Known by Denny folk as The Blue Pool and by Plean folk as The Blue Water — I created a hybrid title, The Torwood Blue Water Pool.
After two years of investigating and a lot of phone calls and interviews, I concluded that there is nobody alive today who knows its original purpose.
Many ideas have been suggested and at one point I was sure it was a water storage header tank supplying either Torwood and Larbert or the very large Calico Print works at Denovan.
I contacted Scottish Water who very kindly did some archive searching and concluded that they have never had any assets in the immediate area of the Pool.
The circular Pool is flush with ground level, 6 metres in diameter and 5 metres deep. The wall is three bricks thick and surrounded by a waterproof layer of clay. The smooth engineering brick is red in colour and has no company markings. The cement joints between the bricks are in excellent condition.
The oldest and most common theory is that the Pool was something to do with a mine.
Its remote location and lack of rail or decent roads would rule out a manufacturing concern.
The very high build quality would probably rule out a Lime or Charcoal Kiln.
The location is at the highest point for miles around (other than Tappoch Broch) and would certainly supply a good draught for a short chimney.
The theory that I am currently considering is that it was an Air Shaft for a Mine, but what Mine?
To the south was Herbertshire Colliery (The Station Pit) at Denny and to the north was Plean Colliery.
Central Scotland’s coal field is fractured by many geological fault lines that tend to run from west to east.
When a Pit Shaft was sunk to the coal seam, tunnels went out in all directions until they hit a fault line that marked the limit of the field.
Two well known fault lines cut off both Herbertshire and Plean Collieries from our Blue Water Pool.
There is a Clay Drift Mine about half a mile to the north. It was owned by the Bonnybridge Silica & Fireclay Co Ltd and it opened in the 1940s. The Torwood Blue Water Pool appears on a map dated 1928 though I feel sure it is older than that.
There is a very old Lime Drift Mine to the south east but I am discounting that for the time being.
The only remaining Pit was Quarter Colliery. Just south east of Quarter House and on the north side of the Dunipace to Plean road is the remnant of a Pit Bing and this was the location of Quarter Colliery number one shaft.
The pit was operated by William Baird of Gartsherrie and started working Ironstone in 1865. Production switched to Coal around 1880. There was an explosion in 1895 that killed thirteen men and the Colliery shut down completely in 1910.
In 2009, having decided to solve the mystery of its purpose, I rediscovered the Pool. It was a sad looking dark hole that was almost overgrown by trees. The internal brick wall was covered in a dark thick weed and there was none of the vibrant blue colour that originally gave the pool its name. A lot of debris had accumulated on the bottom which was covered in dark silt and weed.
There was no sign of a brick arch that I remembered from my youth.
I set to work clearing the weed and uncovered the brick arch at the bottom of the Pool. It was much larger than I remembered and was pointing towards Quarter Colliery coalfield.
I also found three clay pipes around 13 centimetre diameter that broke through the wall about one metre below the surface.
There was also a 3 centimetre diameter iron pipe stub about 4 metres down and lining up with a manhole about 11 metres to the east.
Finds were made to the east of the manhole. Curved iron flat-bar and OG rainwater guttering custom built to the curve of the 6 metre diameter pool. Flat roofing slates and common half-round guttering were also found.
I now had a lot of pieces but did they all belong to the same puzzle?
A local from Torwood village remembers the Game Keeper in 1960 describing how the pool used to have a Beehive roof that had since fallen in and the loose bricks were clearly visible on the bottom.
About six long planks of wood (the size of rafters) were playthings for the children, many of whom regularly swam in the Blue Water.
I also heard a whisper that someone had family memories of grandparents who worked in a large house and accompanied the gentry to the Pool which they used as a Spa. I would really like to hear from those people.
If the original purpose was an airshaft, it would have been a short chimney about two or three metres tall.
Once redundant, the bricks would have been spirited away for use in another project, leaving the present pool flush with ground level
— but a chimney would not have had a beehive roof or OG guttering and that is why I suspect there has been a change of use during its lifetime.
I would like to propose the following possibility
Much of this is PURE SPECULATION
In 1910 when Quarter Colliery ceased operation, the workings would have flooded with ground water that worked its way up the ventilation tunnel to the arch and filled the base of the short chimney with crystal clear water.
The ground above Quarter Coalfield is nearly 10 metres higher in elevation than the ground level at the Blue Water Pool. This could account for the almost constant overflow of water at the Pool — even when lower points around the Pool are dry. The flow averages about the same as a domestic bath tap.
At this time, Torwood was owned by the Bolton family of Carbrook House near Torwood village. Maybe a young enterprising Bolton decided to make use of this free resource and convert it to a spa pool that he may have been familiar with in his military travels abroad.
A beehive roof is built to keep out the rain which collects in the rather expensive custom built OG guttering which may have been produced at Carron Iron Works.
A door is cut in the side and and a board is fixed to allow easy access and egress (getting oot again). They are almost ready for a dip but the water is freezing cold.
A building is constructed nearby to house a small boiler to produce steam that would be injected at the bottom of the pool through a 3 centimetre iron pipe and bring it up to a genteel temperature.
The valve for opening the steam flow is in the manhole.
This support building has a conventional timber framed roof clad with flat slate and is fitted with traditional half round iron guttering. At the end of its life, this building is also dismantled so the materials can be used elsewhere.
In 1914, The Bolton family sold Torwood. In the years that followed, the beehive roof collapsed and the chimney wall, above ground, was spirited away so the bricks could be used elsewhere.
The airshaft chimney come spa was now just a pool of lovely clear water and a free resource for local farmers who install two clay pipes pointing west and one pointing east.
At a depth of one metre, these pipes will give a reliable year-round supply for cattle troughs or even irrigation.
The water quality has been tested and the results are a rather unremarkable very soft water. Readings for Aluminium and Manganese were higher than normal.
Craig MacAdam, from Buglife Scotland, tells me that the high aluminium content could be caused by decaying peat.
The above SPECULATION is certainly NOT a CONCLUSION
but may provide material for ‘Brainstorming’ and memory-jolting. If you have any relevant memories, please get in touch. I look forward to putting up the big brass plaque saying Case Closed.
The biggest clue we have at the moment is the Brick Arch. If I can get a camera down there and the arch tunnel goes as far as the eye can see, then it is almost certainly an air tunnel. If it stops after a metre or so then a major rethink is required.
The Blue Water Pool then became a curiosity and a popular swimming hole for the more adventurous local children.
Most people in the surrounding areas have never heard of the Blue Water Pool.
It was a special magical place, known to a select few (mostly children) and unseen by casual walkers on the nearby path from Denovan to Torwood village.
In the past two years, ‘Awareness’ has increased considerably.