Clackmannanshire, on the north bank of the River Forth, is one of the smaller counties in Scotland, but it has a dramatic landscape of flat carseland, the dominant Ochil Hills and a rich cultural history. The Museum and Heritage Service has a wide-ranging collection, gathered during the last 50 years, which encompasses artefacts from excavations on prehistoric sites and the medieval tower houses of Alloa and Sauchie. It also showcases the extensive industrial, civic and social history of more recent times and a growing art collection.
In the last three centuries the county has seen the rise and decline of many industries, including coal and silver mining, ship building and the use of Alloa as a port, brewing, distilling, pottery-, brick- and tile-making, foundries, and especially the textile industry with its many wool-spinning and weaving mills in Alloa, Clackmannan and the Hillfoots villages. In contrast to these is O-I Manufacturing UK Ltd in Alloa, which was founded c.1767 and is the oldest glass works in Europe still working on its original site. The collection includes material from the glass works and many of the other industries. Artefacts from Patons & Baldwins’ Kilncraigs Mill, founded c.1814, with its accompanying documentary archive, probably forms the most complete group of historical material from a wool-spinning mill to have been preserved in Britain.
The fine art collection is diverse and includes work from the eighteenth century to the present and in a variety of media. There are several works in oil by David Allan, who was born in Alloa and was the son of the Shoremaster. His artistic promise was recognised by several of the wealthy families in Clackmannanshire, particularly the Erskines and Cathcarts, who helped him to attend the Foulis Academy in Glasgow and enabled him to continue his studies in Italy. He settled in Edinburgh in 1779, where he concentrated on painting portraits, miniatures and figure subjects, returning often to visit his family in Alloa and remaining in close contact with the Erskines and Lord Cathcart. His Portrait of Two Boys (1783) (perhaps the two elder sons of John Francis Erskine, later 7th Earl of Mar or, though less likely, two of the four sons of General Sir Ralph Abercomby of Tullibody) is charming and engaging, and the connection with a local family makes it a significant historical document.
The painting A Prospect of Alloa, Clackmannanshire from the North Looking towards the River Forth (c.1840) and attributed to the Greenock artist John Fleming or, more likely, to John Heaviside Clark is another important painting locally. The late Georgian town is shown in detail and it is possible to identify many key buildings, including (from left to right) Alloa Academy (1824), the infant school (1839), Meadow Brewery (c.1764), the tower of the Old Kirk (1680), the parish church of St Mungo (1819), (in the centre) the Grange Distillery (1795), and (on the far right) the furnaces of Alloa Glass Works. The work is of good quality and is an important record of Alloa on the eve of its major expansion as one of Britain’s first industrial towns, with major wool-spinning, ceramics, brewing and shipbuilding works, and before the advent of the railway in 1850.
A unique painting intended as an advertisement for the knitting yarns of John Paton, Son & Co., by an unknown artist, is a remarkable survival from an important wool-spinning industry in Alloa. The light-hearted scene (c.1890) provides an unusual glimpse into the art of advertising, which had already become a significant means of promoting the products of the company.
The Museum and Heritage Service was the recipient of several works of contemporary Scottish art dispersed with the Scottish Arts Council Collection Bequest in 1997–1998, including paintings by Alexander Fraser, Edward Arthur Gage, John Inglis and Sylvia Wishart. Paintings by Neil Dallas Brown, David McClure, James Morrison, Alberto Morrocco and Robin Philipson also strengthen the contemporary part of the collection.
Susan Mills, Museum and Heritage Officer
Text source: PCF / Clackmannanshire Council
This description was originally written for a catalogue.