Blackness Mill

The substantial remains of an unusual tidal mill can be seen in the bay to the east of Blackness Castle.  A 2m wide stone dyke built on the mudflats represents the seaward retaining wall of a large pond.  The wall begins in the north at the rocks at the castle (NT 0562 8019) and extends southward in a slight westward curve to NT 0559 8000, a distance of 190m. It probably enclosed an area of around 1.84ha or 4.56 acres. The Black Burn must have entered this pond from the south.

Illus 1: The Outer Wall of the Mill Pond can be seen running parallel with the shore with the Forth Bridge in the background.

A wadset registered in 1635 tells us that there were “two sea-corn mills, with houses built by the late Alexander, Earl of Linlithgow, father of the said Earl, on the “Cirein of Blaknes” (Binns Papers 125).  The father, Alexander Livingstone, had been made Constable and Keeper of Blackness Castle in 1598 and was created the first Earl of Linlithgow in 1600.  The tidal mill must therefore have been built between then and 1624 when he died.  Alexander was in France in 1583-84 and it is possible that he saw such a mill there.

The Earl also had saltpans at Blackness and it is probable that the reservoir served as a bucket pond for them.  The mill may have stood at the seaward end of the pond with its foundations on the rocks which support the adjacent castle.   Here a mill wheel could have turned with an incoming tide and its partner with the outgoing tide.

Illus 2: Roy’s Map of 1755 showing the outline of the Mill Pond immediately to the south-east of Blackness Castle.

The mill cannot have been a success for when, in 1649, George Earl of Linlithgow made a disposition of a house and yard at Blackness it came “with obligation to take his “haill cornes grindable ‘to the said Earl’s mill at the Park of Linlithgow and to pay “outten townis moulter therefor as outtintownis men does” (Ibid 240).  In 1722 the two sea corn mills were said to be decayed (Ibid 550).  The pond persisted and was included in Roy’s map of 1755.

Sites and Monuments Records

Blackness MillSMR 908(NT 055 801)

G.B.Bailey, 2022