Slamannan is one of the original parishes of the Falkirk district that were created some time in the 12th century. In 1176 the church was one of 33 in the decantus de Linlithgow. It is dedicated to St Lawrence and occasionally the parish is referred to by this name. The church lay at an important crossing point of the River Avon, which was guarded by a small wooden fortification built on an artificial hill known as a motte. In the 13th century the Malherbe family are recorded as the barons of Slamannan. The barony changed hands a number of times and at the end of the 14th century was possessed by the Sandilands, who kept it for centuries. The Livingston family also had an interest in the area. A small agricultural settlement was attracted to the location, but was hardly worth calling a village. Although minor transactions were conducted here, Falkirk remained the nearest market town.
The parish continued to have a small dispersed agricultural community until the beginning of the 19th century, when part of this population was displaced from the land by the enclosure system. These agricultural improvements led to a demand for services such as blacksmiths, cartwrights, carpenters, masons and so on, and the tradesmen settled in the village near the church. It was at this time that the local coal began to be exploited on a large scale to fire the furnaces of the Carron Iron Works. The opening of the Slamannan Railway in 1840 led to the rapid exploitation of the whole coalfield. The following years were boom years with the population increasing rapidly as hundreds of miners were attracted by the work. Pits and miner’s rows sprang up all around Slamannan and the village catered to their demands. It now took on the appearance of a real village with bakers, grocers, clothiers, tailors, shoemakers, saddlers and so on. In 1860 the miners set up their own Co-op shop. Gas lighting was provided in 1855. The built up area extended southwards and handsome hotels were erected at the Cross – the St Lawrence in 1846 and the Royal in 1866. The village was at the height of its prosperity.
Consolidation followed. The Slamannan Co-op opened branches at the Station in 1873, Loanrigend in 1877, Limerigg in 1881 and Avonbridge in 1893. Villas were built at the south end of the village and a bank established.
Inevitably the boom of the mid 19th century turned into decline at the end of the century. The coal became harder to extract and less financially rewarding. The scale of mining lessened and by the 1920s there was only a handful of independent mines left to eke out the remnants. Miners moved, some to America in search of gold; the population declined and shops closed. The First World War did nothing to lift the gloom and 52 parishioners gave their lives.
Mining continued on a smaller scale and the remaining population settled down to work the land. In the Second World War many of the women were bussed to Nobel’s works in Westquarter and the miners formed a Home Guard unit. A sense of pride was instilled and in the 1950s and 1960s a council house scheme improved living conditions.
Today the village is essentially an attractive commuter settlement with people working in Falkirk and further afield. There is plenty of the past visible – the 12th century motte remains, the church was rebuilt in 1810, Balquhatstone House with its 18th century doocot lies on the edge of the village. At the centre stands the Boer War clock memorial, which impresses travellers passing through.
Geoff Bailey (2006)