Many things have come and gone in Linn Park, but the most remarkable, yet most elusive, were the mills. The mills harnessed the river to drive their water wheels, and were the main source of employment in the area. If we stand today by the remains of their dams, we can almost hear the plash-plash of their water wheels. From the advent of rotary steam power in the 1790s, water power was in decline. Yet, in the search for renewable energy, water power is now experiencing a renaissance. In recent years, most of the former mill sites in the area have been seriously considered by consultants for small-scale power generation.
By some accounts, the stretch of the White Cart Water flowing through the park only supported one mill, a snuff mill. However mills did much more than grind snuff. Basically they were sources of power for almost any industrial process. Snuff milling was one of many mills in the park area, including paper, meal, flour, barley, pease, waulk, saw mills, bleachfields and printfields.
There were so many mills in Linn Park, that it is easiest to locate and understand them by their dams or falls. Each fall powered one or more individual mills, or several mill types. As each type of mill needed specific skills, the millers moved around between similar mills in the wider area, so we need to consider them too. Starting just above Linn Park, the first waterfall was at Netherlee. The second was the natural fall at Linn. The third dam was at Millholm, now breached at the east end. The fourth was at Cartside, now gone. The fifth was at Cathcart Meal mill, many of its great sandstone blocks carried away by the force of the river. To understand the mills fully we need to carry on briefly downstream below the park to two other dams. The sixth dam was behind Weirs works, now lost. The seventh and final dam was at the end of Dundrennan Road for Millbrae Mill.
The river is always changing. A century ago, for most of the year, the river was a series of long tranquil stretches, separate by dramatic dams or waterfalls. This was still the situation through much of the park from Linn Falls down to Millholm until 1984, when Millholm dam burst. Since then, the river has gradually worn its way down through 300 years of deposits.
The mills turned Netherlee into an industrial village which by the 1850s employed hundreds and competed with Cathcart in scale. Everybody relied on the flow and power of the White Cart for their livelihood. Netherlee mill lands are situated immediately over the boundary wall from the Lime Avenue at Netherlee. There were at least six types of water powered industry at Netherlee, including a waulk mill (1730s), snuff mill (1750s), bleachfield (1766), paper mill (1730 and again from 1790), printworks (1830s) and laundry (1900s). Netherlee was always closely associated with the mills distance downstream at Millholm and Cathcart, and for many years was known as the ‘Upper Mill of Cathcart’.
The biggest milling story in the Linn Park area was the story of paper making. Netherlee was the second paper mill in Cathcart Parish. It was started up c.1700 by the owners of the first paper mill down at Newlands. In 1730 the family then vacated both Netherlee and Newlands mills, and set up their third paper mill at Millholm, which became the largest mill inside Linn Park. In the 20th century there was a fourth and smaller paper mill by the Snuff Mill Bridge, started up by the Netherlee mill owners. The first snuff mill in the area was at Netherlee in 1750. Snuff mills were small scale enterprises and could be set up and disappear quickly. Another appeared at Millholm in the 1790s.
There were also at least three bleachfields in the park area. Netherlee was the third, following Cartside (1760s) inside the park, Millbrae (1770s) and finally at Netherlee (1830s).
What can we see at Netherlee: The riverside path continues from Linn Park through the wall (the park boundary) and into Netherlee Mill Lands. The site was very large and buildings stretched all the way up the riverbank from the park boundary. Colour film from the late 1930s shows six-storey ruined brick mill buildings and numerous tall chimneys. Remains of the dam can be seen, especially on the Netherlee side of the river. Below the dam, on the Crematorium side of the river, the Ramloch Burn falls into the Cart on the park boundary. Small parts of the mill lade can be seen, which until the late 1960s went through a brick tunnel under most of the site. On the terrace above the site was Netherlee House, the mill owner’s mansion.
