Mills and Smithies of Keltneyburn
The modern village of Keltneyburn has changed little since the Ordnance Survey surveyed the area in 1862 for their First Edition series. Here it is considered to be composed of the Milton of Keltney and the township of Balknock (which has had numerous spellings - one house on its site is called Balchroich). Some of the buildings in the old Balknock township have disappeared, others have been renamed
It is difficult to date the buildings that still exist. Judging by the roughness of the stonework, the public house (labelled ‘PH’) is probably the oldest in Milton. The only building which has a date engraved above the door is Lade House which was apparently built in 1804.
We might assume that the first mill in this location was a corn mill and its presence resulted in the hamlet being called ‘Milton of Keltney’. We know from a survey dated 1791, when the proprietor was Robert Stewart of Garth, that the name was in use then implying there was a mill in the hamlet at that time and almost certainly for very many years before. The Stewarts ran into financial difficulties and Milton of Keltney was sold in 1832.
In the censuses below I have included in Keltneyburn those living in Balknock and the Milton of Keltney. Those in Tighnadalloch and the Blairishes I have considered to be separate (census records suggest they were almost all working the land, with the Proudfoots in Tighnadalloch also working as carriers).
The history of the manufacture of woollen cloth has a separate page.
In 1841 there were 65 people living in Keltneyburn in 14 households. Below I have listed those not working the land;
- Robert Dewar and his son Peter worked the smithy
- Peter McArthur - shoemaker
- Duncan Frazer -spirit dealer
- John Frazer and his son James - both millers
- James McDonald was the dyer and living with him was William McGregor also a dyer.
- Duncan and Ewan McLaren – tailors
61 people were living in Keltneyburn in 11 households;
- Robert Dewar and his family continued in the smithy
- 58-year-old James Haggart – dyer, woolcarder, meal miller. His 22-year-old son Peter - dyer and woolcarder
- John Shaw living with the haggarts – miller
- Peter McArthur – Shoemaker. James Stewart was living with them and described as Shoemaker apprentice
- Hugh McLaren - tailor
- Peter McLauchlin - innkeeper
- (John Frazer , described as a retired meal miller was living a couple of miles west in Tomnacroich with his son Duncan, a meal miller. Was Duncan still working in the mill in Keltneyburn?)
- 3 members of the Dewar family working as smiths
- Peter Haggart was now described as wool manufacturer and meal miller, also vintner employing five men. (James Haggart had been killed shortly after the 1851 census by a falling tree).
- Next door to them was Harry Drysdale - woollen weaver from Stirling, Alexander McDonald – dyer and Duncan Rankin – miller’s man.
- A note states ‘meal mill and dying, weaving and wool carding manufactory belonging to Mr Peter Haggart occupier of house number 23 and small public house occupied by some of Peter Haggart servants as sleeping apartments and used in the daytime for the retail of drink but not otherwise occupied’.
- David McLaren and Hugh McLaren – tailor
- Donald MacArthur – shoemaker’s apprentice
Can we identify the buildings on the 1862 ordnance survey map?
The public house
‘PH’ on the ordnance survey map means public house. David of Garth was listed in a directory as a distiller c1828. This building would be an obvious candidate for that distillery, the spirit dealer in 1841, the inn in 1851 and the house used for retail of drink during the daytime in 1861.
By 1871 an excise officer was boarding with the Dewar family!
It retains the name to this day, has a louvered vent on its roof and once had a perforated cast-iron first floor to allow heat from below to dry the grain above.
The course of the lade is easily identifiable to this day so there is no doubt that the waterwheel would have been on the outside wall where shown. Unfortunately it was destroyed when the last owner went bankrupt. We must assume that the milling would have taken place inside the building on which the waterwheel was attached. The one wheel powered both the corn and woollen mills - it has been suggested day about.
Before the derelict mill was reinstated as dwellings, the lade ran underneath what has been labelled ‘dye works’. Outside that building, close to the burn, were vats used in the dying process. It is reasonable to guess that they were once in the wooden building, coloured grey, on the OS map.
It is not clear what the other buildings were used for but at least some of them were probably for weaving.
Later history of the Smithy
On 29th of October 1896 a new bridge over the Keltney Burn, financed by public subscription and costing nearly £2000, was oened by Lady Currie of Garth. The old bridge was only 12 feet wide and, from the awkward angle it crossed the stream, was dangerous and quite unsuitable for traffic which had increased greatly. The new bridge crossed the stream about 100 yards lower down than the old one, and a new access about 400 yards long was made from the Weem Road at Coshieville Inn.
The original smithy was probably demolished at that time to make way for the new road.
The Dewar family continued to work the replacement smithy until 1932 when they moved to the hotel and farm at Coshieville. Alex Law, their apprentice, was set up in a smithy behind the hotel but took over the one in Keltneyburn 10 years later, when Johnny MacPherson who had bought the Keltneyburn smithy from the Dewars moved to Australia.
In December 1973 John Cumming rented the smithy from Alex Law to provide the services of a general blacksmith. John had left Orkney in 1968 and been working for Grant Smith in Acharn making timber winches. In 1979, when John remarried, Alex Law died forcing the Cummings to buy the smithy.
Morag Cumming, John's wife, had been brought up in an artistic family and trained at the Edinburgh art school. She had been used to working with ceramics, jewellery and paint but quickly diversified into artistic metalwork using the copious horseshoe nails, screws and bits of cast off metal that abounded in the smithy. Her business, which proved to be very successful, has more recently been taken over by her daughter Heather - see http://www.ironfairy.co.uk/
Later history of the mills
To cope with the demands of an increasing business, the Haggart family moved to Aberfeldy where they took over two woollen mills powered by water from the Moness Burn.
After the Haggarts moved to Aberfeldy, the Dewars took responsibility for the continuing working of the meal mill in Keltneyburn. In 1881 James Beckett, a 23 year old miller, was living in the Dewar household.
On 17 Oct 1888 an advertisement (right) appeared in the Glasgow Herald;
This notice reveals that both mills and the farm of Balchroisk, all then owned by Sir Donald Currie, had been managed by the Haggarts.
On 1 Nov.1902 Donald Dewar advertised in the Dundee Courier for a miller suggesting that he was continuing to manage the meal mill;
The woollen mills subsequently went through several owners Sinclair, Lennox and Boland. After eventually closing for good they were bought by Tom and Kirsty Dickens. Thirty years later, after the death of Mr Dickens, the now listed buildings were purchased by Blairish Restorations and converted for residential use.
1898 2nd Edition O.S. Map
By the time Keltneyburn was re-surveyed in 1898, the buildings we see today were in place. Some have since been removed.