Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 144,283 pages of information and 230,174 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Springfield Mill

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of Polton, Midlothian, on the River Esk

1742 Walter Ruddiman, printer of the Jacobite paper ‘The Caledonian Mercury’, Robert Flemming, printer of the ‘Edinburgh Evening Courant’ and John Aitken, a bookseller joined together to found The Springfield Mill. Production started, using rags as raw material (the second time this had been done in Scotland).

1756 Business was transferred to Robert Fleming Junior & John Hutton, an Edinburgh warehouse owner.

1763 Springfield was one of 3 mills in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh turning out 6400 reams of paper annually to meet the needs of the Edinburgh printers.

As papermaking became more widespread the business became uncertain

1776 Business failed. Managed by Frances Strachan W.S. Trustee for the Creditors.

1787 Mill business bought by Frances Strachan.

1791 Robert Cameron became a Partner.

1794 Mutual Help Society formed. Involved 5 local Mills. Employees paid weekly with contribution matched by Employers. This provided sick pay for workers though "No person under the implication of any crime could receive help from the fund."

1803 Frances Strachan died. Robert Cameron assumed full control.

By 1821 Mill was managed by George Bertram. Mechanical pulp maker patented by Robert Cameron.

1828 Robert Cameron died. His younger son, John, became the new owner.

1832-36 George Bertram initiated a series of technical improvements primarily related to the drying process.

1842 Air drying machine installed which allowed the paper to be sized and thus take ink by a continuous process (The first in Scotland). (The air drying technology devised and implemented by Bertram assured the future success of Bertrams in Edinburgh).

c.1850 The rotary screen was invented.

1856 Business failed. Now owned by Bank of Scotland.

1858 The Mill leased to James Durham & Sons.

1862 Business failed, despite contempoary reference to "20 tons of fine paper produced weekly".

1866 The buildings lay empty until acquired by William Tod who also owned St Leonard’s Mill in Lasswade.

1867 Production restarted. Raw material changed from rags to Esparto grass. First paper made was for "The Scotsman Newspaper".

1895 Financial reconconstruction. The Springfield & St Leonard’s mills were run as separate businesses.

1898 Firm formed into a Limited Company.

1914-18 Limited production, only one machine operating on a single shift

1923 Experiments to develop a type of plastic (referred to as Ligurite or Indurite). It was to be used as electrical insulation material and for production of ashtrays, buttons etc. The diversification attempt failed due to cheaper products serving the same purpose elsewhere (possibly Bakelite).

1937 The Finishing Mill was rebuilt.

1939 William Tod died. Succeeded by his son A K Tod.

1949-50 The Esparto Plant was modernised.

1952 Limited production.

1957 Financial reconstruction. Shares of A K Tod acquired by James Brown and Co.

1965 Management restructured. Directors of James Brown & Co. became Directors of William Tod Junior and Co.

Production mainly used home-produced straw and wood pulp, rather than Esparto grass.

1967 The Mill finally closed.

1969 The Mill went into liquidation. James White Properties appointed liquidator by Royal Bank of Scotland for William Tod Jnr. & Co.

1970 Main buildings of the Mill were demolished


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • [1] Memories of Springfield Mill Polton
  • [2] Springfield management plan