Priory Col Mill

A History of the Col Mill of Coldingham Priory
and Parish 1300 – 1900

by Robert Brandt
‘The Author asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this book’
Copying not permitted © Robert Brandt

Layout and Contents
Scope of Historical Study with Location Plan 1.0

2.1 Surtees Society Preface : Priory of Coldingham
2.2 Coldingham Priory 1098-1648
2.3 Coldingham Village Rural Life

3.1 Historical Synopsis
3.2 Charter or Indenture of 1326 & Translation
3.3 Home Charters & Disposition 1647-8

4.1 Thirlage and Astriction
4.2 Home Memorial 1761
4.2.1 1568-1598 Enrolments of Abstracted Multures
1667-1676 Decreets of Astriction and Thirlage
4.2.2 Evasions of Thirlage
4.3 1762-63 Note of Abstractors & Summons of Astriction & Payments Coal & Eyemouth Mills with Fig. 4.3.1

5.1 The Mill building and facilities with Figs 5.1.1 & 5.1.2
5.2 The Mill Dam
5.3 Survey Drawings & Plans
5.3.1 Historical Layout 1850-1900
5.3.2 Present day Layout & Measured Survey
5.3.3 Mill Dam Elevation & Cross Section

6.1 Appendix 1 : Agriculture 1760-1860
6.2 Appendix 2 : Notes on Grain Foodstuffs
R. Brandt Dip LA (Glos) CMLI Chartered Landscape Architect – Member Berwickshire Naturalists Club.

1. A History of Coldingham Priory & Parish – Thomson 1908
2. 1841 & 1861 Coldingham Parish Consensus
3. County of Berwick Sasine Registers
4. Home Billie Papers – Historical & Legal Searches Register House Edinburgh National Records of Scotland
5. Parish History of the Borders – Digest of Historical Sources (2002 Consolidation) – Scottish Borders Council
6. Coldingham Priory Charters – Special Collections Unit – Durham University Library
7. Raines History of North Durham 1842-5
8. Coldingham Priory (12) Surtees Society 1841
9. The Scottish Country Miller 1700-1900 – Enid Gauldie 1999
10. British Watermills – Leslie Syson 1965
11. Waterwheels and Windmills Explained – Stan Yorke 2006
12. The Land of Britain Part 14 Berwickshire – Report of the Land Utilisation Survey 1941. Prof. W. Dudley Stamp
13. The Scottish Borders to 1603 – W.R. Kermack 1967
14. Reivers – Anglo-Scottish Border Raiders to the end of the C16th – Keith Durham and Angus McBride – 1998

15. Economic History of England 1760-1860 (2nd Edn) Arthur Redford – 1960
16. The Agriculture of Northumberland Board of Agriculture – J. Bailey & G. Culley – 1805
17. Berwickshire Report – Board of Agriculture – Kerr 1809


The Col, Cole Coal and Cold Myln or Mill as variously known is one of the early assets of Coldingham Priory, originally co-joined with Eyemouth Mill and run directly by the Priors to serve their arable monastic lands. Its existence, under burden of Thirlage, can be traced from the earliest known valuation of Priory lands, through medieval history, to the secular age before the Reformation and Cromwellian times. Extant Home Billie papers trace servitude to the mill through the C16th to the era of agricultural improvement and before enclosure of Coldingham Common in 1776. The zenith of the mill’s productive capacity can be inferred by its surviving buildings to around the middle of the C19th, thereafter its decline seems complete by 1900. Today the mill is a ruin, the adjacent granary still intact but long disused, and the remains of the reservoir and mill dam drained and progressively demolished since 1980, finally by the 2002 flood. The mill buildings which remain, the dam and its engineering foundations and layout of water catchment, power generation and productive output can still, however, be largely seen and interpreted on the ground today. The Mill complex occupies a dramatic natural setting in the gorge of the Milldown Burn, and the purpose of this historical study is to examine the mill’s storyline, wherever possible from first hand records, to build up a picture of its place in Coldingham Parish and village history throughout its settled and productive life. To achieve this the narrative is divided into four sections, with two appendices as follows:

SECTION 2: Coldingham’s Monastic Order and Home Superiority traces the essential background of political and social history from the viewpoint of the Priory and everyday life in Coldingham village. This is necessary to emphasise the reality of rural life in continuously turbulent times at least to the Union of the Crowns in 1603, not just for ordinary people, but as it affected the Priory described by the Surtees Society : Priory of Coldingham’s introductory preface.

SECTION 3: The Col Mill Site : A historical synopsis gives the chronological sequence of landholding tenure, administration and pattern of events over the period 1300-1900. This synopsis is necessarily condensed and contains factual information researched from historical sources included in the bibliography. Because of their interest as original documents, the first monastic charter of 1326 and the Home charter of 1647 are examined with translations of their texts.

SECTION 4: Service to the Mill : The mill’s economic existence depended on Thirlage binding farm-feuars and owners of land and property and even those servants of very small means to its service. The main elements of Thirlage and Astriction are described, and how the system worked. The Home Memorial papers of 1761 give a fully documented account of the burdens of administration and compliance of the system from the end of direct monastic control from the C16th through to the late C17th. A second account of summons of abstractors 1762-63 gives insight into the business of the mill and values of its outputs.

SECTION 5: How the Mill may have worked examines the historical and physical evidence remaining on the ground today which can be interpreted or inferred. Included are historical layout and measured survey plans of the site today and the former dam of the mill’s reservoir.

SECTION 6: Appendix 1 : Agriculture 1760-1860 has been prepared to complete a political and economic overview of the period leading to the Mill’s productive zenith, interpreted in Section 5, and the decline in farming wealth thereafter. Appendix 2 : Grain Foodstuffs, to be read again with Section 5, gives a summary of the main products which a mill prepared, including staples from medieval times.

Plan 1:0 gives the Col Mill’s location at Milldown and shows its proximity to Coldingham Village. Because of the incompleteness of earlier maps, the Ordnance Survey 6″ to 1 mile 1858 first edition plan is used as the base.

Special Note: Throughout the text the actual names and spellings of places as they appear in the quoted sources and documents of the time are retained in their historical sequence.



The Surtees Society, an august body of clerical, legal and academic Victorian members was founded by the Rev. Dr. James Raine, author of History of North Durham. The Society inquired into historical and classical topics and notably undertook a study of monastic lands and holdings of the North of England. The Priory of Coldingham volume contains source material and references which overlap with History of North Durham Annexes, and a historical prefaced summary which gives a succinct picture of the turbulent times which surrounded its foundation and existence. The following is a transcript which introduces 2.2 following:
“Although locally situated within the territory of Scotland and endowed by the monarch and nobles of that kingdom, it was subordinate to an English Church which exercised over it an absolute control, and appropriated to its own uses a considerable portion of its revenues. The Church of Coldingham was therefore not unnaturally a source of jealousy to Scotland in times of peace and an object of open attack in time of war. Even in times of peace the monks appear to have maintained this ground with difficulty. Often they did find it necessary to conciliate the protection of their powerful neighbours the Earls of Dunbar, and the Douglasses, and Humes in succession, by beneficial leases or places of emolument; and in time of war they were not unfrequently driven from their home to await at Holy Island or Durham, the truce or peace which might send them back to empty garners and a desecrated church. Their numerous efforts for independence against the pretensions of the monastery of Dunfermline were succeeded by a still more protracted struggle against Patrick and John Hume, two men who set all opposition at defiance for a considerable length of time. The proceedings consequent upon the usurpation of these intruders are fully detailed in letters and other documents. A public denouncement was made against Patrick & John Hume of their excommunication from the church. The Homes, however, continued to set the Pope and the Church of Durham at defiance until the year 1474 when it appears they began to manifest their contrition, and promise satisfaction for their intrusion. However it is clear that in the year 1478 the Church of Coldingham was still in the possession of Patrick Home, one of the usurpers of its rights and revenues. After this period we hear no more of the Priory of Coldingham from the Monks of Durham. In 1485 an act was passed by the Parliament of Scotland which annexed it to the Royal Chapel of Stirling. The Homes in their opinion by their long-continued usurpation against a prescriptive right to its revenues, directed their resentment against James III their king. The House of Coldingham then struggles for its independence till the final triumph of its (secular) enemies.”


