History of Benholm Mill
The Mill in Past Years
This section has been built using the excellent research in the
booklet. The Mill of Benholm, the Story of a Scottish Meal
Mill, produced by Kincardine and Deeside District Council,
typeset and printed by Halcon Printing of Stonehaven, written by
Lesley Miller and illustrated by Rebecca Hallewell. The booklet is
available for purchase at the Mill tearoom.
The Mill of Benholm lies in a wooded hollow near the quiet
hamlet of Benholm, which is 21 km ( 13 miles) south of Stonehaven
and one mile inland from the fishing village of Johnshaven. For
many centuries Benholm and hundreds of similar small mills
throughout Scotland were of vital importance to the rural community
as the supplier of the main food item, oatmeal.Today, Benholm is
the only surviving traditional water-powered meal mill in
It is probable that there has been a mill at Benholm since at least
the 12th century, when a charter records that William the Lion,
King of the Scots, granted the lands of Benne, including its
pastures, moors, woods and mills, to Hugo, who then became Hugo de
Benne. A charter in 1492 gives further evidence of a mill at
Benholm when John and Isabel Lundy granted the lands and barony of
Benhame with the mill to their son, Robert. Later records show that
the lands of Benholm, together with the mill, passed by marriage in
the 16th century from the Lundy family to the Keiths, the powerful
Earls Marischal. Throughout the 18th and most of the 19th century
Benholm estate was owned by the Scott family before being sold to
William Smith in 1879. The estate was broken up in 1905, the mill
being sold with the farm of Brotherton.
It was customary in past years for the mill to be owned by the
landlord, and tenant farmers were bound by their leases to take
their oats to be ground at the estate mill; tenants were said to be
"thirled" or "bunsucken" to that specific mill. The miller's
payment, known as "the multure", was an agreed proportion of the
meal ground for each tenant, or "suckener". It was often said that
the miller's sow was always well fed! Tenants were also obliged to
help with the maintenance of the mill and with the conversance of
new millstones when required. This latter task was particularly
unpopular as the stones were heavy and cumbersome and the quarry
was often some distance from the mill.
Sometimes horses were employed to bring the new stone home but
more often it was set on its edge and rolled homewards, controlled
by men at either end of a long pole inserted through the central
hole. Tenants from different estates frequently quarrelled over
millstones and a report exists which tells of a fierce fight
between the tenants of the Ead Marischal and those of a
neighbouring estate when the Earl's men were collecting a new stone
from the quarry at the Knox of Benholm in July 1617.
In 1929 the Mill of Benholm was leased to Mr Lindsay Watson.
When Mr Watson died in 1951 his son, Mr Lindsay C. Watson, bought
the mill and for the first time in its history the mill was owned
by the miller. Many changes were to take place in the farming world
during the three decades of the younger Lindsay Watson's ownership.
Not least of these were the introduction of the combine harvester
and the decline of oats in favour of barley. Before purpose-built
grain dryers became available, the kiln at Benholm was in constant
demand by local farmers during harvest time for the drying of
combined barley. The market for oatmeal declined during Mr Watson's
years as miller and his retail market, which had originally covered
an area stretching from Barras to Laurencekirk and Montrose,
dwindled. There was also a reduced demand for bruised oats for
horses, now mainly replaced by the tractor. Mr Watson diversified
by producing feeds mixed specifically for pigs, calves, poultry and
even racing pigeons.
During Mr Watson's period of ownership the Mill of Benholm
featured as the setting for several television productions. The
most evocative of thesis was as Long Rob's Mill in the BBC
production of Sunset songs, the serialized version of the novel by
local author, Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Gibbon's novel was set in his
home country, the farmlands of Kincardine, and his characters,
including Long Rob the Miller, were based on the folk who lived and
worked here. The mill and waterwheel also provided a superb setting
for televised programme of fiddle music, one of which featured
After Mr Watson's death in 1982 the Mill of Benholm slowly
deteriorated as it lay silent and deserted by the stream. In 1986
it was purchased by Kincardine and Deeside District Council and the
long process of restoration to working order began.
The Millers of Benholm
The only requirement of the earliest millers was that their should
be Good and honest men.
From Benholm Parish records it is possible to trace the names,
although not the period of tenure, of the good and honest men of
Benholm over a period of three hundred years.
James Mill or Milne
1853-1878 James Dallas
1878-1896 James and David S.
1896-1908 David S. Dallas
1912-1929 Wiliam Greig
1929-1951 Lindsay Watson
1951-1982 Lindsay C
The Restoration of the Mill
The first task in the restoration process was the repair of a large
hole in the lade wall caused by flooding. This and several other
minor works to the weirs and stream banks were undertaken bit
volunteers from the Scottish Conservation Projects Trust
participating in the Action Breaks Programme between 1987 and
In 1989 the restoration work began in earnest with the help of
teams on government work programmers. Much of the work on
underground drainage and damp proofing the main buildings was
undertaken during that period. In addition the grain store. now the
miller's office, was partially rebuilt and the main mill building
was re-roofed and re-floored.
Between 1991 and 1994 the old miller's house and the byre were
considerably rebuilt and eventually re-roofed. During that period
Whittaker Engineering of Stonehaven rebuilt and installed a new
waterwheel and main cast iron gears; they also worked on the water
flow from the dam and at the tailrace to ensure that water came on
and off the new wheel at the correct levels.
Early In 1994 the final phase- of the restoration started as a
long term special project by the Scottish Conservation Projects
Trust. The retaining wall of the Burn of Benholm was, completely
rebuilt from a point opposite the bridge over the dam down to the
tailrace. Various local specialist contractors undertook roofing,
electrical, drainage and fencing work. The buildings were all
completed with drains installed and floors laid; the cafe and
toilets were fitted out. At the same time the painstaking
restoration of the mill machinery progressed.
Footpaths and bridges were constructed and the old turn pike bridge
was cleared of trees and scrub and opened up for the first time in
many years.The car park and reed lied were constructed by
specialist local contractor.A small group of craftsmen and
craftswomen from the conservation volunteers of 1994 stayed on and
completed all the landscape construction and the machinery
restoration during the first half of 1995.
The restoration of the Mill of Benholm took nine years to complete.
All the restoration work was directed and supervised by staff from
the Leisure and Recreation Section of the District Council. Those
who took part in the project learned many new skills and everyone
involved achieved a great sense of pride and satisfaction.
The Mill of Benholm was officially opened to the public on 6th July
1995 and a new chapter in the story of the mill began.
Thanks to the generosity of the Awards for all scheme, there are
a wealth of training opportunities available to volunteers at the
Mill. Read More
The deadline to enter NEOS 2010 closed last monday - If you did
create an account, we urge you to check over it, proof it, send in
your image and payment.
Thanks to everyone that signed up this year!
Cheese scones with soup!
At the Benholm Mill Tearoom!