The town of Alloa is located seven miles east of Stirling, on the north bank of the River Forth, in the region of Clackmannanshire. The name of Alloa is possibly derived from the Scottish Gaelic word, ail-mhagh, which means 'rocky plain'. Given that Alloa is located on a flood plain on the north bank of the River Forth, the name is particularly apt. However, another version of Alloa's etymological origins claims that the name comes from the Roman word, Aluana, as mentioned by Ptolemy.
As a child, James VI of Scotland was educated at the castle tower in Alloa, since the other traditional royal locations were considered to be unsafe. This castle tower is the ancient residence of the family of Mar, and dates back to 1315. Traditionally a post, market and sea-port town, Alloa's population in the census of 1831 was 4,417, increasing to 6,676 in 1851, with 618 houses counted.
Many of the architectural developments in Alloa were planned and carried out by various members of the Erskine family, during the eighteenth century. John Erskine, the 6th Earl of Mar, designed and built the deep-water port and the independent Customs House, plus, in 1714, the Lime Tree Walk that links the town to the harbour. The Erskine family also laid out a number of gardens and parks in the town. Although Alloa was originally built around the fourteenth century castle tower in the centre of the town (which is also where most of the town's churches are situated), the expansions that took place in the nineteenth century were mainly to the west of the town. Wilson (1857) observed that the west end of Alloa boasted 'some elegant villas'.
Trade and Industry
Alloa and its hinterland boasted many industries during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Camlet (cloth used in making petticoats and cloaks) weaving was the main manufacturing industry in the town, but had become extinct by 1857. The town's six large factories manufactured plaid, tartan, shawls and blankets, and a glassworks also existed. Alloa is famous for its beer and whisky and, in 1857, the town possessed six breweries. Tobacco and snuff were also extensively produced, as was leather, rope, sailcloth, bricks, stoneware, machinery and flour.
Although the port had been very busy during the eighteenth century, there was a significant decrease in trade in the nineteenth century. Shipbuilding, however, remained a major industry right up until the end of the nineteenth century. At the time this survey was carried out, there were bold plans to build a bridge over the Forth at Alloa, which would have replaced the town's ferry service. The Stirling and Dunfermline Railway line, meanwhile, reached Alloa in 1850. In addition to the weekly markets held on Wednesday and Saturday, fairs were held on various dates throughout the year.
Culture and Society
In addition to the public library, Alloa during the mid-nineteenth century also possessed a Mechanics' Institute, an agricultural society, a horticultural society, a Shakespeare club and a number of charitable organisations. Founded in 1824 by public subscription, the fee-paying Alloa Academy was built in Grecian style in the north-east part of the town. Alloa also published two newspapers, the Alloa Advertiser and the Clackmannanshire Advertiser, which appeared on a fortnightly basis. Alloa has retained its traditional status as the administrative centre for the region of Clackmannanshire.