Broomhill Paper Mill

This works was also known as the Bonnybridge Paper Works as the Lands of Broomhill were located at High Bonnybridge.  Broomhill Distillery was destroyed by fire in January 1863.  The damage sustained was very considerable, and although covered by insurance, the property was sold to Messrs J Liddell & Co who converted it into a paper mill (Waugh 1981, 119).  The mill embraced a large block of buildings which had been erected on either side of Broomhill Road whichled from the Forth and Clyde Canal at Bonnybridge to Bonnybridge Station on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway. 

Illus: Ordnance Survey Map of 1896/98 (National Library of Scotland).

Fire again broke out in October 1870 and the following account appeared in the Falkirk Herald:

“The fire was discovered about three o’clock in the morning by Mr Ure of the Columbian Stove Works, who at once caused the fact to be made known throughout Bonnybridge village, but a considerable time elapsed before many had assembled.  Meanwhile the boiler house, in which the fire is supposed to have originated, was enveloped in flames, and these, urged on by a high and variable wind which prevailed, soon extended; the fire, in fact, leaped from place to place, with frightful rapidity.  From the boiler house it communicated with the rag-beating room, and from thence it crossed the road to the rag store and rag-cutting room – a building about 60 yards in 1ength and double storied.  Subsequent1y the flames reached the counting-house, underneath which was a store of oil, grease, and naphtha.  The whole place at one time seemed a mass of flames, which shot high into the air and illuminated the country for miles around.  Sparks ascended in thousands, and distributed themselves over a wide district to the great danger of property.  A plentiful supply of water was obtained, but there was a want of mechanical appliances for its effectual distribution.  The fire extinguisher belonging to the Columbian Stove Works was procured but it did little execution, while the water hose of the mill proved of no value after…  There were plenty of buckets, however, and with these water was carried and poured on the burning mass.  At half past four the fire had reached its climax, for at that time the roofs of the buildings in which the fire rages fell in almost simultaneously with a crash.  Machinery and boilers were hurled from their places, and part of the walls tumbled down added to the ruin.  The flames, now let properly loose, assumed a terrific altitude, and the whole place seemed doomed to destruction, while even further extension appeared a question of only a very few minutes.  Mr Liddell’s house caught fire, but it was fortunately extinguished; and, by the untiring efforts of the crowd, the machine-room was saved – the only part of the mill that escaped.  The machinery and furnishings in those places where the fire existed are completely destroyed; in fact, everything they contained.  The occurrence caused terrible alarm in Bonnybridge, for at one time the fire threatened to extend to the neighbouring cottages, and also the Columbian Stove Works.  It was only by the exertions of the crowd that this was prevented, and to the skill of Mr Ure, who superintended the operations, and who, it ought to be mentioned, was well backed by Mr Allan Gillespie and Mr Robert Goodwin.  The damage is estimated to be about £7,000, which, it is understood, is covered by insurance.”

Illus: Broomhill Paper Works looking south-east along Broomhill Road, c1900.

Had that been the end of the affair the mill may have continued in production.  However, the following day the equipment and buildings saved from the fire were completely destroyed when the burning embers once again burst into flames (Falkirk Herald 22 October 1870, 4).  The following March saw the estates of J Liddell sequestered and the mill was put up for sale in 1872.  In May the upset price had to be lowered to £4,800 and it was bought by Charles Oswald of Brechin.  Paper making machinery and fittings were installed by T & J Oliphant, engineers and by July the mill was operating.  Turbines were installed and the old water wheel, 13ft in diameter and 3½ft wide, was sold off (Falkirk Herald 25 October 1873, 1).

Charles Oswald was succeeded by Charles Oswald Hall and the company of Oswald and Hall was established.  Charles Oswald Hall died in 1894, leaving John Oswald and James Hall as sole partners.  John retired in 1897 and the company was continued by James Hall.  The class of paper manufactured was principally grocery papers, shop papers, greys, caps, glazed and unglazed casings, and browns.  A large part of the production of the mill was made into paper bags at the works.

Illus: Broomhill Paper Works.  The dip in the road is where the lade from the mill pond crossed under it.

James Hall then went into partnership with Archibald Johnstone Burns and in 1903 it was decided to issue shares in a limited company in order to raise £13,000 capital for investment.  The mills had a capacity of 40 tons of paper per week and were profitable.  The prospectus for Oswald and Hall Ltd listed the property and assets as follows:

Buildings, machinery, fixed and other plant, valued by Messrs Jas. Bertram and Sons, Limited, engineers, Edinburgh,
and James Strang, architect, Falkirk  
Stocks as valued for the ordinary purposes of the firm at 31 December 1902£5,260141
Book debts (guaranteed by Vendors)  £875511
Cash in hand£25616
Goodwill and the benefit and obligations of current contracts           £1,607186
Since the date of the valuation a new Babcock and Wilcox boiler has been added, the estimated value of which is£800.”

Despite the optimism, the shares were not taken up and in November 1903 the two partners were declared bankrupt.  The moveable assets were sold in April 1904.  These included some of the raw material used – 10 tons waste paper, about 20 tons jute waste, 7 tons straw, rags, alum, and barrels of bleach (Falkirk Herald 13 April 1904, 4). 

“STIRLINGSHIRE, BONNYBRIDGE. For sale by public roup (under the powers contained in two bonds and dispositions in security), within Dowell’s Rooms, Number 18 George Street, Edinburgh, on Wednesday, the 14th day of July, 1909, at 2 o’clock afternoon. The subjects lately occupied by Oswald and Hall, paper makers, as a paper mill, etc. (but excepting all the machinery, boilers, and other plant therein).  The subjects consist of a large number of buildings, water dams, chimney stalk, vacant ground, and two superiorities.  They are very suitable for any one desiring to acquire premises for industrial purposes.  The subjects will be exposed to sale as under.

Lot I. Consisting of extensive ranges of buildings, chimney stalk, dwelling-houses, known as Broomhill House, offices and garden, all situated on the east side of the public road.  This portion of the subjects extends to about 3 acres, and the feu-duty is £32 0s 4d per annum; also the feu near to the North British Railway, extending to 3.557 acres, for which a feu-duty of £42 13s 9d is payable.  Upon part of this feu are two small ponds connected with the mill by pipes.  Two sub-feus have been given off this portion, and presently belong to the Bonnybridge Co-operative Society Ltd, and to Miss Elizabeth Dougall.  These together extend to 0.767 acre, for which £13 7s as sub-feu-duty is receivable.  The remainder of the ground is unoccupied, and is available for further feuing. Upset price £500.

Lot II. Consisting of the buildings and water dam on the west side of the public road.  These subjects extend to 0.975 acre, and the feu-duty is £4 8s per annum.  Upset price £175.  For further particulars…”

(Falkirk Herald 10 July 1909).

The buildings were demolished in 1910 and the public road widened.

Sites & Monuments Record

SMR 1248(NS8258 7986)

G.B. Bailey, 2022