Wheels And Walls
Extraordinary engineering: Millennium wheels and Roman walls at Falkirk, Central Scotland.
The industrial town of Falkirk in central Scotland is the home to two most extraordinary and unique feats of engineering standing within a few hundred yards of each other and yet separated by almost 2 centuries of history; the Roman Antonine Wall and the Millennium Falkirk Wheel.
The Falkirk Wheel – a giant boat hoist
This is a rotating boat hoist designed to lift boats 79 feet from the Forth and Clyde Canal via an aqueduct to a canal basin and two further locks to the Union Canal. The 18th century saw Falkirk at the heart of the industrial revolution in central Scotland and at the forefront of new canal construction. The Forth and Clyde Canal was opened in 1790 to join the east coast to the west coast and in 1822 the Union Canal was built to complete a spur right into the centre of Edinburgh. Where the two canals met at Falkirk a system of 11 locks was built for canal traffic to navigate the difference in height of 115 feet between the levels of the two waterways. This series of locks last used in 1902 fell into disrepair and were filled in by the early 1930s. A regeneration programme to breathe new life into the canals and link the waterways once more for traffic and leisure activities resulted in the innovative design of the Falkirk Wheel. Opened in 2002 this towering structure is a focal point in a newly created canal basin and visitor centre where visitors can enjoy the experience of being hoisted by boat from one level to another or merely watch this feat of engineering in action.
The Antonine Wall
In 142AD the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius ordered the building of a wall from the Firth of Forth in the east to the River Clyde in the west in an attempt to extend and secure the northern boundaries of Empire beyond the existing Hadrian’s Wall a hundred miles to the south. The ‘wall’, which took 20 years to build, was built from layers of turf laid onto foundations of stone to a height of 13 feet. It stretched for a distance of 39 miles with a ditch and defensive pits on the north side and a military road to the south. Along the wall’s length 19 forts were built, one every two miles interspersed with fortlets. The Antonine Wall was manned for only 20 years before the Romans fell back to Hadrian’s Wall. The section of the wall at Falkirk, which includes Rough Castle Fort, one of the best preserved forts is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.