As far back as the C7th there was a monastic settlement on Coldburgh (now St Abbs Head). In 679 Bede described it as a “Monastery of Virgins” and the community included monks. Originally called the Church of St. Mary Coldingham it was constituted as a cell of Durham. The Priory was founded in 1098 by King Edgar, son of Malcolm Ceannmor, after he won back his throne from the usurper Donald. Edgar fought under the banner of St. Cuthbert, so to St. Cuthbert St Mary and the local St. Ebba he consecrated the Priory, granting it to St. Cuthbert’s canons regular of Durham. So thus a religious building on Scottish soil was long under the control of the English Church.
The Borders have endured violence, destruction, revenge and repeated attempts at repair from the Dark Ages to the Union of the Crowns in 1603, after which the English were no longer legitimate objects of raiding attention. History does not always pay sufficient attention to the realities of life of ordinary people at that time. The Priory was burned in 1216 and sacked by King John. A Charter of Protection (1422-61) was granted by Henry VI which exhibited the deplorable condition to which the monks were, on more than one occasion, reduced. The translation provided by Thomson (1908) records:
“We would piously sympathize with the probable desolation and destruction of the said Priory of Coldingham, and generously provide in this respect for the society and quiet of the Prior and Convent of that place “and grants” that the same Prior and Monks of Coldyngham may be enabled more quietly to serve the Most High and that they may be preserved from being molested and disturbed by our subjects of the Marches of Scotland by the advice and consent of our Council we have taken the Prior and the Monks of Coldingham under our very special care and defence.”
The Priory was nevertheless burnt again in 1430.
The Foundation had to appeal to the local Douglasses for protection against raiding parties from both sides of the Border. Coldingham was rich and the Douglasses were probably well paid for this insurance. The Douglasses’ connection led to James III’s attempt to suppress the Priory in 1488 and to allocate half of its revenues to the Chapel Royal at Stirling. This lead to the King’s death at Sauchieburn in the ensuring Douglas and Home – inspired rising of the nobles. Thereafter the Priory came into the possession of the prominent Home Border family who not unnaturally had been brought out in revolt against James III seeing their interests compromised. Home had become hereditary Bailie of Coldingham and in 1471 was created a Lord of Parliament.
The Priory was then annexed to the Crown by an Act of Parliament in 1504. In 1509 the Priory was disjoined from Durham and placed under the jurisdiction of Dunfermline by the Pope. After Flodden, in the face of Tudor England, the defence of the Scottish Borders had broken down. Homes took up the defences and on several occasions Wardenship of the East March and were not on occasion above suspicion for intrigue with the English during the Regency of Scotland of John Duke of Albany. A Home was thus executed for treason in 1516. Albany’s French appointee was murdered by David Home of Wedderburn and the brother of the third Lord Home recovered the forfeited title.
The Scottish borders suffered several large scale English invasions: Surrey’s in 1523, Hertford’s in 1544/5 when Coldingham suffered its third burning, and then the incursions of Somerset and Wharton in 1547. After the Earl of Surrey’s 1523 invasion, the Earl of Northumberland had piously reported to Henry VIII he “devised that within these 3 nights, God willing, Kelso shall be burnt with all the corn in the said town” (as Coldingham had already been burnt) “and then they (the Scots) shall have no place to lay any garrison in nigh unto the Borders.”
And what of rural life? In the raid of 1545 the Earl of Hertford, Henry VIII’s Lieutenant General of The North is recorded as destroying 287 properties:-
Monasteries and Friarhouses 7
Castells, Towres and Peles 16
Market townes 5
Villages 243
Mylnes (Mills) 13
Spytells (Lazar Houses) and Hospitalls 3
(Quoted by Home, G: Through the Borders to the Heart of Scotland p.44.)
Latterly from 1535 the King of Scots was able to nominate to the Pope the heads of religious establishments. In the case of Coldingham Priory this was to one of his five infant illegitimate sons. Although the Pope was favourable to King James, having broken faith with Henry VIII, this attitude did not benefit the church which broke from Rome in 1560. The Priory was extinguished at the Reformation when largely demolished by cannon in 1648 by Cromwell. Subsequently reconstruction of the Choir took place in 1661 and the west and south walls were substantially rebuilt between 1835-58 to form the Parish Church we see today.


From Section 2.2 above, however, it should not be taken that it was not possible for ordinary people to lead and carry on with rural life. Under a continuously feudal order Coldingham Priory provided collective protection and security for its dependents. It provided an educated system of administrative control of business and assets and a system of order and regulation which was advanced for its time and ahead of similar religious foundations elsewhere. Co-joined Col and Eyemouth mills were a life-dependent part of the Priory’s farming economy and staple food production.
As early as 1255 Coldingham Priory had financial dealings with Siennese merchants in London through wool sales and in 1286 a Florentine firm took 19 sacks of wool as the year’s clip from the Priory. At Coldingham itself the Priory had over 1,000 acres (400 ha) in arable, the peasants almost 1,500 acres (600 ha). It should be remembered that the early foundation attracted wealth and also criticism for behaving in a manner more like royalty, much removed from their roots of faith, and that on occasions they were not always the benefactors they were traditionally supposed to be to the local community.
The 1298 year Rental lists include 55 free tenants and 3,000 acres of arable land belonging to the settlement. The village of Coldingham had considerable trade as early as the C14th and a weekly market was established in 1305. Prayers from the Prior direct to King Edward I gained a yearly fair held on St. Luke’s Eve 8th October. By 1561, some 17 years following the burning of the village and Priory by the Earl of Hertford, there were thirty-two houses in the village. There is a gap in statistical information until the increase in population at the start of the C19th with recorded parish populations of 727 (1794), 715 (1811), 800 by 1823, then rising to 850 a few years later with the relative prosperity following the end of the Napoleonic wars.
Much of the 3,000 arable acres of land around monastic Coldingham village had been worked more or less continuously on the open field and run-rig system, and during the later C14th and C15th the Priory, as noted, needed security and protection from the repeated Scottish and English raids and incursions. The insecure political state caused agriculture to fall into a backward state with lack of incentive for improvement. Cultivation was reduced since most able persons were engaged in warfare. Much land lay waste and unused but what was done was carried out on a communal basis to ensure that as large a force as possible could be mustered quickly to protect property. The advent of Home superiority and continuing style of monastic land management after 1535 did however lead to attempts to regulate and tighten-up obligations of rent-holders and tenants as the Home memorial discussed in Section 4 shows in service to the Mill. By 1638 Coldingham had attained sufficient size and importance to be granted status as a burgh.
After the advent of the Scottish Reformation and the release and breaking up of the traditional lands and estates of Church Foundations, feudal secular landholding replaces monastic control. The traditional agricultural economy continued in its essentially medieval basis and the price of food and clothing and men’s wages remained stationary between the 100 years 1640 to 1740. The obligations of feudal tenure in Coldingham in 1760 at Cadgershill are recorded as “are holden immediately of and under Alexander, Earl of Home, in feu, farm, fee and hostage for payment and delivery of the sum of £6sh 8d Scots money at two times in the year, Whitsunday and Martinmas, by equal proportions with two Kain hens and four days’ work or 5sh Scots money for each hen, with the like sum for each days’ work”.
Early agricultural reform and modernisation then gathers pace, breaking up Coldingham’s run-rig traditional open field system leading to the Coldingham Common Enclosure Order of 1776. Patterns of land tenure and cultivation then progressively change, smallholders, cottars and yeomen become dispossessed and are swept away by the new order of larger land holdings farm modernisation.
The effects and implications of these are discussed in Section 4 in Service to the Mill, with reference to the Home memorial of 1761, and Appendix 1.



