DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980

An exhibition of pictures from the John Scott collection displayed by Penicuik Community Development Trust at a special exhibition in Penicuik Town Hall Open House on Saturday 27 August 2011, and at Bank Mill Open Days immediately thereafter.

 

Exhibition curated by Roger Kelly. The order of images in this display may vary from time to time.  

 

 

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Looking from Penicuik Station across the entrance to the Mills.

It is early 1980. Margaret Thatcher, MP for Finchley, is Prime Minister in her first year of office. James Callaghan is  Leader of the Opposition.  Here just inside the gates of Penicuik’s vast Valleyfield Mill, the demolition of the entire complex has begun. Across Britain, many industrial premises will be brought to the ground in the decade ahead, and financial services will be encouraged to take their place.

On the right is the Rag House in characteristic John Dennis brickwork. Behind is the Esparto Grass Stores.  The empty esparto wagons were shunted out through this gap back to the railway goods yard.  On the left is the Works Canteen Kitchen and out of view to the left the Canteen itself  -both part of what was once Valleyfield Schools.  Also out of view to the left is the Weighbridge at the entrance to the Mills. The gables and tower of The Cowan Institute (Penicuik Town Hall) can be seen above the treeline.

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

From First Machine Hall looking on to Beater House.

The demolition of the mills was carried out from London. Many local people felt at the time it was a cowboy contract, with not enough thought given to the safety of the materials and voids left on the site.  A lot of expensive work had to be done later at public cost by the Scottish Development Agency and its successors Scottish Enterprise to make the site suitable for development. The massive 1980 demolition seems to have been ordered by Cowans then owners The Reed Group (later part of Robert Maxwell’s empire) just before the land purchasers appeared who 30 years later still retain a boundary strip: Finchley-based Urbanleague Ltd.  In fact back at the end of the 1970s when all the mill facilities were still standing, consultants acting at the request of the Agency had prepared plans for the Reed Group to keep and adapt some of the old buildings and encourage a designed evolution of the site, making the most of its industrial heritage and wooded riverside location.  Reeds apparently decided to get out quickly, cut their losses and go for total demolition.  It was a botched job by all accounts, and one that was to prove costly to the public who had to pick up the pieces in more senses than one. Complete demolition was also painful spectacle for those who’d invested a life’s work at the site and a tragic end to well over 250 years of papermaking on this site.

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Looking on to the Main Office building. Archie Johnson stands in the doorway

The Penicuik Mills (Valleyfield, Low and Bank) were managed from the main office here, though sales offices and stockhouses were often elsewhere. This 1854 invoice issued from Cowan & Co’s paper sales office at number 17 Princes Street which later moved around the corner to West Register Street opposite Edinburgh’s Café Royal.   Alexander Cowan the patriarch of the papermaking family was then aged 78, his sons were running the business and a young man from a musical family called Pelham Knott was working in accounts. Mr Knott would one day become Cowan’s Chief Cashier, and his son, born at Valleyfield in 1856, would become Cargill Gilston Knott FRS, a leading mathematician and pioneer of seismology in Japan. Mr Cowan’s daughter Mary would also spend her early married years in that country.  Cowan’s opened a warehouse in Barrack Street, Sydney Australia in 1868 and by the 1870s were using the world’s fastest ship, the Cutty Sark, to replenish their stocks there.  By 1900 the company had consolidated their large London sales office and warehouse at Upper Thames Street on London’s Riverside.  By 1963, as well as many depots overseas, Cowan’s had sales offices in London (14 phone lines), Birmingham (5 lines), Edinburgh, Belfast, Bristol, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Nottingham (each 3 lines), Leeds and Liverpool (each 2 lines).  It was to take Cowans’ sales strength at home and overseas that Reed bought the firm in 1965 and gradually ran it down.

 

  

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

The Boardroom without its floor.

Before Reeds took over in 1965, Cowans’ management had run out of money and assets had been assigned to the Clydesdale Bank.  “We were never really consulted or informed about Reed’s takeover of Valleyfield right up tae the time it happened.  Mr Taylor, the managing director …unfortunately he had a motor accident, and when a lot o’ this wis goin’ on he was kind o’ pushed aside, too, ye see what ah mean. The Cowans had all gone by then –died off or pushed aside. There wis Mr Taylor and there was a Mr Elton, Mr Harrison, and then a Mr Jordan who came as a middle manager, and Dr MacBean, the scientific advisor. These were the men that took the decision.” –David Wilson in “Through The Mill: personal recollections by veteran men & women Penicuik paper mill workers”.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

 Standing by the location of the Second Machine.

