The Doric Columns
Paper Mills in Aberdeen
The 1st paper mill in Scotland was established in 1590 at Dalry in Edinburgh by Mungo and Gideon Russell which operated until c1605, the first of only 12 mills to be established in Scotland before 1700, the others being found in Glasgow (2 Mills), East Lothian (Yester Mill - Gifford), Berwickshire (1 Mill), Aberdeen (1 Mill) and a further 6 in Edinburgh. The growth of papermaking in Scotland from the end of the 17th century onwards was thanks to 2 French papermakers Nicolas de Champ and Nicolas Dupin who brought the technical skills of the French papermaking industry to Scotland, establishing their own Mills in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively. As in England, most paper used to print books before 1700 was imported from France or Holland.
Paper Mills used water both as a source of power and to treat fibres. They also required a constant supply of rags. A 1-vat mill, on average, could produce 2 to 3 cwt of paper per week. A water wheel powered a main shaft fitted with a series of cams, which lifted and dropped stampers to break down the rotten rags in the pulping troughs. An account of papermaking in the Universal Magazine for June 1752 describes the process. The Vatmen dipped wire moulds into the vat of pulp, shaking out excess water to form matted sheets, then the Coucher and Levermen transferred them to a felt blanket where surplus water could be pressed out in a screw lever press. The sheets of paper were then hung up to be dried, sized, finished, cut and parcelled for sale.
17th and 18th century Mill production concentrated on wrappings rather than white paper for print, but with the spread of literacy, the Newspaper and Publishing Industries expanded and new paper machines and improved technology increased output to meet demand. The introduction of the Hollander (or beating engine) and the Fourdrinier machine, revolutionised the Industry. The Fourdrinier, capable of producing a continuous web of paper, 24 inches wide and up to 15 yards long, was invented in 1799 by Nicholas Louis Robert and the English Patent was taken out in 1801. A machine was installed at Peterculter Mill in Aberdeen in 1807 and the Aberdeen Journal was 1st printed there in 1812. Flow-line production guaranteed large-scale manufacturers a consistent, quality product at a competitive price. Machine Mills opened in Dalmore (1843), Levenbank (1848), Inverurie (1858) and Avon (1860). Nine new Mills opened in the Glasgow area alone at Govan (1832), Bathgate (c1834), Woodside (1837), Kelvindale (1845), Airdrie (1848), Port Dundas (1850), Bowling (1852), Clyde (1856) and Govanhaugh (c1860). Production soared to approximately 20 tons per week by the 1870s. By 1890, the number of Mills peaked, with 69 in operation.
The 1st paper mill was apparently opened in Aberdeen around 1694. The waters of the River Don in Aberdeen have been noted for paper-making since the 18th century.
Gordon's Mills are presumably earlier than 1639, when William Gordon of Gordon's Mills was reportedly wounded at the Battle at the Bridge of Dee (Milne 1911, 228). According to Milne, the Mill or Mills were 1st of all for meal. Later they became a woollen manufactory and subsequently a paper mill. G M Fraser asserts that Gordon's Mills was the site of the 1st Paper Mill in Aberdeen, opened by Patrick Sandilands in 1696 and that by 1703 it had become a textile mill referred to as `Northmills at Gordon's Mills' (Fraser 1986, 185-6).
The map of Scotland drawn by Robert Gordon of Straloch in 1654 depicts what appears to be a settlement called Gordon’s Mill, while the map of 1661, by his son James Gordon of Rothiemay, shows Gordon's Mill. Gordon's Mills appear on Taylor's map of 1773, where several buildings are shown, including some which seem to be in the northern part of the present site. On the 1st Ordnance Survey map made of the area, in 1867-69, the Woollen Mill is shown in the northern portion of the area, situated partly within and partly outside the present site, while an additional Corn Mill is depicted approximately 250 metres to the south-east, next to the riverbank. By that date, if not before, the name Gordon's Mills seems to have come to refer to the area around and between the woollen Mill and the corn Mill.
