Larbert Mill (1)

The site of the original mill at Larbert lies between the north end of Larbert Bridge and the railway viaduct.  Nothing can now be seen on the ground.

Although Larbert was never a barony, the lands of Larbert were annexed to the barony of Kinneil and feudal rights emanated from that association.  The owner of Kinneil was a powerful knight and it is not surprising to find that his mill was early in date.  However, he supported the losing side in the Wars of Independence and between 1315 and 1321 King Robert granted to Robert Lauder :

the mill and mill lands of Lethberd which mill had belonged to the late Sir Phillip Lindsey and was then held by Sir Simon de Lindsey, brother of the late Phillip, is made a forfeit of war through acting against the dignity of the king“.  

Robert Lauder, who received the charter, was afterwards Sir Robert Lauder of the Bass, who was Justiciary in the reign of Robert I.  There was another charter, in the same reign, of the Mill of Larbert to William de Lyndesy, “which Robert de Umfraville, Earl of Angus, had before.” (Gibson 1908).

Later on, these lands seem to have passed into the family of the Lords Livingstone, as, in the “Acta Auditorum” under the date 19 July 1476, we find the following: “Marian, spouse of late James, Lord Levingstone, hir brefe of terce anent ye land of Lethbert and Brumeinch.”  From the same register, under 20 July 1478, Malcolm Forrester was to pay to Lady Crichton certain sums out of the “Mill of Lethbert and brume Inche” pertaining to her late mother.  In 1623 Alexander, Earl of Linlithgow, took possession of “all and haill the lands of Larbert and Browmadge with the mill thereof… lying in the barony of Kinneill” as son and heir of Alexander, Earl of Linlithgow.  On that occasion John Burn in Larbert acted as procurator.  A little later, in 1656, John Burn “portioner of Lairbert fermourer of the mylnes of Lairbert Carmwiris and Ladiesmylne” took an action in the Falkirk Barony Court against “William Muirheide in Falkirk James Suord thair James Ald in Scheilhill and William Menzies in Wallhill ffor abstracting of victuall from the forsaidis mylnes quhairunto they ar thirleit”.  As fermourer he collected the multures on behalf of the baron.  This task remained in the family for several generations.

Illus 1: The remains of the old weir for Larbert Mill can still be seen 149m west of the Smeaton Weir.

Another document, dated 22 May 1689 at Almond Castle, also mentions the thirlage of the same three mills:

the said John Knox and his spouse, and their foresaids, shall carry the whole of their corns, which shall grow upon the said lands yearly, to our mills of Lairbert, Lord Alexander, or Lady’s Mill, there to be ground, and they shall pay multure and locknaveship, and shall perform service at the said mills in the manner used and wont, in full for every other burden...” 

Lord Alexander’s Mill was Carmuirs Mill on the south side of the River Carron (see Larbert Mill II).

By 1718 there were two mills at Larbert.  The second mill was a waulk mill located at the western end of the lade to Larbert Mill – and hence also known as the “Wester Mill.”  The Duke of Hamilton remained the superior and in 1745 reserved the rights of the “Miln of Larbert mill lands thereof and shilling hill and Walk Miln with their pertinents.” 

On 19 December 1759 Larbert Mill and the Wester Mill were leased by the Earl of Errol to the embryonic Carron Company (Watters 2010, 13).  The lease included specific mention of the water from the damhead as it was intended to lead water over a distance of 3km along a contoured lade to drive the bellows for the blast furnaces at Carron.  At around the same time the Carron Company also acquired the paper mill (Guildfield) and adjoining waulk mill that lay 0.5km upstream.  In 1760 work began on extending the lade of Larbert Mill to the ironworks.  Twenty soldiers were sent from Bo’ness to augment the 40 or so men digging its channel.  The Lade was to be 4½ft-5½ft deep with a breadth at the top of 14ft, narrowing to 10ft at the base (Watters 2010, 23).  Larbert Mill itself was to be taken down soon after Whitsunday that year so that the Lade could be extended eastwards.  In this form it was completed by the end of October.

Illus 2: The River Carron and Lade looking west from Larbert Viaduct.

The weir was considered to be ruinous by 1772 and was replaced by one a little downstream to a design by the famous engineer John Smeaton.  Larbert Mill was no longer used but it appears to have been 1855 before Carron Company feued it.  The buildings were then incorporated into a farm known as Larbert Bridge Farm.  For the first half of the century the resident farmer was Andrew Neilson from Skaithmuir.  Neilson was also responsible for looking after the Carron lade.  Indeed, for many years he was employed fulltime by the Company to maintain all of its reservoirs, lades, sea and river dykes.

Illus 3: Larbert Bridge with the old Mill Buildings on the right and the Carron Lade in the foreground.

Rather confusingly, the name of Larbert Mill was transferred to the rebuilt mill at Carmuirs which, being on the south side of the river was not even in the same parish.

1623Andrew Tait
1639John Raitter
1656William Ewing

Sites and Monuments Record

Larbert MillSMR 1229 (1034)NS 8595 8189

G.B. Bailey, 2022