Dunipace Mill

The old baronial mill of Dunipace lay to the east of the Hills of Dunipace.  The weir across the River Carron diverted water along the contour later followed by the public road (the B905) and on to Larbert Waugh Mill in the neighbouring parish of Guildfield.  Just beyond the point where the lade was joined by a small stream from the north stood the ancient mill.  It is first mentioned in the Cambuskenneth Cartularies in 1200

“…confirmasse Deo et Sancte Marie et ecclesie de Dunipais decimem molendini mei de Dunipais in puram elemosimam”  

(Reid Notes).

The lade was there at such an early date that it was used as part of the parish boundary at its eastern end (as shown on Grassom’s map of 1817).

It evidently operated without undue interruptions for centuries but there is a gap in the records until 1746 when money was provided to repair the mill, kiln and houses during the occupancy of Robert McKell, farmer.  He had taken a lease of this mill and a new one to the west which had been built around the year 1739 as a corn mill.  Consequently the east mill became known as the “Old mill.”  The lease of 1742 was for a 38 year period.  The occurrence of the two mills, both known as “Dunipace Mill,” has provided confusion as the old one was demolished in the early nineteenth century and the new one continued for some time.  The 1739 corn mill was built by William Neilson, mason, for Sir Archibald Primrose of Dunipace.  Thomas Burn was employed as wright and miln wright.

 In 1750 the tacksman of Dunipace Mill, Robert McKell, was allowed a deduction on his rent because the multures were down by £7.  The reason for this was said to be the introduction of potatoes meaning that those thirled to the mill were producing less grain.  As a result, the west mill was converted from a corn mill to a lint mill – McKell was also a millwright.  Both mills are shown on General Roy’s map of c1755

McKell appreciated the superiority of the site of the West Mill and in 1758 reached an agreement with the new owner of Dunipace, Mr Spottiswood, to build a new mill immediately south of the lint mill.  In the event Spottiswood had the mill built himself two years later by William Dobbie, Archibald Duncan and William Neilson, masons from Denny, and Robert Russell, wright.

Illus 1: Extract from Roy’s Map showing the West Mill of Dunipace as “Lint mil”, with “Dunipace mill” to the east. The latter’s tail race continues to the “Papermill” at Guildfield. (National Library of Scotland).

Just a few years later, in 1759, the Carron Company was established and in December that year leased the Old Mill from McKell (Watters 2010, 12).  Water power was to be vital for the new iron foundry and the mill was to be used for grinding.  Just as importantly, it appears that the original intention had been to divert the waters of the River Carron to the new works at Stenhouse using the weir for Dunipace Mill as the starting point.  The water would have run on to the papermill and thence slightly further north than the lade actually constructed from near Larbert Church.  An old marle pit just to the east of Dunipace Mill would have made a convenient reservoir and plans were laid for diverting the Bonny Water so that it would enter the Carron upstream of the existing weir.  A plan showing Carron Company’s mills (RHP 1497) indicates some of these arrangements and shows that Dunipace Mill consisted of four buildings.  However, the owner of Dunipace Mill, Mr Spottiswood, demanded too high a lease and that part of the plan was abandoned.  Dry summers leading to an inability to work the foundry encouraged Carron Company to return to the idea of storing water at Dunipace to even out the supply.  However, their new reservoir strayed too far to the south and it turned out that that area belonged not to Dunipace Estate but to Callendar Estate and had been cut off when the river had changed course centuries before.  The new owner of Callendar from 1783 was William Forbes and he was not slow in taking action against the Company.

The New or West Mill of Dunipace had a more advantageous location than the medieval one and it was bought by the Carron Company in 1793 which used its water for the grinding mill.  A sasine of 1811 refers to “parts of the barony of Dunipace viz. the Corn Mill of Dunipace with the Barley Mill and Snuff Mill thereat”.  As it also mentions “Millbraehead” and various other parks, this was probably the Old Mill.  The Old Mill had gone by 1817 when Grassom produced his map and by the time of the first edition Ordnance Survey map the site had been cleared.

On 29 June 1825 the new stone bridge over the River Carron at Dunipace Mill was formally opened.  This became a vital part of the local road network and opened up wider markets for the mill.  The opening was performed with Masonic ceremony, after which 150 of the Brethren attended a meal in the large barns at the mill.

The West Mill continued to operate and expand.  Reserving just a small part of the complex for itself the Carron Company leased the remainder.  In the 1850s Alexander Shearer was their tenant.  Although listed as a miller and farmer, he hired people to operate the mill and farm.  They lived in the stable.  In October 1852 this building was entered by burglars who forced the door.  Once in, they ascended a ladder leading to the loft above, where the miller, ploughman, and another man-servant were in beds sleeping, and carried off the greater part of their clothes! (Stirling Observer 28 October 1852).  Tragedy occurred three years later when the three-and-a-half years old son of Alexander Shearer went out along with some young companions, and unobserved fell into the mill lead (Stirling Observer 4 October 1855).  Alexander Shearer continued to work the mill and invested in it.  In March 1859 he advertised for a miller to take charge of a new flour mill there with

Liberal Wages… the situation may be a permanent one”

(Falkirk Herald 10 March 1859). 

