Scottish company SC380626 Scottish charity SC037990


Below is the story in October

Read the latest in November here!


Our Bank Mill year of lease is coming to an end.

We have made an offer to purchase. Time is running out.


Note from the chair:   Penicuik’s Bank Mill Project – The first year

The Bank Mill Project to transform the last historic paper mill building left on the Esk into a nationally important Papermaking Heritage Centre has received praise and recognition from many quarters across the UK and abroad.  It is still in its early stages. This is a progress report on events in the past year  -a year in which we have secured finances above the market valuation and have submitted an offer to purchase.


Our aim for Bank Mill

Our vision for Bank Mill is to create a nationally important attraction that brings visitors to Midlothian, benefiting our local economy through publicity, prestige, increased footfall and employment. By restarting low-volume high-quality specialist papermaking at Bank Mill, we aim to restore pride in Midlothian’s papermaking heritage and add educational and craft skills to inspire young people.  The very successful family papermaking workshops we’ve already held this summer herald a future opportunity for the Lothian’s primary school children to visit Bank Mill and learn about Midlothian’s world-leading papermaking history. During their visit, they would make and take home their own sheet of paper. Doing this safely alongside small-scale commercial production shows them that a worldwide industry uses a process like theirs, and gives an early sense of identity, satisfaction and achievement with the world of work.

A year ago: the emergency lease

To forestall the sale and demolition of the last of what were once very many historic paper mill buildings on the Esk, we signed an agreement on October 20, 2010 to rent Bank Mill for one year, giving us time to raise money for its purchase. The rent was about twice the market rate because the agreement was accompanied by a commitment by the vendor to negotiate an option to purchase with us. We raised the £32,000 rent through donations from local people committed to the project.

Market value and purchase

Bank Mill was this year valued for the Trust by property and valuation surveyors Hardies of Dalkeith at £150,000. This figure we believe is essentially the same as the market value estimate given by the vendor’s surveyors. We are delighted to be able to report that we now have money ready to pay this market value and more, and our solicitors Gillespie Macandrew have submitted an offer to purchase at £175,000 with an entry date of October 20.  Our funds have come not from Lottery grants, nor from local or national government, nor from large wealthy outside donors, but from the commitment of local people. Raising more than the current market value has been a big achievement for us in the present financial climate, where fund-raising remains extremely difficult. 

Premium for housing development.

We all want an attractive development of Bank Mill. The vendors believe that Midlothian Council would be happy to see housing development on the site. Remembering days of boom not long ago they may hope that it could be sold for two or more times the current market value. Hardies are of the opinion that the site’s location and conditions limit its current value. As a charity, the Trust must not stray far from professional advice.

Papermaking exhibitions and workshops

Over the last year PCDT has prepared displays on paper making and local heritage, and shown them to the public in the mill. In April, we held a trial Open Day at which children and other members of the public could make and take home their own sheet of paper, with the  supervision of a qualified outreach papermaker who gave her services free. Since July 9, Bank Mill Open Day exhibitions have been weekly on Saturdays or Sundays, with other occasional children’s workshops on paper related crafts, ranging from further papermaking to papier maché and origami.

Doors Open Day

Our inclusion in the Midlothian Doors Open Day in September – part the European Heritage Days programme – recognises that Bank Mill is a place of historical and cultural importance. 150 visitors from as far a field as Kelso, Falkirk and Fife praised the interest and the quality of our displays. Many of them had important new information to add to our knowledge. The Open Day brought Bank Mill into the National Programme of Transport and Industrial Exhibitions for the first time.

Benefit events

Further evidence for the support for the Bank Mill Project within and beyond Midlothian comes from the large enthusiastic audiences we have had for fund-raising benefit concerts in the mill, and the willingness of performers to give their services free. Interim benefit events raising up to £1,000 apiece included a Hogmanay Ceilidh despite sub-zero temperatures outside, a jazz concert, a choir, and an international music group. The most recent brought a 60-strong youth orchestra en route home to Galilee from the Aberdeen International Youth Music Festival. They were joined by the Penicuik Silver Band to bring a uniquely joyous Big Band sound with 150 happy people filling the Bank Mill machine hall in a spectacular benefit concert.


