Busby Mills

Prior to the 18th century there was some small scale industry along the banks of the White Cart, including; wauk mills, where cloth was washed and thickened; corn and meal mills.

At this time Busby was known as Newmill, a good site close to Glasgow with its manufacturing industry and export trade.

In 1778 the first cotton mill in Renfrewshire, was built at Busby by William Ferguson, a Glasgow merchant, on the site of corn and lint mills. It was a 35-storey works housing one thousand two hundred spindles. In 1788, Busby as well as the mill at Dovecothall in Barrhead were bought by James Doxon and Robert Twyford. At both places they took advantage of the already established watercoursees and built second larger mills . At Busby the new mill became known as 'The Lower Mill' which you can see in the photograph below and the old mill as 'The Upper Mill'. The Upper Mill spun the cotton, which was then sent to the Lower Mill for weaving and finishing.

In 1799, Busby Mills employed 360 people, over half of whom were under 15. The Upper Mill was eventually demolished to make way for housing and the Lower Mill site is now an industrial estate.

Busby Lower Mill Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

Levern Mill, Barrhead

The second mill established in Renfrewshire was at Dovecothall in 1779. A firm called Ramsay, Livingston & Love, managed by Mr Jonathan Heugh, leased land from the Earl of Glasgow and built the new premises. Both Busby and Dovecothall were purchased by Manchester Textile Merchants Robert Twyford and James Doxon in 1788 and they built a second mill, The Levern, which you can see in the photograph below.

At one time the Levern Mill employed over one thousand people, many of them children, who were the main source of labour in the early days of the mill. In the early nineteenth century laws were passed to protect child workers and it was decided that children had to attend school part time. The mill owners set aside a building in the complex for the teaching of the 'half timers'.

The Levern Mill stood as a ruin until c.1970 when it was declared unsafe and demolished to become part of the Levern walkway in Barrhead.

Levern Mill - large Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

Crofthead Mill (or Neilston Mill), Neilston

At the foot of Holehouse Brae stands Crofthead Mill; James Orr & Company built the original mill in 1792.

It was one of seven big cotton, spinning mills on the banks of the Levern between Neilston and Dovecothall; now it is the only one left. It stopped spinning cotton and went on to produce sewing thread using cotton and other fibres.

No.1 Mill was built in 1880 to replace the original one, which had been destroyed by fire. At one time there was an imposing mill school where half-timers, children between the ages of 9 and 12, had their lessons after working a morning shift in the mill from 6 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon.

Crofthead Mill - large Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

Further Reading

Nisbet, Stuart M., The rise of the cotton factory in eighteenth-century Renfrewshire, BAR British series 464, Archaeopress,  2008