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To anyone living outside these two villages Muirhead is the best known. 
When walking through the villages an outsider will find it hard to know when they are leaving Muirhead and entering Chryston - as a popular comedian once said "You cannot see the join".

However it wasn't always that way.  Chryston (or Christianston) is mentioned in the rent book of Peter Colquhoun,  who collected rents on behalf of the Bishops of Glasgow.  It is recorded that on "6th Day of May 1510 Walter Anderson rentallit 17/- and 18/- lands of Christianston by consent of his muder"

In 1535 the village has various names Chrystinsone, Christinston, Crysterstown, Criston, Crystown. The village appears to have been named Christs Town at one time and probably indicated a connection with the Church. 

In the days of dirt track roads Chryston was located on a crossroads between the Stirling - Glasgow road and from Kirkintilloch to the south.   The growth of the village was probably due to its location at this crossroads.  It provided a convenient stopping point for travellers.  In those early days the most common mode of transport was "walking" - few people had horses -  goods were mainly carried on strings of pack horses and sometimes a "slide cart" pulled by horses  - (resembling the North American Indian's "travois" - a long cart without wheels). 

Around 1760 Bedlay well came into use as the main supply of water for the villagers. The site today, about 50 yards past the burn bridge - approaching from Chryston on the Well Brae path, is marked by a large flagstone next to the right hand wall.  There is also a sign "Bedlay Well" with a large hand cut into the stone!  Some eerie stories are told about this hand but it has been said on good authority that it was the hand of the local builder  - he put his hand on the wet cement as he refurbished the well head.

Around 1790 a new turnpike road was constructed just south of the village which followed the line of the present Cumbernauld Road and passed through Muirhead. This new road by-passed Chryston - so eventually Muirhead became  the best known village.

A five barred toll barrier and a toll house were erected at the junction of Kirkintilloch Road and the new road - ensuring that travellers from all directions paid their tolls!  

Toll duties varied but horses, mules and cattle were charged 1d (1d = 1old penny = 0.42 new pence),  Donkeys, calves, hogs, sheep, lambs, goats were charged 0.5d.  Coaches and wagons varied from 2d - 6d - depending on the size or quality! They even gave discounts for strings of pack horses or wagon trains! 



The Toll House c1992

Muirhead hardly existed before the start of the 19th century. Its name came from the "Muir" or Moor" at the crossroads.  This was used as a resting place for farmers and drovers taking their cattle to markets in Glasgow and Falkirk.   Conveniently there was a pond nearby. By 1831 nine families (40 persons) lived in Muirhead.  The opening of Garnkirk & Glasgow railway attracted new industries and by 1861 there were 120 persons in Muirhead.  In the 1890s the village had grown to 73 houses. 

Bedlay Castle or Bedlay House, is said to have been gifted to the Church in the twelfth century by King Williarn the Lion. The estate of Bedlay and Mollins passed from the Cathedral Church of Glasgow in the early sixteenth century to the Boyd family and then to the Robertsons, who lived there for some 150 years to 1786. Later the Dunlops, who owned Garnkirk House, also owned Bedlay. The estate was inherited by Tbomas Craig Christie in 1854 and passed from him to his son Walter in 1910. The earliest parts of the castle have barrel-vaulted ceilings and a wheelstair with solid stone newel posts, which probably go back to the twelfth century.

Embedded in the wall surrounding the house is the old Bedlay Well with the imprint of a hand cut into the stone.  There are many stories about this hand but it has been identified as being that of Robert Allen - a local builder.



Gamkirk House. The Dunlop family lived in Garnkirk House for many years before selling it to the Sprots in 1811.   Mark Sprot, had it rebuilt about 1820 to the design of David Hamilton, was one of the directors of the company responsible for building the Garnkirk & Glasgow Railway. He was also connected with Garnkirk Fire Clay Works, where good quality garden ornaments, such as Florentine urns and vases, were made and exported, causing the name of Garnkirk to he known as far away as New Zealand. 
Colonel Sir Alexander Sprot, Bart, M.P., succeeded his grandfather Mark Sprot in the estate of Garnkirk in 1874 but sold off most of the family land in 1925.  Later Garnkirk House and the remainder of the estate was purchased by Mr Stenhouse - a well known Insurance Broker.

In 1832 the Garnkirk Fireclay Company, owned by Mark Sprot of Garnkirk House,   was set up.  It was reputed to be the largest and most complex works in the United Kingdom!  

In 1833 the Heathfield Fireclay Works was set up by Peter Ferguson & co. Heathfield village accommodated most of its workers.  This firm continued until the 1960s but both the works and the village were demolished shortly afterwards.  Recently a new estate "Heathfield Grange" was built nearby. This has some 200 houses and it could be said to be the biggest part of the Muirhead village.

Garnkirk Fireclay was closed in 1901and part of the area was taken over by Henry Bros of saracen for the manufacture of Tubes.  This company was later bought by Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd. who continued production until 1933 before transferring the work to Corby.
Further up Woodhead Road,  Gartloch Distillers Company set up in 1900. By 1922 they were using 2 million gallons of water - mostly from the Bothlin Burn!  

To the west of Muirhead - the villages of Garnkirk and Crow Row were growing.  These mainly housed the fireclay workers.  The majority of these families were from Ireland and the houses were built in the Irish style, in terraces with half doors. 
Crow Row was situated at near the junction of Cumbernauld Road and Woodhead Road - now the location of Crowwood estate.  
Garnkirk, as was Garnkirk Fireclay, was situated at the top of Woodhead Road. The village and works have gone and the site is now occupied by a number (hotch-potch) of industrial units.

Mossvale. A row of two-storey terraced houses running along the south side of Drumcavel Road from Station Road was named Mossvale. One part was Alexandra Parade and another Edward Place. A number of colliery and fireclay workers lived in these houses, most of which were owned for a time by James Nimmo & Co Ltd., who also owned Auchengeich Colliery. In the foreground is the entrance to the last house in Neuk Avenue, which runs off the opposite side of Station Road. Mossvale has now been demolished.

With thanks to Neil Kidd - The Book of Chryston 


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