We have just embarked on an exciting new chapter in our story: moving our headquarters to existing office accommodation within the A-listed Lower City Mills in Perth. The Trust’s move has been supported through lease of the building by Perth and Kinross Council on benevolent terms to support its repair and help secure a sustainable future for the Mills through enhanced use as offices, heritage attraction, and building conservation centre.
A nationally important survivor of the burgh’s agri-industrial past that still retains its internal machinery and operated as working mill visitor attraction through the 1990s until the early 2000s.
The surviving 19th century building originally comprised two mills, one for oatmeal and one for barley, and straddles the lade, which enters through an arch on the upstream façade to meet an usually large millwheel within, measuring 15’ (4.7m) in diameter and 12’ (and 3.7m) in width. There has been a mill at the site since at least the 15th century, however, a key location where the Town Lade meets the north-west edge of the burgh, originally to divide and form part of the town defences. Perhaps most recognisable is the distinctive pyramid roofed block which was originally a three-storey kiln for drying grain. The mills were rebuilt after a fire in 1803 to John Stewart’s designs and incorporate earlier, probably medieval fabric, and remarkably continued in use as a commercial working water mill until 1968.
The building saw an extensive programme of restoration in the mid to late 1980s undertaken by the then Perth and Kinross District Council, with the support of The Gannochy Trust and a number of other agencies, and was fitted out as a working mill visitor attraction with craft workshops, tearoom and a shop. Public access ended in around 2001 and the mills then served as office accommodation for VisitScotland until they vacated in June this year. The structure has been on the Buildings at Risk Register since 2012.
"Leading the way in the long-needed conservation of the building and making the mill accessible to the public once again"
As a rare historic asset, the mills have significant potential to contribute to Perth’s wider cultural offer as a modern city. We have a vision for a sustainable new future for the building and are developing a project to repair the historic fabric of the building and record and restore its internal machinery. The project will also aim to deliver traditional building skills and other heritage-related opportunities for the public, and while the mill won’t re-open as a working mill visitor attraction in the short-term, the project will afford public access to the mill machinery and associated exhibition space and will create a conservation ‘heritage hub’ with the Trust’s offices at its core.
A key aim of the project is to engage the people of Perth in uncovering the full history of the mills. Please contact us if you have any information, stories or photographs relating to the mills at any stage of its use – including the 1980s restoration.