The Estates of Coldingham Priory were surveyed and extended about 1300. The extent of lands reveals a demesne of at least thirty-five ploughgates. It is likely that the C.1293 valuation, which gives twenty ploughgates, generally understates the revenues at about half their true value. But the Coldingham entry also has a unique feature in distinguishing between Priory rents, including mill or mills and fishings (£113) and ‘lands set at ferme with the issues of the court’ (£103) which may indicate that a considerable amount of demesne had recently been leased (Duncan 1996). The Rental of the Possessions of the Monastery is the earliest document of its kind (a closely-written paper scroll) with reference to Scotland which has been preserved. It seems to have been compiled immediately after the battle of Falkirk (1298); its object seems to have been to ascertain the names of such of the tenants within the Barony of Coldingham who supported their country against the pretensions of England. (Surtees Society 1841. Priory of Coldingham (12)). At Coldingham, besides arable lands and meadows, two mills are recorded in 1300.
The Coalmill (NT 915663) is mentioned in a charter of 1326, discussed at 3.2 next. In the gathering age of secular independence a Feu Charter is recorded by February 1536, granted by Adam Blackadder, Prior of the Monastery at Coldingham, of the Mill of Aymouth with pertinents called the Coil Mylne to be held for annual payments with a James Preston as Bailie. Detailed records of the controlling Home family, as Superiors, are available from 1568, recording their interests in mills, and from a Memorial for Patrick Home of Billie as to Eyemouth and Coal Mills, we have a condensed chronological history prepared in 1761. A transcript of the first page of the Memorial reads:
“The Memorialist is Proprietor of two mills called Eyemouth and Coal Mills formerly the mills of the Priory of Coldingham (which) had right to a very extensive Thirlage over many lands and some villages belonging to that Priory. The first and original feu right of these mills bearing date of 20th February 1535 is granted by Adam Prior of Coldingham with the consent of the Chapter in favours of William Home son and apparent heir of William Home of Lochitullo. The said feu right was confirmed by the Pope’s Commissioners in Scotland 22nd December 1536. The next paper is a dispositive charter 3rd, 4th and 17th June 1607 granted by William Home of Swinewood ‘All hail the mill of Eyemouth…the mill of Coldingham called The Coal Mill with the astricted multures and suckens of the said mills and their Pertinents.’ Granted to Robert Home of Fairniside who obtained a charter of confirmation under the great seal from King James VI 13th July 1607. As for the Coal Mill of Coldingham it separated from the Principal mill and was vested in a different proprietor and continued so for many years until it was purchased lately (by 1760) by the Memorialist from Mr. Hay of Mordington.”
Billie estate records show Enrolment lists for abstracted multures and services belonging to both Eyemouth and Coal Mills appearing in Summons before the Baron Court of Coldingham five times between October 1568 and May 1598, discussed in Section 4 following. From 1622, then Prior John Stuart, disposed much of the property of the Priory granting charters to small landowners. On 12th July 1647, within the family, there was a disposition in favour of Alexander Home of Prendergaist (Prenderguest) of the mill of Coldingham called the Coilmyln, with the multures, suckin, mill dam and other pertinents. This document is one of the first to describe the pertinents, discussed at 3.3 next. The year following, Cromwell attacked and destroyed the Priory.
With the gathering pace of agricultural reform in the C18th, the issues of Thirlage and abstraction continue in printed papers from 1722 and Patrick Home’s Memorial of 1761 is examined again in Section 4.2. At the time of the Process of Decreet of the Division of Coldingham Common in 1776, Wm. Idington is recorded as tenant of Coal Miln.
Milldown Farm was known as Colemill Farm in the late 1700’s when historical novelist Eliza Logan came to live in Coldingham where her husband held its tenancy. Early charters identify Milldown as an old monastic name, but in 1806 Mrs. Logan is recorded as conferring it as the farm’s new title. The
existing tenant of Cole Mill relinquished her tack in favour of the Logans before its term was out. (Berwickshire Naturalists Club History Vol XVIII.1901-02). Thomson (1908) states in 1811 there was a population of 7 at the Mill and 12 at Milldown Farm next door. The 1851 Coldingham Parish Census lists Milldown Mill with miller John Nicholson, 51, with wife Jane, 43, with 3 daughters, 6 sons and 1 grandson James Thorburn. At neighbouring Milldown Farm was farmer James Brown, 51, with wife Susan, 38, with 4 sons and 1 daughter, farming 116 acres, employing 2 labourers. The 1861 Census does not have a Mill entry, but that of the farm shows continuing occupation and same tenure (105 aces, 3 labourers). The 1855-56 valuation roll records the farm at Milldown tenanted by James Brown with a yearly rental value of £335. There is no Mill entry.
Modern recorded history starts in March 1854 with the Sasine declaration of Jean Milne Home as heritor of her late father William Foreman Home of Billie which included the lands and estate of Billie and Rickleside, lands acquired in Coldingham with teinds, the Coal Mill and lochs of Coldingham and Mill lands of the same and Barony with them “formerly lay run rig through the fields of Coldingham and were separated from the rest of the town and territory of Coldingham.” On the death of her husband David William Milne Home in 1919 their daughter Helen Margaret Milne Home of Paxton House became heir to the Billie lands and then by marriage as Mrs. Home Robertson of Wedderburn Billie and Paxton until her death in 1991. Milldown Farm, with the Col Mill co-joined, by sale comes out of feudal control in April 1969. The farm and cottages (built in 1851) are sold on again in 1985, and the Col Mill, described as a “picturesque ruin” in 1901, was separated from the farm and sold privately in December 1992 and then again in February 1998.


The original of this document is held in Durham University’s Library Special Collections Unit. It is the first known reference to the Col Mill and its use and workings in Commercial Terms. The parchment is written in medieval Latin and has affixed lead seals as the photographic image here shows. It is of particular interest as the lease was drawn up to reflect the English Law style of the time, not Scots, as Coldingham Priory was the possession of the Church of Durham. The bargains of the lease are fair to the tenant and reflect an enlightened and well-educated administration of the Priory and Chapter. In many respects it would do credit to a modern day agent’s agreement. The translation is attached.
Indentured Agreement1
On 15 August (the Feast of the Assumption) 1326 an agreement made between Adam, Prior of Coldingham, and Radulphus Konmaker2 with the consent of the brothers of the priory for the lease of two mills, that of Spodell and that of Colle with all their sequels3 for the term of five years complete. The cost to Radulphus was to be 100 pounds sterling4 to be paid to the prior and his successors as 20 pounds a year, half at the Feast of the Assumption and half at the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (21st February). The terms of the lease were that Radulphus would be responsible for all the expenses of the mill except that he would get all the timber from the prior’s wood delivered by the prior’s forester whenever there was a need for repairs; that he would give up the mill in good repair at the end of the lease; that he would grind corn (for general use) and his own portions, as was the custom in the past; that the agreement was to be observed faithfully; and that (at the end of the contract?) (the prior’s) bailies should take and keep all Radulphus’ and the prior’s moveable goods immoveable goods, wherever found, until there was satisfaction about damages and whether the prior was in any way liable. For failure to pay money from the principal debt to the priory and for the greater security of these payments three named individuals (one was a former officer of Coldinghamshire and the other two local millers) were found and bound themselves, their heirs and executors to stand surety5 collectively in the same way as Radulphus was bound, and if it happened that there were damages because of the non-payment of multures6 these would be would be credited under the oversight of trustworthy men. In witness of all these conditions the seals of the church fathers were attached to the document
1 In Scottish terminology at least this document is not a charter – the word is only used for documents which grant possession of heritable property. You will of course be familiar with the Coldingham charters in the Register of the Great Seal of Scotland. Leases (or ‘tacks’ as they are commonly called in Scotland) are not considered to be heritable.
2 I am not sure if I have a correct reading of the first and sixth letters. The word is certainly not a Latin word and therefore almost certainly must be a name.
3 This is the technical term for that part of the corn to be ground which the miller was entitled to keep for his own use.
4 Literally ‘of sterlings’ which I always feel gives the impression of a pile of silver coins.
5 If this abstract had been for a Scottish client I would have used the word ‘cautioners’ which is the exact translation of ‘fideiussores’.
6 This is the technical term for the sum of money paid to the miller on the ground corn which was sold (as distinct from the ‘sequels’ which applied to unground corn) and therefore would be the responsibility of the prior and not the miller.



