Past and Present
Grangemouth lies on the
estuary of the River Forth, on the south-east of Scotland. Its name comes from its
location, where the Grange Burn joins the River Carron.
The land Grangemouth was eventually built on was farmland
from early times. It was sparsely populated by Picts, a group of tribes called
"Maeatae" by the Romans. The Maeatae fought battles against the Romans, Scots
and Anglo-Saxons. The land was just north of Antonine's Wall, which was the northern
frontier of the Roman Empire between 143 A.D. and 163 A.D. when it was abandoned. Later it
was on the northern boundary of the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria. In the Middle Ages
part of the land of Grangemouth was owned by feudal lords and part of the Abbeys of
Arbroath, Newbattle and Holyrood. In 1298 the first battle of Falkirk was fought on
this ground. Here the Scots led by William Wallace were defeated by the English led by
Edward 1 of England.
One of the landowners in the area was the Dundas family,
and they were instrumental in founding and developing Grangemouth. Sir Laurence Dundas was
interested in the idea of a canal linking the east and west coasts of Scotland, and, in
1768 digging began on the Forth and Clyde Canal at the Grangemouth end, on land that
belonged to him. The canal was completed in 1790. The Forth and Clyde Canal, along
with the Union Canal, linked the two main towns of Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and
played a crucial part in the industrial development of Scotland.
To assist the development of the canal Sir Laurence Dundas
built houses for workers and better-off families. Sir Laurence's son, Sir Thomas,
continued the development of the town, supporting social services and new industries,
altering water courses and building road.
The harbour was developed and Grangemouth became an
important Scottish port and shipbuilding town for many years. Early imports were
wood from Norway, Russia and America, hemp, flax and iron ore from the Baltic, Norway and
Sweden, grain, cotton, silk and manufactured goods from other parts of Britain and abroad.
Much of the iron ore was smelted locally by Carron Company near Falkirk, and used to make
goods for which they were famous, such as kitchen ranges, steam engines and Carronade
At a shipyard in Grangemouth two versions of a steamboat
called the Charlotte Dundas were built in 1801 and 1803, with a steam engine made by
Carron Company to a design by William Symington. Steam engines had been tried on boats
before, but the Charlotte Dundas designed by William Symington, was the first practical
steamboat in the world.
Early industries were pottery, brick-making, rope-making,
sailmaking, fish-curing, whale-boiling, timber and grain trading and coal-mining. With the
coming of the railway in 1860, industry expanded further.
Housing gradually increased and with it the amenities of
town cleansing, water supply, drainage, gas and electricity, churches, schools, parks, a
town-hall and a library. In 1871, the year before Grangemouth became a fully-fledged
democratic local authority run by Grangemouth Town Council, the population was recorded as
Grangemouth played a vital part in both world wars. In the
First World Was soldiers from the Scottish Rifles, the Black Watch and the Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders were at various times billited there. The docks were closed
and taken over by the Government as a depot to store coal, mines, food and oil for the
fleet. 1655 Grangemouth men were on active service, and 281 of them were killed.
In May 1939 an airfield opened on the outskirts of
Grangemouth. The intention was to use it as a Volunteer Reserve Training Centre and as a
civil airport for central Scotland. At the time it was the largest airport in Scotland.
North Eastern Airways started an east coast passenger service between London, Newcastle,
Grangemouth, Aberdeen and Orkney using Dragon Rapides. However, when Britain declared war
on Germany on 3rd September, the airport was taken over by the Air Ministry and all civil
flights stopped immediately. The airfield came under the control of no. 13 Fighter
Command, and Grangemouth was designated one of the Fighter Stations to protect central
Scotland from the Luftwaffe. This lasted till the late autumn of 1940, when the
danger of daylight attack became remote, and the R.A.F. Grangemouth was removed from
No. 58 Operational Unit was then formed to teach fighter
pilots to fly Spitfires. A great many pilots from all over the world were trained
there. Grangemouth became the principal base for Polish pilots before joining the
R.A.F.'s Free Polish Spitfire Squadrons. Many of the Polish pilots returned to Grangemouth
as instructors after their operational tours of duty. Through accidents in training 90
aircraft were lost and a number of pilots killed. Many of those who had trained at
Grangemouth gained distinguished war records and helped greatly in the war effort.
Pilot training ended in 1944.
Before the end of the war a Gliding School started there
for Air Training Corps cadets, and continued some years after the war. The airfield
was finally closed in 1955. The site was eventually acquired by Grangemouth Town
Council, and used for housing and industrial development.