Linn falls are the focal point of Linn Park and of its earlier country estate. The falls are also the best natural mill site in the area, and mills existed on both sides of Linn falls. Apart from grain mills, the most common type of early mill in the park area was the waulk or ‘fulling’ mill. Waulk mills used water power to wash and soften woollen cloth or leather and are almost as old and common as grain mills. One of the earliest milling families in the area were the Tassies. They were in Newlands by the 1620s and Netherlee in the 1670s. By the 1690s William and John Tassie were skinners and glovers further down the White Cart in Eastwood Parish at Pollokshaws, where they had a waulk mill for dressing their leather at the Shaw Dam. By 1700 the Tassies rented Waulkersland at Goldenlee and by 1730 the family had another waulk mill at Netherlee.
The west or Goldenlee side of Linn falls (the opposite side of the river from Linn house) included three acres known as Waulkersland, which had a waulk mill by the 1600s. Initially worked by the Tassies, by the 1720s the waulk miller was John Ralph. Shortly after, Ralph worked at the waulk mill at Netherlee. Goldenlee waulkmill was still operating in the late eighteenth century. By the Victorian period it had been converted to a saw mill, run by Linn estate, to manage their woodland. The forester, David Allan, lived in the mill cottage nearby. Forestry was still making money in 1914 when the sawmill was modernised, and it continued in use until the mid twentieth century. In the Victorian period a circular summerhouse was built facing the falls. The industrial sawmill conflicted with the scenic view, and seems to have been constantly hidden behind a pile of timber, as the attached picture shows.
What can we see? Careful inspection of the site will show that this end of the falls is greatly altered to support this mill. The mill is actually built out onto the end of the natural dolerite sill, and the falls were originally wider. The rectangular foundation on the site behind the path is nothing to do with the mill and was built by a job creation scheme in the 1980s. A small weir, made of a single course of sandstone masonry blocks, is fixed to the crest of the falls by metal bands to divert the water into the lade. The sluice opening in the bank can still be seen, plus remains of the metal control valve. Following the path down below the falls, the tailrace of the mill exits at the square opening in the face of the sill. Deep inside the tunnel, the iron waterwheel still lies buried in the wheel pit. (Pic SN46, 47 operning/ waterwheel) The site is crying out for archaeological investigation, both of the sawmill and the earlier waulkmill.
Linn side of Linn falls
The east or Linn side of Linn falls (the Linn House side) supported another waulk mill. From early in the 18th century the mill was worked by the Wilkie family. In the summer of 1766 an advert for Hagtonhill included the waulk mill and lands let to William Wilkie whose family are buried in old Cathcart cemetery. By that autumn, the lands and mill were owned by McDowall of Castle Semple. By 1791 the lease of Hagtonhill included nine acres of Linn of Cathcart with its houses, yards and waulk mill, plus Linn House. By this time waulk mills were in decline due to the rise of bleachfields, which did the same job.
The waterfall at Linn was such a good site that, once both sides came into the same ownership in 1792, the whole fall was advertised as a potential location for a water powered cotton mill. The falls were described as having ‘the command of the river White Cart’ providing a ‘capital fall of great power with very short lade'. James Monteith, an Anderston textile merchant, who had built a water powered cotton mill at Kelvin Bridge in 1784, took the lease of Linn falls from 1793. Despite ambitious plans, he never built Linn cotton mill. If a large cotton mill had been built here, it is unlikely that the estate or park would ever have formed. The falls would be an industrial area and the parkland would now be covered in housing. Such brief events have the potential to completely alter the area.
What can we see? The buildings of Linn Mill and its settlement were deliberately swept away when laying out Linn estate and building the driveway to Linn House. However, like Goldenlee waulk mill on the other side of the falls, Linn waulk mill was also built onto the end of the falls and can still be pictured. The site was very similar to the mill on the other bank, but has been completely stripped away. Only its wheel pit survives, cut down through the full height of the falls near the bank. The photograph of the falls shows the wheel pit on the extreme left. About forty years ago, when the river was low, almost all its flow ran through a sluice in the old wheel pit. Since then, the gap has been filled up with a rubble dam and a concrete cap.