These charters of disposition comprise two separate documents as follows:-
(i) The Instrument of Sasine, registered at Edinburgh 23rd August 1647 taken from Register Book pages 65-67. The continuous copy entry record style makes this document difficult to distinguish and read, and is here translated from the Latin test as follows and attached.
(ii) The Instrument of Resignation in Favour of Alexander Home of Prenderguest by Alexander Home of Blackhill of 28th January 1648. This document is written in old Scots with a preamble and conclusion in Latin. The cover page, quoted here, has an English summary as follows:-
“of All and Haill that Myln of Coldingham called the Coilmyln astricted Multures, Sucken & Water Passagis on Dame of said Myln & pertinents thirof & All & Hail the piece of land called Coilburnbraes alias Coildene lyand frae the leid of the said Colburn to the end thereof where it rinnes in the Sea on baith the sides of the said Coilburne of Cold(ingha)me having the arable land of Coldingham on the North and West & the arable lands of Law on the South & Eist parts – with All and Haill that piece of Land called the Lynkes of Coldingham, with the pertinents together also with the Comoun pasture & free ish & entry upon the Comoun Mure of Cold(ingha)m.”
Aside from the preamble, conclusion, and at the end, the docquet of the Notary, also in Latin, this Instrument reads similarly to the Instrument of Sasine. “The leid of the said Coilburn” could be the lade or water channel between the dam and the mill although referred to as “head” in the Sasine text. A copy is attached.
General Register of Sasines – RS1/57/65-67
This Instrument of Sasine is in Latin and was registered at Edinburgh on the 23 August 1647
(in margin – Sasine of Alexr Home of Plandergaist of the Coilmylne and Lyntis (sic) of Coldinghame – Berwick)
On the 2 August 1647, on the ground of the mill and land being conveyed, in presence of the notary and witnesses, compeared William Dickiesone, messenger in West Reston who had been specially appointed as bailie for that occasion and also compeared Alexander Home of Plandergaist (sic) who presented two charters containing precepts of sasine which had been granted by Alexander Home of Blakhill to him and his heirs male and assigneys, heritably and irredeemably without redemption. These charters involved all and whole the mill of Coldinghame called the Coilmylne with astricted multures called sucken and its water called the mill dam; all and whole the little piece of land of Coilburnebreas (sic) called Coildene lying at the head of the Coilburne of Coldinghame, with the arable lands of Coldinghame on the north and west and the arable lands of Law on the south and east parts; also all and whole that little piece of land called the lynks of Coldinghame, with free entry and exit to the common pasturage in the moor of Coldinghame, lying in the barony of Coldinghame and Sheriffdom of Berwick to be held in feu from the King and his successors, as his immediate superior, in free blench and also from the said Alexander Home of Blakhill and his heirs. Both charters contained precepts of sasine in which William Dickisoune was appointed as bailie to give sasine to Alexander Home of Plandergaist. The precept was written by Alexander Carmichaell, servitor to John Leirmont, writer to his majesty’s signet at Edinburgh on the 22 July 1647, in presence of Major William Home, William Home of Linthill and the said John Leirmont and Alexander Carmichaell. The two charters were then handed to the notary to be read and explained to the assembled company, after which William Dickiesone gave corporal, actual and real possession of the mill and lands to Alexander Home of Plandergaist. This took the form of handing him a handful of earth and stones of the ground and also the clapper of the mill. Then, Alexander Home asked the notary to draw up the Instrument of Sasine in his favour. All this was done on the ground of and mill of Coilsmyln between 8 and 9 in the morning, in presence of John Home of Beopark, Alexander Watson and William Scherilaw, millers at the said mill, witnesses who have been invited to attend. The notary was George Todrig whose docquet is then engrossed




On non-monastic lands King David I of Scotland subjected the mills to tithes, a century before Henry III imposed the system on mills in England. On monastic lands, the monks, who built the mills to produce flour and meal for their own use, also thirled all tenants on the Abbey lands to their mills. On the dissolution of the Abbeys at the Reformation the mills passed into the hands of the baronial estates with the system of thirlage intact. Thirlage had the twin purposes of raising revenue and exerting feudal control over tenants. The monks obtained large revenues from their mills as did Baronial estates. Nevertheless it seems the system was applied with some leniency until the advent of agricultural improvement in C18th. Bursts of enforcement activity on the baron Baillie’s part to Barony and Sheriff Courts were usually occasioned by complaints from a miller whose income was dropping, compelling backsliding tenants to attend the mill and pay multures. The situation became less workable and challenged during the C18th culminating in the Thirlage Act of 1799, a statute removing a major vestige of the feudal land system. The campaign to abolish thirlage came as a result of two pressures. Estates entering the spirit of agricultural improvement put energy into repair and rebuilding of mills (particularly following the Reformation on former monastic lands) and into stricter enforcement of estate administration. Enforcement of attendance on the estate mill was increased. Because, as above, by the C18th older mills had been allowed to decay, millers had often complained to the Baronial Courts of the difficulty of making tenants come to them, and sued for abstracted multures. The Courts of Session saw increasing numbers of cases in which one landowner sued another for abstraction of multures because the tenants of one estate with an ill-kept mill resorted to the better mill of a neighbour. Until they separated around or after 1610, Coal Mill had been from the start co-joined with principal Eyemouth mill. Thirled tenants were free to attend either mill.
The outcome of commutation was that mills supported by the interest of their landowner, as distinct from the energy and enterprise of the tacksman or miller himself, lost their basis of existence and economic survival. This is discussed in Section 5. Those millers who were competent tradesmen and situated in districts where there was sufficient trade to enable diversification of business interests survived the ending of thirlage, particularly those who, like enterprising new large farm tenants, were prepared to invest their own capital in developing their mill’s machinery and equipment.
The terms and practices of thirlage – service to the mill – and astriction – are set out as follows:-
Those tenants living on an estate (i.e. within the thirl of that estate) were THIRLED to the estate’s mill, the capital costs of building the mill, and providing some of its internal machinery, having been borne by the landowner. They were bound to bring their corn to be ground to their landlord’s mill and no other. Tenants so thirled were known as SUCKENERS, the area over which the mill held this power was the SUCKEN. Sucken and thirl are used with the same meaning. In the higher courts the word ASTRICTED is more often used than thirled. Tenants’ thirlage to the mill bound them to perform certain services for the miller and to pay MULTURES AND SEQUELS MULTURE (or MOULTER) pronounced ‘mooter’, a fixed proportion of the tenant’s grain to be paid to the miller, known as the MULTURER. These payments were usually supervised by the miller himself. INSUCKEN multures were paid by the thirled tenants. OUTSUCKEN multures had to be paid by those living outside the mill’s sucken area who on occasion brought their grain to that mill for grinding. DRY MULTURES were extracted on some estates as a proportion of grain grown by tenants whether brought to the mill to be ground into meal or not.

ABSTRACTED MULTURES: when tenants failed to bring their corn to the mill of the thirl, they could be sued for ABSTRACTION. SEQUELS: Small amounts of meal paid to the miller’s servants over and above the amount owing to the miller himself as multurer. Usually accepted as the quantity known as Knaveship, bannock or the lick or lock of goodwill.


