Nights Out in the West End
The Caledonian Hotel, Fauldhouse
F20021, first published 18th May 2019
The West End area of Fauldhouse was blessed with a railway station connecting to Scotland's major cities, and the district's only hotel; built to serve those travelling on business to this once thriving industrial village. The hotel, and the neat layout of miners rows that surrounded it, was the subject of a surprising number of picture postcards. These help you journey in the imagination between the streets and rows, even though little of these scenes now survive.
The village of Fauldhouse grew up around a handful of settlements created in the mid 19th century to serve the iron and coal mining industries. In the 1850's the area around West End was still open countryside. The only features marked on the earliest ordnance survey map were twelve cottages, perhaps built to house agricultural workers, and the route of a mineral tramway. This primitive form of horse-hauled railway was built in the 1840's to carry coal from the Benhar pits to the Wilsontown, Coltness and Morningside railway (later part of the North British).
Fauldhouse grew quickly during the 1860's and 70's with the development of mining and quarrying industries. The Caledonian Railway's new route between Edinburgh and Glasgow, opened in 1869, swept through the area, and was quickly linked by branch lines to most major collieries. It's rival, the North British, constructed its East Benhar branch at about the same time, replacing the old mineral tramway, and further extended its sidings into centres of industry. The East Benhar route included construction of an iron bridge over Fauldhouse main street, which then separated West End from the Falla Rows and the rest of Fauldhouse to the east.
Most of the solid rows of stone-built housing in West End were constructed by Thomas Thornton & Co. to house those working in the companies pits. Thornton's also operated a general store to supply the needs of the mining community. In 1895 Peter Thornton constructed an impressive Caledonian Hotel on a site conveniently close to the Caledonian railway station, but set between the single-story rows of workers housing. This impressive structure with ornate turrets, cost over £3,000 and provided eight bedrooms “in every way well fitted up… as a first class hotel”. There was ample stabling in a yard to the rear. At that time applications for hotel licences were strictly controlled and all applications were rigourous scrutinised, The licensing authorities, meeting in April 1896, were presented with two applications for the building, one for use as a hotel, and a second for use as a licence grocery should the first application be declined. A compelling case was put for granting the hotel licence, including a petition signed by 62 “commercial men” who testified “what a great convenience such a place would be.” A member of the licensing board also commented that he had visited the premises and was very much impressed with their suitability. The licence was granted to the manager, James Duncan, previously of the Rutland Hotel Bar, Edinburgh. Within a few years this was passed to Thomas Forsyth, who prior to that was manager of Thornton's provisions store. He was succeeded by his nephew, Thomas Forsyth junior, whose son, James Forsyth, took over the licence in 1934.
For many years the Caledonian was at the heart of commercial and social life in Fauldhouse, and was venue for many grand meetings and celebrations. Prior to 1910, the original row of houses at West End was cleared, leaving an unrestricted view between the Caledonian Hotel and the Caledonian Railway Company's station.
The fortunes of Fauldhouse, and those of hotel, declined following World War One. In 1938, the Chief Constable reported to the licensing court that “the whole premises were dingy and depressing and in need of some alteration”, and that the furnace used for heating the licensed premises “was not only unsightly but dangerous”. By that time much of the surrounding housing lay derelict or had been demolished. As new homes were built on these sites, the Caledonian Bar remained a popular hostelry although it seems, was not always appreciated by its neighbours. The Caledonian was damaged by fire in 1985, and finally called time in 1992.
The Caledonian was then converted into flats. Shorn of its balustrades and turrets, and painted a drab french gray, the once grand building now looks a little sad and down-at-heel.