Bonny Water Mill

(Bonnybank Sawmill)

Illus 1: Roy’s Map showing the mills of Bonny Mill and Bonnybank in Milnquarter.

The origin of Bonny Bank Mill is uncertain.  It stood on the south bank of the Bonny Water a little to the west of Bonnybridge; the long lade started near Seamores Farm.  The mill appears on Roy’s Great map but not his plan of the Antonine Wall which suggests an origin for the mill in the 1750s, similar to the Ford Mill.  It is also depicted on Grassom’s map of 1817.

It operated as a grain mill and in the early nineteenth century was in the possession of Bailie Watt, grain merchant, Grahamston.  John Wilson of Jinkabout Mill moved to Bonnybank around 1830 at which time it was a meal and flour mill.  It is shown as such on the 1860 Ordnance Survey map.  However, with the repeal of the Corn Laws huge quantities of imported grain made the mill at Bonnybridge economically unviable.  John Wilson decided to use the water power there as a sawmill.  This was presumably the mill referred to in the Statistical Account of 1841 as Bonnyside which employed fourteen people with weekly wages from 14s to 18s.  The circular saw, driven by water, cut up wood for staves, packing-boxes, lath, roofing, and joisting.

Wilson set up in business as a home timber merchant.  He acquired the rights for trees in large estates in Fife and temporary sawmills were established there.  Some of the felled timber was taken by canal to Bonnybank for finishing.  His son, James Wilson, assisted his father and around 1886 succeeded him in the firm which became known as J. Wilson and Sons, Bonnybank, Bonnybridge (Falkirk Herald 30 December 1908, 5).

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

The business and property must have changed hands in 1924 as in that year the assets were sold off:

Illus 3: Bonnybank Sawmill looking north-west from the embankment of the Forth and Clyde Canal. The Bonny can be seen above the single storey buildings on the left.

At Bonnybank Saw Mill, Bonnybridge, on Friday 18th April, Thomas Binnie Limited, have received instructions to sell by public auction, at BONNYBANK SAW MILL, Bonnybridge, :

  • 1 Foster Traction engine, in good working order.
  • 1 Atkinson steam wagon, in good working order.
  • 4 wood carts.
  • 1 lorry
  • 2 pole wagons
  • 3 jankers
  • 2 sets cart wheels.
  • Sawmill benches.
  • Brougham with rubber tyres.
  • Corn bruiser, hay mower, sack weighing machine, large quantity of axe shafts, corrugated iron nails, swingle trees, bang chains, and old iron.
  • 4,000 larch stobs and rails; also sleepers and boarding.”
(Falkirk Herald 12 April 1924, 6)

The business remained in the family for another seven years, and then it too was sold off:

Timber merchant and sawmill business, as presently carried on by W. H. WilsonBonnybank Sawmills, Bonnybridge, for immediate disposal. Equipment and Stock approximating £400.”

(Falkirk Herald 17 January 1931).

Sites and Monuments Record

Bonny Water MillSMR 555NS 8220 7997

G.B. Bailey, 2022