The mill at Manuel is located on the west bank of the River Avon a little to the south-east of Whitecross. A glorious view of the weir and the first part of the lade can be obtained from the top of the Avon Aqueduct on the Union Canal, and the buildings may be glimpsed through the trees from the long-distance Avon Valley footpath in the winter months.
In 1424 Reginald Crawford inherited the lands and barony of Haining with the mill of Manuel from his father. By the mid-16th century the mill lands had become a minor seat and for several centuries it was the home of the Crawfords of Manuel Mill. The mill is shown on Pont’s map in the 1580s.
A sasine of 1623 shows that the mill had been assigned multures –
“all and haill the mill called Manuell Myln with houses [etc.] with the astricted multures of the lands and barony of Hayning — and the water of the said mill”(Reid notes).
These were still in force when the estate came up for sale in 1754:
“To be SOLD by publick Roup… The Lands called MANUEL-MILL, Mansion-house, office-houses and Garden, with the Mill called Manuel mill, Mill-lands thereof, and astricted Multures of the same”(Caledonian Mercury 30 September 1754, 4).
It was bought by James Baird. However, the first miller that we hear of was Thomas Muirhead in 1797. The following year James Monteith, presumably the new miller, wrote to the feudal superior:
“As I am just now very thrang putting my Miln dams into proper repair begs you will order some of your labourers to come and assist us by Monday first for your lands that are in the thirlage” (GD 171/446/3).
In 1822 the Union Canal was completed allowing raw material to be brought to the mill and for the products to be sent to Edinburgh or Glasgow where there were large and ready markets. These were the glory days of milling at provincial sites such as Manuel and it was probably at this time that the mill buildings were vastly extended.
The river is wide at the point where the weir was constructed and lack of water was never a problem. Too much water occasionally was. In February 1852 part of the damhead was swept away in the floods which also caused damage at Kinneil Mill and Jinkabout Mill (Falkirk Herald 12 February 1852, 3).
The first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1859 shows the building complex at Manuel Mill almost at its full extent and the Ordnance Survey Name Book describes it as:
“A large pile of buildings, composed of a dwelling house, corn and flour mill with offices. Machinery of the mill propelled by a water wheel sixteen hp; all two storey, slated and in good repair. Property of Wm Forbes Esq, Callendar Ho, Falkirk.”
Whilst Forbes held the superiority at the time, it was actually feued to Isaac Bayley. The superiority was sold to him in 1863 and Peter Roberts became the tenant, farming the mill lands and usually hiring a general miller. In 1877 he advertised for a “Man to Clear Out part of the Mill Pond at Manuel” (Falkirk Herald 8 February 1877) and a month later the owner provided notice
“TO CONTRACTORS. DETAILED ESTIMATE WANTED for MANUEL MILL LADE and WEIR (Ashlar). Plans and Specifications to be seen at the Mill, and Sealed Tenders to be lodged with Geo. Bayley , Esq, Royal Exchange, Edinburgh, within eight days of this date.”(Falkirk Herald 29 March 1877).
When members of the Edinburgh Naturalists’ Field Club visited Manuel Mill in the summer of 1882 it was not to see the workings of the mill but
“some grand old yew trees of great girth, which were more than saplings in the remote Reformation days, and wore their sombre foliage when the friars of Emmanuel Priory – of which the ivy-covered ruins are close by – were a power in that part of the country.”(Glasgow Herald 19 June 1882).
1892 saw a few changes. Peter Roberts retired and the steading was repaired and enlarged. Abram Addison became the new tenant with a lease of 19 years from George Bayley and advertised the re-opening of the mill for grain work in June 1894. However, the use of thirlage had been abandoned and he found it difficult to compete with the city mills. He therefore started to grind sawdust and cork for use in the manufacture of linoleum. For this purpose, the millstones had to be set closer together. This was attendant with a greater risk of fire and sure enough, about two o’clock on the morning of 1 August 1899 a fire broke out. It was first noticed on an upper floor by the miller who had been engaged on night duty – clearly the mill was being hard-worked. He immediately gave the alarm but the mill being in a remote locality, assistance was difficult to get. A messenger was dispatched for the Linlithgow Fire Brigade, who arrived at the scene with all speed. By that time the building was engulfed in flames. There was a good supply of water, and on arrival the brigade directed their attention to the grain and meal stores, in which a considerable quantity of material was located. This portion of the building they succeeded in saving, but the other portions were completely gutted, and nothing remained but the four walls. The machinery was totally destroyed, including two valuable crushing stones which had only recently been put into the mill. The origin of the fire was not ascertained, but it was covered by insurance. The mill was rebuilt, but upon finding out what the mill was being used for, the insurance company substantially increased its premiums and so the owner, George Bayley WS, successfully interdicted Addison from grinding sawdust. Abram Addison then took a lease of Tod’s Mill from the Duke of Hamilton where he was allowed to continue as a wood flour miller in the name of A. Addison and Son – the son being William.
