The bleachfields, the flock mill and Milndavie mill
With the abundance of water, bleaching and water driven industries were commonplace in the 18th century in the parish. At Dumbroch in the area commonly known as "The Glen" there was the Milndavie Mill and lower down the flock or rag mill. The fields to the west of the Glen had formed part of Dumbrock bleachfields one of the oldest and largest of the four bleach fields in the parish.
The mill of Milndavie has a long history stretching back to 1657 when Guthrie Smith records:
The mill and mill services of Mill Davy, with an acre of land belonging thereto and a servitude of four cows and one horse, to be pastured yearly upon the toun and lands of Edenkill, and with bannock and knaveship of said mill conform to use and wont were feued by the second Marquis of Montrose in February and March 1657 to Robert Miller in Milndavie Mill.
The Milndavie Mill was part of the Barony of Mugdock and of Easter Mugdock and its "sucken" was extensive ranging from Craigallian ,Mugdock, and Quinloch. This meant that there was an obligation to tenants on these estates to use this mill. As well as this some of the tenants received favourable terms, notably those of the three touns of Easter Mugdock, and did not have to repair either the mill or the dams on the moor that provided the water supply.
The hill to the west of the mill is called "Shillin Hill" and at the beginning of the l9th century there were a number of houses in this area, probably where the old children's home was situated and where the new housing development is today.
There are few tales associated with Milndavie Mill except one, which tells of how corn was once cut, threshed, ground, baked and eaten within 24 hours through the enterprise of one miller. Legend says that the miller was probably aided by the witches, who lived in the area, as millers were not always the fastest of workers! One of the dams feeding the mill is known as the Deil's Craig and folklore has it that the devil lived in the dam and used the craig beside it as a table where he entertained the witches who assisted the miller!
By the 1870's Milndavie Mill was also a sawmill as well as a meal mill, however, by the turn of the century neither was in operation and the mill fell into disuse before being taken over as a store and ultimately houses.
The Flock or Rag Mill
Further down the glen, about 1874 David Hamilton started a flock or rag mill. This mill was driven by a large water wheel and also had a large chimney stalk. Little is known about this mill and production ceased just after the turn of the century. David Hamilton himself died in 1917 in Glasgow, however, the mill did give its name to the burn which is known by some as the "raggie burn".
In the fields to the west of the raggie burn were the bleachfields of Dumbroch. At the end of the 18th century Guthrie Smith records that there were four bleachfields in the parish. Dumbroch, the oldest of them survived the other three and was used primarily for bleaching what was known as "native webs". Three were on the Blane, between the old manse and Blanefield and the fourth one was on the other side of the parish at Craigallian.
The 1860 O.S. Map shows a large pond located roughly where the wall is by one of the goals on the football field. That whole area is likely to have made use of the water that abounds there , in particular the spring near what is known as Thoms' Lane. At the beginning of the 18th century it belonged to Archibald Lyle and was tenanted by a number of people. In 1818 James Smith of Craigend bought it. It did not appear to be a profitable venture. In 1854 Mr Coubrough of Blanefield bought it but did not work it for any length of time. The last person who used it was a Mr Crum of Thornliebank who rented it in 1855 to use while his own works were being rebuilt after a fire.
The other two fields on the Blane were principally employed in bleaching tapes and yarns for the Inkle factories in Glasgow. The fourth bleachfield was located in the Craigallian part of the parish. In 1781 a William Blackwood erected a bleachfield on the Allander at Craigallian. The firm of William Blackwood & Son, as it was known, prospered so in 1841 it was decided that the premises at Craigallian were too small and they decided to move their business to Craigton in the neighbouring parish.
The Dumbrock Works
In December 1905 work began on the demolition of the buildings known as the Dumbrock Works. These buildings were erected in the 1870's to be used as a calico print works in opposition to Coubrough's printworks but were never completed and were put to little use. An attempt was made to let them but to no avail and the decision was taken to demolish them. Recycling is not a new concept and many of the bricks from these demolished works were used in the building of at least six houses in the village. Local builders were invited to buy bricks at a cartload a time. In order to get value for money the father of the late Arthur Muir made his cart into a "double decker" so he could get two loads of bricks for the price of one! The material from these works was used to build the three double villas at Crosshill .
The Bleaching Process
In 1830 it was known that printing was been applied to both calico and linen fabrics. Linen appears to have been printed in the parish from the earliest of times. The bleaching of linen is much more difficult than that of cottons. The process of hand bleaching was as follows. The item to be bleached was laid out on the grass and pinned down. This gave rise to the name "Sleuter Hill" which is the hill to the west of the bleachfields - the hill that leads up to the south shafts of the Glasgow water supply. Animal urine was used in the process. It is thought that the name Sleuter Hill reflects the fact that the surrounding area was quite mucky and dirty due to the bleaching process.
The drying of the goods both in the bleached and printed state at this time was generally done in what were called broom sheds that is large houses built of wood and thatched all around with broom. The other method of drying was by using stoves with brick flues. This method was replaced by what was called steam can drying. The firm of Aitken & McIndoe introduced the method of drying cloth with tin cylinder cans heated with steam in 1818. The machine had only 5 or 6 cylinders or cans about 18 to 24 inches diameter by about 36 to 40 inches long. They were in a straight horizontal line with two small tin rollers above each can which carried the piece well round the can before going on to the next steam heated can or cylinder. The old method of drying in broom sheds was said to be better for the colours but too slow and precarious a process for the present age.
The Rev H Buchanan reporting for the New Statistical Account 1841 reported that one bleaching establishment employs 30 men, 20 women, 8 boys under 14 years of age and 6 girls. They work 6 days a week, 11 hours a day. The wages of the men vary according to their work from 11s (55p) to 21s (£1.05p) per week. The wages of the women are 6s (30p) per week and the boys & girls 3s 9d (17p). Another bleachfield employs 5 men and 12 women. The wages are considered as affording a fair remuneration to those who are employed in the works. The labour is as healthy as that of farming.
Thom's House and Skitter Street
Thom's house was a two storey house in the Dumbrock bleachfields now known as the "horses' field". It had no sanitation and water was fetched from the spring that is still there . It also had a number of fruit trees in the garden. The lane down the side of the football pitch next to the horses field is known as Thom's Lane.
The owner of Thom's house , presumably Thom himself ,was noted for keeping a pig and for running up debts. His solution to his short term cash flow was to promise a leg of the pig in settlement of his debts. It was frequently the case that he promised more pig's legs than he had. Unfortunately, he was unable to breed pigs with more than four legs! Not only did Thom breed pigs but he was said to be a very untidy person who allowed animals & hens to wander round the house and turn it into a midden. It is not known when the house was built or indeed when it was demolished. It is known it was there in 1906.
Skitter Street or Skitter Lane is the path that runs up the side of this field and is a right of way.
View from the Gowk Stane road showing the site of the Dumbrock Bleachfields , Thom's House and the flock mill in the glen. Sleuter Hill is to the right of the picture.
©Alison Dryden, Strathblane Heritage Society 2004