In 1861 he laid out £400 on Dunipace Mill.  This may have included the cost of a small steam engine which he installed.  As with most mill managers he was also a farmer and took on the tenancy of Highland Dykes near Bonnybridge, spending £600 in draining and improving the farm.  These investments did not have time to pay a return before he fell into financial difficulties.  He seems to have been poor at managing his finances.  He speculated on the grain market without success and had to hand over the steam engine to Carron Company to pay for his rent.  He also allowed his customers to build up debt to him and when they failed it left a large hole in his finances.  The kind of sums involved included:

Robert Calder, Cumbernauld£400
Robert Allan, Cumbernauld    £258
James Henderson, Cumbernauld        £200
Robert Balderston, Denny      £500

On 19 May 1864 Alexander Shearer had his assets sequestered.

Illus 2: 1861 Ordnance Survey Map showing the West Mill of Dunipace (National Library of Scotland).

Shortly thereafter John Boyd took over the tack of Dunipace Mill.  It was described in the Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1861 as :

A corn mill and dwelling house, situated close to Dunipace Bridge, the one 3 the other 2 stories in height.   Both slated and in good repair.  Property of the Carron Company.” 

Upon entering into occupancy, the whole of the machinery in connection with the mills was reconstructed in a “modern and substantial style” by Messrs T & J Oliphant, engineers, Denny, at a considerable expense both on the part of the Carron Company and Mr Boyd.  The principal part of the block of buildings consisted of a double-roofed edifice, four storeys in height and about sixty feet square.  Surrounding and connected with it was the steading, a mill for grinding char for the Carron Ironworks, and the houses of the employees.  At the west side was the engine-house.  The west division of the block contained the flour mill and in the east end were the corn and barley mills and kiln.  The building also contained the stores, which held grain in 1873 valued at about £1,500.  Of this Boyd held £1,000, the remainder having been sent to him by his constituents to be milled.  He made efforts to get the mill and its contents insured but difficulties always arose from the fact that the kiln was embraced in the mill building instead of being set apart.  Consequently, a very high premium was asked.

Inevitably, on the night of 23 January 1873, a fire started in the kiln.  Flames were noticed coming out of the adjacent windows at around 4am by a carter on his way to Grangemouth and he raised the alarm:

but only about a dozen of persons were available in the district, and the fire, of course, raged with impunity.  Mr Boyd at once despatched a messenger to Falkirk for the fire-engine there, and also for the one belonging to the Falkirk ironworks.  Meanwhile, efforts were made to confine the fire as much as possible.  The half of the roof of the eastern part of the building had fallen in, hurling down with it valuable machinery, and the flames, stretching into the adjoining half, this part was soon in a blaze, and in a short time the internal constructions, including the silk mill and dressing machines, were precipitated into the ruin, along with the other half of the roof.  The fire then extended to the western division of the building, and in the course of a very few minutes the whole was enveloped in flames.  These shot high into the air, and were seen at a great distance.  On the arrival of the Falkirk engine, which was accompanied by Mr Mitchell, firemaster, and Mr M’Donald, Superintendent of Police, water was poured on the burning mass, and the result produced by it, and those of the Falkirk Ironworks engine were most effective, and precluded any further possible danger.  The want of properly trained staff of firemen to work the Falkirk engine was manifest, and it is hoped that such a force will be organised as soon as possible, of the engine and hose are to be utilised as they ought to be.  By eight o’clock the fire was subdued.  Inside the mill the ruin consists of machinery completely destroyed, grain rendered worthless, and all the subordinate appliances of a milling establishment mixed up in the general mass.  The walls of the building are partially damaged – the lintels over the windows being shattered

(Falkirk Herald 25 January 1873).

The loss was put at around £3,500 and despite not being insured it was decided to reconstruct the mill and Messrs Reid of Larbert were given the task to undertaking the building work, with T & J Oliphant of Denny fitting it out.  Before long the mill was back in production. 

JohnBOYDHeadMarried45Farmer & MillerFalkirk
MaryBOYDWifeMarried3762 Acres Arable 3 ServantsFalkirk
Maggie C.BOYDDaughterUnmarried11ScholarDunipace
George C.BOYDSonUnmarried5ScholarDunipace
James M.BOYDSonunmarried3Dunipace
Mary C.BOYDDaughterunmarried1Dunipace
ElizabethBARRServantunmarried18General ServantShotts
PeterDAWSONHeadMarried49Corn MillerColinton, Edinburgh
IsabellaDAWSONWifeMarried46Corn Miller’s WifeLogie, Stirling
IsabellaDAWSONDaughterUnmarried18Domestic ServantBorthwick, Edinburgh
AndrewDAWSONSonUnmarried15Brass FinisherBorthwick, Edinburgh
JaneDAWSONDaughterUnmarried8ScholarBorthwick, Edinburgh
1881 Census for Dunipace Mill.