The next dam downstream at Millholm powered a paper mill. Millholm was the third paper mill in the parish after Newlands and Netherlee. Initially it was known as the “Mid Paper Miln of Cathcart", as it was situated between the other two. Millholm had numerous owners over its two centuries of operation, the most notable of whom were the Halls and the Coupers.
The mill site was initially rented from Hamilton of Aikenhead by the Halls, whose family had been involved at the first two Cathcart paper mills. The Halls also had a printing business in Glasgow. By 1768 James Hall had actually purchased the mill lands from Hamilton of Aikenhead, plus the portion called Damhead on Hagtonhill estate on the opposite bank of the Cart, "whereon the east end of the dam is laid".
From the dam, the lade headed under the buildings, splitting into two from where it drove various machines. The earliest machine was the pulping engine, where water powered hammers mashed the rags into pulp. Millholm had other uses, becoming a snuff mill in the 1790's. We can understand snuff mills from adverts for the snuff mill upstream at Netherlee. The tobacco for making the snuff was dried at a special fireplace in a ‘close room’ using coals from the nearby pits. After fermenting for several months, the tobacco leaves were fed into a water powered cutting machine, with a revolving knife which chopped the tobacco into small pieces. The diced tobacco was then loaded into a water powered mortar and pestle machine which ground it into snuff. Netherlee snuff mill had four machines for grinding snuff, driven by two horizontal water wheels, powered by the dam on the river.
The snuff mill only lasted a few years, and Millholm returned to being a paper mill. By the 1840's the tenants were an old Cathcart family, Robert and James Couper, sons of the farmer at Braehead. Their father died early, and they were raised by their mother, who ran the local grocers. By this time the mill site was very congested and the owners house was also amongst the mill buildings. The Couper brothers built houses on Netherlee Road at Braehead, then decided to build villas above the mill. Robert had a villa, “Sunnyside”, designed by architect James Smith (now demolished). Shortly after, James commissioned Alexander Thomson to design “Holmwood” alongside, now restored by the National Trust for Scotland.
The river water was often too brown and silty to use for making white paper. Permission was granted by Gordon of Aikenhead (owner of Goldenlee) for ‘The right, privilege and liberty to convey the water from the old coal workings in my lands of Linn lying on the west bank of the River Cart for the use of the Paper Works at Millholm’. Victorian plans give great detail of the buildings and machinery, when it was still powered by two water wheels. A beam engine and several other smaller steam engines provide additional power on the sprawling site.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, Millholm had become part of paper-making giant Wiggins Teape, manufacturing typing paper from rags and wood pulp. The mill finally closed in 1929 and the chimney and most of the original buildings were demolished in the 1930s. Some brick buildings from the 20th century remained. The remaining buildings were let out for various uses, including a garage, but were damaged by the collapse of the cliff on the other side of the river in 1997 and demolished. The gatehouse and two mill houses on the road down to the mill were occupied into the 1970s but damaged by fire and demolished.
What can we see? The mill site is fenced off and not part of Linn Park. During the last war, an engineering firm used the waterfall and lade to generate electricity, however the weir was finally breached by winter floods in 1984. A great deal of remains survive along the river. On the mill road, the cobbles and flatter paving for the cart wheels, can still be seen.
When James Hill built Cartside House in the 1760s, he rented out two acres on the riverbank below as a bleachfield. An advert for the house in 1765 included the bleachfield, boiling house, bleaching equipment and the ‘privilege of the water of Cart’. Hill, also owned a shop in Trongate, possibly for selling the bleached wares. Bleachfields were common in the parish, with others at Netherlee and Millbrae, both from the 1760s.
What can we see? As the bleachfield was in direct view of Cartside House, all traces have been deliberately erased. Pure water was obtained from a spring on the hillside which still discharges water and occasionally undermines the park path.
