Glimpse history through old images of Alva, a small town in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, close to the waterfall of Alva Glen.
Alva House was a tower house, built in 1542. In 1636, Sir Charles Erskine extended and remodelled it.
In 1800, the house passed from the Erskine family to James Johnstone, a mill owner.
During the Industrial Revolution, Alva’s water sources were put to good use as power for the woollen mills. People now moved to the area to find work in the new industry.
In 1874, the Dalmore Works were built for the Wilson brothers. Their products included tweed, mohair and woollen rugs, and woollen novelty fabrics. The works shut in 1964.
Strude Mill was the town’s largest mill. It was built in 1825, and is six storeys high. Today, it contains modern flats close to public transport and local facilities.
Old Photos of Alva
Enjoy a video showcase of old photos of the Clackmannshire town.
Old Photographs Of Alva Clackmannanshire Scotland: Tourscotland (YouTube)
The Alva Games
The annual Alva Games have their foundation in a gymnastics display which took place in 1856. They remained in the same location for more than 150 years, but quickly became a bigger affair than the original gymnastics gathering.
They are now Clackmannshire’s last surviving sports and games.
Alva in 1880
“The History of Stirlingshire”, by the Rev. William Nimmo (Minister of Bothkenna) and the Rev. Robert Gillespie (Minister of Port), was published in 1880 by Hamilton, Adams & Company.
It was an update to the original version published in 1817, printed by John Fraser, for Andrew Bean, a Bookseller in Stirling.
The following excerpts from the book show mentions of Alva’s location and community.
Pages 1, 2 and 3:
Alva belonged in ancient times to Clackmannanshire,
with which it has been politically in-
corporated since the passing of the Reform Bill.
Since the beginning of the seventeenth century,
however, it has been attached for judicial purposes
to Stirlingshire, although upwards of four miles
distant from its nearest point. The barony is
surrounded on all sides by the shire of Clackman-
nan, except on the north, where it is bounded
by a part of the county of Perth. From the
chartulary of Cambuskenneth, we learn that Alva
was a parish nearly 600 years ago, although it
does not appear certain when the building of the
village was first started. In the year 1795, the
latter only contained 130 families, including a few
single persons, each of whom occupied part of a
house. The population of the parish in 1791 was
611; in 1801, 787; in 1811, 921; in 1821, 1,197;
in 1831, 1,300; in 1836, 1,470; in 1841, 2,136;
in 1851, 3,204; in 1861, 3,618; and in 1871,
4,296. For a considerable period prior to the
Reformation, Alva was in the diocese of Dunkeld,
and under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the
bishop of that see. By an extract taken from the
chartulary of Cambuskenneth, it appears that it
was a mensel church (de mensa Episcopi), be-
longing to that abbacy; and that the monks, who
were of the order of St. Augustine, performed
duty there, from want of a sufficient fund to
maintain a resident and regular clergyman in the
parish. In 1260, Richard, bishop of Dunkeld,
made a donation to the monks of the church of
St. Mary, at Cambuskenneth, of “the church of
Alva with all its legal pertinents,” and dispensed
with their employing a vicar to officiate statedly.
From 1581, till 1632, this parish was united to
the neighbouring one of Tillicoultry-the minister
of Alva officiating in both. The fabric of the
present church was erected in 1632, by Alexan-
der Bruce, proprietor of Alva, who afterwards,
making a small addition to the stipend, procured
its disjunction from Tillicoultry. In the year
1815, at the expense of Mr. James Raymond
Johnstone, it was wholly rebuilt, and fitted up so
as to accommodate 600 sitters.
Logie is bounded on the north by the parish of
Dunblane; on the south by the river Forth,
which divides it from Stirling and St. Ninians;
on the west by Lecropt and Dunblane ; and on the
east by Alva and Alloa. Its extreme length,
from north to south, is between 6 and 7 miles;
and its extreme breadth, from east to west, about 6.
The present church, which was built in 1805,
is a plain unpretending structure, but neat and
commodious. It is seated for 644 people. Its
situation is peculiarly romantic and beautiful; and
that of the old kirk (now an interesting ruin) still
more so. The population in 1831 was 1,943;
in 1841, 2,198; in 1851, 2,551; in 1861, 3,468 ;
and in 1871, 4,553.
The whole of Alva parish
is in Stirlingshire, though about 3 miles from
the nearest point of the parent county.
About 1700, Sir James Erskine, of
Alva, had obtained, from a ravine in his estate of
Alva, above £50,000 sterling’s worth of silver ore,
in about fourteen weeks. The vein had now be-
come exhausted, and symptoms of lead and other
inferior metals had appeared, when the work was
forsaken. The communion cups of the church of
Alva are made of the parochial silver.
Page 41 of the History of Stirlingshire tells us that in 1879-80 Alva had 3 Board Schools. Average attendance was 822, the rate (the rate per £ on the rateable value of the district, of the amounts paid to the treasurer by the rating authority) was 5 1/2 d, and the Annual Grants were 640 11 7.
