Building in focus: The East Mill, Dundee

Full details

Authors & editors

Illsley, Roger [Author]

Publisher SPAB
Year of publication 2022 Blog 28 April

Medium Digital
Note: Copyright restrictions mean the attachment below only contains part of the publication. The full document is available for inspection at the Mills Archive Research and Education Centre.

Dyestuffs & textiles > Cotton & linen


Scope & contentBig it is not. Beautiful it never was. But Dundee’s East Mill is the first successful steam-powered flax mill in Scotland and is also one of the oldest steam-driven mills in the world.

Originally built as a tannery in 1792, by 1799 it had already metamorphosed into a flax mill owned by George Wilkie, who turned to the technology of steam power and employed the Birmingham firm of Boulton & Watt to supply and install the 20 horse-power steam engine at a cost of £750. In a detail from the 1792 map of Dundee, the Scouring Burn can clearly be seen running under the tannery.

Importantly, the original technical drawings and specifications for the engine still exist, currently held in the Boulton & Watt Archive in the Library of Birmingham.

In 1809 Wilkie sold the works to J & W Brown for £11,500; it was then managed by William Brown, who left detailed memoirs of what he found and how he ran the mill. There are detailed descriptions of working practices, company finances, pay rates, and structural developments.

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