Bardykes Mill, or more commonly known as The Black Mill or Priory Bridge Mill was formerly situated on the northern riverbank of the River Clyde immediately adjacent to the east side of The Priory Bridge. As you exit Blantyre, on the left, at the edge of the river, on the approach to Caldergrove, the ruined mill cannot be seen from the modern road, but certainly could up until the road realignment of the 1930’s.
The mill can be traced and dated back to at least 1748 belonging to the nearby Jackson family at Bardykes. Built of stone over 2 storeys it was square on plan.
In the 1700’s and 1800’s, a condition existed, which was known as “Astricted Milling”. This was a tri-party agreement between the landowner, his tenant miller and the tenant farmer on the land. It permitted that all the grain belonging to the landowner’s tenant farmers was sent to the miller for grinding. The farmer would be paid by the miller, therefore providing the income for the farmer to pay his rent to the landowner. The Miller, in turn after working the grain, would be able to sell the product, allowing him a source of income and means to pay his rent to the landowner. The three parties, whilst independent upon agreeing their financial arrangements, were actually dependent upon each other to succeed.
This mill was formerly a flour or corn mill, and in the 1850’s used for providing charred wood & coal dust, to make dross used for moulding purposes in Foundries. In some mills of this description coal dust was ground for putting in powder, & they were sometimes termed “Soot Mills” . This was also commonly termed a Soot mill. The mills at Cambuslang of the same description as this, were called “Black Mills” so the Miller considered the term to be appropriate for this one too. The mill was one of 7 major mills in Blantyre.
This map from 1859 shows the location of Bardykes Mill which also hints even by then a nearby ruined lade running alongside the river.
Nearby on the opposing north west side of the Priory Bridge was the miller’s house. The house would have been the very last house as you left Blantyre Parish crossing over into Cambuslang Parish. It was inhabited property on the 1859 map, some 60 years later. A sketch by Jean Claude Nattes in 1799 shows this cottage as having a thatched roof. The 1859 map puts it in good reference and shows the house sitting in its own field with paths at the front of the property leading down to the waters edge and to the mill. In 1865 James McCracken was the miller, renting from Mr. Jackson.
The Hamilton Advertiser 5th October 1867, confirms the mill had a detached small house nearby with a small garden. The mill at that time was fitted out as a saw mill for which it was commented it had been very well adapted for. The machinery at that time included a saw and bench and was up for sale as well as the mill house. Mr. John Jackson of nearby Spittal was showing the property at the time and the advert hoped to let out the still functional water powered mill.
The next occupier was Thomas Taylor who was still there in 1875 but gone by 1881. By 1885, there were no occupants in the mill, but the house was still occupied being rented by Mr. John Campbell.
Thomas (Tam) Taylor, was a man greatly in advance of his times. The Blantyre man, the last miller of Bardykes was also an inventor of one of the earliest reaping machines. Blantyre readers will be proud to know he attempted to make one of the First Flying Machines, a full 30 years before the successful flight of the Wright Brothers in 1903!
Born in Blantyre in 1846, Tam was by 1871 living in Bridgeton. Importantly, he’s noted then, aged 24 as being a “Maker of Steam Boilers”. It is alleged Thomas unveiled his great plans for a flying machine, which at the height of the industrial revolution, was to be powered by steam. Now Thomas had a great acquaintance in Mr Templeton, the blacksmith at Barnhill. The relationship was likely first a business one where Thomas commissioned parts for his inventions and Mr. Templeton would make and supply them. So it was no surprise that the flying machine endeavour, involved them both working together. Mr Templeton did indeed make the machine parts and assisted Tam in constructing their flying machine which was built in the barn at the old Barnhill Smiddy.
When completed, the flying contraption was taken out into the adjacent Larkfield field (now where the High Blantyre Primary School is) and the engine was stoked, ready for an attempted flight. The local inhabitants of Larkfield and Barnhill would have been naturally curious upon the sight. It is not recorded who piloted the flight, but it was likely Tam, given his investment and inventive nature. Varying accounts have this story in the 1860’s or 1870’s.
From an account written by Mr. Templeton’s son, almost 80 years later, which says word for word, “The Smith’s father made some of the parts of this machine over 80 years ago. The power unit was a steam engine. Tam and the Smith tried out the machine but just as it began to rise, the supply of steam gave out. The elements of success were there but the engine was not suitable. “I didna manage it”, he said to the Smith, “but it will come yet whaever leeves tae see the day”. A true prophet! The principles of flight were known even in 1860, but the problem lay in steam engines not generating enough speed and therefore the lift needed for takeoff. It would take the petrol engine to be invented and used in a flying machine in 1903 for successful flight to be established. People will remember Tam Taylor, the Blantyre born inventor. Regardless of the story taking place in 1860’s or 1870’s, Tam was a young man when he made this trial flight. By 1881, Thomas was married to Ellen Taylor and they were away from Blantyre living at Govan with a growing, large family, never to return.
In April 1872, Thomas Caldwell of Blantyre Works was convicted of maliciously removing tiles from the roof of Bardykes Mill on 24th March 1872.
The End of the Mill
On the 1898 map, both the house and the Black Mill are shown as ruins and not lived in, concluding the final use of the house was between 1885 and 1897. The mill fell out of use earlier between 1876 and 1880.
In 1907, the fate of the Black Mill House was also sealed when the Parish authorities demolished it to extend the width of the road leading up to and over the Priory Bridge itself, to accommodate sufficient room for two trams to pass. It was the land to the North that was extended, the Mill itself left as ruins in-situ. The new widened road and tramlines are shown on the 1910 map.
In the late 1930’s the area changed completely, when a massive earthworks embankment was placed alongside the roadway to realign the road. The first of several which forms the new and current Glasgow Road profile, the bend in the road at Priory Bridge becoming redundant. There is little hope of ever uncovering where the mill house was, as much of the realigned road and earthworks were placed in the field near the location of where it once stood.
From the book, “Blantyre Glasgow Road South – The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017