On the 1926 Ordnance Survey map, the woollen mill still occupies the northern portion of the area, while Donside Paper Mills is represented to the South-east by an extensive complex of buildings.
Aberdeen was a major centre for paper making, with no fewer than 5 separate Paper Mills in the area up until the 70's. Now only 1 Mill remained on the River Don, and Culter closed on the Dee. There were 4 on the Don, but only Culter on the Dee. Each Mill specialised: Taits in Inverurie was quick to adopt timber pulp, Davidsons at Mugiemoss made tattie sacks and liner paper for plasterboard, Donside Mill at Tillydrone produced graphics papers, and Stoneywood makes fine papers.
Peterculter Mill - Deeside
Culter Mill was opened near Aberdeen in 1750 by Bartholomew Smith, a papermaker from England . 'He has now erected and set going on the Burn of Culter, a Paper-Mill, where he can serve the country in paper, fine and coarse, brown paper, pasteboards, pressing-cards for dysters, etc.' Aberdeen Journal 8 January 1751. Bartholomew Smith died in 1758 and the business was then run by Richard Smith.
Culter Paper Mills was founded in 1750 by Bartholomew Smith in the rural location of Culter, just beneath the gorge of Culter Burn. Various companies worked on the lease for the site until Alexander Pirie and Sons of Aberdeen acquired it in 1864. They founded The Culter Mills Paper Co Ltd in 1865, trading in specialized paper products, and rapidly expanded the site at Culter into a large, well equipped facility. At this stage of the history, the company was effectively an subsidiary of the Pirie family’s business concerns, and all production went to other Pirie companies. In 1883 the company was reconstituted into a company of the same name that survived until the recent past (the term of the original company was only 19 years). However though this company had F L Pirie as a board member, it was effectively an independent concern from the Pirie empire. Throughout these changes, staffing and management of the mill remained consistent and continuous. The new board regularly invested in new equipment for the Mill, and output increased from 800 tons in 1865 to over 4320 tons in 1905. This product was at the high end of the paper market, including writing and printing papers, which later developed into the printing of tinted and cream writing paper, and enamelled paper for binding books and covering boxes. This emphasis on coated paper (which had a healthy profit margin) continued throughout the 1890s, and became the Mills signature product. By the late 1890s Great North of Scotland Railway had built a siding at the Mill that became Culter Station, and by 1897 the Mill was fully electrified. In 1967 it merged with the Guard Bridge Power Co Ltd, to form Culter Guard Bridge Holdings Ltd (since 1981 a public limited company) and became a holding company for the Guard Bridge Paper Co Ltd, the Culter Mills Paper Co Ltd, Scotflow Ltd, Culter Guard Bridge Export Ltd, Smith and McLaurin Ltd and the Scanneg Group of Companies. The Mills at Culter were demolished in 1981, and converted into housing and the focus of the company moved to the paper Mill at Guardbridge, Fife. In 1984 Culter Guard Bridge Holdings Plc was taken over by the James River Corporation of Virginia. In 2008, following a series of difficult financial years the Company went into administration. The Mill at Guardbridge has subsequently been bought by The University of St Andrews.
Alexander Brown and James Chalmers, papermakers Aberdeen
The large Musgrave tandem compound steam engine that was kept for years as a standby had been scrapped.
This very Victorian Mill whose dramatic chimney created an inversion in the valley which often dominated the surrounding district. The Mill closed circa 1980 and was replaced with housing.
The old Culter Mills fire pump. Rescued from the Mill by a local steam engine enthusiast, Sam Barrack, it now looks forward to a new life- on the 11th floor of a Canadian Office block! Businessman, Ian McGregor has had the engine extensively restored in Devon and shipped out to its new home.
