Bleaching Mill

[The Lade] [Innerbuist Mill] [Bleaching Mill]

On 29th December 1784, William MacAlpine sent a letter to George Dempster MP, requesting an introduction to Lord Stormont.  On January 4th 1795 George Dempster MP sent a letter to Lord Stormont giving a character reference and endorsing MacAlpine’s proposal to establish a printfield at Stormontfield.  In 1787 a Lease for 99 years was granted in favour of William MacAlpine, and a map of the proposed route of the lade was drawn up by William Blair Jnr., Surveyor. A map of the completed lade was drawn by Henry Buist showing the three falls leading to the mill buildings.

The Bleaching Mill

From 1787 until 1971 there was a Bleach Mill at Stormontfield on the site of what is now the housing development at Colenhaugh.

In 1791, a total of 450,000 yards of cotton and linen was bleached at the mill.  This continued until the Napoleonic Wars caused a recession in the textile industry of Perthshire.

The process of bleaching the brown bundles of cloth consisted of an initial singeing followed by washing and boiling. the cloth was then taken to the ‘Greens’ for bleaching and finally blued, starched and stretched.

Hours worked at the mill:   6am-9am / 10am-2pm / 3pm-5.30pm

Click on these photos to enlarge

1913 Works Photo

Working Cloth

Bleaching Mill

Bleaching Dept.

Mill Front

Linen Works & Cottages

The Mill

New Garrett wagon in 1913

From information posted to the website:

The cotton sheeting came from England, Ireland and India, raw and untreated and in one continuous length. There were various widths: 70”, 80” and 90”.  After an initial wash at our Parent Company at Huntingtower, Stormontfield started the process of bleaching, dying, cutting and stitching into sheets according to the size the customers required.  Stormontfield did mostly white sheeting which was in demand by hospitals and hotels, for example.  Occasionally they did coloured sheeting for Huntingtower, who also had a dying plant.  After boiling, the cloth went through various stages,  bleaching and rinsing till the shade of white was reached. ‘I never knew there could be so many different shades of white’.
The dying was done in cast iron vats which pressurised steam (at 5-10 lb psi),  the biggest cast iron vat was approximately 9’ in diameter and 9’ in depth, with a hinged lit held down with 20 ‘G’ clamps.  When in operation, the lid had a steam pressure gauge, also a safety valve.  ‘One day this malfunctioned, the result being a huge build-up of pressure inside the vat which blew the lid off, and with it yards and yards of scalding wet cloth up to the ceiling, and draped over the rafters.  Fortunately, this happened in the lunch hour with no staff present, otherwise it could have had serious consequences’.  After boiling, the cloth went through various stages, including bleaching and rinsing, before passing though the finishing department where it was starched and shaded to the correct white, it then went through a set of drying cans which consisted of 20 copper cylinders 18” diameter and 10’ long steam filled, and electric motor chain driven.  From there it went to the machine which made the correct width; 70”, 80” and 90” widths, then upstairs, where it was parcelled up and delivered to the customer.
The electrical power to the mill came from our own water driven turbine (500 volt direct current).  The water came from the lade which had a number of sluice gates which kept the water clean and free flowing to keep the turbine going and supply enough water for the mill.      Mr Brown, Bridge of Earn

The whole of Stormontfield including the Boag cottages, fishponds cottages and Colenden were occupied by bleach field workers and farm workers. It was in fact a feudal system.

From Monday to Friday two steam driven lorries (fodens) delivered linen cloth from Kirkcaldy to the works for bleaching and beetling. It arrived in long lengths of hundreds of yards and was fed into the works to be bleached using lime (I’m not sure whether it was quick or slaked lime) but it was considered dangerous to handle. The used lime was then dumped into pits at the rear of the works.

After bleaching the cloth was taken to the beetling mill where it was fed in to a system of large rollers and was hammered by rows of heavy wooden battens to soften the cloth, the noise was horrendous. Everyone who worked there for any length of time ended up stone deaf. This included my grandfather, William Christie, who spent many years in the beetling mill. My mother also did some time there. The processed  cloth was then returned to Kirkcaldy to be cut up and distributed. I have since learned that my other grandfather Peter Soutar also worked in the beetling mill. He lived with my grandmother in Colenden, I can’t remember which cottage but it was near the end of the row close to the burn.

Both the bleach works and the beetling mill were powered by water taken from the river Tay via the lade ( which is like a canal) it is approximately two miles long about ten feet wide and six feet deep. When the water reached first the beetling mill then the works it was bled off into a drop of about ten or fifteen feet. The force of the water turned a big turbine which generated electricity which drove motors which in turn drove all the other machinery by a system of belts.

Peter Souter - extract from his page

“In the first half of the 19th Century the Mill both prospered and went through bad times, just like industry today, until it closed in 1861, possibly due to the recession in the cotton trade brought about by the American Civil War. However, in 1867 when the industry was more stable a lease was granted to David Lumsden, owner of a Company which was to become known as Lumsden and Mackenzie, and in 1886, Mr R.W.R. Mackenzie became his partner and moved over the river from Almondbank to reside at Stormontfield.      Mr R.W.R. Mackenzie was to play a major role in bringing St David’s Mission Chapel to Stormontfield.”         

Cameron Horne, Colenhaugh - author of ‘A tale of two communities’

Part of letter on Memories page - Visitor Information

“This picture of the works at Stormontfield was taken about 1913 and feature Lumsden & mill with new wagon in frontMackenzie’s new three-ton Garrett steam wagon.  This wagon was painted smoke grey and lettered in red.  The driver is one of the Adams family from Errol (that family employed various steam engines for pulling and driving threshing mills etc.).  My grandfather, John Black, standing next to the driver, was fireman, but later went on to drive this and subsequent steam wagons for the company.  (One of the photographs on your Stormontfield web-site shown him and Bob Wallace standing beside a five-ton tipping Foden in 1919).
     Jim Black, Burntisland

Part of letter on Memories page - Visitor Information

How very interesting. My grandfather David Scott was the last manager of the bleaching mill, and was in charge at the time of the fire in 1971.  My grandmother Hannah Scott and he lived in Stormontfield most of their lives and my father Allan Scott was born there.
                                        Ken Scott, Carnoustie

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