Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Borrowstounness or Bo'ness

Borrowstounness or Bo'ness, a town and a parish of NW Linlithgowshire. A seaport, a burgh of barony since 1748, and a police burgh since 1880, the town stands at the NE angle of the parish on a low ness or promontory washed by the Firth of Forth; by road it is 3 miles N of Linlithgow and 8 ENE of Falkirk, by water 2¾ miles SSE of Culross, and by rail, as terminus of a section of the North British, 4¼ miles NNE of Manuel Junction, 24 WNW of Edinburgh, and 29¼ ENE of Glasgow. Defoe described it, early in last century, as consisting only of one straggling street, extended close to the water along the shore, but ` a town that has been, and still is, of the greatest trade to Holland and France of any in Scotland, after Leith. ' To-day its chief streets are three-two, each 300 yards long, converging eastward in one, 350 yards more; and ` dismally dirty ' is Glenine's epithet for all. It has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments,branches of the Clydesdale and Royal Banks, 2 commercial hotels, gas-works, a town-hall, a custom-house, and a Saturday paper, the Bo'ness Journal (1878). Places of worship are the parish church (almost rebuilt in 1820; 950 sittings), a Free church, and a U.P. church (400 sittings); a public, an infant, and Anderson's school, with respective accommodation for 350,150, and 142 children, had (1879) an average attendance of 262, 122, and 192, and grants of £152, 18s. 2d., £93, 1s. 4d., and £112, 15s., the corresponding figures for Borrowstoun school being 200,122, and £90,14s. There are- mostly of long standing-a salt factory, 4 iron-foundries, 2 engineering and 2 chemical works, a pottery, a distillery, 2 brick-yards, and 6 saw-mills; and Kinneil ironworks, ¾ mile WSW, had 4 furnaces built in 1879, but all of them out of blast. Fishing more or less employs 103 persons, with 26 boats of 105 tons; and during 187580 4 sailing vessels were built here of 885, and 7 steamers of 2144, tons. Bo'ness was constituted a head port in 1707, with a district extending on both sides of the Firth from Cramond Water and Doinbristle Point to the Alloaboundaries. Eighty years later it possessed 8 whalers and 2 boiling-houses; but a grievous blow was dealt to its prosperity by the opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal (1790), and the erection of Grangemouth into a separate port (1810)-a blow from which it has hardly yet recovered. At several dates between 1744 and 1816 Acts were obtained for improving the harbour, regulating the affairs of the port, cleaning, paving, and lighting the town, and supplying it with water; but, the powers created by these Acts proving incompetent, application was made to Parliament in 1842 for greatly increased powers. As last improved, the harbour comprises a basin of 2½ acres, with a strong coffer-dam 410 feet long and 20 broad, an E and a W pier each 566 feet long, and a depth at spring tides of fully 24 feet, and a wet dock of 7½ acres, opened 9 Sept. 1881. It had on its register at the close of 1880 21 sailing vessels of 3408 tons, and 1 steam-tug of 7, against a tonnage of 13,888 in 1790,6521 in 1839,5325 in 1865, and 3349 in 1874. The following table, however, giving the tonnage of vessels with cargoes, and also (for the three last years) in ballast, that entered and cleared it from and to foreign and colonial ports and coastwise, tells a more hopeful tale:- Entered. Cleared. British. foreign. Total. British. Foreign. Total.


Of the total, 2278 vessels of 272,200 tons, that entered in 1880,239 of 27,026 tons were steamers, 1588 of 183,030 tons were in ballast, and 1509 of 165,103 tons were coasters; whilst the total, 2265 of 268,210 tons, of those that cleared, included 240 steamers of 25,224 tons, 447 vessels in ballast of 57,297 tons, and 871 coasters of 78,871 tons. The trade is mainly, then, an export one, and coal is the chief article of export, Bo'ness herein ranking second in amount and fourth in value among Scottish ports. Besides 31,180 tons to the United Kingdom, 266,900 tons (valued at £91,840) were shipped to foreign countries in 1879; in 1880 the total value of foreign and colonial imports was £226,572, of customs £26, and of exports £105,912. Pop. (1795) 2613, (1841) 1790, (1851) 2645, (1861) 4561, (1871) 4256, of whom 876 belonged to Grangepans; of burgh (1871) 3336, (1881) 4471.