The Paper Mill has gone and, now, the village's hotel. Locals feel strongly that "their" Rob Roy should not join these as a dim memory of the past. The statue of Rob Roy was carved from an 8 foot length of Quebec yellow pine by Aberdeen carver D.K. Graham. £100 was raised by public subscription and, in a ceremony in June 1926, he was unveiled by local resident Miss Jessie Thomson. Miss Thomson had been present at the unveiling of the previous statue, by her father John Thomson. in 1865. "As Rob is made out of really good seasoned wood he should last, with care, for a century, It rests with the Culter people to see that Rob is well painted and made to continue to look as handsome as he does today." (Unveiling ceremony, 1926) For many years, local painter, the late George Shaw risked a 100 foot drop down the craggy rocks of Culter burn to repair and varnish the statue. Fifteen to 20 different shades of paint were used to keep him resplendent for the 1000s of visitors who admired him each year. George continued to maintain Rob until his death in 2001.
The Rob Roy statue, which, standing sentinel on the cliffs flanking the bridge over Culter burn for more than sixty years, was one of the sights of the Deeside community of Culter, threatened this spring to crumble into decay owing to the ravages of time and weather. A movement set afoot to secure a similar statue on the same picturesque site culminated on Saturday afternoon in the unveiling of a new figure, provided by public subscription. It is indeed a braw "Rob, Junior," as he has been facetiously termed, that now attracts the eye of the passer-by to a ledge of the tree-girt rocks, where, in the effulgent glory of vivid colouring, the old outlaw looks forth with defiant mien over the village end of the bridge. Rob, so far as he new was never at Culter, so they might in consequence give no credence to the story they sometimes heard that he jumped the chasm upon which they were looking down.
The statue was the third which had had a home on the ledge of rock facing them. The 1st was, he believed, the figurehead of an old Peterhead Whaler picked up in Aberdeen by Mr David Anderson, who was for many years a valued employee at Culter Mills. The original figure, which lasted for only a few years, must have been put up in the early '50s. it was succeeded by another, built by public subscription, about the early '60s, and it had a life of about 60 to 65 years.
A Rob Roy figure has stood on this rocky ledge high above the Leuchar Burn just before it reached Culter Paper Mills for around 150 years. It has become a tourist attraction for those travelling on the North Deeside Road at Peterculter, about 8 miles from Aberdeen. However, there is no historical evidence to support the legend that Rob Roy MacGregor left the gorge to escape his pursuers. The original figure is supposed to have been a figurehead from a Peterhead whaling ship and it was replaced in about 1865 with the carved wooden stature seen here. It apparently suffered damage before the 1st World War when local Territorial soldiers practised their firing skills on it. However, by 1925, the figure was in a poor state due to the effects of time and weather. A committee was appointed to secure a new stature and an Aberdeen woodcutter, David Graham, created a figure from a nine foot high block of Quebec yellow pine. It was unveiled on 3 July 1926. This figure lasted until 1991, when it had to be replaced again after being damaged by vandals.
Rob Roy was born in 1671 as Raibeart Ruadh, meaning Red Robert, due to the flame coloured hair he sported at birth. He was born at the head of Loch Katrine in Buchanan, Stirlingshire, between the highlands and lowlands of Scotland. As a young man he became involved in the Jacobite Risings, battles to return King James and his heirs to the thrones of Scotland and England.
Donside Paper Mill
The Donside Paper Mill was a paper mill in Aberdeen, shortly to the north of Old Aberdeen and the Tillydrone area, by the River Don. Since its closure in 2001 (with the loss of approximately 250 jobs), all the Mill buildings have been cleared, and the site is to be redeveloped as an “urban village”. Donside Paper sold approximately 40% of its product in overseas markets, with Europe and the USA its main foreign markets. It was formerly part of the UK Paper company and its financial difficulties were blamed on a combination of high pulp prices and the strength of the pound. Donside specialised in the production of high quality paper and that used by artists.
Considerable interest has been aroused in Great Britain, according to Consular Agent G.M. Wells of Aberdeen, in the successful conclusion of experiments in papermaking with sawdust, conducted by the Donside Paper Company, Limited, of that City - 1918
The Davidson family came to Bucksburn from Tarland c 1760. Charles Davidson 1st began manufacturing paper and snuff in partnership with Charles Smith of Stoneywood, but in 1796, set up on his own, and paper has been made without interruption at Mugiemoss since that date. In 1859 George Davidson took out a patent on the 1st machine for block-bottom bags, and the firm became the largest paper bag maker in Britain. By 1875 they were turning out over 2M bags per week. In the 2nd half of the 19th century the company moved into the fields of wrapping papers and felts. It was incorporated as a Limited Liability Company in 1875, and opened warehouses in London, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool and Edinburgh. Unlike other Mills in Aberdeenshire, Davidson's have never made fine quality writing papers, but have concentrated upon wrapping papers and packaging products.
