Bo'ness Foreshore, Kinneil Nature Reserve, Nature reserve

Just off the Kinneil foreshore – once home to a large distillery

Today it’s occupied by flats, a field and some foliage.

But 100 years ago, this site at Corbiehall in Bo’ness was a hive of activity – and home to Bo’ness Distillery.

The Distillery occupied ground just below the Old Kirk in Bo’ness.

The distillery was founded in the early 1800s by Messrs Tod, Padon and Vannan. Originally it produced malt whisky – but later went into the production of grain whisky, which is used for blending.

Old pictures show the main distillery building (on the south side of Corbiehall in front of the Panbraes) and substantial warehouses and outbuildings, linked to the local railway line (on the north side). Barley came in by rail as did vast quantities of coal.

Reports say the plant also became one of Britain’s main yeast factories, producing supplies for baking and brewing.

The distillery was bought by James Calder and Company in 1873 – and then sold to John Dewar in 1921. It was subsequently passed to DCL (Distillers Company Limited) in 1925 and closed down. Warehouses on the Bo’ness foreshore were destroyed by a massive fire and demolished in the 1980s.

Today’s there’s nothing left to indicate the existence of the distillery – apart from plans and photographs showing a substantial industrial complex.

Many residents also recall the “Stell Steps” – iron steps which linked Deanfield and the Calder Park area to the south to the distillery complex on the foreshore.

Historians have debated whether this distillery was the only one in the town. One report says that a more modest operation was run in South Street, Bo’ness, from 1817 to 1842.

“We learn from recent figures that there is a weekly output of 50 tons of yeast, 25,000 gallons of spirits, and 300 tons of grans for cattle feeding – also that the duty last year on the firm’s production amounted to £1,000,000.”

TJ Salmon, writing in 1913 about the Bo’ness Distillery

DID YOU KNOW?

Bo’ness Distillery played a part in the foundations of the Japenese whisky industry. Masataka Taketsuru – a chemist and businessesman credited with founding the Asian country’s first whisky industry – worked as an apprentice at Bo’ness Distillery in 1919. https://www.nikkawhisky.eu/nikka-story/

A number of websites show images of the old distillery. For copyright reasons we can’t reproduce them here. But please visit the Canmore site and the Falkirk Archive here and here.

This content was produced in association with Sustrans Scotland as part of the Scottish Greenways Programmein association with Falkirk Council and Great Place Falkirk.

Sustrans is a registered charity in England and Wales (number 326550) and Scotland (SC039263) and a company limited by guarantee registered in England No 1797726 at 2 Cathedral Square, Bristol, BS1 5DD.