Knowhead Mill


Illus 1: Extract from Roy’s Map showing the Lint Mill to the south-east of Knowhead.

An estate map of 1770 (RHP 704) shows an unroofed rectangular structure annotated “Formerly a Lint Mill but taken away”.  It stood at NS 806 793 in an area with no obvious water course.  It appears that at the time the River Bonny ran in a large loop to the north and that a lade was cut across the bend to serve the mill – it may have been this that led to the eventual cutting off of the loop with the lade becoming the course of the river.  Around 1755 General Roy depicts it on his survey.  

Illus 2: Grassom’s Map showing the Barley Mill north of Knowhead (National Library of Scotland).

Seamore Mill is said to have been operating as a pot barley mill in 1752, making it a very early example of this process (Reid 2004, 73).  It is shown on an estate map of 1770 (RHP 704) as a “Barly Mill” consisting of a long rectangular building set perpendicular to the lade with the wheel at the north gable.  The lade and race were evidently part of the former course of the River Bonny which had been straightened and the land enclosed in the cut off loop was known as “The Inch.”   It is also shown and named on Grassom’s map of 1817.  

By 1841 it had been converted to a spade manufactory and the New Statistical Account reports that:

A spade-manufactory, about a mile and half down the Bonny from Bankier, has been set agoing, within these few years… About a mile and a half east on the lands of Knowehead a spade manufactory, famed for the excellence of the article manufactured has been erected. An adjoining morass furnishes water-power for the ponderous hammer by which the material for spades are consolidated and afterwards beaten into plates. The wooden handles for the spades are likewise prepared at the mill; and the goods sent to market for immediate use.

The old mill building had been demolished and a new shed erected for the spade works.  Archibald Robertson was the “forge-master” at Knowhead before buying part of the Lands of Wester Seamores where he set up a smithy (Falkirk Herald 1 May 1851, 1). It is called a spade manufactory on the first edition Ordnance Survey, but as Loanhead Forge on the second edition of 1897.  It had gone by that name since at least 1846 when Robert Robertson, spade-maker at the Drumglass Forge in Kilsyth, took over.  Loanhead Forge undertook jobbing work.  Robert’s son, John, was one of the founding directors of the Stamped Steel Chain Co Ltd in 1893. 

Illus 3: 1861/62 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Ten years later the forge at Knowhead was up for sale:

The WORKS , PLANT, TOOLS, STOCK, and GOODWILL of the LOANHEAD FORGE COMPANY, BONNYBRIDGE. The Works, with Vacant Ground available for Extension, are held at a moderate Ground Rent.  The Plant includes One 2-Ton Steam Hammer and Two Smaller Steam Hammers with Cranes, Furnaces, & c; Two Steam Engines, Lancashire boiler, and Shovel making Plant.  VERY LOW UPSET PRICE, £175.  (The Purchaser will take over the liability under a Bond of £350)…”

(Scotsman 28 October 1903, 2).

Sites and Monuments Record

Knowhead MillSMR 1219NS 8048 7952

G.B. Bailey, 2022