Davidson Mill was a paper mill in the Mugiemoss area of Aberdeen. Established 1796 it closed in June 2005
Inverurie Paper Mill
Former local managing director of Donside Paper, Ian Lakin said,
“When one considers that following the closure of the Inverurie mill there will be no production of copier paper remaining in the UK, and that all future supplies will have to be imported, it beggars belief that our politicians are allowing this to happen unchallenged.”
Immediately below an elegant bridge over the Don, a portion of the waters of this River is carried away in a pretty deep channel in order to feed the navigable canal which was carried 18 miles, following a winding route to the Harbour of Aberdeen. The only portion of the canal open is:- about 60 chains or thereabout immediately where it joins the River Don, and from near the Flour Mill in Port Elphinstone to the Paper Mill - Inverurie Mill, chiefly for conveying water to the Mill. The course may be traced at many places within the Parish and some of the milestones are still standing on its partly levelled banks.
Inverurie Paper Mills, founded 1858. A most interesting complex, dominated by a 5-storey brick tower. The other buildings are mainly 1- and 2-storey and rubble-built, although there are some modern additions. Part of the power is derived from 2 water turbines, and the site of 2 large waterwheels can also be seen. In 1971, there were 2 Belliss & Morcom high-speed engines driving alternators, on standby: a triple-expansion 1000-1100 horsepower engine of 1928 and a compound 900 horsepower of 1937. There was also a 2-cylinder simple vertical Ashworth & Parker engine which formerly drove a paper Mill of 1928 and a 2-cylinder simple horizontal engine which had driven a Masson, Scott & Bertram calendar of 1885. In the repair shop were a lathe, shaper and planer by Crawhall & Campbell, Glasgow (1860-8) formerly driven by a still-surviving 6-spoke, all-iron high-breast bucket wheel about 4 ft (1.22m) wide by 10 ft (3.05m) diameter. There was still a hand-propelled narrow-gauge railway system in the Mills.
Founded by the Tait family way back in the 1650's, initially providing power for the Meal Mill located in Port Elphinstone. In 1852, the Tait family, recognising the potential increase in demand for paper for educational and other uses, established the Inverurie Paper Mill. The Mill was an immediate success and went from strength to strength under the stewardship of the Tait family through the 1900s. In 1989, Thomas Tait and Sons became a subsidiary of Federal Paper Board Company Inc. of Montvale, New Jersey. In March 1996 Federal Paper Board became part of International Paper, the then owners of the Mill. In 2000, Thomas Tait retired from the UK Board of International Paper. Closed 2009.
Stonywood Paper Mill
Stoneywood Paper Mill is the last paper mill still functioning in Aberdeen.
James Moir set up a Paper Mill in the Stoneywood
estate, which he already owned, in 1770. A year later it was
controlled by Alexander Smith and his son-in-law Patrick Pirie.
Alexander Pirie, a grandson, developed the mill over a 50 year period,
introducing watermarks; continuous production and white paper made from rags. In
1992 the company merged with Wiggins Teape and Co. Other Mills on the Don
include Donside and Mugiemoss.
Set in 40 acres on the banks of the River Don, this site was a perfect location for a successful Mill with access to soft water and power from the River as well as a source of reliable labour in Aberdeen. Capitalising on the ready market in Aberdeen where there was already a local newspaper and several busy printers, the Mill prospered and was soon taken over by Alexander Smith, an Aberdeen wigmaker, who widened the range of papers to include grades of brown papers. The weir and Mill-lade are on a bend in the river below Stoneywood House, accessed by a little sinuous path. The entirety of the capital manifest in the site of this internationally renowned papermaking enterprise was accumulated through the judicious use of the diverted - gathered and mustered, wrangled and re-tasked - waters of the Don and Greenburn as they fall onto and through, past and across the Inche upon which the Mill stands.
