Torrance local history

The village of Torrance is situated in a local area known for centuries as ‘The Eleven Ploughs of Balgrochan’. The Eleven Ploughs were part of the estate of the Grahams of Mugdock (Milngavie). They received their name in 1630 when Montrose, the great military leader of the Covenanting period, sought to raise money for his campaigns by feuing off part of the Mugdock lands. The ‘Eleven Ploughlands’ were feued off to local occupiers willing to pay a grassum (lump sum) on the understanding that their annual rate of duty would be held at a moderate level. Three of the Ploughlands were at Carlston, four at Easter Balgrochan and four at Wester Balgrochan.

“The eleven ploughs o’ Balgrochan were acquired at that time
By eleven sturdy carles, as they ca’ed them lang syne”

The feuars originally held their land in run-rigs, running down in long strips southwards to the River Kelvin. In 1735, however, each feuar received an enclosed piece of land, in line with the widespread drive towards land enclosure at that period. Coal and lime continued to be worked in common, but ironstone rights were allocated to individual ploughland proprietors.

Some time after the enclosures of 1735, the village of Torrance began to develop. Some of the earliest inhabitants were ‘country weavers’, weaving linens or woollens in association with local farming activity. Around this time, also, the extraction of limestone, coal and ironstone began to emerge as a local industry of some significance. During the late eighteenth century the improvement of local roads and the opening of the Forth & Clyde Canal, with a wharf at Hungryside, provided routes to market for local agricultural and mineral production.

When the Eleven Ploughs were feued off by Montrose in 1630, the large meal mill at Balgrochan was at the same time feued to a Robert Ferrie. Three hundred years later the mill was still grinding corn and celebrating three centuries of Ferrie family ownership. In 1933, however, it was closed and sold to a Glasgow firm for the manufacture of talcum powder. The mill wheel at Balgrochan was said to be the second largest in Scotland. It was cut up for scrap in 1949.

The canal wharf at Hungryside remained for many years as Torrance’s principal link with the outside world. In 1879, however, a station was opened at Torrance by the Kelvin Valley Railway Company and the village, somewhat belatedly, was linked to the national rail network. It might have been thought that Torrance would then have developed as a commuter dormitory for Glasgow, but the influx of new residents was slow in arriving. Indeed it was not until after the railway was closed to passengers in 1951 that commuting began in earnest. During the mid-1970s, for example, Henry Boot Homes built a considerable number of houses at Meadowbank and West Balgrochan.