The Grangemouth Dockyard Company continued to build and
repair ships during the war. Between 1939 and 1945, 31 ships were built there. Of
the ships taking part in the D-Day landings, 14 were built in Grangemouth and another 44
were repaired there. The dry docks were also used as a repair and maintenance base
for the submarines of the Royal Netherlands Navy. 138 Grangemouth servicemen were killed
in the Second World War.
Trade through the port greatly increased in the inter-war
years, especially with the arrival in Grangemouth of Scottish Oils in 1923, and the
building of deep water oil jetties in 1924 and 1931. An important development was
the inauguration in 1966 of the first fully containerised deep-sea liner service from any
British port. This service ran between Rotterdam, Breman, Grangemouth and New York.
Roll-on roll-off cargo transfer began in 1972. There are frequent sailings to Rotterdam,
Brmerhaven and Hamburg, where the containers are transhipped to anywhere in the world.
Liners also trade regularly between Grangemouth and Norway, Sweden, Finland,
Germany and Paraguay. Many shipping companies and shipping agents have businesses in the
In 1968 Grangemouth became part of the Forth Ports
Authority, the other ports being Leith, Granton, Methil, Burntisland and Kirkcaldy.
Further developments included a new Entrance Lock which allowed larger tankers into the
port and the expansion of BP's jetty facilities. The Forest Products Terminal was
opened in 1977, and container handling equipment upgraded. In 1992 the Forth Ports
Authority became privatised as Forth Ports Plc. Traffic has continued to grow since the
1960's, reaching a record 9.1 million tonnes in 1983.
Today the main traffic is in oil, oil products and
chemicals, wood and other forest products such as pulp, paper, newsprint and board. Bulk
cargoes of softwood from Russia, Canada and Scandinavia make Grangemouth the main Scottish
port for importing timber. There is also substancial traffic in mineral ores and in
One of Grangemouth's main industries from early days was
shipbuilding. There was a succession of different shipbuilders, the last and
longest-lasting of which was the Grangemouth Dockyard Company, established in 1885. It was
bought by Smith's Dockyard Company in 1965, but retained its own name and identity.
Through its new ownership it became part of the Swan Hunter Group, and in 1977 it became
part of British Shipbuilders. However, due to a lack of orders, in 1971 Grangemouth's long
tradition of shipbuilding came to an end.
At the same time the ship repairing business expanded, as
the Grangemouth Dockyard Company provided a ship repairing complex suitable for the hull,
engine and outfit repairs of the small ships of the world. Unfortunately businesses
dclined in the 1980's, and it was forced to close in 1983. However ship repaiors are
still carried on in Grangemouth, now by MIdland Ship Repairs Ltd., which set up in
Grangemouth Dockyard Company's old premises in 1986.
Grangemouth's modern petro-chemical industry began in 1906
with the storage of oil by the Anglo-American Oil Company. Scottish Oils opened a refinery
in Grangemout in 1924 and began refining imported crude oils into motor spirit, kerosene
and fuel oils. Scottish Oils was then part of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the
predecessor of BP. During the 1940's the plant expanded to cover an area of 400 acres.
Before the Second World War all the oil came by ship but,
as the water was not deep enough for large tankers to dock, a deep water terminal was
sought. In 1951 the small village of Finnart on Loch Long was chosen, and a pipeline
laid, through which oil was piped fifty-seven miles to storage tanks at
The political situation in Persia became unstable, and the
Anglo-Persian Oil Company reduced its commitment there to explore other parts of the
world. It became the British Petroleum Company in 1954 and continued to develop into a
multinational group of companies. There has been considerable expansion and development at
Grangemouth ever since.
In 1947 British Petroleum Chemicals Ltd., was established,
owned partly by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company/BP and partly by Distillers Company. It was
formed to produce chemicals from petroleum. (This company became British Hydro Chemicals
Ltd in 1956, but reverted to its origional name in 1966). Extensive plant was built
and production strted in 1951. Using a petroleum spirit from the refinery, the new
plant produced two olefine gases, ethelyn and isopropyl alcohols. Forth Chemicals Ltd.,
was set up in 1950, owned partly by B.P.C. Ltd. and partly by Monsanto Chemicals Ltd. It
produced monomeric styrene, a chemical used for making polystyrene and for other
industrial uses. New plant was built and in operation by 1953, and a further expansion in
1956. In 1955 Grange Chemicals Ltd. was set up, owned partly by B.H.C. Ltd. and partly by
Oronits Chemcial Company of California. From plant inside the B.H.C. area they
produced detergent alkylate, a chemical used in the manufacture of synthetic detergents.