4.2.1 1568-1598 Enrolments for Abstracted Multures.
1667 – 1676 Decreets of Astriction and Thirlage.
The synopsis of the Col Mill site at 3.1 previously identifies the first hand historical record or “Memorial” of Patrick Home of Billie prepared for the Berwickshire Sheriff Court as pursuer of Summons for declaration of abstracted multures and failings of his tenants to provide service to Eyemouth and Coal Mills. The Memorial runs to 9 closely handwritten pages and its main contents are here paraphrased, giving an insight into estate and land management of the time:
“What generally happens in all extensive thirlages appears to have happened in this thirlage. It was very difficult to keep the thirlers within bounds and prevent abstractions. This was the source and occasion of various interdicts and processes carried on at very different and distant periods, but as the Heritor of the mill always prevailed they will now contribute in some degree to establish and ascertain the astriction. The memorialist will mention as shortly as possible some of the Principal Documents and Decreets which have from time to time (borne) relative to this thirlage:
1. First enrolment of the Baron Court of Coldingham, obtained by William Home, Brother to the Laird of Ayton, against Abstractors from Eyemouth and Coal Mills, and services belonging to said mills, 22nd Oct 1568
‘And ordering (persons) within the said towns of Coldingham and Eyemouth that they should pay multures of their fornis to the said William or his Factors.’
2. Decreet for abstracted multures Libra Hamilton against the tenants of Eyemouth and Coldingham – 20th June 1575
‘Charging the tenants of Coldingham and Eyemouth and pendicles to grind their corns pay thirle multures and assist in casting the dams and bringing home millstones…conform to the charter of feu-farm in favour of William Home of Lochtullo.’ (1535)
3. Second Enrolment obtained by the above William Home and Libra Hamilton his spouse against the inhabitants of Eyemouth, Coldingham, Coldingham Law etc for abstractions from said Mills – 11th April 1583
‘(as before) to take their dry multures (to the mill)…Persons disobeying either in coming or going from other Milns or said persons steal away with their fornis in the night.’
4. Protestation 16th April 1586 against two persons by proprietors.
5. Act of Astriction of some tenants in Coldinghame and Rickleside, to Eyemouth and Coal Mills, before the Baron Court of Coldinghame – 6th February 1597
‘Act of Astriction several persons of Coldingham and Bogangreen & tenants of Rickleside, named, whereby they oblige themselves to grind their corns at mills of Eyemouth and Coldingham and not abstract in time coming.’
6. Compulsitor, the above Libra Hamilton and William Home her husband against the abstractors from said Mills – 3rd May 1598
“Astricting and thirling all and sundry persons inhabitants within the towns of Coldingham, Coldingham Law, Northfield and other pendicles thereabouts and Eyemouth…and that they had not given obedience therefore…he issued his precept for Poinding and Distrainging their readist goods and gear of the contraveners to the extent of money of this realm & charges & commands them to give obedience in time forming under the like pain’.”
Following the period of Reformation, the difficulties of Service to the Mill continue, and the Home Memorial continues with:
“7. Decreet, Home of Linthill etc. against all and sundrie – 21st Feb 1667.
Before the Sheriff of Berwick at the insistence of Alexander Home of Linthill and Col. John Home of Prendergaist at that time proprietor of the Coal mill against certain persons therein named inhabitants of Eyemouth and Coldingham Law Coldingham and Pendicles for abstractions…
‘Inhabitants thirled to the said miln of Eyemouth and Coalmylne pertaining to the pursuers by virtue of their rights and documents produced and therefore decreed and ordained the defenders therein mentioned and all of them to bring their grindable corns that they should make use of and bring Home the millstones and the dams thereof and do and perform other services used and want under the penalty of 5 lib.Scots for a transgression.’
8. Attached a similar precept of Poinding against abstractions and dry multures since 27th April 1966.
9. Decreet, Alexander Home of Linthill against Andrew Young and others Decreet of Astriction and Thirlage – 24th June 1676.
‘It appears that no less than 103 persons inhabitants of Coldingham, Eyemouth & Pendicles and defenders except 19 who possessed lands belonging to Estates of Renton.”
“And here it is of consequence to know if it appears from the above writs whether the inhabitants of the towns of Coldingham and Eyemouth are astricted as such or if it is only as feuars and possessors of lands.”


Having prepared the chronological order of Principal documents and Decreets the Home Memorial concludes that in the charters there is no distinction of the persons or places asticted to one or other mill. It was optional to the thirle to go to the one or to the other mill either at Coal or Eyemouth. At the time of writing in 1761 there were other threats to the principle of thirlage and its service:
“The memoralist will now mention very shortly new fashions which have been introduced into this thirlage all of them of late years only.
1. Many steel mills have been erected for grinding of Malt. Persons pay or pretend to pay dry multure to the miller for this privilege. This strikes at the very existence of his thirlage.
2. The next custom introduced is equally subversive of the thirlage and at least fraudulent in itself. Inhabitants of the towns of Coldingham and Eyemouth buy meal for the use of their families which has been imported ready ground. Feuars and other possessors of land sell the whole fornis that grow on the lands astricted and thus evade the thirlage.
3. Several inn keepers now import their ale from Berwick, selling it by retail to the great hurt of the thirlage and duties payable for grinding of malt. Other inhabitants bring bread from Berwick and sell it out again by retail. The duties on the grinding of wheat have much decreased with complaints from the thirle of the expense of erecting a Bluestone Mill (wheel) for accommodating them in grinding of wheat.”


Coal and Eyemouth Mills.
Two reference documents of the Billie Estate following the 1761 Home Memorial provide an insight into the business of the mill and the values of its outputs some 14 years before the Decreet of Division of Coldingham Common of 1776. The legal process had begun in 1771 but certainly by 1762-63, some 11 years beforehand, dissent against early agricultural reform and the old feudal practices of thirlage and service to the Mill had been growing amongst small owners of property, crofters, farm-feuars, servants and individuals. Patrick Home’s Factor prepared an inventory of suspected transgressors and others of doubtful behaviour for yet another summons to the Court comprising the Note of Abstracted Multures of 1762. The Court prepared a summary roll of defenders in 1763 of those deemed answerable to their Superior’s complaints showing the yearly values of their abstractions and the time from which they had abstracted.
The 1762 Note is of both historical and social interest. Apart from the purely factual information of the tenure status and occupation of individuals, it contains sometimes terse commentary of both behaviour and character of individuals and candid opinion from its author. Both documents are attached as follows: a transcription of the 1762 Note and the original of the Roll of Defenders.
Figure 4.3.1 is also included to give spatial geographical context using the Berwickshire 1771 Map plate from Thomson (1908). This is one of the earliest reliable publications of detail and shows the sites of both Cold and Eyemouth mills, in the case of the Col Mill, before the naming of Milldown (see 3.1).
(When tenants failed to bring their corn to the mill of the thirl they could be sued for ABSTRACTION.)
1. John Bogue entered to Hallydown at Whit Sunday 1758 and to Bea Edge at the same time. The multure of the corns used by him and his hynds and servants at Hallydown is worth £3 yearly at least and £1.10 for Bea Edge.
• Wm Landells tenant of the Mains of Law has possessed that Mains for seven years or thereby. But this tenant has grinded his corn regularly at Linthill Miln & his thirle duty may be worth £2 yearly.
• Whitecross now belongs to Wm. Dickson, the yearly value of the multures may be worth £2 yearly.
• Hillend now belongs to James Thomson, he entered at Whits 1760 & ye yearly value of his multures may be worth £2.
• Patrick Thornton, Alexander Home & John Hood, partioners of Coldingham Law, and their servants grind pretty regularly at Eyemouth Miln & the yearly value of the multure payable by each of them is worth about £10 yearly.
• John Home of Paddockmyre and his tenants have abstracted their multures these three years past – the value of their multure yearly is about 20/-. His tenants name is John Allanshaw.
• Robert McGall has a house and some acres of land in ye law, the house is possessed by John Swanston and land by Wm. Cow – none of them grind at Linthill or Colmyln – the yearly value of their thirle duty may be £5 each.
2. Sir James Home hath always possessed a plough gate of his lands in Coldingham and has grinded nothing at any of W. Homes milns. The yearly value of his multures including his hynds may be worth 30/- yearly, since Sir John’s death which was in the year 1755 or 1756.
• Patrick Edington possesses the farm of Moorside belonging to Sir James and has abstracted his whole multures which is worth £2 yearly. He has been in possession 8 or 9 years.
• James Edington, George Moor & Wm. Young possess a small ploughgate of Sir James’ acres in Coldinghame who are thirled by their tacks to Sir James to West Reston mill & the yearly value of their multures may be worth £3 for these four years past, whereof James Edington should pay 30/- and George Moor and Wm. Young 15/- each.
• John Niel possesses a ploughgate of Bogangreen land and abstracts all he entered at Martinmas 1758. The yearly value of his multures may be worth 20/-.
• Robert Dunbar & Cousins possess each of a small ploughgate of Bogangreen land and abstract their whole multures which is worth 10/- each yearly. They have been four or five years in possession.
The rest of Bogangreen lands is possessed by a number of tenants in two three or four acres aforesaid.
3. Alexis Tinllon portioner of Coldingham is proprietor of a tenement of houses and croft of land and possesses a farm belonging to Mr. Home of Billie and grinds all his corns at Col Miln – he is married on ye Millers sister.
• John Anderson, tenant in Blackpotts and widow Paterson in Westerside, Mr. Home’s own tenants, refuse to pay thirle duty and go by both his milns – their thirle duty’s are worth 20/- each yearly.
• Matthew Craig, Thos. Hopper & Jas. Wedderburn have each a tenement of houses & a small croft in Coldingham Hill. The two last grind all their corns at Mr. Homes Milns but Matthew Craig abstracts the whole of his thirle which may be worth 10/- yearly for these 20 years past.
• John Allan possesses the Houses and Croft of land in Coldingham belonging to (Mr.) Edinton in Newcastle and grinds all his corns very regularly at the Col Miln – his thirle duty’s are worth 15/- yearly.
• W. Jolly the Minister possesses the Glebe and the interest which belongs to Thos. Rule & John Gothry says he grinds very regularly with him.
• Alexander Johnston portioner of Coldingham & Jean Bowmaker, Wm. McNair & John Polwarth his tenants abstract most of their corns. Their thirle duty’s may be about 5/- each yearly for seven years past.
4. Robert Cossar and Robert Paterson are each proprietor of a large tenement of houses & a small portion of land – the thirle duty’s payable by the possessors of each of these tenements is worth 20/- at least. They grind pretty regularly at Mr. Homes Milns but there is a small miln erected in Robert Cossars tenement which is of great prejudice to the milns.
• John Nisbet is proprietor of a tenement of houses and about a dozen acres of land which he possesses himself and grinds all his corns at the Colmiln because his daughter is married to the miller – this grist is worth 20/- yearly.
• Alexander Robertson & Thos. Turnbull are proprietors each of a tenement of houses & a small piece of land, they & their tenants grind at Mr. Homes Milns – their yearly grist is worth about 10/- each.
• Wm. Trair in Swansfield is proprietor of a small inculling in Muirside and a tenement of houses & croft in the Loan, possessed by Jean Bowmaker, James Paxton & James Paterson. They seldom grind at Mr. Homes milns. The thirle duty’s of all maybe 15/- yearly at least.
• Wm. Spouse Butcher is proprietor of a large tenement of houses & six acres of land or thereby, he & his tenants grind regularly at Mr. Homes Milns. The thirle duty’s of this interest is worth 20/- yearly.
5. James Edington and John Wedderburn are proprietors of a tenement of houses and about two acrews of land each which they possess themselves. They grind at Mr. Homes Milns for the most part, the value of both their thirles may be worth about 10/- per ann.
• William Turnbull has possessed the Mailling of Beepark, the property of Mr. Robert Brydon deceased for 4 years at Whit 1762. He has constantly abstracted all his corns from Mr. Homes milns – the value of his thirle duty’s is 20/- yearly or thereby.
• William Spouse Baxter Feuar in Coldinghame is proprietor of a large tenement of houses, he goes sometimes by Mr. Homes milns with his wheat, his yearly grist is worth 40/- including his baking of which he abstracts about one half.
• Alexander Craig messenger & innkeeper grinds all his corns at Mr. Homes milns, at least he and the Millers say so.
• Wm. Tuck & his wife sell a great deal of bread which they buy from Berwick & Dunse.
• Wm. Wedderburn, Paul Richardson, Robert Blair and several others of the small feuars and householders, grind sometimes at Mr. Homes and sometimes at other milns & Adam Mason a gardener is a fractious Blade, he refuses to the thirle at all he & the other small bodies may be charged with 10/- yearly.
This note of abstractors in Coldinghame Parish, probably prepared by Patrick Home of Billie’s Factor can be closely read with the Patrick Home Memorial, this written by the proprietor himself in 1761, a year before. Sir James Home is proprietor of Manderston.
This concentration of estate management and enforcement of service to both Col and Eyemouth Mills comes some 14 years before the division of Coldingham Common Decreet of 1776. Eyemouth mill was also known as Linthill.
A ploughgate is a medieval unit of landholding measurement based on the output of a team of oxen and ploughmen over a fixed period of time.
The standard varies according to location and Parish, but one ploughgate usually measures between 10 and 13 modern acres.
By Decreet of Declaration of 1722 the property and lands of Coldingham Law were declared astricted to Eyemouth mill only.






