Stoneywood Paper Mill

In 1878 Alexander Duncan and Sons of the Herbertshire Paper Mill took over the neighbouring Stoneywood dyewood mill and converted it into a second papermill for making coarse paper wrappers, and so on.  James Horsburgh was the works manager but it would seem that from 1882 its direction was put in the hands of John Collins, a relative to the Duncans by marriage.  John’s father, Sir William Collins, the director of the famous Glasgow publishing house and provost of Glasgow, had taken a fourteen years’ lease of the premises in 1881 at a yearly rent of £336.  This included the mill, the workmen’s houses and the fixed machinery.  He immediately added new buildings at a cost of £780 and put in machinery worth £423.  In 1883 the County Assessor valued the mill for rates at £480 based upon its average output of sixteen tons of paper a week.  Before long John Collins was also running Herbertshire Mill (around 1884).  Electric lighting was introduced into Herbertshire and Stoneywood Paper Mills in 1887.  Herbertshire Paper Works and Glencarron House and grounds were sold in December 1887 for the upset price of £14, 750.  The new owner was Sir William Collins.

There followed a period of rapid and profitable expansion as John Collins strove to make a variety of fine quality papers in greater volume.  A large surfacing works and drying-house was erected on the north side of the river on the lands of Risk and a footbridge built.  Up to date machinery was introduced.  In 1892 John Collins (Limited) was formed and John Collins was appointed its first managing director.  He was, by all accounts, a good employer.  Although owned by the same company, Herbertshire and Stoneywood operated as separate works making different types of paper.

Coloured paper was produced.  In 1885 friction glazing was introduced to give a high quality finish.  In 1887 the company pressed ahead with preparations to manufacture enamelled paper.  The necessary machinery was purchased and then it was learned that the new Falkirk and District Water Bill proposed to augment the river’s waters with those of the Earl’s Burn.  Its waters were more peaty and John Collins gave evidence objecting to the additional water.  At the introduction he stated that he employed 150 hands and paid £6,500 in wages (Falkirk Herald 14 March 1888).

In February 1894 a storm occurred and in the space of two hours the Carron rose by six feet.  Some stores lying outside at Stoneywood Mill were washed away with the flood.  Even worse, the seepage of water threatened to undermine the foundations of the buildings and it was only through the constant attendance of a gang of men that the surfacing department was saved.

John Collins died at Glencarron House on 4 February 1895 aged only 38.  By 1904 George P Fleming was the manager of Stoneywood Paper Mill, and resident at Glencarron.  Late in 1906 the Carrongrove Paper Company bought out John Collins & Company.  Glen House was demolished as part of the expansion of Carrongrove Paper Works in 1908.  Herbertshire Mill too was levelled but Stoneywood continued production in its own right. 

Stoneywood Paper Mill, Denny, still owned by John Collins, Ltd, was the scene in January 1944 of a disastrous boiler explosion, as a result of which at least four workmen were seriously injured, while Mr R M Thomson, manager, also sustained a leg injury.  The boiler concerned was one of the rotary type, measuring about 19 feet by 7 feet, with two man-holes, and was used for the mixing of raw material.  The violence of the explosion caused the boiler to somersault across the room before it crashed against the wall at the west end.  The wall was demolished, together with a store and lavatory.  Debris, including heavy portions of the wooden parts of the structure, was hurled distances up to a hundred yards.  The heavy pinion driving wheel at one end of the boiler was smashed to fragments and strewn around.  From the manholes on the boiler there was also a general scattering of the contents, which comprised paper cuttings with a silver coating along with various chemicals.  This silver-coated paper was showered over the roofs of other parts of the mill close at hand, and trees nearby were given quite a Christmas tree effect with their consignment.  Several of the employees had narrow escapes, some being thrown through doorways many yards into adjoining parts of the mill.  The explosion is thought to have been caused by an accumulation of gases from conflicting chemicals.  Inquiries into this aspect were carried out to ensure that it did not happen again (Falkirk Herald 29 January 1944, 5).

In the 1970s Stoneywood was purchased by the Georgia Pacific Corporation and finally closed in 1984.

Sites and Monuments Record

SMR 488(NS 800 829)

G.B. Bailey, 2022