Carron Inn around 1820 (by Brian Watters from an original)
This hostelry once stood in the small hamlet opposite the Works known as the Carron Inns or latterly, East Carron. An ‘ale house’ stood on the site of the Inn as early as 1763 and the innkeeper then was one Andrew Melvin, who was probably a relative of John Melvin, the former miller at Stenhouse Mill and farmer of the land where the first blast furnaces were built. In about 1772, Carron Company decided to build some worker’s houses next to the ale house and so the area began to take on the appearance of a small village. By 1778, under the auspices of the Company’s managing partner Charles Gascoigne, the ale house itself was ‘built up’ and converted into the Carron Inn at a cost of £236-12-11d Sterling. Water was obtained from a pump installed at the rear of the building, and there was also an extensive kitchen garden there.
The Inn was then sold to one Thomas Stewart, who paid 7½% per year, of the outlay incurred in building the place, until the debt was paid. There was one condition of sale however. If Stewart ever decided to sell the Inn, he had to give Carron Company first refusal. This happened in 1792, when it came back into the Company’s ownership, to be used as a bank. The plan never came to fruition and the property continued to be used for the purpose that it was built for, but under Carron Company ownership. Apart from local trade, the Inn seems to have been used by customers or by visitors to the works. One such guest was physician Jacob Pattison, who, one morning in 1780, arrived at the Inn and had breakfast before being escorted as part of a group around the foundry. Another, Elisabeth Diggle in 1788, wrote: “an engine working that absolutely overpowered one by a louder noise than ever I had heard before & that had waken[ed] me at the Inn in the morning with an idea that it had thundered.” She had been awakened by John Smeaton’s blowing engine!
The most famous visitor was of course Robert Burns, who had breakfast there on the Sunday morning of the 27th August 1787 – the room in which he dined was on the first floor, on the left-hand side. He left a few words of a poem inscribed on one of the windows, but unfortunately that window met its demise years later, when on a stormy night, it was smashed to smithereens. A plan exists of proposed alterations at the Carron Inn in 1820. The alterations were minor and internal, but interestingly enough show that the building abutting the left hand gable-end was in fact the Inn’s ballroom! One local tradition states that a contracting moulder once hired his men here and sealed the deal over a dram. He was known as the ‘King of the Potters’, which tells us that his speciality was casting pots. In those days, the Company would pay the potter (or patter) per pot and he in turn would pay his men. This man, Will McFarlane, was an expert pot moulder who originated from the Highlands. Apparently, after breaking three of his own pots in a fit of pique, he was sent by works manager Joseph Stainton to Stirling jail ‘to cool off’. Stainton is thought to have been a Justice of the Peace, or ‘at least he acted like one’.
By 1804, the changekeeper or innkeeper at the Carron Inn was Thomas Gillespie; in 1836 it was Alexander McKenzie, who was succeeded by his widow, Mrs Ann McKenzie. A Mr Burgess followed, and then it was Richard Horn of Stenhousemuir, who was innkeeper in 1855. He was succeeded by James Aitken, the last of the line. The Carron Inn ceased trading in about 1874, and was converted into worker’s houses; the exterior remaining the same until it was demolished in the 1960s.
Brian Watters (2006)