(1700 – 1850)
This small settlement grew up next to the River Carron to take advantage of fishing on the river and in the Forth Estuary, as well as cultivating the better-drained land to the north. By the mid 17th century local coal was being exported to Holland and up the east coast using boats of 20-60 tons burden. A ferry was provided across the River Carron to convey travellers on the road from Falkirk to Airth and on to Perth.
In the early 18th century the number of inhabitants increased due to the exploitation of the coalfield on the Quorrole Estate (Carronhall). Waggonways from the pits led to Quarroleshore – the bend in the river known as the “shore” or harbour. To help to maintain this trade a small boatyard was established at the mouth of the Pow to undertake repair work and soon started building vessels. The first of several rope works was set up to provide rigging and fishing nets. The King’s Cellar was built and acted as a customs house for the small port, holding items upon which tax was due. Smuggling was rife.
By the mid century Carronshore was prospering and taking trade away from Airth. The new landowner, Thomas Dundas promoted the port. Alex Fiddes built a huge warehouse to expand the import business. The port now served the burgh of Falkirk, which had previously landed its goods a little down the river at the Salt Pow. Continental trade increased and Carronshore was able to tap into the tobacco route across central Scotland from Glasgow.
By 1759 there was a motley collection of ships based at the port and the village had 30 or so substantial houses belonging to merchants, mariners and related tradesmen. Then the Carron Company arrived and took over the lease of the harbour, changed its name to Carronshore, and stepped up the scale of operations. A new stone-built wharf with cranes was constructed at the east end of the village for the company’s exclusive use. Behind the wharf arose a substantial warehouse known as the “granary”. Attached to it was a stately home for Charles Gascoigne, the manager of the Garbett Shipping Company. Nearby they created further stores, workshops, a smithy, a carpenter’s yard and a pitch works with a rope walk. A dry dock enabled the company’s boats to be overhauled. To cope with the increased level of activity the Carron Company brought in more workers and built new houses at the north end of the village. In 1783 the population was put at 730.
The Carron Company used the harbour for importing raw materials such as iron ore and limestone. The latter could be processed in a kiln next to the river before it was forwarded to the works. This must have been a large kiln to furnish the works with its daily requirements. Waggonways now led from the new wharf and the old harbour to the Carron Works along the Mine Dyke. Finished products such as cannons and fireplaces were brought from the works for passage to London and the southern markets. The river was straightened and widened down stream in 1767-70, thus allowing vessels of large burden to reach Carronshore. By 1780 ships up to 150 tons were able to make this journey with ease. Twenty years later this had increased to 200 tons. To further trade at the port the Carron Company promoted a canal across the centre of Scotland from Glasgow to Carronshore. Whilst it succeeded in getting the Forth & Clyde Canal built in the 1770s, other commercial interests got its eastern terminus placed at Grangemouth instead.
Carron Company employed good shipbuilders at Carronshore to build its own fleet of schooners that served them well. In 1801 the yard was also entrusted with the fitting of the steam engine into the Charlotte Dundas, which then made its first voyage under steam on the river. However, the Forth & Clyde Canal now meant that the Glasgow trade bypassed the port and as vessels grew in size Carronshore was unable to compete. In 1850 Carron Company officially transferred the bulk of its shipping business to Grangemouth and the village went into decline.
Geoff Bailey (2005)