Looking on to the old Store House, Stamping House to the left.  “What they ca’ed the stampin’ house. That wis where they despatched the paper.” -Charlie Peebles in “Through The Mill”  “The stampin’ house, where the despatch department wis, wis away at the back, at the monument tae the French prisoners o’ war. There wis a railway line that run at the side o’ the dispatch office, ‘cause the railway line wis next tae the bankin…. The Valleyfield spur line went right round, right tae the Low Mill. When the esparto grass used tae come in they used tae load the trucks at the bottom and they wid come right round the mill. The empty trucks wis shunted oot into the railway yard.” –William MacMillan in “Through The Mill”

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

 Looking from Old Stock Room on to Electricians’ Shop.

To the left is the Boiler House

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

 Standing at the side of the Main Office.

Water Cleaner and Screen Leaf beyond. Old Rag Boiler House on left.

The trench in the road is the lead for the steam pipe line from Boiler House beyond

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Looking on to the Mill from the gatehouse.

Not much remains by the time this picture was taken. Only the Fourth Machine hall stands centre left, with its extractor fans still intact.  Valleyfield Mill’s Number 4 machine, removed from here Penicuik in the 1970’s, is believed to be still in round-the-clock service in Lima, Peru..

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

 The Blacksmiths’ Shop at the bottom end of the mill.

By Low Mill and the lower of the railway’s two Valleyfield river bridges; beside it is the Welders’ Shop and former engine house for power and light. The Blacksmiths’ Shop (like the Rag House) looks like a John Dennis building. Dennis’s brickworks was one stop down the railway at Eskbridge, and Dennis maintained onsite building staff at Valleyfield Mill for many years.

                                                                                                                    Dennis letterhead 1890  Kelly collection

 

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

 Looking from the Colour House by the French Monument.

The red building on the left is the Stamping House area, beyond are the extractor fans of the Third Machine area.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

 

Looking on to the Colour House by the French Monument.

Below, in a small machine house, was a special machine for coating shiny paper with highly polished stainless steel drums. The Mill’s extensive railway siding brought the esparto trucks up around the site to the grass store near the gatehouse. It skirted and sometimes undercut corners of the Mill buildings beside the tree-lined slopes, and here looped round the left of the Colour House. A high-level metal bridge ran from the Colour House to the gardens of Valleyfield House. “…about 1954 they created a research and development lab up in Valleyfield House.  And I was one of those chosen to go up there…Dr MacBean was in charge.” –Jim Neil in “Through The Mill”

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

From an upstairs office window in the Board Room building

Looking over what is left of the Beater House and Cutter House, the standing buildings are the Loading Bank area with the Plain Salles above.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Plain Salles above Loading Bank Archie Johnson (Pomathorn) in the picture

Looking over what is left of the Beater House and Cutter House, the standing buildings are the Loading Bank area with the Plain Salles above.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

From the Colour House by French Monument to Plain Salles

From the left would be a lift along by the Plate Callender House going up to the Guillotine Area.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Looking from First Machine area to what is left of Small Salle

Through from Guillotines, with Colour Shop beyond.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

In the Stamping House

This was the dispatch area for outgoing orders.

William MacMillan was in charge -his office is on the left.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

In the top of the Rag House on the side nearest the gatehouse

Cotton and linen rags were used to make paper.

The old weighing machine on the far wall was to weigh the bundles of rags coming in.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Looking down from the roof above the Stamping House

Looking into William “MinkyMacMillan’s Pidge (office).

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Rag House Top Floor on Burn Side Archie Johnson in the picture

 

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Bottom end of the Mill from under the railway bridge

At this point the main railway ran across the Mill site on an embankment before crossing the river Esk twice and entering Penicuik Station opposite the Mill gatehouse. Looking in this direction, at the downstream end of Valleyfield Mill, was Low Mill, while Bank Mill was at the upstream end.

This picture looks down towards the Engineers’ Shop and the Joiners’ Shop at the bottom end.

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Door into the Callender House from the railway round the Mill

The empty gas bottle is evidence of demolition.

