In early February 2015, Blantyre man Jim Brown made an interesting discovery,whilst out taking pictures at Milheugh, near the River Calder. Posting it online prompted the interest of several people, myself included and so on 19th February 2015 (despite me suffering some eye problems), Jim Brown, Joey Campbell, Alex Rochead and myself set off to investigate.
On the North edge of the Milheugh falls, erosion after recent heavy rains had uncovered part of a wooden structure, which was deliberately set into formed and worked rock. What was it? A new lade? Treasure? Or worse, a coffin?!
The structure was at the lower water level and on the North side (Blantyre side) of the falls. Eroded embankments had uncovered about a metre of the structure which was embedded into the river embankment with around 8 foot of earth still on top of it. However, there at the bottom, a man made wooden structure protruded from the river bank pointing at the same angle as the curve of the falls.
It was remarkably well preserved and clearly quite old. It looked like a wooden channel, with wooden slats about half inch thick laid on a horizontal surface of the rock. About 1m wide, there were vertical sides to the structure about 400mm tall and about an inch thick. The ends of the vertical pieces of wood were tongue and grooved, suggesting
they were made to slot into further wooden pieces. In my photos attached, you can see how the channel may have taken the same line as the rock under the falls, which looks very placed deliberately (perhaps more evidence that the falls were man made?).
Of further interest was the rock that the channel was set into. The vertical surfaces of the rocs surrounding the channel were worked upon and showed evidence of tool marks, suggesting the natural strata had been cut out (certainly at this location) deliberately to set in this wooden box.
The channel seemed to slope upwards ever so slightly,
suggesting something ran TO the water rather than from it, but this could not be concluded by the four of us. The sides of the channel between the wood and rock, were filled with gravel and a kind of old cement. We all discussed the possibility of another water lade, perhaps taking water to the original Milheugh house or perhaps away from it , as a sewerage or wastewater outlet. Dumping the raw sewage into the location at the falls did not make sense for a grand house, but I find it plausible that the waster water from the kitchens etc could be taken to the River here.
Next, the four of us went into the woodland at the riverbank. This woodland was still there when the house had been built and would have prevented any wastewater being taken and emptied at that shorter more Western route. There was some evidence of two small buildings (one of
brick and the other of stone) amongst the woods, but no sign of this channel. At the time of the visit, I through the angle it was leading off to , was pointing at the woods and would have missed the house. I couldn’t want to get home to check that.
When I opened up the 1859 map, I was surprised to see the little outlet marked on it, right at the falls. Very easy to miss on the map, but it IS there, giving some evidence that at least this channel was at a minimum nearly 156 years old. However, what was really interesting, when I plotted the line of the channel on to the map using the angle
observed on the site, it WOULD have led directly to the most Western part of the Milheugh House! If it could be determined if this was the kitchens, then there is strong evidence to suggest this was a waste water channel.
Interestingly, this part of the house was within the original Georgian part of Milheugh House (before the large Victorian Extension). Pictured here in 1799 it is entirely conceivable that such a waste water channel led from this house to the nearby river, then later filled in when the Victorian part of the house was built and the gardens extensively landscaped (and I believe also at that time with the creation of the falls). I fear for this channel now. If it doesn’t end up burned out, it will almost certainly start to rot.
A brilliant find, and lots to talk about here. I leave you with Jim Brown’s excellent original picture of the find.
Update: Gordon Cook told me, “I have dug out this report from the Advertiser, dated 3rd April 1875. It concerns a Local Authority meeting held on Tuesday the 30th March, where a letter was read from Mr J. Miller Bannatyne, Millheugh, who, on behalf of his mother, “expressed a hope that no scheme of drainage would be sanctioned by the Local Authority which would involve the pollution of the river Calder. She was so deeply interested in maintaining the purity of the river, that, were it proposed to discharge any part of the outfalls into it, she would be compelled, much against her will, to resort to legal proceedings to prevent it.” The inspector was authorised to state, in reply, that the Local Authority were pleased to see, by her letter, that she is so deeply interested in maintaining the purity of the river, and to ask whether it was the fact thatthe sewage from Millheugh House and offices runs into the Calder.”