The first records of the existence of the Col Mill come from the early monastic rolls of 1292 of Coldingham Priory and its tenure by the 1326 Charter of Adam de Pontefract. Whether an earlier building and mill was established in the earliest days of the Priory’s foundation is not known, but the first watermills were certainly built by abbeys and monasteries for their own use. For their time, they were advanced examples of mechanical engineering, built by the monks to produce flour and meal for their own use. Early information on what a mill might produce apart from meal is scanty, but it is known that from about 1168 mills were used for fulling, involving converting the rotary movement of the wheel into a striking action of hammers. Fulling mills were known as “walk mills” (cf. Waulkmill at nearby Reston); if water power was insufficient at any time, men had to tread or “walk” the cloth. Tanning mills using the trip hammer device start from 1217, the tan bark, particularly of Oak, crushed to make dye. Papermaking from rags was known from 1290 onwards, and by 1361 paint mills were grinding ochres and other pigments. Sawmilling has a first reference in 1376. (Paper was made from straw after 1780, but the circular saw we know today was not in existence until 1777.) By the 1300’s the vertical waterwheel dominated but the horizontal Norse wheel continued in widespread use in highland Scotland.
The Black Death and Plague after 1349 had a severe effect on all aspects of rural life and it seems many mills became unused and derelict until the 1500’s. What happened to the Col Mill is not known over this period and no doubt the use of domestic querns was widespread at the time and is certainly recorded during the plague period together with the use of meal arks. The Col Mill’s physical site is particularly interesting as providing an ideal location for damming the Milldown Burn for water storage and the easy leading of water to a mill building and platform built on solid stone directly off the bed of the watercourse in a natural gorge setting. Because of the ready availability of local materials it seems likely the mill would have been built at an early age from stone with the resources and skills of the Priory’s stonemasons and artisans, well able to withstand the vibration and strain of a vertical wheel as opposed to wooden construction. The least durable element was the roof, probably sodded and thatched with resources from Coldingham Moor, and needing periodic repair and even replacement as the 1326 charter shows.
The basic power drive system of a water mill spread over 3 floors is shown on Fig 5.5.1 based on the vertical wheel. The lowest floor next to the wheel was the cog pit. The wheel shaft provided the motive power to the pit wheel which was transferred through bevelled cogs 90o via the wallower to the crown shaft rising vertically up to the second and third floors. As with the wheel and the stones themselves, the crown shaft was an expensive part of the basic machinery, needing a long, strong and straight stem of timber. Stone nuts from the spur wheel below drove the stones themselves, the top stone of each pair “under-driven” as figure 5.5.1 shows. On the third floor the crown wheel allowed auxiliary drives as power take-offs. At the Col Mill such a drive ran to the Granary across and under the mill courtyard to a cog pit reached by trap door in the granary floor. Fig 5.1.2 shows the typical milling operations from customer delivery to the finished product.
Rebuilding and repair apart, the first attempts to increase the output of a mill involved making the waterwheel drive a second pair of stones via a lay shaft and gearing. The second pair of stones usually turned faster than the originals and were thus often smaller in size. During the C15th to C18th making of iron steadily improved and became fairly widespread. Waterwheels made use of the advance of ironwork to improve their own performance until the late 1700’s when a stage was reached still embodied in some of the oldest surviving restored mills seen today which date from the early 1800’s. Although described as a “picturesque ruin” in 1901, the Col Mill fits this evolutionary pattern and some interpretation of how it may have worked can be attempted today. Two improvement engineers of the time are pre-eminent, John Smeaton (1724-92) for development of the waterwheel, and Andrew Meikle (1719-1811) inventor of the threshing machine and of improvements to mill work. Smeaton’s work developed overshot wheels of much larger size. Power could be transmitted by means of shafts and belting to particular operations and even to several closely placed buildings by introduction of the great spur wheel. Originally wooden, like all the gears, these large wheels soon
became cast in iron. The overshot wheel, in use at the Col Mill, could attain efficiencies of 60% to 70% operating best at a peripheral speed of about 3ft per second. (For a 30ft (9m) Øwheel = rotation speed of two revolutions per minute.) The overshot wheel requires water to be carried over the top of the wheel, falling beyond its centre. The ladewater is carried in its final stages by a trough, usually of Elm boards which might be supported on wooden props, stone or brick pillars, and controlled by a penstock. An overshot wheel needs only ¼ of the water to turn it effectively compared to the undershot wheel, but there must be a suitable fall of water and flow and speed must be carefully regulated by the lade. To reduce noise and vibration many arrangements of gearing employed secondary wooden cogs preferably made of crab apple, also in order of preference, Hornbeam, Beech, Whitethorn, Acacia and Oak. Failing those Holly, Box, Ash and Elm were occasionally used.
The traditional millstone gritstones were used for grinding barley, oats, beans and peas. Many local stone sources were used, the essential being a hard quartz sandstone of sufficient strength and bedding thickness. Typically stones would be 2′-6′ Ø and 15″ to 17½” thick (eg Derbyshire Peak), which were replaced when worn down to about 3″ thick. French Burr stones or Bluestones were usually used for wheat (a hard chalcedonic quartz from fresh water limestones above the chalk found in the east and west Paris basin) from the later 1700’s when home produced wheat became more available for breadmaking. The considerable skills and operating crafts of setting, dressing and running these essential and most valuable elements of the milling operation is well beyond the scope of these brief descriptions and is a major part of watermilling folklore.
Freshly milled meal would be stored on the ground floor (cog-pit or cog-hole) ready for customer delivery, or to be hoisted to the top floor (of a 3 floor mill) for storing. The miller would receive his customers on the ground floor. On the stone grinding floor above would be the water penstock lever to control the speed and flow of water to the (overshot) wheel. Through this floor a hoist would pass up to the upper floor above for sacks to be hoisted to the loft and “bin floor” where rows of sacks of customers’ grain were stored waiting to be ground next to the hoppers down which the grain would be poured to the hopper over the millstones on the floor below. This arrangement may be readily visualised at the Col Mill which was of the 3 floor type.
Originally many mills had drying kilns added in 2 storey extensions where grain would be dried before grinding. Some mills prepared barley malt on open floors above the kiln which was dried, pressed and pulverised under rotating stones before being made into mash for beer making. The Col Mill certainly has the typical extension which may have included 3 floors including living accommodation towards the roof, reasonably warm, and some distance from the vibration and noise of the wheel and working parts of the adjoining mill. At the Col Mill in the large granary store building adjoining, a below ground mechanical power takeoff ran from the mill building. From evidence remaining employment of mechanically driven grain cleaning machines with various sizes of sieve allowed removal of husks and debris left from the threshing process.
These may have included rotary wire machines sited here or within the mill on the cog-pit floor and further sieves as flour dressers after grinding to separate out grades of flour typically as (1) Fine-best quality (2) “Middlings” or “Sharps” and (3) Bran for animal feed. The discarded waste (for pig feeding) was offal. The granary building is constructed to a noticeably high standard of stonework and internal timber structural floors and roof and must have had considerable internal usable space for storage and other uses. The arrangement would have allowed in season a travelling thresher to operate in the farm rickyard at the high level behind or even at low level within the mill courtyard for delivery of other harvest loads not immediately connected with the Milldown Farm. This focus of investment and industry would have been at the zenith of local milling between 1800 and 1850 (see Appendix I notes Agriculture 1760-1860) when low operating costs made the waterwheel supreme over early steam power.
Additional references:
1. Waterwheels and Windmills Explained – Stan Yorke – Countryside Books 2006
2. British Water Mills – Leslie Syson – Batsford 1965
From the 1850’s traditional milling of meal was eclipsed (after Repeal of the Corn Laws and open free trade with Europe by 1860) by the lower costs of new roller mills and large imports of cheap American grain brought in by sea to coastal ports. Traditional rural mills could rarely adapt to any other use. Until about 1850 all grain was ground as wholemeal flour which has a short keeping life. Properly kept and stored away from damp and vermin, the grain itself will keep for some time. Modern flours with the bran and wheatgerm extracted (white) have enhanced keeping qualities. The new US and Canadian wheat was harder and did not grind well with conventional stones used for barley and oats.
From records it seems the Col Mill passed in the late 1850’s from separate tenure to be co-joined with Milldown Farm. Low grain prices, much greater investment in stock rearing and sheep in agriculture to the end of the C9th seem to have hastened the Col Mill’s decline to its “picturesque” condition reported in 1901.



