The Glasgow Bakers and the Kelvin

Stuart Nisbet finds traces of the Kelvin’s ancient flour mills

The Glasgow town mills for grinding grain were traditionally on the Molendinar Burn near Glasgow Cathedral. However, in the 1570s Glasgow’s Incorporation of Bakers built their own separate mills. To obtain enough water power, they moved well beyond the bounds of old Glasgow, to a site on the River Kelvin at Partick.

The Partick area supported so many mills that the situation is very confusing. To add to the puzzle, most of the mills had two or more names over the centuries. The Bakers’ mills were also known as the Bunhouse or Regent Mills. The ‘Regent’ title is based on a tradition that the site was granted by Regent Moray in gratitude for supplying bread after the Battle of Langside in 1568.

The site of the Bakers’ mills is the present car park for Glasgow’s Museum of Transport, between Bunhouse Road and the Kelvin. This should not be confused with the surviving four-storey mill immediately downstream from the car park, with wheat sheaves atop its gables. This lower mill was the Old Mill of Partick or Bishop Mill and was converted to flats in the 1980s.

The Glasgow Bakers’ mills were rebuilt several times, ultimately becoming very large. The mills were bought by the Co-op in 1903 and produced ‘Lofty Peak’ flour until demolished in the 1970s. It is ironic that all that now survives is the substantial water power system, which was the original reason for coming to this site.

The water system is still evident to the observant walker. From the narrowing upstream end of the Transport Museum car park, the lade passes under both Partick Bridge (Dumbarton Road), then its predecessor directly upstream. Each bridge has a specially built arch for the lade.

Above the bridges, the lade becomes more obvious, several metres wide and usually water-filled. Now in the corner of the grounds of Kelvingrove Art Galleries and Museum, the remains of the sluices are reached about 100 metres up the lade from the bridges.

In the Kelvin beyond, the low rubble-lined weir can be seen, with the university in the background. In the foreground in the lade itself, six square sandstone sluice-gate Regent Mill later in the nineteenth century openings can be clearly seen, forming a stone footbridge across the lade. Each opening still holds a badly rotten timber sluice gate. The Kelvin frequently swamps the sluices when in flood, burying them in silt and branches.

The most interesting survivor is in the centre of the downstream face of the ‘footbridge’. A finely detailed stone plaque bears the following inscription:

John M Beath

Deacon

James Scouller

Collector

1833

This stone records the officials of the Glasgow Incorporation of Bakers at the time of the rebuilding of the mills from 1828. You can see a picture of the stone on the front cover of this issue.

The Lost Mills of The Kelvin is taken from the Summer 2007 edition of FORK News