Page 72 tells us about the career and family of Sir Thomas Hope. His daughter Mary married Sir Charles Erskine of Alva.
The estate of Alva was anciently possessed by
the Stirlings of Calder in Clydesdale. According
to Nisbet, in his first volume of Heraldry, “ Sir
J. Menteith, son of Sir Walter Menteith, of
Rusky, married Marion Stirling, daughter and
co-heir to Sir John Stirling, of Calder in Clydes-
dale, and with her he got ye lands of Kerse and
Alveth (Alva), for which ye family carried ye
buckler for the name of Stirling, and flourished
for many years.” Sir William Menteth or Men-
teath, of Alva, married Helen Bruce, daughter
to the laird of Airth, and his son, Sir William
Menteth, married Agnes Erskine, daughter to
Alexander, Lord Erskine, whose successors after-
wards, through right of their mother, inherited
the earldom of Mar. The Countess of Mar and
Kelly is a descendant of the family of Menteth
of Rusky. By the intermarriage before alluded
to, it is highly probable that the Alva property
went to the Bruce, and afterwards to the Erskine
family. In 1620 it went to Sir Charles Erskine,
fifth son of John, sixth Earl of Mar. His great
grandson, Sir Henry Erskine of Alva, father to
the late Earl of Rosslyn, sold it in 1759 to his
uncle, lord justice clerk, called Lord Tinwald,
whose son, James Erskine, a senator of the Col-
lege of Justice, inherited it, with the title of
Lord Alva. He was one of the most energetic
proprietors, with the exception of the Bruces,
who founded the present mansion and church.
Lord Alva sold the estate in 1775 to John John-
stone, Esq., son of Sir James Johnstone, Bart.
of Westerhall, Dumfriesshire, brother to Sir
William Pulteney. Sir John and Sir Charles
Erskine, two of the Alva proprietors, were both
killed when abroad in 1746.
course, including curves, of a dozen miles. Al-
though the run of the romantic and beautiful
little river is peculiarly circuitous and winding in
its round of the Ochils, it flows at first almost
due east towards Glendevon; but, near the
church of Fossaway, it makes a sudden turn west-
ward, and passing through the parishes of Muck-
hart, Dollar, and Tillicoultry, gently glides along
the southern boundary of Alva district. It is some-
what odd, that the stream, after having performed
a circular route of about 30 miles, should end its
career nearly opposite the point at which it started
on the other side of the hills, reaching the Forth
exactly where the latter assumes the character of
a firth, two miles above Alloa. The first of its
Pages 217 and 218:
That portion of the Ochils which extends into the
parish of Alva, when seen at some distance from
the south, appears to be one continued range, with
little variation in height; but, as the mountain
slopes towards the south, it is intersected by ex-
ceedingly deep and narrow glens. From this
circumstance the foreground is divided into three
separate hills, distinguished by the names of
Wood Hill, Middle Hill, and West Hill of Alva.
Wood Hill rises immediately from its base to the
height of 1,620 feet, and continues still rising
gradually for about two miles further north, until
it reaches the top of Ben-cloch, or Bencleugh, the
highest point of the Alva hills; and the summit
of all the Ochils being, according to an observa-
tion, 2,420 feet above the level of the river Devon,
and 2,300 feet above the level of the Forth at
Alva. The view from this summit is very exten-
sive; but the Wood hill, the Middle, and the
West hills are incomparably the most beautiful of
the whole range, from Glen-Devon on the east,
to their termination near the bridge of Alva on
the west. They are not so steep, rugged, or in-
accessible as those immediately westward in the
parish of Logie, and they present a more regular,
noble, and bold aspect than any of those that lie
immediately on the east; besides which they are
clothed with the richest verdure at all seasons,
and produce grass of the finest quality and in the
greatest variety. The summits of the central
Pages 236 and 237:
The rarest animal found in Alva parish is
the Falco peregrinus. For ages, this bird has
had its residence on a very high perpendicular
rock, called Craigleith, projecting from the brow
of the Westhill of Alva. Only one pair, it is
affirmed by the villagers, build in the front of
this precipice. These hatch annually; and when
the progeny are of proper age, the parents compel
them to seek another habitation-death alone
obliging the old or original pair to resign their
ancestral quarters, which fall to their next sur-
vivors. In ancient times,’when “lords and ladies
” were fond of the sport of falconry, a bird
of this species was deemed valuable. From
Craigleith, Queen Mary got falcons after her
arrival from France; and gentlemen, in several
parts of England, have repeatedly sent for these
birds, to tame them, from the nest, for hunting.
Eagles are now rarely seen among the Ochils.
Pages 269 and 270:
There are 7 farms in Alva parish, all
which are possessed by James Johnstone, Esq.