There do not appear to be early records describing or referring to the mill dam and the impoundment of water until the Home Charter of 1647 which describes both as assets and rights of the mill. Vertical waterwheels, as described above, were in general use, but it is not possible, beyond speculation of this early phase of the mill’s evolution to know if a wheel was mounted externally or built into the structure, as seen later. There is no surviving evidence of an early lade water channel between the dam and mill, and what survives today, largely intact, dates from the zenith of the mill’s economic performance described in sections 5.1 before. What we can therefore accurately describe and recall today comes from this period. The need for a crossing over the Milldown Burn to give access to the Cole Farm’s outlying fields on the south side of the burn’s precipitous small gorge was long established and the main dam structure provided a roadway along the length of its crests, flanked by upstand protective edge parapet walls. This route allowed passage of horse and cart and agricultural machinery over an embanked length of some 60m. The structure was contained by two parallel, but separated, upstream and downstream facing walls, the retaining function, about 3 or 4 metres apart, completed by softer non-masonary infilling materials with some later steel and iron crossbracing bars to support and provide the roadway. The hydraulic function of the dam fully utilised its natural site and profile of the burn gorge and waterway. A central penstock, operated from the upstream wall face, regulated a main scour sluice cut down into a deepened rockbed. To the north bank side was the mill lade sluice which regulated and controlled the water supply to the mill along a gravity inclined mill lade channel some 75 metres in length. Some 32 metres consisted of an above ground channel which was then culverted to run the remaining 43 metres beneath the farm’s stockyard to its point of discharge above the wheel within and below the mill’s front doorway entrance. At the burn’s south bank an inclined masonry arch beneath the roadway provided an open waterway for storm overflows to regulate and control the reservoirs safe operating water levels, the outfall cut into a deepened but elevated natural side channel of the burn. In October and November 2002 a sudden flood overwhelmed the long neglected and disused dam structure, long empty of reservoir water, and the remains were demolished and removed on safety grounds by Scottish Borders Council. All that remains is a concrete capped plinth in the lower stream bed supporting part of the original scour channel structure, the roadway crossing the burn now extinguished. Plan 5.3.3 shows the general arrangement of the dam, before demolition, probably extant from early Victorian date.


An external measured ground survey of the mill site was made over Summer 2014. From this three drawings attached have been prepared:
Plan 5.3.1 Historical Survey layout 1850-1900. This plan is prepared from archive photographs, the Ordnance Survey 1st and 2nd Edition 1:2500 scale plans of the area and a plan of a stockbuilding of C.1850’s date from a Royal Commission record. The stockbuildings of Milldown Farm adjoin the Mill and Granary, obviously closely associated.
Plan 5.3.2 The Present day measured survey shows the surviving features and buildings as they exist on the same site today.
Plan 5.3.2 The Mill Dam Elevation and Cross Section is a reconstruction, part diagrammatic but on an accurate base, from foundations remaining in the ground and the known structure existing in 1980.