The lower reaches of the Don were once lined with some 17 mills, and downstream of Stoneywood you can still see the rusting machinery of Alex Pirie’s Woodside Mill, which used to prepare linen rags for papermaking.
On the opposite bank lay Crombie’s Woollen Mill at Grandholm.
Woodside Cotton Mill C1787 before the chimney was added by Alex Pirie with the advent of steam power in the 1870's. St Machar's Cathedral is possibly visible in the distance.
1773 - Alexander Smith, a local wigmaker, became the sole owner. Smith's grandson, Alexander Pirie succeeded his grandfather in 1800. Two years later the Mill produced it's 1st watermarked paper - Pirie 1802.
This House, built 1769 with main part c1840/50. A small and plain classical Laird's House with a ruined stable block of 1797, with pepperpot turrets and a raised battlemented central section. It latterly served as a Dormitory for the Calico Printing Apprentices at Woodside Works and is now the headquarters of the NE River Purification Board.
The ownership of the Mill changed hands again to Smith’s grandson, Alexander Pirie. Alexander Pirie was the 1st of a long line of Pirie's to own and direct Stoneywood. He initiated the change from brown paper to fine papers and developed the 1st Stoneywood watermark – ‘Pirie 1802’. The Mill doubled its output in the 1st half of the 19th century, which was helped by the introduction of 3 continuous power-driven machines.
Stoneywood Mill’s success continues to this day and since the 1920s the site has expanded to include 2 main manufacturing sites – Stoneywood and Waterton, which together produce over 200 tonnes of paper per day. Casting Paper is produced at Waterton and is the sole manufacturing site for this type of paper in the UK
Paper was still made from rags and imported esparto grass which were boiled with caustic soda to make bleached pulp. The esparto grass was stored in 6 sheds which retain the name Grass Sheds within the Mill, although the sheds have not been used for this purpose for almost 50 years. The bleached rags were processed in beaters and left to stand in tiled steeps, which can be found beside the casting laboratory at Waterton. When the rag processing was discontinued, the Woodside Rag Mill was closed.
A huge Water Wheel was installed at Pirie's Woodside Rag Mill in 1828 to provide the power for driving the machinery. Rags for papermaking were "dusted", graded for colour and strength, sorted and cut in the rag room at Woodside Mill.
The Grandholme Mill’s waterwheel was claimed to be the largest in the world when it was built in 1826 by Hewes & Wren of Manchester: at 25 feet in diameter, the wheel weighed 100 tons and generated 200hp. Once the steam engines were installed, the giant water wheel took on a life of its own. It was kept ‘in reserve’ at Grandholm until 1897, but rather than going for scrap, it was bought by Alex. Pirie & Sons, who owned Stoneywood Paper Mill. They earmarked it for their Woodside Works, where they carried out rag-breaking, so the wheel was taken apart and moved a few 100 yards upstream to Woodside, where it earned its keep until 1965.
By then, the 140-year-old wheel was the largest of its kind left in Europe – a remarkable survivor from the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution – and the Royal Scottish Museum was determined to save it. The wheel was painstakingly dismantled for a 2nd time, and loaded onto lorries which took it south to Chambers Street in Edinburgh, where it is still on display.
This was 1 of the largest water wheels in Great Britain, and it was still in use in 1947 when the above drawing by W A Aitken was published in the 1947 Stoneywood Mill Employee Handbook, printed by Messrs. George Robb (Adelphi) Ltd.. The Woodside Mill was closed when papermaking from rags was discontinued. Rags are no longer suitable for papermaking due to synthetic fibres such as nylon or rayon which are not broken down to shorter fibres in the recycling process. However, certain cut rayon or fibrillated synthetic fibres are used in speciality papers made by Arjo Wiggins.