Balquharn, £414; Myreton,
£365; Burnside, £364; Carsiepow, £250; Boll,
£170; Greenhead, £146; and lands of East and West Bank, £74 – annual valutions in all, £2,286.
The tract of country along the foot of the
Ochils is well known for its rare fertility. The
acreage within the shire, from Stirling on to
Alva, is 9,176, with a valuation of £48,670,
being an average of about five guineas per acre.
Pages 326, 327 and 328:
Yarn spinning and woollen manufactures are
confined for the most part to Alva, Stirling, and
Bannockburn. Up till 1829, blankets and serges
were the only goods produced in the first-mentioned
village, when the manufacture of shawls was intro-
duced. There are nine spinning-mills in the place,
employed on yarns for making shawls, tartan dress
goods, tweeds, &c. The mills contain 37 sets of
carding-engines, driven by steam and water power.
The number of persons engaged is about 220; and
the amount of raw material put through in the
course of a year is valued at £123,000. Some of
the yarn is used in the locality, but the greater
part of it goes to agents in Glasgow. The weav-
ing of shawls, handkerchiefs, plaids, and shirtings
is the staple trade of the village, and gives em-
ployment to about 700 journeymen and 100 appren-
tices in the busy season, besides from 500 to 600
women who do the winding, twisting, and finishing.
A number of young boys are also employed as
drawers and twisters. Since shawls and tartans
ceased to be fashionable articles of female attire,
and since the closing of the ports of the United
States to our manufactured goods, trade has been
limited to a few months of the year; and that cir-
cumstance presses hard on those employed in the
weaving business, who generally seek work during
the winter months in Galashiels, Selkirk, and
Hawick. The value of the manufactured goods
runs from about £200,000 to £250,000 annually.
The chief market is Glasgow, but a considerable
quantity also goes to Manchester, London, and
some of the principal Irish towns.
(There is some information at this point on page 327 about the ancient woollen trade of Tillicoultry, not reproduced here).
Towards the end
of the eighteenth century the current of manu-
facturing enterprise in Tillicoultry seems to have
become stagnant, and the making of serges was
transferred to Alva; though it would appear from
the old “statistical account” that a market for Alva
goods was not easily obtained, it being a common
saying that “a serge web from Alva would not
sell in the market while one from Tillicoultry
remained unsold.” Notwithstanding such pre-
ference, Alva ultimately carried the trade in that
class of goods.
The 1817 Second Edition
The 1817 Second Edition of the History of Stirlingshire has some paragraphs which were updated for the 1880 version, or sections which were later dropped altogether.
Pages 133 and 134
The, barony of Cambuskenneth, in which
the monastery stood, was settled, by the
Earl, upon Alexander Erskine of Alva,
his brother, whose posterity continued in
possession of it till the year 1709, when it
was purchased by the town-council of Stir-
ling for the benefit of Cowan’s hospital,
which it still belongs.
Pages 528 and 529:
We may close this long section with what
had escaped us in its place. Alva had been
in the possession of cadets of the Marr fa-
mily from before the middle of the 17th
century. The last of the Erskines of Alva
was a senator of the College of Justice, first
as Lord Barjarg, and afterwards as Lord
Alva. His father, Erskine of Tinwald, had
been Lord Justice Clerk; and bought Alva,
of his nephew Sir Henry Erskine, in 1759.
The Justice Clerk has a marble monument
at the east end of the church of Alva. The
late Lord Alva sold his estate of this name
to Mr Johnston, father of the present Mr
Johnston of Alva.
For particulars see Report by Dr Graham. He considers
the mosses of Alva and Slamannan as impracticable.
At the nor-
thern extremity of Queenshaugh a curious relic was, about
1790, dragged out of the river. It was a brass collar with this
inscription, “Alexander Steuart found guilty of death for
theft at Perth, 5 December 1701, and gifted by the Justiciars,
as a perpetual servant to Sir John Aresken of Alva.” It is in
the possession of the Antiquary Society of Scotland.
Pages 739 and 740:
Alva, anciently Alueth, pro-
bably another form of Aluin beautiful,’ was ‘ mensal’
of Dunkeld (de mensa Episcopi, part of the funds for the
Bishop’s support); and the duties of it were performed by
the monks of Kambuskinel, who obtained, as a compensation,
the whole of the benefice, in 1290. Chartulary of Cam-
buskenneth. Alexander Dominus de Stirling Miles granted
one acre of land to God, the Virgin Mary, St Servanus,
and church of St Servanus de Alueth, describing it as ly-
ing inter ipsam fontem’ (St Serf’s well) et ecclesiam,
The well is in the Minister’s glebe. Ibid. From
1581, the year when the Presbytery of Stirling was erect-
ed, till 1632, Alva was united to Tillicoultry.
Statistical Account, XVIII, 138. Population in 1811, males 441,
females 480, total 921.