections of the roads. These were called 'Turnpikes' and the 'Tolls' where were you were stopped to pay your dues.

The amount of these dues depended on how you were travelling or what you were travelling with - a single foot traveller would pay very little, but if you were driving a herd of animals, riding a horse or travelling on a coach the fees would be higher. The idea was that the money gathered would be used to improve the roads (a bit like modern Road Tax, but like modern Road Tax not all the money gathered was actually spent improving the roads!)

It's obvious the young people standing in the middle of the road in the old photograph would not survive for long in the busy traffic of the 2010 photograph.

In the middle distance is the old Temperance Hall which is mentioned below.

The Temperance Hall

For a long time the Temperance Movement was very strong in Scotland. This movement recognised a very real danger in the use of alcohol among poor families who often used drink to help then forget the miserable conditions in which they lived.

Members of the Temperance Movement 'took the pledge' to abstain from drinking alcohol and to help others do the same.

Unfortunately, as you can see, Bonnybridge's conversion to Temperance did not last the test of time and the site of the old Hall is now a temporary car park!

Bonnybridge Toll looking along High St towards Falkirk

The earlier photograph has been taken after the First World War - the granite WWI War Memorial can be clearly seen - but before the Second World War, whose iron monument can be seen on the left edge of the 2010 photograph.

The most striking changes are the mature trees in the 2010 photo but there have also been major changes to the housing.

The cottage to the right of centre in the new photo is the same as the cottage just to the right of the telegraph pole in the centre of the old photo, but all the buildings on either side of the cottage have either been replaced or disappeared entirely!

Bonnybridge's 'West End'

At least, according to the old photograph!

The 'West End' of British towns were always the 'posh' bits where the richer people lived (and still do!)

The reason is down to geography.

In the past factories used a lot of coal and so air pollution from smoke and soot was very bad. (Click on 'More Old Bonnybridge Industry Pics' HERE to see what we mean.)

However the wind across Britain usually blows FROM West TO East - so, if you lived on the west side of the town or village the wind usually blew the smoke and soot AWAY from you and TOWARDS the poorer people who lived in the 'East End'.

Not very fair perhaps, but without it we would not have programmes like 'Eastenders!'

The photos show the road towards Kilsyth from the Cornhill Inn onwards with the bell tower of Bonnybridge St Helen's church in the middle distance.

Some of the nearer cottages on the left have gone but those in the distance still remain.

St Helen's Loch, High Bonnybridge

This rather hidden little loch is probably a man-made dam to provide water for the various industries of High Bonnybridge. Both brickworks and ironworks needed a lot of water for processing and cooling.

Apparently Stein's Brickworks owners stocked the dam with brown trout about 20 or 30 years ago to give their workers somewhere to relax away from their labours, but these seem to have been fished out a long time ago (although it may still be possible to catch large perch in the waters.)

The writer of the 'Bonny Blether' Blog was recently taken to task for publishing the top photo in a series on 'Beautiful Bonnybridge' - the complaint was that the loch was polluted and filled with rubbish.

However the 2010 photograph shows a beautiful scene full of ducks and gulls, and even a heron - which proves there are still fish in the pond!

Nazi aerial photograph of possible bombing target - Bonnybridge Power Station.

Click on the photograph to see a larger version.

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