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Encyclopedia > Dalgarven Mill

Dalgarven Mill is near Kilwinning, North Ayrshire Kilwinning is a historic town situated in North Ayrshire, Scotland. ...

The Dalgarven Mill Museum of Ayrshire Country Life and Costume


Country Life Museum

The three storey grain store has been converted to house an extensive collection of Ayrshire farming and domestic memorabilia, reflecting the self sufficiency of the pre-industrial rural community that was Dalgarven. An antique shop is housed in an old outbuilding, a cafe provides snacks and meal and the original mill on the river Garnock's edge is being developed.

The chairman of the Mill Trust, Robert Ferguson, is the son of the last miller and his family have given up a great deal to have the mill restored to its former glory. The mill is run by a trust with unpaid enthusiasts making up the borad of trustees. The mill is not part of the National Trust or Scottish Heritage. Many countries have an organisation called The National Trust or something similar. ...

Costume Collection

The mill houses an extensive collection of costume and clothing from every walk of life. The exhibition area on the first floor of the building is used to display the collection. The exhibition is changed regularly. A fee is necessary to visit the exhibition and the nuseum.

The History of the Dalgarven Mills

There has been a mill on the site since the 14th century, set up by the monks of Kilwinning Abbey. The Present mill was erected in 1640 and rebuilt in 1880 after being damaged by fire. The Garnock waters power a 6-metre diameter breast-shot wheel that drives the French burr millstones through cast iron gearing. Garnock is an area in North Ayrshire, Scotland between Kilbirnie, Beith and Dalry. ...

The traditional methods of producing flour can be traced and the wheel turns when possible following the almost total renewal of the mill machinery and a recent (2006) replacement of the wood components of the wheel, sluice, etc.

The first ironwork introduced into a mill was at Saltoun in the year 1710. West Saltoun East Saltoun and West Saltoun are villages in East Lothian, Scotland. ...

The mill race, leat or lade was critical to the efficient working of the mill and was a specialised craft, indeed a leatwright is recorded on a grave in the Loudoun Kirk graveyard near Galston, Ayrshire. Loudoun is an area of East Ayrshire, Scotland, near Kilmarnock. ... There are a number of settlements named Galston: Galston, East Ayrshire, is a town near Kilmarnock in Scotland Galston, New South Wales, is a town near Sydney in Australia This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ...

The weir on the Garnock is made of boulders which are carefully placed and locked together to create a natural millpond to supply a good head of water to the wheel through the lade.

The miller used the wheel to produce electricity back in the 1940's which was stored in liquid batteries. At present (2006) the mill trustees are looking into the possibilities of using the wheel to produce electrity to help offset global warming on the basis of 'Think Global, Act Local'.

The mill building has a special structural feature, an alcove, designed to attract nesting owls which would then feed off and help to control the vermin which stores of cereals always attract.

Blair House is nearby, home of the Borthwick family and with a long tradition of allowing public access to its grounds. It is said to be the house with the longest continuous occupation by one family in Scotland.

The mill history is laid out in the trust's publication - A Miller's Tale. The Life and Times of Dalgarven Mill, written by Robert Ferguson the chairman of the Dalgarven Mill Trust.

Cup and Ring Mark Stone

A cup and ring mark stone is recorded as existing at Dalgarven by John Smith, the notable Ayrshire antiquarian. Unfortunately the exact whereabouts of the stone is unknown, however a copy has been produced and is on display in the grounds of the mill. The purpose of the cup and ring marked stones is unknown, however they may have served as a genealogical purpose or be related to deposits of mineral ores. The stone dates from the neolithic or bronze age times.

The Miller's Tale

The Miller was an important member of the rural community and honesty was an important and valued characteristic, for many an opportunity to cheat the farmer existed and worst of all he might knowingly accept blighted seeds which would result in ergotism. When milled the ergot on the seeds is reduced to a red powder, obvious in lighter grasses but easy to miss in dark rye flour. Ergotism is the effect of long-term ergot poisoning, classically due to the ingestion of the alkaloids produced by the Claviceps purpurea fungus which infects rye and other cereals, and more recently by the action of a number of ergoline-based drugs. ...

In the Middle Ages gangrenous ergotism poisoning was known as "holy fire" or "Saint Anthony's fire". The blight, named from the cock's spur it forms on grasses, was identified and named by Denis Dodart who reported the relation between ergotized rye and bread poisoning. It has been suggested that many of the people whose accusations resulted in the 1692 Salem witch trials in Massachusetts were genuinely suffering hallucinations and other symptoms of convulsive ergotism. 1876 illustration of the courtroom; the central figure is usually Mary Walcott The Salem witch trials, which began in 1692 (also known as the Salem witch hunt and the Salem witchcraft episode), resulted in a number of convictions and executions for witchcraft in both Salem Village and Salem Town, Massachusetts. ...

Notable epidemics of ergotism, at first seen as a punishment from God, occurred up into the 19th century. Fewer outbreaks have occurred since then, because in developed countries rye is carefully monitored. In less wealthy countries ergotism still occurs: there was an outbreak in Ethiopia in mid-2001 from contaminated barley. Whenever there is a combination of moist weather and cool temperatures which favour the growth of the fungus that causes the ergotism.

It wasn't easy being a miller, for instance some farmers held the belief that it was wrong to use water artificially; that to turn water from its course was to act against God's plan (Willsher & Hunter 1978).

