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Ground breaking Work at Carluke’s High Mill

After 40 years of disuse, campaigning, and fundraising, Carluke’s High Mill will begin renovations before the end of May 2023.

i Carluke High Mill in May 2023

This exciting rebuild will open the space up for tomorrow’s classrooms and community groups. The new High Mill will create a community fruit and vegetable garden that eliminates food air miles and feeds the town. It will include a refurbished gaol, a “quiet garden”, an orchard, bee keeping, and even an early 1900s classroom. 

I was honoured to attend the official ground breaking ceremony on May 13th and, like the other hundred or so guests, was astounded at the progress already made. In terms of the future of the High Mill, this promising start marks an exciting turning point in the new history of an old landmark. Could this become Carluke’s best attraction?

Thanks to an army of volunteers, Carluke’s treasured High Mill is set to become a genuine tourist attraction and a community hub. This significant milestone marks the next step in the history of this cherished site. Volunteers have relentlessly hounded the powers that be for years now, trying to turn the dilapidated building into Carluke’s best tourist attraction. However, setbacks, funding issues, and Covid have all played a part in delaying the build. 

About the High Mill in Carluke

The High Mill started grinding corn flour back in 1801, when the local Dick family finished building it. For 220+ years, it has stood as a defining landmark in Carluke’s skyline. Widely known as having the best views in town, the local charities involved in developing it intend on removing it from the Buildings at Risk register and putting back on the map, where it never should have left in the first place.

The Big Day at High Mill

The ground breaking ceremony was a brilliant event on its own. There were tours running all day along with plans and interpretive artworks which showed us how the future mill will look. The kids had a game to play – find all the animals hidden in the garden and win a prize. There was a wonderful cake with an image of the mill on it, complete with extra tea and cakes laid on for the guests by Clarks the Bakers. There were a few speeches, proceeded by a Mexican wave with a view.

Best of all was finding out what the plans include. Carluke High Mill will work as it once did, complete with old school classrooms, spaces the community can use, and wonderful gardens. They have thought of everything, up to and including the Quiet Garden space for those who need softer sounds.

The Tangye Engine

By completion, the mill will work using the refurbished Tangye Engine. These engines were designed by famous engineer Richard Tangye. They are known for longevity and use steam to operate. This is where the mill owners got clever. There is no nearby burn to draw water from, so the original builders created deep water wells to source water to create steam. Tangye steam engines can last for hundreds of years. Let’s hope our local one is still running in 2123. 

Carluke Gaol, the House, and the Old Mill Outbuildings

The project managed to raise funding to the tune of 2.7 million. Using this, they were able to buy the house and the miller’s cottage. The house has an old gaol underneath, where troublemakers might spend an uncomfortable night. This will also become an attraction.

Why is the renovation of Carluke High Mill taking so long?

Those who have been following the progress of the restoration project may remember as far back as 2015, when Sir Angus Gossart and Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark met with members of Carluke Development Trust and Carluke Historical Society. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss options and garner public support for the restoration of the 18th century mill. They even made the Daily Record.

If you are wondering why this proposed renovation has just broken ground 8 years later, it is due to several factors. The renovation of the High Mill in Carluke is especially significant given the halts, pauses, and setbacks the team encountered during Covid. Everything was set to go, the funding raised, the people ready, and then the virus set everything back for four years. The attractions we learned about on Saturday will be well worth the wait.

The Volunteers have Campaigned for Years…

Carluke Historical society first formed over 40 years ago. They already had plans for the High Mill all that time ago, even choosing it as their logo. Christine Warren, from the High Mill Steering Group and current CPHS Hon. President, was among the first to drive for change. On Saturday, she gave a heart warming speech about the trials and tribulations that have gone into making this plan work. It was she who broke the first ground for the building works. 

There are a myriad of organisations involved in this project, Including:

  • One Can, Carluke Area Network.
  • Carluke Development trust
  • Carluke Parish Historical Society
  • The High Mill Trust
  • Alexander Kerr Practice
  • Clydesdale Mill Society
  • Northlight Heritage
  • Strathclyde Building Preservation Trust
  • The Steering Group
  • Carluke Young Farmers
  • Historic Environment Scotland – who will closely monitor the rebuild.
  • And dozens of Carluke locals, hard working individuals, plan writers, politicians, news teams, local groups and businesses who have all contributed to the cause.

