In 1813 Hugh Baird proposed the construction of a canal between Falkirk and Edinburgh. This canal would link with the existing Forth and Clyde Canal, and would make it easier to transport coal from the pits in Lanarkshire to the Capital.
The accepted route caused some controversy. In particular the Forbes family, of Callendar House in Falkirk, objected vehemently. They canal would be clearly visible from their home and they felt it would be detrimental to the family, so they lobbied hard against the proposal. They even went as far as to commission an artist’s impression of how the development would look, and sent copies of it to every MP in the UK.
Their lobbying worked, and the builders were required to put the canal through a tunnel – 690 yeards of tunnel under Prospect Hill. The tunnel is 18ft wide – 13ft of canal and 5ft towpath.
Of course, there were no massive drilling machines, no JCBs or Caterpillars to help them. They had to dig and blast through every inch of that 690 yards, using three separate shafts that were sunk to allow them access to the depths required.
Even today, it is hugely impressive – and still very dark!
You can see the print commissioned by the Forbes family at http://www.falkirklocalhistorysociety.co.uk/home/index.php?id=101
As for this picture, I took it while out for a run today, the run taking me through the tunnel. It is in fact twelve iPhone photos blended together to reduce photographic noise. I’m quite pleased by the outcome.
What you see on the left of the canl is the modern-day handrail. The lighting is very recent; when I was running to this canal for my marathon training in 2012 it was not there – the tunnel had a nickname of “The Dark Tunnel” and the lighting is deliberately low-key to preserve that idea.