Woodside Mill was located downstream of Stoneywood Mill, and the ruins of the Mill can be found along the public footpath along the south bank of the River Don, close to the Mugiemoss roundabout. Alex Pirie & Sons and 1919 can be seen on the sluice gates.
In 1947 Pirie Appleton & Co. manufactured registered postal envelopes, stationary and furniture from paper at their premises located at 22 South College Street, Aberdeen. The envelope manufacture was later moved to new premises at Dyce. Pirie Appleton & Co Ltd. was probably formed by a merger between the largest envelope maker in Scotland, Alex Pirie & Co. with the largest in England, Fenner & Appleton Ltd. of London.
Union Works former Cotton Mill and Paper Warehouse - 22 South College Street, Aberdeen
Circa 1900. This is the dry-end of a papermaking machine. There are wet and dry ends in papermaking. The wet end is where the ingredients, pulp, for the paper are 1st mixed in water. This produces something that looks like porridge. This mixture passes through screens and the water drains. Paper now begins to take shape. We call this web. It now goes through a series of rollers. Rollers squeeze almost all the remaining water out. Now it is heated and dried. We are now at the dry end of the machine. This all happens on 1 huge machine. When you walk into the machine hall of a working paper mill, you find that each machine is alive, pulsing with heat, motion, noise and clouds of steam. The pulp is drawn from the chests, large stainless steel vessels which feed the papermaking machine, and flows to the ‘wet end’ where jets of that orange soup are sprayed onto a moving wire mesh table. At this stage, the paper is 1% pulp and 99% water, and gleams like a layer of melting snow. Its journey from the wet end to the dry end takes around a minute, and as the pulp drains, the fibres begin to coalesce. Firstly the pulp passes under the dandy roll, a cylinder of fine bronze mesh which forms a watermark while the web of paper is still moist enough to take its impression. Immediately afterwards, it passes through a set of cylinders lined with felts which rapidly absorb much of its water content.
The paper-making process requires a lot of heat and power, and the Aberdeen Mill generates its own, state-of-the-art best environmental practice. "At Stoneywood they need steam to dry the paper flat and electricity to drive the machines, so the most practical and least wasteful way of doing this is to have a combined heat and power plant. An industrial gas turbine turns a 10-megawatt generator, and the exhaust goes through a waste heat boiler to raise steam. When we built our generator some 15 years ago we were in the vanguard, and other paper mills have now followed us."
Today’s neighbouring Mills at Stoneywood and Waterton – both run by Arjo Wiggins as 1 business – lie above an aqueous world of sluices and lades on the same site as Smith’s original Mill, the Inche of Stoneywood.
John Ross, labourer, pled not guilty to stealing a pair of drawers and a quantity of cotton rags between 1st February and 21st March, from the Stoneywood Paper Works, belonging to Messrs Alex Pirie & Sons. John Shand, manager of the works, deponed to Ross having been employed in the rag store between the above dates, and identified the aforementioned articles as belonging to the Messrs Pirie. Police Sergeant Findlay, deponed to having found the articles in prisoner's possession, and that when apprehended he denied ever having been employed about the works. Ellen Scott, millworker, with whom prisoner cohabitated, testified to having received the drawers and the rags to mend them from the prisoner, and also acknowledged having taken 2 of the pieces herself from the works. In cross-examining this witness, Ross got rather excited, and charged her with stealing more than she acknowledged, when he was interrupted by the Sheriff, who said "That will do; you must have 30 days' hard labour."
Old Stoneywood Church, Bankhead Road, Bucksburn opened in 1879 at the cast of £4,000, which was finally paid following a large Bazaar in 1887. This was a 3-day affair held at the Music Hall, which raised £810. It provided places for 820 people and the Earl of Aberdeen played a prominent role in Fund raising. In the early 1990's, after the building had been vacant for same time, it was converted into office space. The window is still intact but its fine organ was given away. Bankhead and Stoneywood grew up around the Paper Mills on the River Don. Arjo Wiggins (Stoneywood Mill) and C Davidson's (Mugiemoss Mill and the Dancing Cairns Quarries) provided much employment and a great stability in the Community.
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