For details of the forthcoming meetings and additions to the website, click here here       

Click here for recent research on the Mearns men who were killed in World War 1.

Click here for information about the ancient Capelrig Cross.


Additional pictures by Harold Storey have been added - click here to view.  

Addition information about the history of Capelrig House is available here

Newmill Cotton Mill

 A Scheduled Ancient Monument

In September 2014, a historical site in Mearns Parish was designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, recognising it as a place of national importance.

A scheduled monument is one which has been given legal protection by Scottish Ministers under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Unlike the listing of upstanding buildings, ‘Scheduling’ is applied to sites which have some visible features on the ground, but are often partly buried and may have future archaeological potential. One of the best known examples is Skara Brae in Orkney. Traditionally, scheduled sites were confined mostly to ancient mounds and cairns. However, in recent years, the importance of sites of more recent periods has been recognized.

Over a period of  30 years, the writer, who grew up in Netherlee, had known this site and had followed a path of discovery leading to the recognition of it as a scheduled monument. Initially, the early industrial remains along the riverbank, including dams, lades and tunnels, were a playground and source of curiosity. This developed in adulthood to a deeper interest, leading to in depth study of the site, along with similar remains further up the White Cart in Busby.

The newly scheduled site, originally on Cartsbridge Farm, and known as Newmill, boasts the highest waterfall on the Cart. It is not well known, but can be viewed from Busby Glen Park.


 Below the spectacular waterfall is a large man-made terrace. This was the site of  Newmill Cotton Mill (c.1778), one of the earliest mills, which started the industrial revolution in Scotland. The arrival of the cotton mill led to the growth of a new village on the Mearns side of the Cart. Once a bridge was built across the Cart in the 1790s, the village became part of the older settlement of Busby, on the East Kilbride side of the river.

The mill captured the power of the waterfall to spin cotton yarn using Richard Arkwright’s pioneering inventions. Although the mill was demolished and the rubble removed more than a century ago, a number of features remain, including walls, dams, a storage pond and wheel pit, all finely built. The site also supported earlier grain and lint mills and dates back to the medieval period.

The upper weir and the present Busby bridge


The wheel pit                                                         The sluice

The most tantalising feature on the site is a brick and stone-built arched tunnel which heads downstream to the second cotton mill on the site, Busby Lower Mill (1790). Repeated visits to the site in the 1980s uncovered other features and increased a determination to find out more. The tunnel was deep in silt and water, and proved too dangerous to enter. However a raft was devised, allowing a camera to be floated down, taking pictures of the interior, unseen for 200 years. This resulted in the writer's first publications “Newmill - an early Scottish Cotton Mill”, Scottish Industrial History, Vols. 11-13 (1988); and “Busby Cotton Mill”, Scottish Archaeological Gazette, No.19, (1989)).


                 Newmills upper tunnel interior                                            Newmills mid tunnel


      Newmills lower tunnel

Although interest was spurred by what could be seen on the ground, the history of the site was also researched. Little written evidence could be found for the mill, and although the writer had no formal historical training, visits to archives in Edinburgh gradually unearthed its history and purpose. Advice from Tom Welsh helped greatly and early findings were incorporated into his book on the district, ‘Eastwood District History and Heritage’,1989 at page 163.

Searches of the Glasgow press revealed early adverts for the mill, with detailed descriptions of the buildings. These searches also uncovered the history and locations of numerous other early water powered cotton mills in Renfrewshire, whose sites were also explored. Through this research, the writer appreciated the importance of Renfrewshire in the early Scottish cotton industry. When an opportunity arose to carry out doctorate research, he chose to focus on the early water powered cotton mills. This work was published as ‘The Rise of the Cotton Factory in 18th C Renfrewshire’, (Archaeopress, 2009), an extensive study which had begun many years previously with a boy exploring a corner of Mearns parish. This illustrates how we can all play a part in discovering and understanding local history and that it can be exciting and rewarding.

Over the years the writer has taken many groups who were interested to visit the site and it is featured in Tom Marchant’s film ‘Busby, the Story of a Village’, 2007. In 2008, Historic Scotland undertook a review of scheduled sites in Renfrewshire. The writer contacted Historic Scotland about the Newmill site and further visits were made. Following a formal legal process, the site was formally scheduled in September 2014.

Stuart Nisbet

November 2014

Back to Top