The symbol of a miller was the rind, the iron part that supports the upper millstone. One epitaph to a miller reads;

"Wnder this ston interd he who 40 two zeers livd wt ws, At mil & kil right honestlie, And wt his neighbr dealt he thvs; But death in Apryl 55 Fro of the stage did him remove".

A miller, from Campsie, Dunbartonshire has recorded:

"Eternity is A wheel that turns, A wheel that turned ever, A wheel that turns And will leave turning never".

The Riverside Walk

Visitors should leave time to wander through the unspoilt landscape formed by the gently flowing River Garnock. In spring, the wild flower meadow is at its best, in summer, sit by the riverbank and watch the heron, swallows, kingfisher and other wildlife. A Community Woodland has been established and the site is open access. The River Garnock flows for approximately 20 miles, through Renfrewshire and North Ayrshire in Scotland. ...

The meadows are particularly rich in Pignut, a type of parsley which formed a breaktime snack for children in former times. If the plant is excavated a small potato like structure is found which when eaten raw is slightly tasting and is available commercially for salads, etc.

Hemlock Water Dropwort grows well in the wetter areas and is best left alone as the name hemlock suggests. The large leaves of the butterburr are found in several areas and the name harkens back to the days before climgfilm when the leaves were used to wrap butter destined for the market. Water or Saracen's Ragwort is an introduced plant which grows along the riverside in tall stands. It is common on the Garnock and at present quite rare elsewhere. The himalyan balsam or policmens helmets is another introduction, but a common one. The giant hogweed is begining to make its presence felt and it is a plant which should never be handled as the sap can cause severe pustulation and scaring of the skin.

The stewarton flower or pink purslane is common in wetter areas. It has white or pink flowers at this site, but closer to Stewarton it is almost always white. It seems that it was first introduced as a white variety in the Stewarton area in Victorian times and the common pink variety introduced later spread to other areas. Dalgarven it seems is on the edge of the white flower zone. Stewarton is a town located in the Scottish county of East Ayrshire (which was until recently simply a part of the county of Ayrshire). ...

You will see that coppicing of the riverside alder trees is still carried out. Alders grow well in wet soils and are specially adapted for the low nutrient conditions through having large root nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria which enrish the soil in the same way as clover plants. Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management, by which young tree stems are cut down to a foot or less from ground level. ...

The many hedgerow trees in the vicinity of the mill were not planted by farmers for 'visual effect', they were crops and the wood was used for building, fencing and the miller needed beech or hornbeam wood for mill machinery, in particular the cogs on the drive gears.

It is not generally appreciated how much the Ayrshire landscape has changed its character over the last few hundred years, for even in the 1760-70 Statistical Account it is stated that "there was no such thing to be seen as trees or hedges in the parish; all was naked and open".

Countryside Walks and the Sustrans Cyclepath

A series of leaflets describing walks from the mill is available at a nominal fee. The Sustrans Cyclepath from Irvine and Largs to Glasgow runs close nearby.


The popular pastime of Geocaching is represented on the nature walk by a hidden cache which contains a log book for your comments and a take something and leave something choice. You will need to buy a GPS and then just 'log on' to the website and enjoy visiting interesting and usually rural locations. A Geocache in Germany Geocaching, is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which participants (called geocachers) use a Global Positioning System receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called geocaches or caches) anywhere in the world. ...

Thirlage and the Mills of Ayrshire

Thirlage was the feudal law by which the laird could force all those farmers living on his lands to bring their grain to his mill to be ground. Additionally they had to carry out repairs on the mill, maintain the lade and weir as well as conveying new millstones to the site. The Thirlage Law was repealed in 1779 (Ferguson 2005) and after this many mills fell out of use as competition and unsubsidised running costs took their toll. This may explain why so many mills went out of use as deduced from comparing Armstrong's 1775 map with the 1885 OS map.

For example Lambroch Mill on the River Annick served Lambroughton and apart from the weir and some other indications, it has entirely vanished. Crevoch Mill on the riverulet the Glazert, near Chapeltoun, also on the outskirts of Stewarton, was the site of a corn Mill and associated miller's dwelling, byre, etc. as far back as 1678. This old cornmill mill was part of the Barony of Crevoch and lay in the portion which was called Crivoch-Lindsay. It was a substantial building, however it was also out of use and entirely ruinous by 1885. // Lambroughton Lambroughton is in the old Barony of Kilmaurs, East Ayrshire, Scotland The Origins of the Name Lambroughton The surname and placename both appear to be derived from that of the clan McLamroch. ... Chapeltoun is an estate on the banks of Annick Water in East Ayrshire, Scotland. ... Stewarton is a town located in the Scottish county of East Ayrshire (which was until recently simply a part of the county of Ayrshire). ...


  • Armstrong and Son. Engraved by S.Pyle (1775). A New Map of Ayr Shire comprehending Kyle, Cunningham and Carrick.
  • Ferguson, Robert (2005). A Miller's Tale. The Life and Times of Dalgarven Mill. ISBN 0-9550935.
  • Morris, Ronald W B (I967-68). The Cup-and-Ring Marks ans Similar Sculptured of Scotland :a Survey of the Southern Counties, Part II. Proc Soc Antiq Scot, Vol.100. P.47
  • Smith, John (1895). Prehistoric Man in Ayrshire. Pub. Elliot Stock. p.85
  • Willsher, Betty and Hunter, Doreen (1978). Stones, AGuide to Some Remarkable 18th. century Gravestones. ISBN 0-903937-36-0.



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