THE Alloa Glassworks at Glasshouse Loan have been in the town since the mid-18th century.

Over the years it has been a mainstay of employment and continues to produce glass products to this day.

Commercial glass making began in the 17th century when Sir George Hay set up works at East Wemyss in Fife in 1610, producing windows, glasses and bottles.

Yet it was not until the Industrial Revolution a century later that the worldwide market opened up for glass.

Construction of the works in Alloa was overseen by Lady Frances Erskine, daughter of John Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar, known as Bobbing John, who led the Jacobites at the Battle of Sheriffmuir.

She had the consent of her brother Thomas and construction work took around 18 months to complete and production began in 1750.

She had been encouraged into the venture by her husband James Erskine, whom she had married in 1740, and his father.

She knew Alloa was ideally placed for trade and commerce and in addition, the raw materials to make glass were close at hand.

Salt could be brought in from nearby Kennetpans, although this dried up in the latter part of the 18th century, and sand and kelp from the River Forth.

Coal to drive the whole process could be easily transported to the site from the local Mar collieries thanks to the laying of the wagonway, initiated by Lady Frances, to the harbour.

The men involved in the glass making process were highly skilled. Lady Erskine brought the renowned Bohemian glass workers and their families over from Europe in order to oversee the building of the works and to train the local workforce.

Initially only bottles were produced. Made by the craftsmen, the apprentices soon learned the impressive art of glass blowing.

Glass blowers would take a blob of glass onto the end of a hollow iron pipe, known as a pontil, and blew into the pipe, forming a bubble of glass.

To make it more bottle shaped the blower would then roll it on a waxed iron table. He would blow it again and when it was the right shape and size it would be placed in a mould, which was in two halves.

These were then cupped round the blown-up glass and moulded by blowing until it fitted the mould perfectly.

When this process was complete, the neck was formed while it was still hot. It was then re-heated to stop it from breaking, placed on a tray with other newly formed bottles, and left to cool slowly.