Early mentions of the place that came to be known as Bonnybridge name it as Ford of Bonny (Fuird of Bonny 1648) The part of the village on the south side of the River Bonny was also known as Bonnywater while the part on the north side was called Water of Bonny. The earliest record for the modern name comes from 1682 when it appears as Bonniebridge which may give some indication of the period in which the first bridge there was built. Bonnywater lay in the barony of Seabegs while Water of Bonny was in the lands of Seamore, a division of the barony of South Herbertshire. Throughout the greater part of its history the southern portion lay in the Parish of Falkirk as did the northern one until the seventeenth century when the parish of Denny was created. Bonnybridge only became an independent parish in 1878.
There are indications that a settlement has existed near the river crossing for several centuries. A motte structure, probably dating from the twelfth century, which lies within the grounds of Antonine Primary School, along with early mentions of St Helens Chapel in the area would seem to support this. Certainly, by the 1780s it is evident that a population large enough to warrant a school was living there and in the immediate vicinity.
The Radical Pend (photograph: Ronnie Blackadder)
A little way to the south east of Bonnybridge is Roughcastle Roman fort. It lies on a tract of land called Bonnymuir whereon the Falkirk Trysts were held for a short period after the division of Reddingrig and it was while the fairs were held there that the great bagpipe competitions began. It was on that muir in 1820 that a group of Radicals led by Andrew Hardie were confronted by Hussars in the action that came to be known as the Battle of Bonnymuir. The tunnel underneath the canal has long been associated with thsi event and today bears a plaque naming it ‘The Radical Pend’.
Industrial Bonnybridge around 1860
The coming of the Forth & Clyde Canal caused Bonnybridge to grow and become a centre for industrial production. Iron-founding was important and the firm of Smith and Wellstood became prominent in that sphere. Chemical manufacturing and whisky distilling were also practiced close to the canal. Refractory brick making was also significant, an activity based on the presence of large quantities of fireclay found in association with the coal levels. The refractory brickworks were related to the railways rather than the canal. Bonnybridge was particularly well served by rail. The Edinburgh to Glasgow line runs on the south of High Bonnybridge and the Carlisle to Perth line on the north side. An important junction joins the two lines at Greenhill where, formerly, were large marshalling yards and a creosoting works for the preparation of railway sleepers and telegraph poles. A small engine shed was also in operation there in the first half of the twentieth century. The village of Greenhill originated as a railway village.ybridge and the Carlisle to Perth line on the north side. An important junction joins the two lines at Greenhill where, formerly, were large marshalling yards and a creosoting works for the preparation of railway sleepers and telegraph poles. A small engine shed was also in operation there in the first half of the twentieth century. The village of Greenhill originated as a railway village.
Industrial Bonnybridge around 1900
St Helen’s Church
Bonnybridge Public Hall
John Reid (2005)