Ten years later, in January 1883, it suffered from the other major affliction of water mills – flooding.  A sudden thaw of snow combined with heavy rain brought a great torrent down the Carron, washing away wooden bridges and inundating adjacent roads.  Water entered Dunipace Mill and damaged a quantity of grain (Dundee Advertiser 30 January 1883).

Still the mill continued.  John Boyd competed successfully in getting pot barley to the markets very quickly.  Local barley, grown by adjacent farms and at the Asylum, was rushed to the large urban areas each August.

Carron Company had sold the mill complex to Mr Graham of Larbert House but was still the main recipient of the produce of its blacking mill.  The char mill ground charcoal into a fine dust which was used to line moulds to produce castings with a fine surface finish.  The fine powder produced was very flammable and on the night of 31 December 1889 it was thought that a spark from the grinding set it on fire.  It was discovered about five o’clock in the morning.  From the combustible nature of the place and its contents, the mill was speedily a total wreck.  The Falkirk fire engine was quickly on the scene and prevented the fire from spreading to the grain mills and so the loss was kept to £300-£400 (Falkirk Herald 4 January 1890, 6).  Knowing the high potential for fire the black mill had been insured by Mr Graham and was immediately rebuilt.  It started to grind coal into dust which presented an even greater risk of fire as well as pulmonary problems for the operators. 

On 25 September 1890, Peter Webster on his way home from Falkirk in the evening met Provost Watson, the agent of the Scottish Union and National Insurance Co, and asked him to have his stock in the Blacking Mill at Dunipace insured.  The materials and products belonged to him and were not covered by the insurance of the mill building taken out by Mr Graham.  Mr Watson agreed to do so and promised to send a covering note on his getting to the office the next morning.  Watson went to his office at seven o’clock in the morning in order to see after some matters requiring attention, amongst others to send Webster his covering note as promised.  On his way to the office he was informed that the mill had been entirely burnt down at an early hour in the morning.  The covering note was consequently not sent, and no deposit was paid.  Amazingly, just nine months since it had been last rased to the ground, it was again totally destroyed for the fourth time in its history (Falkirk Herald 27 September 1890).  Provost Watson informed the Scottish Union and National Insurance Co of what had passed and equally amazingly the Company at once said that it was morally bound to admit the loss, the risk being undertaken (though only verbally) by the agent.  The following day an assessor adjusted the loss with Mr Webster, and the amount was paid a week later!

The next fire – yes there was another – was not so serious, though it highlights the lack of fire prevention measures.  It appears that some children were playing in the store in the vicinity of a paraffin oil barrel and somehow managed to set alight the wooden stance on which it rested – which was saturated with the oil.  The fire soon reached rather alarming proportions, and it required all the efforts of a band of helpers, who quickly assembled, to extinguish it.  A plentiful supply of water was thrown on the flames, and eventually had the desired effect, though considerable damage was done to the floor and joists, and other parts of the wooden interior of the store.  The oil barrel, fortunately, remained intact (Falkirk Herald 31 July 1909, 5).

The different parts of the mill were run by different millers and so there were times when three or more millers were present.  Peter Dawson retired in 1920 and the tack was advertised:

“To be let for such a period as may be arranged “DUNIPACE MILL,” two miles from Larbert and Bonnybridge.  Entry at Martinmas next if desired.  Accommodation consists of large granaries, four pairs mill stones, four-stalled stable with loose-box, and byre for eight cows, large court for feeding cattle, cart-shed, pig and hen houses.  “Water Power.”

There is a splendid dwelling-house of six apartments, with bathroom, milk house, and wash-house, also a three apartment house, suitable for a worker.  About ten acres of good arable land can also be included in the lot.  Present tenant, who is retiring, will show the premises…”

(Scotsman 6 October 1920, 3).
Illus 3: Dunipace Mill (West) looking north-west from Dunipace Bridge, c1950.

William Watt of Milngavie took the lease.  An experienced tradesman, he was able to run it successfully until his death in 1934.  On 28 May that year the business was transferred by his Trustees (John Watt and Archibald Colquhouse) to Mungrays Ltd.  Samuel Thomson was now styled as “managing secretary” of Dunipace Mill.  Mungrays maintained close ties to the local farming community, presenting prizes at agricultural shows and inviting the East Stirlingshire Young Farmers’ Club for regular demonstrations on oatmeal making and seed cleaning.  New machinery was periodically introduced. 

In 1944 the firm was registered as Mungrays (1944) Ltd, now concentrating on animal feeds.  Minor alterations continued to be made to the buildings – such as the erection of a grain store in 1956.  The mill continued to operate until well into the 1960s but ceased by the end of that decade.  In 1970 most of the buildings were demolished and the construction of the M876 cut off the lade.

1742Robert Mackell           1760 (1789)
1780sJohn Renny1785
1802John Gentle
1835James McLaren           1851
1852Alexander Shearer1864
1858A Pollock
1869John Boyd
1877Peter Dawson1909
1889James Webster1920
1921William B Watt           1934
1934Mungrays Ltd

Sites and Monuments Record

Dunipace MillSMR 2242NS 8420 8180

G.B.Bailey, 2022