All beams were cut before a building was pulled or pushed down.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Looking on to Rag House from air-raid shelter behind Canteen

The gables of the rag house are at right angles to the river frontage and the pathway at the back here runs leftwards towards the Boiler House.  At the near corner of the Rag House is a door which led to rest rooms and toilets for the labourers who unloaded all the esparto grass and bag stuffs .

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Inside the Mill Offices second floor looking on to the Esk

This is at the downstream end of the building, furthest from the boardroom.

 

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Under the Colour House the rail siding curves towards the Salles

As the railway skirted the Mill it passed beneath both the Colour House and the Salles close to the Monument to French Prisoners of War.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

 The Mill from across the river at Pomathorn

The field in the foreground backed on to Uttershill House and is now a housing estate.

This view looks on to the Engineering Department with what’s left of the Water Filter to the left. In front is what remains of the Plain Salle with the roof removed.  The Mill’s square Water Tower stands on top of Kirk Hill.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Some of the water filters on the Pomathorn side

Looking down towards Valleyfield Mill from across the river, to the left are the sludge filters. All the waste liquids from the machines and drains was processed and remaining unrecoverable solids removed for tipping at various nearby sites –latterly to Oatslie at Roslin.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

From downstream, the Mill railway tunnel beneath the Salles

This is the undercover loading bank for finished paper products.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

From the riverside roadway downstream of the Main Offices

The remains of the Beater House.

The round beam centre right supported the beaters.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

From top of Colour House looking on to 4th Machine Area

The roof fans are still in evidence. Many mill areas had good natural light.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

From wall at side of Mill Fire Station, offices are on the right

The Rag House is to the left.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Looking from the bottom of the Rag House to Stores area

The Fourth Machine Drive Motor House and the Lift Motor for the Callander House are here.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

From Fire Station across Rag House rubble to Main Offices

Centre end office was boardroom, above was computer room, below was the old counting house. The lab had also been sited here before Valleyfield House was adapted to that purpose around 1954-5.

 

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

From bottom end of Mill at Burnside towards Plain Salle

Loading Bank.  End of Small Salle beyond Guillotines.

 

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Looking towards old Stock Houses leading to Coating Salles

 

 

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Board Room amidst the rubble

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

 Looking up riverside back to gatehouse- Fire Station on left

Weighbridge up ahead. Rag House running towards observer. Boiler House out of picture to right.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

Inside the Fourth Machine Hall

The bottom door on the right led up to the Beater House. As noted earlier Valleyfield Mill’s Number 4 machine which once produced paper in this hall is believed to be still in round-the-clock service in Lima, Peru..

 

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

The bottom end of the mill under the railway bridge

Engineers’ Department, Builders’ and Slaters’ Depot. In distance is the area known as Low Mill. “Low Mill was started after Bank Mill using milk to run with the paper to keep the colour white.” (notes John Scott on the back of the photograph).  The mills had a special process water supply piped from Milk Hall near Howgate on the Peebles Railway.

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

The partly demolished Rag House from the Main Office

The red tower covers the motor for the lift serving the two floors of the Rag House

 

 

 

DEMOLITION OF ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1980 Picture from the John Scott collection

From the railway by the French Monument

On the left are the ventilators of the Callender House. Behind and right is the Colour House.

 

 LORRY FROM ALEX COWAN & SONS LTD VALLEYFIELD MILL 1960s Picture from the John Scott collection

Alex Cowan lorry altered by Arthur Cosgrove & John Scott

This endpiece is not one of his Valleyfield demolition collection but looks back to John Scott’s start at the mills. In the early 1960s, when he first became an apprentice, papermaking at the company’s Bank Mill under the Telford Bridge had ceased and the buildings there were adapted to be a company lorry depot. This Albion (ASY 273) -in Cowan livery with the distinctive Shell trademark- was driven by John Tait.  It towed a trailer but this was too heavy and the engine had to be replaced. Double front wheels were fitted by Arthur Cosgrove and apprentice John Scott in 1963. 

– see Albion Motors in our online Penicuik Co-op exhibition.

 

 

Exhibition curated by Roger Kelly. The order of images in this display may vary from time to time.

 

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 

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Penicuik Co-op

Saltire Society 1936-2011

Scotland’s Planning Legacy

 

100 Penicuik Displays

Roger Kelly’s Papermaking homepage

 

 

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