Bonny Mill

Seabegs Mill

Alexander Stratoun, in 1506, sold “two part of the lands of Seybegis, with the mill thereof” to Alexander Livingston of Dunipace.  This was the baronial mill of Seabegs and is depicted on Pont’s map of the 1580s.  

Illus 1: Roy’s Map of 1755 showing the Mill and Damhead between Milnquarter and Bonnybridge (National Library of Scotland).

John Bruce, designated as “in Bonymylne” may have been the miller there in 1618. John Hagie certainly was in 1624.  In 1651 Thomas Grey in Beam confessed to the baron court of Falkirk “the goeing to Bonymylnes” instead of to his astricted mill in the Barony of Callendar.  James Linlithgow was the miller in 1666, but by 1673 it was John Grindlay, who was the longest serving on record as he was still there in 1719.  Presumably it was his descendent, Charles Grindlay, who was described as “merchant at Bonnymiln” in 1737 when he bought part of the lands of Seabegs called Milnquarter.

Illus 2: 1860 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The mill is said to have been rebuilt in 1739 using some of the stones from the old chapel of St Helen’s (Waugh 1981, 131).  In the late 1760s planning for the construction of the Forth and Clyde Canal was well advanced.  The projected course took it very close to the mill and it was intended to construct an aqueduct of several arches to take the canal across the valley of the Bonny Mill Burn.  The dimensions of the valley were given as 30ft deep and 70yds broad at the top (Scots Magazine 1 April 1767, 9).  Such stone structures were very expensive and in the end a huge embankment was laid down, together with a tunnel or pend for the stream and road access.  The mill lade was contained in a separate culvert.

Illus 3: The Bonnybridge Foundry from the canal bank with the Mill Lade in the foreground.

The lintel over the door in the east gable bears the date 1794. This may be related to rebuilding work undertaken in consequence of the construction of the Forth & Clyde Canal – the lade and mill pond being on the opposite side of the canal.

By the end of the century there were four reservoirs on the burn above Bonny Mill.  The first and largest of these was St Helen’s Loch, the second was at Broomhill Distillery; the third at Bonnyside Brick and Tile Works and the fourth was just south of the canal embankment.  After being used at the mill the water returned to the stream, which broadened out at a ford, before entering the Bonny Water.  The mill continued to operate successfully and the water supply was sufficient to allow several stones to be turned.  Part of the buildings was also used for thrashing.  The next description that we have of the mill comes from 1855 when it was to be sub-let:

CORN & THRASHING MILLS & LANDS. To be Sub-Let for the remainder of the Lease, which terminates at Martinmas 1865, THE MILLS known as BONNY MILLS, in the Village of Bonnybridge, near Falkirk, containing 3 Pairs of Stones, Barley Mill, and Thrashing Machine, and all necessary connections in first-rate order, and wholly driven by water power.  The Lands extend to about 11 Acres Scots, of first-rate quality, and all well laid down in Pasture.  Entry to the Mills and Houses at Whitsunday first, and to the Lands at Martinmas.

For particulars apply to ALEX. GUILD, Broomhill, by Denny.”

(Falkirk Herald 8 March 1855).

John Wilson took up the lease and in 1864 we have another good description of the mill and its activities:

“MILLS AT BONNYBRIDGE FOR SALE.  There will be exposed to Sale by Public Roup, in the Red Lion Inn, Falkirk, on Thursday the 11th day of February next, at One o’clock Afternoon, The Mills at Bonnybridge, as these have long been tenanted by Mr John Wilson, miller.  The water-power is extensive, and the Mills presently used are adapted for Wheat, Corn, and Barley.  Wood-sawing had been carried on to some extent, and this branch might be largely increased.  There is also steam power on the premises.  For grinding of every kind the situation and water-power are admirably adapted, and, with a small outlay, the Property might be made very valuable.  A portion of the purchase-money may remain on the security of the Subjects.

Information will be afforded on application to Mr William Skinner, baker, 307 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow; or to Mr Robert Henderson, Writer, Falkirk, who is in possession of the Titles and the Articles of Roup.

(Falkirk Herald, 28 January 1864).

Another version of the advert states that the property consisted “of flour mill, barley mill and thrashing mill, and grain lofts, with dwelling house, byre, stables.”  The following year it was to let by Kerse Estate for 19 years with the mill lands which covered 16 Imperial acres (Falkirk Herald 6 July 1865).

Illus 4: 1861 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The construction of the canal interrupted the road system from Bonnybridge to the south and all of the traffic had to use the pend adjacent to the mill.  This was impassable to vehicular traffic whenever the stream was in flood.  Indeed, it was only in 1885 that the footpath along its eastern side was raised.  It was 1900 before a bascule bridge was placed over the canal and the road beside the mill became Bridge Street.

In 1888 a tenement of houses was built in Bridge Street (later the site of the library) and called “Shillinghill” to commemorate its old use.

In 1922 a fire started near the kiln where some bags of grain were being dried.  £500 worth of damage was done.  By that date the mill was occupied by the Stewart family which was described in 1947 as “millers and grain merchants.”


The buildings were subsequently converted into a motor maintenance and sales garage called the Mill Garage.

Illus 5: Bonny Mill looking south with the canal embankment in the background. The Mill House can be seen on the right.
1618John Bruce
1624John Hagie
1666John Linlithgow
1673John Grindlay
1737Charles Grindlay
1740James Grindlay
1834Adam Watt
1837William Grindlay
1866Peter Grant      1886
Robert Arbuckle1908
1915Mr Stewart
1947Peter Stewart

Sites and Monuments Record

Seabegs MillSMR 770(NS 8243 8017)

G.B. Bailey, 2022