These three subsiduary companies eventually bacame wholly owned by BP as BP Chemicals.
Oil production continued to expand. Further expansion
of the Finnart system included a second pipeline in 1971, and a further distillation units
which allowed the distribution of refined oil by rail. BP made the first commercial oil
discovery in the British Sector of the North Sea, in the Forties Field, in 1970. In 1975
over 236 miles of pipe were laid to transport oil from the Forties system, which collects
oil from several fields connected to the Forties Field, to the crude oil stabilisation and
gas seperation plant at Kinneil. The gas is either used in the refinery, the
chemical plant or exported via Grangemouth Docks. The crude oil not required is stored and
exported by tankers. In 1991 one of the Finnart pipelines was reversed to supply refined
oil to the West of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In the 1990's, BP is the largest company in Britain, and
one of the largest in the world, operating in over seventy countries. It is organised into
four international businesses: 1) Exploration and production, 2) Refining and marketing,
3) Chemicals, and 4) Nutrition. At Grangemouth the first three are well represented.
BP directly employs about 2,500 people in Grangemouth, and
also provides for many more in support industries. The company has contributed much
financially to the social life of the town through it's community support
BP has worked hard to reduce its pollution in Grangemouth, and has developed
technology for recycling plastic in the town.
In 1921 dye manufacturing began in Grangemouth, when
Scottish Dyes bought 80 acres in the town and built 6 chemical sheds. In 1926 the company
amalgamated with British Dyestuffs Corporation. In 1928 B.D.C combined with three other
companies to form Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. Shortly afterwards Scottish Dyes
became I.C.C. Dyestuffs Division. I.C.I. in Grangemouth developed new permanent
and later also manufactured pharmaceuticals, such as new anti-malarial drugs and the
popular antiseptic Cetavlon. I.C.I. expanded in Grangemouth, and became a very
successful multinational company. In 1993 it was split into two companies called
and Zeneca. The Grangemouth complex became part of Zeneca, and retained the 1,200
workforce after the split. As well as dyes and pharmaceuticals the plant in Grangemouth
now develop and manufacture agrichemicals and process resins. In a joint venture between
Zeneca Specialities and Misui Toatsu Chemicals of Tokyo, the joint plant at Grangemouth,
Image Polymers, has been in operation since 1997, and is the leading European supplier of
toner resins and other chemicals to the printing market.
Other petro-chemical companies in Grangemouth include
Bakelite Xylonite, which established a plant making polythene in 1958, and was taken over
by BP Chemicals in 1978; Rhom and Haas, which has made plastics and modifiers for PVC
since 1979; Borg-Warner Chemicals has been making ABC desins and plastic compounds since
the 1970's, and was taken over by G.E. Plastics in 1988; Enichem Elastomers; Anglo
Polymers; Nychem International and British Oxygen Company. Other modern industries
in Grangemouth are bookbinding, clothes manufacture and fishfeed manufacture.
This industrial complex has been responsible for a vast
amount of pollution in the past, but recently all companies have greatly reduced
disharges. In 1995 the air quality exceeded British and E.U. standards, and was far
superior to that of British cities.
Grangemouth's industrial environment is offset by modern
housing and public buildings, a number of parks, tree-lined Central Avenue, and since
1992, Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre. Jupiter was developed in a collaboration between
I.C.I./Zeneca and Scottish Wildlife Trust. This former area of wasteland, 450m x 85m
now contains a formal wildflower garden, a wildlife garden landscaped round two ponds,
over 1000 planted trees and shrubs, various habitat features and an interpretation centre.
The Centre is run by a wildlife ranger who promotes an interest in wildlife
conservation both with the schools and individual children.
Today Grangemouth has a population of over 20,000, and has
been part of the new Falkirk Coucil since 1996. The Council crest has incorporated the two
symbols of Grangemouth, the Charlotte Dundas steamboat, and the Stag, which was the crest
of Holyrood Abbey. Grangemouth is twinned with La Porte in Indiana, U.S.A.
Leisure facilities include a sports complex, a sports
stadium, playing fields, sports clubs, a library, a chess club and youth clubs.
In the town are two Roman Catholic churches, five Church of
Scotland churches, a Mission, and a congegations of Jehovah Witnesses and Plymouth
Brethern and the Salvation Army.
There have been schools in Grangemouth since 1789. The
staus of one of these schools, Grange, was raised to Higher Grade in 1901. A new High
Schools was built in 1909 beside Grange School. Today there are four primary schools in
Grangemout, and the present High School, which opened in Tinto Drive in 1974.
We'd like to thank Grangemouth Heritage Trust for
supplying the above information.
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