I am sure there are dozens of names I missed off this list. Names like Alison Stell, who contributed the logo, Amanda and John Jackson, who put massive efforts into community engagement, and Bill Anderson, the chief ONE Space representative. I would personally like to thank Jim McLaren, who gave our group of nosey neighbours the tour.

In an opening speech on the day, Bill Anderson pointed out the need to change the language surrounding building work in the old High Mill. Instead of saying they ‘could’ or ‘might’ do things with the space, the teams involved are now saying the mill ‘will’ have… and the proof is in the garden-shaped pudding.

Renovating a listed building at risk isn’t easy.

The High Mill is a Category A listed building. This protected status means that it cannot be knocked down. This led to a dilapidated mill building perched at the highest precipice of Carluke going totally unused yet left to waste away to nothing… until now. 

The main problem with renovations on this scale lies in the architecture. You must carefully catalogue each stone that you remove, usually requiring archaeological teams onsite, coupled with the intervention of Historic Scotland. The builder must make all attempts necessary to then rebuild the building using the same materials, sourced from as close to the original site and using as original building techniques as possible. 

So if you want to rebuild an old mill, it takes precision, care, meticulous attention to detail, about four times the money you expect it to, and years of dedication to the cause. If it had been a simple case of just rebuilding the thing, the project would have been complete years ago.

Carluke High Mill & Community Growing & Learning Garden

The team at the Old Mill in Carluke have worked relentlessly to create a diverse garden, capable of producing fruits and veggies to help feed the town. While the polytunnels are due to house sweetcorn and tomatoes, other edibles grown on site will include fresh radishes, strawberries, onions, and potatoes. 

The new High Mill site in Carluke will contain two orchard areas. These will provide the people of Carluke with fresh fruit, year on year. There is already a healthy cherry tree in full blossom over the archways in the “quiet garden”. The future orchards are already planted but will take a few years to get to full fruity splendour. The orchards will include pears, apples, plums, and anything else that will grow in Carluke’s far-from-tropical environment.

The Carluke Food Hub

All this wonderful food is not going to go to waste. In a carefully planned arrangement, Carluke Food Hub will be on the same site. Upon entrance, the food hub will be off to the right hand side with a new car park on the left, bordering the reception gardens. The food hub area will receive all the foods grown here. They will be divided out to the people of the local community who need them. This tackles food poverty and reduces the miles that food has travelled

Carluke High Mill are saving the town and the planet, one crunchy, delicious bite at a time. 

Is the High Mill in Carluke Free?

For the moment, the growing and learning garden is available to anyone, for free, at any time. Enjoy a wander around the gardens at your leisure, with a community growing patch on the right as you enter. You may see limited access to the mill while building work is underway. You can see the whole project overview here or follow the ONE Carluke High Mill page on Facebook to keep up to date.

Disabled Access to Carluke High Mill and Gardens

There will be spaces for disabled guests at the top of the hill, following the road to the end. There you will find a turning point, parking spaces, and a Changing Places toilet. The ground is uneven in places but this is set to change once the building work is complete. Disabled guests came along to the ground breaking ceremony, so it is possible to explore the site as is. 

Forewarning the Neighbourhood!!

Since building work is due to start within the next week or so, officials in charge of the project wanted to issue a mild warning to those that live in the area… It WILL look like the High Mill in Carluke is being taken down. This is because the archaeologists need to catalogue each brick and record its placement within the wall so that it can be rebuilt to exacting standards. The old red brick work added in recent years to prevent collapse will all be removed. When it is rebuilt, they will use materials traced to the same source as the existing materials. 

It may look like it’s coming down, but it’s only for the time it takes to get matching stones and build it back up again. 

Building work might take a while, please be patient. This is the culmination of years of hard work and it will result in a building that benefits us all. 

Where to Find Out More About the Old Mill in Carluke?

If you would like to get involved, you can visit members of the team through the One Space shop at the bottom of Carluke High Street. You will find the shop straight across from Occasions. Here you can read about the history of the High Mill, buy an original artwork from a local artist, or browse other activities in and around Carluke to help you grow new skills and friendships. You can even go and explore the garden for yourself. Everyone is welcome to enjoy this fascinating space.

Final thoughts? This blog was going to be a short review of the day. It turned into a massive exploration of the many goings on in our new favourite attraction. I’m not mad. Go along and see why for yourself.

Katriona E MacMillan, Carluke Based Writer and Author.

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