The parish contains also the villages of Newtoun and Borrowstoun (formerly Burwardstoun), 4½ and 7 furlongs S of the town. Triangular in shape, it is bounded N for3¼ miles by the Firth of Forth, E by Carriden, SE by Linlithgow, SW and NW by Polmont; and has an extreme length from E to W of 35/8 miles, an extreme width from N to S of 21/8 miles, and an area of 4277½ acres, including 44¼ acres of water, but excluding about 2 square miles of foreshore. The Avon winds 5½ miles west-north-westward and north-eastward along all the Polmont boundary; and the north-western corner of the parish, along its lowest reaches, is occupied by the Carse of Kinneil, a fertile, alluvial flat, raised only 12 to 19 feet above sea-level, and guarded from inundation by embankments. Thence the surface mounts eastward and southward to 156 feet near Inveravon, 290 at Upper Kinneil, 312 at Woodhead, 375 near Muirhouse, 269 near Borrowstoun Mains, 193 at Newtoun, 350 near Borrowstoun, 402 at Mile-end, and 559 on Glower-o'er'em or Irongath Hill, which, rising on the SE border, commands a prospect over eleven shires, from the Bass Rock to Ben Ledi, a distance of more than 70 miles, and which Glennie's Arthurian -Localities (1869) identifies with the Agathes of the Book of Taliessin. The geology presents some striking illustrations of igneous activity, which Mr H. Cadell of Grange, in his Address to the Edinburgh Geological Society (10 July 1880), ascribed to the period when the highest but one of the marine limestones was deposited. Sandstone and trap are quarried; and an ironstone mine and colliery at Kinneil, the latter carried far beneath the bed of the Firth, were both of them active in 1879, whilst at the worked-out Burn Pit colliery James Watt's first steam-engine was erected in 1765. The prevailing soil is a deep rich loam, and, saving some 270 acres of plantations, nearly all the area is under cultivation. Episodes in the history of the parish are the trial and execution of a wizard and five witches in 1679 (Chambers's -Dom. Ann., n. 406), and the wild outburst in 1681 of the ` Sweet Singers of Borrowstounness,' who, six and twenty in number, and headed by Muckle John Gibb, alias King Solomon, went forth to the Pentlands, thence to behold the smoke and utter ruin of the sinful, bloody city of Edinburgh (ib. 414). The chief antiquity is part of Antoninus' Wall, known here as Graham's Dyke; and urns, stone coffins, coins, and a curious battle-axe have been discovered. A runied tower stands near Inveravon; but another, called Castle Lyon, between the sea-shore and Kinneil House, has utterly disappeared. Kinneil itself is a fine old mansion, wofully modernised and long untenanted, almost its latest occupant having been Dugald Stewart, from 1809 till just before his death in 1828. Held by the Hamiltons since the 14th century, Kinneil is a seat now of the Duke of Hamilton, owner in the shire of 3694 acres (including most of Bo'ness parish), valued at £15,522 per annum (£8076 of it for minerals). Three other proprietors hold each a yearly value of £500 and upwards, 11 of between £100 and £500,19 of from £50 to £100, and 51 of from £20 to £50. The parish, named Kinneil up to 1669, is in the presbytery of Linlithgow and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £435. Valuation (1881) £21,312,9s. Pop. (1755) 2688, (1801) 2768, (1821) 3018, (1841) 2344, (1851) 5192, (1861) 5698, (1871) 4986, (1881) 6080.—Ord. Sur., sh. 31, 1867.

(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town and a parish"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: West Lothian ScoCnty
Place: Boness

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