(Millhall) Polmont Mill

Polmont Mill was owned by the Abbey of Newbattle in the 13th century and must have served the small area of land within its possession.  This came under the superiority of the Barony of Abbotskerse and was rented to its owners, the Abbey of Holyrood.  As such it evidently served as a baronial mill.  The first mention of the mill comes in 1234 when Alexander II granted Newbattle Abbey “the unhindered use of the course of the Smaleburne at their own mill by the lade“.  Smallburn is the name for the northern end of the Gilston Burn as it flows into the River Avon and it is likely that the mill was located near this tidal river and like so many operated at low tide.  Although damaged at this point, Pont’s map of the 1580s shows it in this position.

Illus 1: Pont’s Map showing the area of Polmont Mill (National Library of Scotland).

Newbattle eventually sold its lands to Holyrood Abbey in 1237.  Nothing further is heard of the mill until 1504 when James Menteith had a tack of Polmont Mill from the Lord Abbot of Holyrood.  The Monteiths farmed the mill lands and sub-let the mill to a tenant.  In 1527 Alexander Menteith complained before the baron court of Abbotskerse that the feudal tenants had failed to maintain the mill or pay duties.

Illus 2: Roy’s 1755 Map (National Library of Scotland).

The family established a minor gentleman’s seat and were styled as “of Polmont Miln.”  It was a cadet of the house of Menteith of West Kerse and it is possibly for this reason that their new house became known as Little Kerse.   Roy’s map of 1755 attached the name “Mill hall” to this location.

Illus 3: The Mill Lade curving around Polmont Hill.

It was around the late 16th century that the mill was re-located further up the stream.  A dam was placed across the Gilston Burn at a point where it touched the foot of Polmont Hill and a long lade was led from this point to the new mill close to the doocot of the house.  This had to be engineered into the hill slope requiring a substantial bank of the downhill side.  It is still a prominent feature of the landscape (and is occasionally mistaken for the ditch of the Antonine Wall which it cuts at right angles – utilising the Roman feature as an overspill).   This stretch of the stream became the Millhall Burn.  The “hall” element in the name is derived from haugh – a meadow – and presumably refers to the water meadow near to the new dam

The rectangular doocot on the other side of the road from Little Kerse would have been of the lectern type, typical of the 17th century.  When James Menteith inherited the estate in 1658 it was described as :

all and whole the mylne of Polmonth with the mylne lands thairof houses biggingis zairdis toftis croftis pairts pendicles and pertinent thairof quhatsomever callit the Estar Deput meadow astricted multures knaveship [etc] of all and hail the barony of Polmonth sed and wont belonging to the said mylne”  

(Reid 2005, 50).

Reid placed the Easter Depute Meadow in the area of Little Kerse which accords with the above (Reid 2010, 144).  The Menteiths are now sometimes referred to as “of Polmont Mill” and sometimes as “of Millhall.”

In 1704 it was confirmed that the Menteiths had the privilege

to cast and win peats fewal fail and dyvot upon the common muir of Reddingrig and Whytesyderig for upholding the houses upon the lands and mylns foresaid thairof for drying of the corns that are thirled thairto and shall happen to come to be dryed and killened thairat”. 

The muirs were some 4km to the south-west, but the cartage would have been performed by those thirled to the mill.  An estate plan of 1851 (RHP 6106) shows a round feature immediately to the north of the mill building and this was probably the drying kiln.

Despite this confirmation the old feudal ties were being broken.  James Menteith did his best to enforce them.  In 1709 he raised a declaratory of thirlage against the vassals of the lands astricted to the mills of Polmont and in 1717 had an action against the feuars of Abbotskerse regarding multures.  He also had a tack of the mill of Cerkstown and of the Duke of Hamilton’s mill of Crooked Wheel so that no differences would arise over the damhead (GD 406/1/5545; Reid notes). 

James Monteith of Millhall died in 1728 and his whole estate was left to Sir James Dalziel of Binns.

Two years later it was disposed by Sir James Dalziel to Alexander Bruce in life-rent and Michael Bruce his eldest son.  The latter then disposed it to Thomas Dundas in 1747, and it was then conveyed to Sir Lawrence Dundas.

The mill was still operational in 1793:

“MILLS TO BE LET.  THE MILLS of POLMONT, called the Mill of Step-mill and Millhall, and the Mill of Bowhouse, as presently possessed by James Walker, with the Mill Lands at Stepmill and Bowhouse, consisting of ABOUT 25 ACRES, OR THEREBY.

The entry to the mills and lands to be at Martinmas 1793, and the mills to be repaired by James Walker, and put in as good condition as at his entry.

For particulars apply to Andrew Longman, the factor at Kerse.”

(Caledonian Mercury 14 October 1793).

By 1858 John Braes was the miller.  In that year he advertised for estimates to repair the water wheel there (Falkirk Herald 8 July 1858).  His family were still at the mill in 1878 and his son Robert became the miller, retiring in 1884:

MEAL AND FLOUR MILL TO BE LET. MILLHALL MILL, at present occupied by Mr Robert Braes, is to be LET, with entry at Whitsunday, 1884.  The Mill, which is driven by water power, is situated about 1¾ miles from Polmont Railway Station, and about 3½ miles from Falkirk.

Mr Braes (who is retiring and will not be an offerer) will show the Premises.

Conditions of Lease may be seen on application to ANDREW BROWN, Kerse, by Falkirk, who will receive offers till 20th March.”

(Falkirk Herald 8 March 1884).
Illus 4: 1860 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Unfortunately, the “corn mill” is not named on the 1860 Ordnance Survey map and so there is no accompanying description.  It shows the mill buildings at the end of the lade, between it and the stream.  Curiously there is a second mill dam at this point directing water into a structure attached to the back of the mill and then returning to the stream immediately to the north.  This was probably for the operation of the meal mill.

Access to the mill buildings from the road was over a single-arched stone bridge over the Millhall Burn.  This 17th century structure is still in use.  Just to the west of its junction with the road a granary occupied the west corner – forming the north-east apex of a walled garden.

On 12 November 1892 it was announced in the Falkirk Herald that

No more GRAIN taken in at MILLHALL MILL, Polmont, until further orders

– and with that milling ceased.  The mill was not immediately dismantled and was still labelled as a corn mill on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map.  Shortly thereafter Grangemouth Town Council took over the water rights for its new reservoir to the south of the mill.

Illus 5: The Granary/Barn opposite Little Kerse, c1950.

As far as can be gathered, the mill buildings were only demolished in the mid-1960s.   The area was converted into a car park and tops of the walls could be seen until it was resurfaced in 2000.

1704James Easton
James Walker1793
c1820John Wilson
1858John Braes
Robert Braes1884

Sites and Monuments Record

(Millhall) Polmont MillSMR 685NS 9398 7940

G.B. Bailey, 2022