Cathcart Mill (The Snuff Mill)
Continuing downstream, the next dam in the park was below Cathcart Castle. The site itself has a much longer pedigree than any of the other mills. It was traditionally one of the three ancient meal mills of Cathcart parish, along with Millbrae and Dripps (up at Waterfoot). In 1589 the miller was James Struthers, and by the 1680's John Hall, who died about 1700 and is buried in Cathcart Kirkyard. His elder son John continued the meal mill and it was his younger son James who branched into paper making at Newlands and Netherlee.
Cathcart meal mill passed to John Hall's grandson in 1762, who would be the last meal miller in Cathcart. The mills were having to adapt to cater for a wider variety of agricultural produce. In 1770 John built a flour mill adjacent to the meal mill, and advertised that "Gentlemen may have the opportunity of having their wheat made into flour". Shortly after a Barley Mill was also in operation at Hall's expanding "Three Milns of Cathcart". However his enterprise was not matched by a growth in custom and Hall sub-let the mills. By 1785 he was bankrupt. The mills struggled on and in 1795 were advertised including pease, oat and barley mills, two water wheels, granaries and a reservoir, plus the 15 acres of mill lands. The tenant miller was William Mitchell whose daughter married Archibald Muir, son of Netherlee papermaker John Muir. Archibald commenced Cathcart's fourth paper mill in one of Hall’s old grain mills. This was a much smaller scale enterprise than Millholm or Netherlee paper mills. In 1835 Muir's lease was terminated and Solomon Lindsay took over. Like the other Cathcart paper mills, the site had several uses, also manufacturing snuff on a small scale.
The site lay derelict for many years, was saved from demolition by local enthusiasts, and periodically flooded. In the 1990s it was converted into flats, named “Snuff Mill Court”. It is ironic that despite the long tradition of numerous mills, particularly paper-making, it is by the lesser product of snuff that the park area and adjacent bridge is remembered today.
What can we see? The mill site is now private housing. The west end of the dam survives, built of large sandstone blocks, though it is often hidden by trees washed down the river. Despite their size and weight, the blocks have been gradually swept away down the river during floods. In the 1980s, Strathclyde Regional Council proposed building a great dam in the park which would fill during heavy rainfall and reduce flooding downstream. The proposal was abandoned in favour of the three dams recently built further upstream at Carmunnock, Eaglesham and Hazelden. All the old mill dams in the area are now under consideration to generate renewable energy. (Pic SN57 Cathcart Mills 1980).
Newlands Paper Mill
Paper milling began in the 1680’s, at what later became Paper Mill Farm, Newlands. It was driven by a sixth dam, with a long lade which crossed what is now Weirs Cathcart works. It was started by Frenchman Nicholas Deschan. It was his son in law, James Hall, son of the Cathcart meal miller, who was attracted upstream to start a second paper mill at Netherlee by the Maxwells of Williamwood.
Millbrae (or Langside) mill was situated at the bottom of Millbrae, at the corner of Tantallon Road. Like Cathcart meal mill, Millbrae branched out into milling other types of grain. In the 1770s it was milling corn, barley, wheat and pease. The dam was at the bend in the river at the end of Dundrennan Road and the long lade wound across Battlefield and back to the mill. The mill was damaged by fire in the 1850s.
Millbrae also had a bleachfield and printfield situated on the flat ground alongside the mill lade. Its speciality initially was in printing blue and red handkerchiefs, and by the 1770’s was printing linen and cotton garments. When it changed hands in 1773 the proprietors had the right to ‘take from the miln lade water to fill their dye vats and wash their yarn’. The works ceased in 1792 when the owners Gray and Urie went out of business.
Further reading: The above is based on the following articles by Stuart Nisbet: ‘Netherlee and Linn Mills’ (The Eastwoodian Vol.1, 1989); ‘Renfrewshire Snuff Mills’ (RLHF Journal Vol.6 1994); The Four Paper Mills of Cathcart (Scottish Local History Vol.49, 2001).