The Second and Third Steeples
Following on from the first steeple, a new tolbooth and prison was built in 1663 on the High Street and in 1697 a new steeple was added complete with a bell gifted by the Earl of Callendar. This second steeple survived until 1803 when damage to its foundations by neighbouring work led to its demoliton.
The current steeple was completed in 1814 at a cost of £1,660.
It was designed by David Hamilton and built by Henry Taylor a Falkirk mason using sandstone from the local quary at Brightons. It stands over 140 feet high and is 22 foot square at ground level.
The present structure has had many uses. For over 80 years Alexander Learmonth & Company Butchers shop was on the ground floor. Prior to then the Steeple housed the town jail. The jail’s two cells are accessed up the narrow spiral access stair that winds up through the bottom section of the structure. The cells can still be seen and visited as part of the tour.
The steeple underwent extensive specialist restoration work as part of the Falkirk THI project including repairs to stonework, clock, bells, windows and the weather vane. You can read more on the Falkirk THI website. A steeple education pack can be viewed here.
The Chimes Of History
Up until the mid-seventeenth century Falkirk was just a small town, little more than a village, with an important parish church. Its patrons were the powerful Earls of Callendar and at this time they were playing an important role in the politics of the nation. This resulted in an enhanced status for the burgh and the privilege of holding markets and having trade guilds. A new triangular shaped market place was created and in 1697 a tollbooth was erected at one end of it for administrative purposes.
For the tolbooth steeple a new bell was cast in Edinburgh by the excellent bell smith, John Meikle and paid for by the Earl of Callendar. In this clip, Geoff Bailey tells us the impact this bell had on the day to day life of the Falkirk residents.
The Steeple Bell
Geoff Bailey tells the story of the original steeple bell from it’s creation in 1697. This original bell is now back in in its rightful place in the heart of Falkirk and can be viewed within the Falkirk Steeple Heritage Centre.