Enjoy two examples of Falkirk’s heritage gems which feature on the Falkirk Explored app: the Cross Well in the town centre and the Dunmore/Elphinstone Tower.
Falkirk’s rich history and heritage can be evidenced in so many ways, in buildings, stories, traditions, and physical heritage such as statues and monuments. There are so many structures still standing that provide an insight into Falkirk’s history and illustrate stories of the town’s interesting and varied past.
The Cross Well, Falkirk Town Centre
One such structure is the Cross Well right in the middle of Falkirk Town Centre. This was built in 1682, replacing the Mercat Cross that had stood in its place since 1600. The Mercat Cross was installed when James VI promoted Falkirk to a burgh of barony (a type of Scottish Town) in 1600. The Mercat Cross symbolised, and told passers-by about, Falkirk’s status as an important town of the area.
After a drought in the Falkirk area in 1682, Alexander, 2nd Earl of Livingstone who lived nearby with his family, paid for a new water supply into the town and this well in the centre to dispense it. The Cross Well is shaped as a demi-lion with the coat of arms of Alexander and his wife Mary, a daughter of the Duke of Hamilton. The lion also sports an Earl’s coronet and there is significant evidence to suggest that the lion was originally painted red and the coronet was painted gold.
The Cross Well and the central square in which it is situated, marks the centre of town life and has witnessed various events such as markets and public floggings, and was the site of the town’s weighing machine which ensured merchants were trading fairly. The role of the Cross Well and the surrounding area continued to be central to town life well into the 19th century. In the 1850s and 1860s, it was the site of public auctions, selling everything from farm machinery to household items such as eight-day clocks and stuffed bottom chairs.
Today, shoppers and local residents pass by the well every day and it continues to mark the centre of town, telling stories of past events that were part of local Falkirk life.
The Dunmore/Elphinstone Tower is a ruined house near the entrance to Dunmore village. The tower is the remnants of the home of Sir John Elphinstone which was built in 1510. The Elphinstone family were important supporters of the monarchy, being key figures at the court of James IV. Alexander, the first Lord Elphinstone, died with King James IV at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 which was fought against the English army.
The house was then sold to the Murrays of Dunmore in 1745 and remained in that family until 1911. There was an extension to the tower in the 19th century, but that was demolished in favour of a church that was built nearby which no longer stands. The tower was unoccupied by 1836 when the lower floor was turned into a family mausoleum. Sadly, the tower has suffered a long period of neglect and is now thought to be beyond restoration.
These ruins are a good example of how physical heritage can open a world of information and stories about the local area, such as stories about the Elphinstone family and their loyalty to the monarchy. The site can also give us some idea of how the gentry would have lived in a previous century. The tower that is left standing is still quite sizeable, showing the wealth of the local gentry, who could afford to build and live in such grand houses.
The Cross Well, Falkirk and the Dunmore/Elphinstone Tower are just two examples of the type of physical heritage you can discover on the Falkirk Explored App. The App highlights important Falkirk heritage landmarks as well as town centres, parks, walks, cafes/bars/restaurants and leisure activities such as swimming pools and cinemas. You can use it to find out about the history and heritage of the area as well as about the contemporary life of the Falkirk. There are also audio Walking Tours on the App which guide you around sites such as Callendar Park and the Kinneil Estate. The App is a great way to discover stories and places within Falkirk and learn more about the local area!
By Victoria Mitchell, Great Place Digital Heritage Placement 2020. Hidden Heritage Online: Statues and Monuments project.