Larbert Grinding Mill (Larbert Waulk Mill)

Richard Foxcroft is mentioned in the Dunipace parish records as “paper maker in Guildfield” in 1754.  Guildfield was the name of the adjoining farmstead to the east and has erroneously been allocated to the mill itself.  Foxcroft may have been subletting it from Robert MacKell, millwright, who had the nearby mill at Dunipace.  Along with many of the mills along this length of the Carron it was leased to the Carron Co in 1761, and the existing machinery was disposed of.  

Illus 1: Ordnance Survey Map surveyed in 1860 (National Library of Scotland).

Public roup at the paper mill of Larbor.  “The whole machinery of a paper, waulk and snuff mill, by Robert MacKell, mill-wright in Falkirk;   the machinery is not wore out, and will serve any other mill; but as the Carron iron-company has taken the mills, he has the machinery to dispose of, and will sell it at a very low rate.  NB.  The waulk-mill-stalk is a folding one.

(Edinburgh Evening Courant 2 May 1761, 3).

Castings requiring a smooth polished finish were brought from the Carron Iron Works by barge along the Carron Lade.  They included such items as smoothing irons (Gillespie 1868, 91).  The Carron Company constructed a large reservoir in the low lying land on the floodplain to the west.  Due to a change in course of the river it turned out that part of this lay in the Callendar Estate and William Forbes sued them.  The mill is shown on Grassom’s map of 1817 and an estate map of 1827 shows three buildings here (two belonging to Guildfield).

GUILDFIELD :                     A farmsteading 2 stories, slated and in good repair.   There is a mill adjacent for grinding and polishing grates, fenders and similar ironware.   Both are the property of the Carron Company, Carron Iron Works, Wm Dawson, manager.

LARBERT GRINDING MILL :         This mill is used for grinding and polishing grate fenders and similar iron ware.   It is worked by water.   Property of the Carron Iron Co.  Tenant, Thos Finlayson, grinder, Larbert. 

(Ordnance Survey Name Book).

In the 1860s the open yard in front of the mill was used for quoiting matches – a game which was exceedingly popular at the time.

On 1 October 1870 Alexander Finlayson, grinder, was killed when he accidentally stumbled onto the large water wheel.  It was not in motion at the time but the weight of his body caused it to revolve and he was crushed between the sluice and the wheel.  He had presumably lived with his family there.  In 1879 the iron grinding work was transferred to the main works at Carron and so Carron Company advertised the mill to let:

“To Let, the GRINDING MILL at LARBERT, presently occupied by Carron Company.  The Mill is driven by a Water Wheel, there being an excellent supply of water. Entry at Candlemas next.  Machinery may be had at valuation. For particulars, apply to Mr Cowan, manager for Carron Company…”

(Falkirk Herald 27 November 1879).
Illus 2: View of Larbert Grinding Mill on the left and Guildfield Farm on the right, looking north, c1910.

In all probability the works were moth-balled in 1881 and the 1913 Ordnance Survey map shows it as disused.  In January 1883 the river had flooded the ground floor of the dwellings and the residents had to take to the upper storey (Glasgow Evening Citizen 29 January 1883, 3).  By 1943 the mill buildings had been removed.  The present river bank has a revetment made of the old mill stones which are the broad type with zig-zag grooves on the outer edge.

In July 1881 an advert appeared for a miller at the Grinding Mills, Larbert, suggesting that it was intended to use it as a meal or, more probably, a flour mill.  However, it is still shown as a grinding mill on the 1897 Ordnance Survey map and the Finlayson family of iron grinders continued to live there, as did James Lapping, iron grinder, and Alex Honeyman, blacksmith.  William Finlayson, iron-grinder, was assaulted near the old grinding mill by David Gardner, File-cutter, in June 1887.

Illus 3: One of many Millstones to be found at the Larbert Grinding Mill, 2021.

Sites and Monuments Record

Larbert Grinding MillSMR 1230NS 8499 8208

G.B. Bailey, 2022