Headswood Chemical Works

Illus: 1861/62 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Headswood Dye Works was located on the lower reaches of the Little Denny Burn beside the main Falkirk to Denny road.  The first edition Ordnance Survey map does not show any lades or mill ponds but clearly water was used in the chemical processes and it would normally power grinding operations. 

In the early 1860s the dye works of the Headswood Chemical Works was run by Gaff and Maxwell.  This copartnery was dissolved in November 1865 and the business was continued by Robert Maxwell.  Before long he took George Shand, writer in Denny, and Archibald Thomas Gray, papermaker and drysalter of Denny, into partnership under the company name of R Maxwell and Co.  However, the business did not succeed and in March 1871 the three partners had their estates sequestered.  The dye works were put up for sale:

“The GOODWILL, LEASE, BUILDINGS, MACHINERY, and PLANT of the HEADSWOOD CHEMICAL WORK, near DENNY, in the County of Stirling, as occupied by R. Maxwell & CO, Manufacturing Chemists there.

The Works have been long established, and until recently in full operation.  They have been hitherto used, and are specially adapted for the manufacture of Wood, Charcoal, Vegetable Naptalia, Acetate of Lime, & c, and for Mordant Liquors, used by Printers and Dyers.  The business done in them has been a profitable one.  The Buildings are commodious and substantial.  There are upon the premises Four large Malleable Iron Retorts, with extensive Copper Connections, and Condensing Apparatus attached; Stills, with Copper Heads, Copper Pumps, Tanks, vats, Puncheons, & c, and all the Plant necessary for the Business.

A Purchaser would be allowed to take the Stock of Seasoned Wood and Charcoal upon the ground, at a valuation, which would enable him to begin manufacturing immediately on entering upon possession.

The Landlord is willing to grant a New Lease on favourable terms, on the expiry of the present tack…”

(Scotsman 17 May 1871, 1).

The next tenant was a Mr Fulton, but the works soon closed permanently.  In 1878 the buildings were extended and converted into the Headswood Laundry evidently still making use of the ample supply of water.  This company prospered and after 24 years moved to new premises in Falkirk, retaining its name.

National Grid Reference

Headswood Chemical WorksNS 8295 8183

G.B. Bailey, 2022