6.1 APPENDIX 1 – AGRICULTURE 1760-1860

During the earlier part of C18th agriculture had been quietly prosperous without any great increase in the cultivated area of land. From 1730 to 1750 agricultural depression was experienced by landlords and farms. It was marked by the fall in the price of wheat, the trend for agricultural rents to fall in sympathy and a piling-up of arrears of rural rent. There was a considerable export trade in grain, yet home prices remained moderate, benefitting the mass of the population. The general standard of living rose and by 1760 wheat had become the chief breadstuff of half the population of the country. The pioneering work in the improvement of agricultural methods was already well underway and a steady pressure of increase in population was growing. By the later C18th the pressure of a growing population was aggravated by the almost incessant strain of warfare and resulting wartime scarcity. There was an urgent necessity for increased supplies of foodstuffs, both corn and meat, and the pressure on the enclosure of the common pastures and open-field arable run-rig was accelerated. (Cf. Coldingham Common Order 1776). Up to the 1750’s under Rig and Run-rig, rent of infield land ranged from 1½d to 5s per acre. The New Statistical Account of Berwickshire’s Gordon parish records waste land sold in 1787 for £1-10s to £5 per acre. After improvement, 40 years later in 1827, 24 acres bought previously realised £900.
The amount of grain imported before the French wars was relatively insignificant, and in many good harvest years exports of grain nationally exceeded imports. But Great Britain was dependent on foreign sources for only about 5% of wheat supplies in average years during the war period. But at intervals during the wars there was a serious shortage of grain causing high prices because of dislocation of normal life. Scottish grain production increased considerably during this period – the area under arable cultivation markedly – but there was considerable fluctuation between years even during the years when the price of wheat was so low as to be unprofitable to farmers, taking into account the increases which were taking place in rents, labourers’ wages and other farming expenses. On the other hand, there were years when farmers could get almost any price for their product, even when foreign grain, of whatever origin, was imported. Thomson (1908) quotes Coldingham Kirk-session records extracts of Intimations of 2nd February 1800 of the concerns of high grain prices caused by the very poor growing season of 1799 and the need to adopt measures for supplying ‘the lower classes of inhabitants in the Parish with meal at a time of great scarcity and high price of corn”. A further Intimation of 31st May 1800 records that “the scarcity of corn still prevails” and that wheat cost £3-£5 per Boll, Barley £2-10s, Oats £2-5s per Berwickshire Boll, Oatmeal 7s6d and Barley meal 4s per stone, Dutch weight.
Wheat prices over the period 1720-1750 were steady at 25s to 28s per quarter. During the Napoleonic Wars prices rose on the same unit of measurement: 1795 – 50s to 81s6d, 1796 to 96s and by 1812 to 126s. (See also Appendix 2.) Both in agriculture and in new manufacturing industry, the inflationary effect of the wars widened the gap between employers and wage earners. High wartime prices of agricultural produce had brought profit to farmers and landlords, but not to agricultural labourers bound by bondage. On the other hand recruiting for the army and navy stimulated the demand for labour. The introduction of the threshing machine spread from Scotland to the North of England in this period partly because farmers sought to economise in labour which was becoming increasingly expensive due to alternative employments in industry and mining. Agrarian depression followed the ending of the war. To landlords and farmers speedy ruin seemed to threaten – much capital had been sunk into improvement of inferior land and leases had been taken which could not be profitable if prices were suddenly allowed to fall. Northfield farm’s tenant Brodie became insolvent at this time within the term of his lease.
Parliament sought to maintain the price of wheat at a level approaching that experienced during the wars by hurriedly passing the Corn Laws of 1815. The importation of foreign grain was prohibited except where the price of wheat in the English market was higher than 80s per quarter. The quantity of corn continued to grow, notwithstanding a period of intense agrarian depression between 1831 and 1841, but this increased production was not enough to prevent high prices because of the rapid and continuing increase of the Country’s urban population. The call for free trade and the catastrophic wheat harvest failure in England in 1845 and the Irish Potato famine of 1846 caused general agreement that at last markets must be thrown open to free (colonial) trade, including reform and repeal of the Corn Laws and their abandonment (Peel). The free trade policy followed by Peel reached its fullest development in reforms carried out a decade later in agriculture, manufacturing, trade and industry, imports and customs and foodstuffs by Gladstone in 1860, inaugurating “a new age of economic liberalism in Europe”.
By 1850 large imports of grain became possible from Canada and America. Farmers found great difficulty in getting sufficient labourers for harvest work, but agriculture had never been more prosperous than it was in the generation which followed the repeal of the Corn Laws. There was no serious fall in price of wheat which was more profitable than before because of lower costs of production and increased yield by improvements. The population of the country was still rising rapidly – wheat growers prospered, farming profits increased and rents rose. Enlargement of and capital improvements on farms continued with the sinking of much capital in drainage, artificial manures, special cattle foods and machinery. By 1860, with “new gold” added to coinage, the country was prosperous and somewhat complacent. The opening up of the main line railway Berwick-upon-Tweed to London and the local branch lines from 1846 revolutionised local transport. Rural population rose to its maximum 1861-71.
Another period of struggle began in 1861 before the Civil War in America affecting cotton imports. By the 1870’s agriculture had for the first time to meet the full force of transatlantic and growing world completion by developing transport by sea. A general decline in farming extended from 1880 to 1914, and again after WWI. Bad harvests of the early 1880’s were compounded by importation of cheap foodstuffs from overseas. Prices of wheat declined rapidly from the 1870’s at 7s per bushel; 1880’s at 4s; 1890’s at 3s. The rural decline in population had a slight fall 1871-81 and 9% fall 1881-91 so that the rural population by 1911 was lower than when the first census was taken in 1801. The population of Coldingham wad recorded as falling from a high of 850 after the French wars to 65 in 1861, to 647 in 1871 to a lowest point of 480 by 1901 (Thomson 1908).


This Appendix has been drawn up to provide some perspective to the question of what circumstances caused the Col Mill’s apparent zenith around the middle of the C19th recorded by evidence from Ordnance Survey mapping and the investment in farm building and improvement (Milldown Cottages 1851, the quality of the granary building’s masonry and internal timbers visible today) and the then subsequent decline to the condition described at the end of section 5.1.
Principal reference – The Economic History of England 1760-1860 2nd Edition Longmans 1960. Arthur Redford.


From: Agriculture of Northumberland – J. Bailey & G. Culley – 1805.
Board of Agriculture – Berwickshire Report – Kerr 1809.
The first threshing machine was erected successfully by George Meikle, son of Andrew Meikle of Knows-Mill, East Lothian in 1786. Developments allowed machines to be moved by water wheel or powered by wind, and where coals were cheap, by steam power. A threshing machine erected at Chillingham, Northumberland in 1789 was powered by overshot water wheel. Based on a medium supply of water 33 bushels of grain could by yielded per hour or 264 per day of 8 hours, oats yielding more than wheat, depending on the length of straw. Only 3 women workers were needed to attend the threshing and dressing. A complete installation cost some £80-£100 including labour and materials and smaller machines could be provided for about £50. Rollers and millstones were added to crush and grind grain for horse and pigs.
The main grain foodstuffs prepared in a mill included:
WHEAT – Most wheat grown locally was used for breadmaking. Most grain sold at market went via Berwick-upon-Tweed or Eyemouth to London.
RYE – Before 1800 the principal grain grown on all dry light soils. Rarely cultivated after improvements in agriculture. The general bread of the time of labouring people as loaves or ‘sour cakes’ baked in the over or on the girdle.
MASLIN – This was Wheat and Rye mixed, used for household bread, thought superior than wheat alone when mixed with ¼ or ⅓ rye.
BARLEY – Widely grown in rotation after turnips on improved land. For home consumption, prepared in the mill and sold as pot or shelled (pearl) barley for cooking in broths. Ground and mixed with grey pease or beans, this was the common bread of labouring people, made into thin unleavened cakes based on a girdle. There was a large trade (later restricted by political intervention) in bere barley for export via Eyemouth and Berwick, or to Edinburgh for the newer whisky malting, which periodically contributed to the causes of local foodstuffs shortages at the 1800-1815 peak of high grain prices.
OATS – Universally grown, a principal article of food for mass consumption as “meal-kail” for breakfast and supper, eaten with butter and skimmed milk – an agreeable, nutritive and health food, and as porridge, brose (with salted beef water), oatmeal bread and girdles. After 1809 restrictions on bere barley (as above) reduced the quantity of oats used malted and mashed with barley in the masking process, sometimes prepared in the mill on the floor above the furnace.
BEANS – Grown since time immemorial (medieval), dried and ground to be mixed with grains and meat for pot cooking and with barley as girdle cakes. Crops were always vulnerable to poor weather but were always valued for nitrogen-fixing properties.


From: Thomson (1908) Thomson notes how in early times the hand “shiel-stone” or “quernstone” was employed for making meal before widespread application of thirlage. He describe s the miler as a “dusty” shrewd sort of a man who made the farm hinds’ “boll” (payment in kind before cash) into meal as well as his main customers, the farmers in the district. He recouped himself by “mootering” which was the recognised system of payment by his profession. The sloping spout over which the ground meal passed below the stones to the sack contained a small circular hole to which a small sack was attached, curiously called “the bitch”. The meal that passed through the aperture into the small sack was the “legitimate mooter” (or multure) whilst that which passed into the large sack beyond to the customer.