We see education and training at the heart of the Bank Mill Project and are working with teachers in Penicuik High School on history and geography projects about Penicuik’s industrial past and plans for the future. All S1 High School students will visit Bank Mill on October 12 to develop one of their projects. In addition students from Beeslack High School preparing for Higher Drama will make presentations about Penicuik’s history, possibly with performances in Bank Mill in November. As noted already, during the summer we ran papermaking workshops at which delighted children made and took home their own paper. An essential element of boosting morale and civic pride is education. Once the mill is established, we hope to invite visits from all Midlothian’s Primary Schools so that younger children can learn about papermaking and take home their own work as a mark of their own morale and their community’s  pride of place.

National and international impact

Roger Kelly has been invited to make a presentation in Tokyo next February about this area’s key influence on Japanese industrial development, engineering and architecture. The role of Penicuik’s James Finlayson in developing the city of Tampere in Finland 200 years ago is already well known and Tampere has now become a focus for European industrial heritage. We are exploring Midlothian’s role in developments and investments in the USA and Canada.  Closer to home, James May’s researcher contacted us to provide him with papermaking skills for his Man Lab television programme.

Visit of students and staff from Glasgow School of Architecture 30 September 2011

Cowan advertisements display                                                   James Finlayson bench display

Valleyfield demolition display  Local papermaking history and process display  Esparto processing display

Displays out of picture in machine hall:  Bertrams and other machinery illustrations

Displays beside the railway loading bays: Benefit events, Penicuik railway and its designer Thomas Bouch

Twenty students from the Glasgow College of Art Architecture School chose us for their research project and visited Bank Mill on September 30. The Open University Scottish Graduates Association is visiting on October 15. The head of the Paper Industries Technical Advisory Board and an advisor to The Paper Trail based at the Hertfordshire, home of the first papermaking machine in the world, have visited the mill to discuss our project. We have visited heritage papermaking centres in France, Sweden and Canada to learn from the success of others.

Papermaking equipment

Until we become owners, charity law does not allow us to put resources in a major building refurbishment or to install valuable paper making machinery. However, two senior paper making engineers, including Barry Read of the Papermaking Industry Technical Advisory Board, visited Bank Mill to discuss of the project. They judged that our proposal to produce low-volume, high-value hand-made rag paper for the niche graphics art market could be commercially viable. With a specialist engineer from the Two Rivers Mill in Somerset, they have also located three vintage Fourdrinier papermaking machines, one of which could be set up in Bank Mill, initially as a non-working tourist attraction. We are in touch with the Hartley Mill in Kent and administrators of the former Royal Ordnance Factory Bishopton about acquiring one of the Hollander beaters now available.

Volunteer labour

Local volunteers contributed hundreds of hours of their time working to clean and repaint key parts of the old building so that the public have been able to visit and see its potential. After  plumbing and sanitation was damaged by the big freeze over New Year, a local plumber gave his labour free to replace all pipework and restore use of the toilets.


Though water power is not a feature of Midlothian Local Plan’s Renewable Energy policy,  150 years ago this was the main source of power for local industry. The North Esk is still one of Scotland’s top potential riverpower sites, like New Lanark on the Clyde and Stanley Mills on the Tay, it is what brought the enormous investment in Penicuik mills to this area in the first place. With advice from an expert, we estimate that reconstructing the Bank Mill water wheel could generate up to 120 kW, subject to suitable limits agreed with SEPA. Implementing this would involve buying the fish farm behind Bank Mill, currently for sale, or reaching agreement about joint use of the mill lade with a future owner. We see several other opportunities for water wheels in the communities along the Esk. In all cases, water wheels offer a double benefit: they are not only a source of power but also enhance tourism.

Engineering interest: MacTaggart Scott

We are not yet in a position to pursue such a scheme until Bank Mill is secured, but have been encouraged by supportive Penicuik businesses in the engineering field. We have begun correspondence with MacTaggart Scott, the innovative Loanhead-based world naval engineers.  They have expressed great interest in the project and invited us for discussions about their supplying mechanical, electrical and hydraulic work free or at cost in support.

Condition of Bank Mill

The remaining parts of Bank Mill – the core machine hall probably dating to 1803 plus the 1872 addition of the railway wagon loading bays – have been neglected and are no longer wind and water tight. Repairing the valley gutters and slates to stop water leaking is obviously a priority but has to be delayed until we become owners because that is generally a condition of repair grants. It only goes to emphasise the commitment of wellwishers happy to come to benefit events where they had to dodge the drips! One of the three Bank Mill patrons, Colonel Edward Cowan, is a senior descendent of Alexander Cowan, the papermaking patriarch. After a career in the Army (his son has been a commander in Iraq and Afghanistan) he was the Chief Executive Officer of the UK Federation of Roofing Contractors before retirement. He has contacted his former colleagues on our behalf.

