Continuing our look at Mary Berry’s 1805 Journal entry when this English Aristocrat visited Blantyre Mills. On 8th November 1805, Mary was staying in Bothwell House and visited the Blantyre Mills to see the processes for herself. Mary also observes the humble beginnings of the Village. She wrote,
“I have said that the whole operations here are done by machinery ; the whole is moved by one great water-wheel 18 feet and 21 feet in diameter, which turns several vast iron spindles, communicating motion to all the endless wheels which spin six thousand pounds weight of cotton thread in a week. A fifth part is lost in the manufacture ; that is to say, to produce a thousand pounds weight of cotton thread, a fifth part more of the raw material is required. Part of this refuse, however, is not perfectly useless, but is sold to be used up in coarse yarn.
The only operation done by the hand is picking the cotton as it comes out of the bale quite clean ; after that it is beat, carded, and spun, all by machinery, undergoing six different operations before it is ready to be spun into thread. The various multitude of leather straps upon all the wheels of this immense machinery costs them between three and four hundred pounds yearly in leather, and the oil and candles consumed in lighting the lofts four hundred pounds a-year. They are now going to have it lighted by the new contrivance for consuming coal smoke.
They likewise at this manufacture dye cotton of a most beautiful colour with madder ; they say such is the demand for it that they could use twice as much madder as they can get. The cotton yarn undergoes forty different operations before it is made ready to receive the colour. The number of people, which I have stated to be 900, employed in this great work, together with their wives and children, the place to lodge them, and the persons necessary to feed, clothe, and wash for them, compose a little town — and so it in fact, becoming, with row of houses, two or three shops, etc etc. — the only real foundation of towns which the Empress of Russia, with all her greatness, in vain commanded, and Frederick II., with all his abilities, in vain coaxed.”
Pictured in 1903, nearly 100 years after Mary’s visit is the Blantyre Mills awaiting demolition. This new photo, never been seen before online shows the lade that would have had water rushing through it to power the wheel described in Mary’s journal.
As a sidenote to this story, I’ve zoomed in on the lade, which had been drained in 1903, in readiness for the demolition of the mills. Stone blocks, perhaps a water tank and other objects likely belonging to the 19th Century lay on the mud in the empty, lade floor.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016