Ballenbreich Mill

(Avon Mill, Haining Mill, Waugh’s Mill)

Illus: 1860 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The area of Avonbridge lying north of the River Avon was part of the Barony of Ballenbreich and so the mill on that side of the bridge also takes this name.  The barony seems to have been created around 1600 and was within the superiority of Haining and consequently the mill was also known as Haining Mill.  The mill dam was placed tangentially across the River Avon to direct water into the lade which passed under the main road to Falkirk.

Ballenbreich Mill appears in 1604 in a charter relating to the barony of Haining and it was probably created at the same time as the barony (Reid 1994, 108).  In 1611 the will and testament of Robert Rob “at the Mylne of Bambreiche” was registered.  The quality of cleaning of the local crops was giving the miller problems which seems to have resulted in damage to his mill stones and in 1649 he obtained an order at the baron court to help to resolve his issue:

It is statute and ordanit that John Robert miller at Bambreichmylne suffer na unridleit aittis to come within the foresaid mylne in tymecoming quhilk if he doe and any skeathe fund to follow thairby he be obleist to mak the pairties damnifeyit satisfactioune for thair skeathe.”  

(Reid 2005, 43).

This statute was repeated a few months later when John Robert was described as “fermeror and mylner of the said mylne” showing that he was in personal possession of the tack.  To the east of the mill was a small hill known as Millknowe which would have been used as a shielling hill for the sifting of the crops.

Two years later John Robert appeared in court again complaining that several people had sold their corn without having it milled at his mill despite being astricted to it, thereby depriving him of the multures to which he was entitled by virtue of his tack, and also of the appropriate miller’s portion and fee.  The family were in court again in 1685 when James Robert appealed against the unfair yearly rent of 300 merks which William Dick of Bankhead had imposed.  Dick must have owned the mill at that time and had increased the charge “without leave of earl of Callendar, superior of Balmbreich, or of most of the feuars there.”  The court agreed with the miller and described the rent as “exorbitant.”  Presumably, it was John Robert’s son, James Robert, miller at Ballenbreich, who was unsuccessfully taken to court by William Rule in 1687.

In 1723 Agnes Morrison, who lived in Bogohaugh, sued John Robert of Haining Mill for £7 6s as two years’ “Byrun fiall and bounteth” which must have been for previous service when working at that mill.  John Robert was still designated as “milner in Hainings Miln” in 1738.  The mill had a right to the usage of the commonty of Muiravonside and probably obtained peat from it for its drying kiln.  When that commonty was divided in 1745 the mill received a portion known as the Bruntrig.

The earliest reference to it as Haining Mill comes from 1673 and thereafter the two names occur intermittently.  When William Forbes bought the Lands of Haining or Almond in 1783 he made an assessment of his new assets.  In May 1783 he was told that Haining Mill would be sure of a standing rent because it had a great thirlage and commanded the water even in dry seasons (Forbes papers 2055/1).  However, his new tenant did not perform to the satisfaction of those thirled to the mill:

“whereas Milns are a publick good and ought to be Mannaged by such as are Attentive and diligent to see Justice and Equity done to the Thirlage.  And in regard that you are now Proprietor of the Miln Balenbreich, commonly called Hainings Miln possessed by One John Ingles and that We your Petitioners are all bound thirl to said miln. Yet we are far from being satisfied with the Conduct of said John Ingles your Tenant and are very certain that your Honour may let said Miln more to your Own Advantage and benefit of your Petitioners for if said Ingles be continued it will oblige your Petitioners to fall upon Ways and Methods of going Seldom to said Miln which has tendency of being prejudicial to your Honours Interest as well as to our private Advantage. May it therefore please your Honour to consider of what is above set forth and to let your Miln to some honest and Industrious Person as to you seemeth proper and Make your Petitioners quit of Ingles, which will be a Service to yourself as Well as a gratuitous deed done to your petitioners. And We (as in duty bound) Shall ever pray & c.”

(Forbes Papers 2082/1).

Apparently, the bad character of the tenant continued with his son, for in July 1794 “Robert Inglis your Tenant in Haining-miln” was incarcerated in the Tolbooth of Linlithgow” (Forbes Papers 532/8).  For the next few decades, the question of thirlage loomed large.  Some places, such as Parkhall, had been liberated from the thirlage of Haining Mill by 1820, but others remained.

