Ian Scott: Centuries of history have vanished under the glittering streets of Howgate in Falkirk
The name tells us it was the ‘gate’, or road, that runs along the ‘how’ or shallow valley of the West Burn that once flowed past the infirmary and along Cockburn Street.
When he reached the point where the roundabout is today, he turned along Burnhead Lane and towards West Bridge Street.
Near the roundabout there were stepping stones to allow pedestrians to cross the water which was finally channeled underground in 1870 after repeated flooding caused problems for tanners as well as local residents.
Of course, it’s still there, sinking under our feet although there is a bit of it on the surface outside the old infirmary known for a few centuries as Jenny Mair’s Burn.
Jenny was born in 1780 and owned a cottage nearby and used to sit on a chair near the burn spending the time of the day with everyone who came.
She would be delighted to know that we still remember her and that the creek that bears her name has been beautifully restored as part of the refurbishment of the front section of the demolished Royal Infirmary.
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From the roundabout, the Howgate climbed into town where it entered two more lost walled areas, Sword’s Wynd, named after one of the ancient families of Falkirk and Robert’s Wynd that once housed at least two public houses, the famous King’s Head and Guildford Arms.
As early as 1641 James Sworde was a fiscal attorney and bailiff of the Falkirk Court of Justice and many of his descendants held high office in the town and owned farmland in Mungal.
My favorite is Andrew who married a widow named Isabella Brock 1819.
When he died a few years later, he left her a lot of money which she used to buy land at the bottom of Hope Street where she built a new house.
She named it “Brockville” in memory of her first husband James Brock and so it has remained although it is no longer home to the “Bairns” of Falkirk.
In one of the buildings in Sword’s Wynd, the Scottish Temperance League was established in the Victorian era, which must have been very popular in Falkirk High Street, I don’t think so!
More popular was the Waverley Public Wash House and Baths run by Mr. Dewsnap, which was “a much appreciated convenience and a marvel of moderation as far as fare”.
I remember Howgate in the 1950s with the row of old houses with foresters on one side of the street and lots of shops on the other.
There was a plumbers dealer, a furniture store and a second hand “jenny a” store as well as the Munnoch upholstery factory.
Across the road was Mitchell’s Dairy with a barn at the back where the cows were milked and high up George Inglis’ red brick printing house which was pretty much the last building standing before it all happened. disappears.
In the 1970s the houses were demolished and the land was used for years as a parking lot before finally disappearing with centuries of history under the shining ‘streets’ of the new Howgate Center.