Balfron’s history

Primary School logo c 1990

Balfron’s story begins with a legend. While the men-folk were at the Ibert – the place of sacrifice above the village – they heard screams from the settlement below and rushed to discover that the children of the village had been taken by wolves. This gave the village its name “bail’-a-bhroin”, Balfron, the town of mourning. Excellent bedtime story as this might have been, the first documentary reference to Balfron – one of the charters of the Abbey of Inchaffray – in 1303 alludes to the village as Buthbren and only later as Balfron.

Other early evidence of life in the parish is a Bronze Age standing stone, the possible remains of a Roman road north-west of the village, and Woodend Motte, a striking mediaeval landmark on the road towards Kippen.

The incursions of Rob Roy into the area gives Balfron its first mention in the history books and, indeed, in literature, appearing in both “Kidnapped” by R L Stevenson and “Rob Roy” by Sir Walter Scott. It is the sons of Rob Roy, however, who carry out one of the most notorious incidents in the history of the parish when they abduct the local widow-heiress Jean Key of Edinbellie.

Balfron Cotton Works
Balfron Cotton Works

The building of Ballindalloch Cotton Works by Robert Dunmore of Kelvinside in 1790 utterly transforms the village taking the population to (as the Old Statistical Accounts puts it) “981, and of these 930 were new settlers” – a twenty-fold increase!

Balfron is by now a thriving cotton town of spinners and weavers. The excess gas from Ballindalloch is used to light the village staking its claim as Scotland’s first gaslit town. Balfron is also a hotbed for the Radical Movement in 1820 at the same time as its most famous ‘son’, architect Alexander “Greek” Thomson, is growing up in the village. The later building of Loch Katrine pipeline and the Forth & Clyde Junction railway further adds to the cosmopolitan population of Balfron.

Although the mill lasted just over 100 years, the rail and road network which has grown up around Balfron makes the village a popular tourist resort where people can spend their ‘fresh-air fortnight’. This only declines with the advent of the family car and Balfron is now a growing village still happy to make newcomers and visitors welcome.

There was a time when Balfron issued its own currency.  Click here for the story.

The residents of Balfron, share their village name with a well-known Star Wars planet. The fictional Balfron is an unwelcoming place inhabited by cave-dwelling folk and is also where Lando Calrissian met up with twin con artists, the Tonnika sisters after he met them at the High Stakes Casino.

Heritage Group logo

Text and Images From “A Brief History of Balfron” © Balfron Heritage Group 2000. Balfron Heritage Group was founded in 1989 to organise an exhibition of the village’s past to mark the 200th Anniversary of the building on Ballindalloch Cotton Works – an event which transformed this sleepy Stirlingshire hamlet into a bustling village at the heart of the Industrial Revolution.

After the success of the Exhibition the need was seen to continue the Heritage Group which has gone from strength to strength over the past decade. The Heritage Group believes in the importance of modern technology in the promotion of Local History and have launched their website with that in mind.

Enjoy your visit to Balfron’s heritage. Please visit their website, Balfron Heritage Group, for a fuller insight into Balfron’s history and heritage. A Forum has recently been added where you can post family history queries.

Additionally, a visit to Tom Paterson’s website may be of use to those researching their family’s roots, or seeking information on our older buildings and monuments. Enjoy!

See also:
Balfron in 1846
Balfron personalities
Places of worship for links to 18th and 19th century churches
Listed buildings and other places of interest in Balfron
Wolves or Vikings?
Unveiling the War Memorial
Church bells
Articles in the History category

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