Future plans

This project has captured the public imagination and has undoubtedly helped to increase membership of the Trust, now over 200 and on a rising trend.  So far, we have made neither structural changes to the building nor changed its external appearance.  However, we have begun the task of planning future refurbishment and building work, and have had helpful support and offers from architects.  We want this to include the construction of a new pedestrian and disabled access from Bridge Street and a visitor centre on the midlevel platforms. When we are  ready to make these proposals more definite, we hope that the support in principle we have had from  Midlothian Council officials for the Bank Mill project will result in a helpful and constructive dialogue.

Our intention is to make Bank Mill self-financing for recurrent costs for both the heritage centre and the making of paper, with emphasis on education, training and the development of craft skills. Visits to seek advice and information about the management of heritage centres have included the Biggar Museum Trust, Heart of Hawick, New Lanark, the Poldrate Centre in Haddington and the Lady Victoria Mining Museum. 

Bank Mill is essentially a people project which we intend to build on sound foundations, with financial self-sufficiency as the watchword. We believe we have shown this in our Cinema for Penicuik which has now become weekly with solid local youth support.  For Bank Mill, our patrons Ian MacDougall the writer and Gerda Stevenson the actor will be a source of good advice on working history at the mills and the use of drama to bring it to life.

The Bank Mill project has gained the support of people in Penicuik and the surrounding region. It represents a truly imaginative scheme for improving the economic viability and quality of life in the area. Local people need the reassurance that Midlothian Council and national bodies stand beside us in supporting the principle of our project.  That support will be a big help for fund-raising to adapt and develop Bank Mill in the months ahead.


Roger Kelly


Penicuik Community Development Trust Ltd (responsible for the Bankmill Project,  Penicuik Food Project, Penicuik Open House and Penicuik Cinema) is a company limited by guarantee number 380626 with charitable status registered with OSCR number SC O37990 – Directors Roger Kelly (chair), Roger Hipkin (secretary 20A John St. Penicuik EH26 8A), Jane MacKintosh (treasurer) forming part of a Managing committee with Anna Graham, Bill Fearnley, Caroline Maciver, Chantal Geoghegan, Chris Langdale, Dave Stokes, Doreen Gillon, Jane Kelly, Marianne Cortes, Mose Hutchinson, Penny Wooding, Simon Fraser, Ulla Hipkin, elected annually at the Trust's AGM.    Patrons Ian MacDougall, Gerda Stevenson, Colonel Edward Cowan.  Solicitors Gillespie Macandrew.  Trust official Website  Bank Mill   The Trust is a Member of Development Trusts Association Scotland (DTAS) and works with Penicuik Community Council, Midlothian Council, Midlothian Voluntary Action, the Midlothian Growing Ideas Partnership (including Midlothian Garden Services, Mayfield & Easthouses Development Trust, and other garden and food projects in Midlothian associated with the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens), and the Mapa Scotland restoration of the Great Polish Map of Scotland at Eddleston, , and supported the papemaking tercentenary led by Penicuik Historical Society.  . There are personal and mutually supportive links with Penicuik Community, Sport & Leisure Foundation, Penicuik Community Arts Association, the Penicuik House Project and the Saltire Society, with community groups and trusts in Aberfeldy, Broughty Ferry, Gorebridge and Moffat, with Penicuik’s twin town at L’Isle-sur-la Sorgue , Vaucluse, Provence, with Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec and with the Papeterie St-Armand in




Books by Ian MacDougall record human stories of men, women and children in the Penicuik mills


Through The Mill, the personal recollections of Penicuik paper mill workers, is edited by Ian MacDougall and published priced £11.99 in a 670 page paperback by The Scottish Working People’s History Trust FK1 5LN, ISBN 978-9559981-0-2 

The Prisoners at Penicuik and All Men are Brethren record use of the Mills as prisoner-of-war camps two centuries ago



Penicuik previously Scotland’s History Festival in November.  


Penicuik Displays

Roger Kelly’s Papermaking homepage

Roger Kelly’s original Bank Mill Project page 

Simon Fraser & PCDT’s