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Controlled Demolition of a Chimney at Carrongrove Paper Mill 2009

21 November 2009 at 10.45 HRS


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4 minutes



The forecast
was for heavy rain and the sky was getting darker.
We listened as the updates came over the sentry’s radio, “Three minute warning siren! — thirty second warning shot!”
Some thought the great chimney should be preserved as a monument to our industrial past but I suppose it would be rather expensive to maintain.
I thought of the short period I had worked there on number 3 machine in 1970. Memories of cleaning the huge brass bearing plates with a pale of paraffin and a bundle of rags. Crawling along the pit underneath the machine to clear out tons of ‘broke’ paper after the machine had been playing up.
I remembered the ghostly silence of the huge grass boilers — there were about six or eight of them I think. Esparto grass was no longer used and exotic snakes and spiders no longer lurked in dark corners.
The industry had come a long way since the early days when a flat frame of wire gauze was pulled by hand through a vat of very watery pulp and the resultant coating was pressed to remove water and the finished sheet hung up to dry.
I had never been in the Boiler House and had never paid any attention to the great tall chimney until today . . . the voice on the radio brought me back from my reminiscing, “Three, two, one . . .”
It was a tidy and very professional demolition — just enough force to do the job and no surprises or unnecessary disruption.

Carrongrove made a variety of paper over the years.
I have been told that it once made incredibly thin paper for bibles.
On another occasion it made paper for printing money — security guards followed the ‘broke’ paper from the machine-house back up to the Beating department where it was mashed to pulp for another go-round.
Some paper was coated with clay and used for printing high quality colour magazines and catalogues.
The mill had many thousands of workers over the years and was a major employer in the area.
It is like losing an old friend but everything has a lifespan and within a few years, young children will be playing in the new housing estate, oblivious to the noise and activity that was the hallmark of that area for two hundred years.
I wonder whose house will be on top of number 3 machine.

The Future
This historic site is being developed by Mactaggart & Mickel and should provide 178 new homes with a prestigious address. Many of the new homes will enjoy the magical sounds of the Carron River as it flows at the back of the development.You can find out more at

Bucks from the Bang
Would you like to knock down a big chimney?
— that question raised £11,000 (UK pounds) for Strathcarron Hospice in a raffle. The winner pushed the plunger and locals watched in awe.
Strathcarron Hospice provides a service that is held in very high regard but it depends on donations and fund raising. You can find out more at their website

Thanks to Jim Mcfarlane from Hunter Demolition for the following data.

The Chimney
Height of chimney – 70 metres approx.
Diameter at base (above square plinth) – 6.80 metres
External circumference at base – 21.35 metres
Brickwork 1.3 metres thick at base
Weight approximately 2000 tonnes

The Execution
3 openings were formed at the base to weaken the chimney — each 1.22 x 3.0 metres high.
Test blast used to "soften" the brickwork to allow for removing these openings by jack hammers and excavator with breaker.
The front edge of the chimney is therefore supported by 2 columns — ie. between the 3 openings and it is these columns that are removed by explosive demolition.
The columns are drilled 1.5 m deep (45 degrees to horizontal) at 700mm centres and filled with 400 grams of Perunit 28E nitro-glycerine based explosive.(14 kilograms in total).
Detonation cord inserted into some of the charges and detonated by Nonel Detonators. Others are initiated by the explosion of the first charge.
Two lines of 12 gram detonation cord were fed back to the firing point at the Mill Manager’s house (listed building), one being a backup which is fired 25 milliseconds after the initial firing, the timing preset by a Nonel Delay system in the firing initiator.
The base of the chimney, once charged, was wrapped in chain link fencing and geotextiles to ensure that the blast would be contained.

The Expertise
Hunter Demolition is based in Scotland’s Central Belt
and has been providing demolition services for over 70 years since its inception as George Hunter (Demolishers).
Their contracts range from asbestos garage roofs at £500 to housing schemes, papermills and engineering works at over £1 million.
They recently demolished Denny High School, the OKI factory in Cumbernauld and parts of Larbert Hospital and are currently finishing off the demolition of St Mungos High School in Falkirk.
You can watch another of their explosive demolitions at the Power House Tower at Corpach Papermill at Fort William in 2008.
They have 15 demolition spec excavators, 40 skips, skip lorries, tippers, flatbeds, on site dumpers (moxy) and on site crushing and screening plant to produce aggregates for recycling from concrete etc.
Gone are the days when material from site is removed to landfill. The metals are recycled but the concrete is pulverised to small pieces of ‘hard core’ and used to level the site. One week you see a building, the next you see some pointy piles of small stones.
Hunter Demolition has expertise in explosive demolition and is licensed to remove asbestos. Both were required in the clearing of Carrongrove Paper Mill.


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