From a letter of 1824 dealing with a complaint of flooding we receive interesting details of the water management for Haining Mill at that time:

With regard to the letter about the damage done by the dam to Mr C. Buchanans land of Bogo it is the dam of the Haining Mill belonging to Callendar and Possession by Messrs. Wrights there is an upper dam, and an inner dam (or what he calls a conductor to the lead) the upper dam is at a place where Mr C. Buchanan has land on the north side by Avon water and the South Side is possessed by another proprietor there is no lead at the upper dam but it is at a place where there is a long length of a level behind it and is where the Mill has all the dependence for the Supply of water from, when water is washed from the upper dam the Miller lets as much run as he has occasion for, and it runs down the Bed of the Avon to the under dam which conducts it to the lead, from the under dam to the Mills is all on Callendar lands there is no other Mill connected with the land of Bogo but Haining Mill belonging to Callendar the dam is across the Avon which may be about twenty or 30 feet wide at that place and the dam has never been altered according to the Tenants acot. in the recolection of any person thereabouts – altho I must say it does no good to Mr C. Buchanan land”

(Forbes Papers 1131/2: 6 January 1824)

By the beginning of the 19th century the old style of baronial rule was coming to an end and small remote grain mills struggled to eke out an existence.  Haining Mill was largely turned to the processing of flax and is labelled as a lint mill on the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1860.  Rather curiously the mill had a long tail race at that time which extended eastward as far as Millknowe.  This was evidently to feed a flax pond beside the river where the stalks would be softened prior to being broken in the mill to allow the separation of the fibres from the husk.

The miller still obtained peat from the area of the common land.  This would have been used in a kiln to dry the flax straw after retting and prior to processing.  His right to the peat came into question:

The Tenant in Haining Mill was here today and brought an Interdict which had been servd upon him for Casting Peats in a Moss which he says he had been in the practice of casting for the last 18 years and what he reckond always belonged to the Mill there is nothing concerning it laid down in the Plan but he says the right belongs to the Mill while the Moss lasts and after the Moss is removed the land goes into the farm of Bridgehill I told him I would go up and take a look at it and would acquaint you but at Present I could do nothing in it he wished the Case to be defended by you as belonging to the Mill

(Forbes Papers 1155/26: 21 July 1825).

“as I had appointed yesterday to go up to Haining Mill to see the Moss the Miller had been stopd from (taking) his Peats from I thought before either writing you or Mr. Henderson to get what information I could and also to see the claim of the other Party – in the first place the Interdict was from the Sheriff of Stirling at the instance of a Wm Roberts at Bridgehill (or Bridgehead) near the Haining Mill Mr. Storrie in Falkirk is Roberts’s Man of Business when I was there yesterday I got the Miller and went to the Moss in question and he pointed out to me where he considered the Mill to have a right to after he had let me see all I then got Roberts of Bridgehill and asked him where his part of the Moss lay which he pointed out as near as he thought and how his Mark (or March) by a Stone in the Moss I would nether the Stone a very insufficient Mark for it was such a stone as a person could easily removed to another place the Miller said it was in one place and Roberts said the March was in another and there being no particular boundary that I could judge from I told the Miller for the present not to go beyond a kind of Mark I pointed out and I told Roberts not to go beyond it on the other side till it was properly ascertained but I must say it is a thing of the most trifling nature imaginable about a few yards of Moss and I realy think had it not been a piece of humour among themselves it would never (have) been thought of, as the Moss on both sides may be said to be inexhaustable”

(Forbes Papers 1155/27).

The mill and its associated infrastructure were already elderly.  The houses connected with the mill were positively ancient:

“I was at the Haining mill yesterday (on Tuesday) and looked to the Mill and Houses but did not see Wright I intend to call again in a day or two the Houses is certainly not in a good state nor have (they) been any better by all that I could here for many years the Houses seems to have been built with clay and seems very bad to appearance the Tenant had repaird the lint Mill last year which does a part of the countrys work thereabouts”

(Forbes Papers 1146/8: 3 Feb 1825).

“Haining Mill – inspected the Houses there I find the walls of dwelling house, Barn & Byre to be in a frail state and near to ruin, roofs and every part of them are entirely gone so that nothing can be done to their repair but to rebuild them anew. – The houses at the lint mill are also very bad, the Wester gable being like to fall – the roofs are bad and would require a considerable sum to repair them, which would not be advisable to do, as in all probability the walls will not stand long. – (signed) James Hardie”

(Forbes Papers 1191/7; 27 June 1831).
Illus: Avon Mills from Blackston Road with two of Waugh’s lorries.

James Waugh, grain and seed merchant, feued the old flax mill from Mr Forbes in 1897 and enlarged and fitted it up for grinding feeding stuffs.  It then began working under the name of the Avon Mills.  He died sometime around 1907 and a trust headed by his widow, Margaret Calder, continued the business.  By 1923 the firm was known as J & A Waugh which processed cattle and poultry feed and became known as “the grain mill.”  The water wheel stopped turning in 1935, though the wheel was retained in the basement of the mill building as a relic.  After that the milling was done by electrical power. The three adjoining houses belonging to the mill, each consisting of a room and kitchen, were sold off in 1949.  A reporter from the Falkirk Herald visited the mill in 1968 and met the three employees – William Inglis, Graham Nimmo and Alexander Dalgleish (interior photograph – 6 June 1968, 6).  The mill building was demolished before 1980 and is now a grassy bank.

1604Robert Rob
1649John Robert
1685James Robert
1687James Robert
1723John Robert
1785John Inglis
1794Robert Inglis
1897James Waugh

Sites and Monuments Record

Ballenbreich MillSMR 637NS 9120 7281

G.B. Bailey, 2022