By September 1902 the refurbished mill was ready for use:
“MANUEL MILLS have been FITTED UP with NEW MACHINERY for OATMEAL and GRINDING all FEEDING STUFFS. OATS BRUISED 9d per quarter, and Returned on Delivery. Orders will receive our best attention. ABRAM ADDISON & SONS.”(Linlithgowshire Gazette 26 September 1902).
The owner also changed. In 1903 R Ainslie Brown, Solicitor to the Supreme Courts, purchased Manuel House and the estate. This proved to be unfortunate for Abram Addison as before long a series of legal disputes were raised. It all seems to have started in March 1906 when Abram Addison and William Bryce encountered Brown’s son in their fields and, not knowing who he was, tried to eject him. They were prosecuted for an alleged breach of the peace – and found not guilty. A fortnight later Addison was in the Falkirk Sheriff Court fighting an action by Ainslie Brown to order him to repair the weir, lade and sluices of the mill as agreed in his lease. Addison pled that they were in the same order as when he took up the lease and that the works demanded amounted to renewals and not repairs and as such were the responsibility of the landlord. The full case was heard in May that year and after a lengthy proof Sheriff Substitute Moffat decided in favour of the tenant. Ainslie Brown appealed to the Second Division of the Court of Session and the final judgment came in July the following year. Lord Kingsburgh, with the concurrence of Lords Low and Stormonth-Darling, dismissed the appeal, finding the proprietor liable in the expenses of the appeal. They noted that work on the weir would have required the erection of a coffer dam and the grouting of the stonework and therefore did not fall under the heading of maintenance and repair.
Meanwhile Ainslie Brown raised another action in the Court of Session, this time against William Forbes of Callendar House, Falkirk, Thomas Livingstone Learmonth of Parkhall, Carron Company and others. The object of this action was to have it declared that the old Barony of Almond was thirled to the Mill of Manuel, and that all the farmers in the barony were bound to take the grain they required to be ground to that mill. He sought to ensure its prosperity by obliging all of their tenants to take their grain to be ground there. Elsewhere in Scotland since the time of George III this obligation on the farmer had been mostly commuted and discharged, but Brown contended that no such commutation had taken place in Almond. It was a case of national interest and was closely followed because of the potential implications across the country. Judgement was pronounced by Lord Johnston in October 1907 when he sustained the defenders’ plea that any right of thirlage to the proprietors of Manuel Mill over any of the lands in question had been extinguished by prescription. Of particular note was the fact that the phrase “with the astricted multures” had been dropped from the lease of the mill decades before (Edinburgh Evening news 4 October 1907).
At the end of 1906 it was Abram Addison’s turn to turn to the law when Ainslie Brown blocked his access to a track leading to the fields at the west end of the farm. In August 1905 Brown had dug two large water holes in the road and then stopped the farmer from using the whole of the western nuatio of it. The verdict pronounced in January 1907 was that the old farm track was essential to the use of the farm and that access should be restored. Again, Ainslie Brown appealed and again, in December 1907, he lost.
Ainslie Brown was not finished with the courts and in March 1908 sought an interdict to stop Abram Addison from discharging water from the mill lead which caused the flooding of the adjacent fields seriously damaging a plantation of willow. Addison countered that his manner of working the sluices was according to long practice and had been used for many years. He further stated that the flooding of the fields was due to Brown’s own failure to keep certain drains in good order (Scotsman 7 March 1908). Yet again Ainslie Brown lost.
Abram Addison must quickly have realised that his new landlord was not going to let up and in September 1906 he took a lease of Kinneil Mill Farm on the estate of the Duke of Hamilton on behalf of his sons William, James and George. Farm stock and equipment was transferred from Manuel Mill Farm to Kinneil Mill Farm. The cost of all of his legal battles had been exorbitant and in August 1909 his estate was sequestered. Detailed enquiry followed to sort out what part of the farm equipment that had been transferred to his sons should be included. However, the assets were eventually able to cover the debts. In amongst the sale of farm implements were 30 tons of wood flour and 150 bags of sawdust and wood flour, as well as two pairs of mill stones (Falkirk Herald 16 October 1909, 4). Ironically, Ainslie Brown was also declared bankrupt the following month and had his estate sequestered too!
In 1908 Robert Waddell moved into Manuel Mill as the new tenant, retiring two years later. He worked the farm but the mill does not appear to have continued in use. In 1947 William Kidd Brodie bought the dairy farm at Manuel Mill for £6,000. From 1951 the Linlithgow and District Junior Agricultural Club held its annual barn dance at Manuel Mill, using part of the old mill buildings.
A full description of the mill buildings and their evolution will be found in this separate article.
|1861||George Baird Brock|
|1873||John Blacklaw (previously Water of Leith Mills)|
Sites and Monument Record
|Manuel Mill||SMR 98||NS 9705 7616|