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 cluster of milling buildings including Lower City Mills, the Upper City Mill (now the Mercure Hotel) and their granary block, were central to feeding Perth over the last 250 years. They processed wheat, oats, barley and peas and incorporated the production of beer and bread made from some of these milled cereals. The site also encompassed a maltings, brewery and bakery at various points in time, alongside stables and cart-sheds to collect corn and distribute corn milled products.
Initially there were two buildings on the site of the Lower City Mills, on either side of the lade and with separate waterwheels, which were brought together under one roof to be driven by an unusually large wheel in the centre of the building, measuring 3.7m wide and 4.7m in diameter, harnessing the full power of the lade passing underneath. The building retains much of the original machinery in the block to the north of the lade, including three pairs of working millstones.
Early origins and the town lade
The earliest mention of mills in Perth (a must for any town to supply food to the population) comes from the tradition that ownership of some mills were exchanged with King Malcom III (1058-93) by the local Mercer family in return for burial rights in St. John’s Kirk. Soon after, King David I (1124-53) granted Perth Royal Burgh status and, during his reign, granted 10 shillings from his mills income to the canons of Scone Abbey.
Central to the early story of milling in Perth is the town lade, a four-mile watercourse which runs from the River Almond at the ‘Low’s Work’ weir, near Ruthvenfield to the west of Perth, to the site of the City Mills. Just beyond this point, at what is now Methven Street, its course divides in two: one branch running east along Mill Street, while the other runs south and then east along what is now Canal Street, before both discharge into the Tay. The watercourses ran around the medieval walls of the burgh and as such they formed part of the medieval defences.tradition that ownership of some mills were exchanged with King Malcom III (1058-93) by the local Mercer family in return for burial rights in St. John’s Kirk. Soon after, King David I (1124-53) granted Perth Royal Burgh status and, during his reign, granted 10 shillings from his mills income to the canons of Scone Abbey.
We are currently unclear about exactly when the lade dates from, but it may already have been in place when Robert DeBruce attacked in 1313. We are also unsure what the primary motive for its construction was: to provide a water-filled ditch to the medieval defences, or a continuous and controllable water and power source for the town, with milling as key function. The latter may be a possibility due to the unsuitability of the Tay for milling, its wide and shallow waters being difficult to contain. It is possible that a small watercourse, originally built to supply water for defensive purposes, was improved in order to facilitate milling.
Whatever the case, the lade was utilised by a number of mills along its line, collecting cereals from the surrounding arable lands for the burgh, and the City Mills were especially convenient for both customers and workers, being just outside the burgh, a location which was also advantageous in terms of trade and taxation.
COVID-19 Operations Statement
Trust staff now work a blend of office and home-working so enquiries are best directed via email as monitoring of office telephones is reduced. Contractors/deliveries requiring access to Lower City Mills should arrange with a member of staff in advance.
General enquiries can still be made using the Contact Us page.