Mystery donor helps keep the cogs turning at water-powered mill

Complex repairs at Barry Mill near Carnoustie inspired a mystery donor to gift £2.4m to the National Trust for Scotland.

One of the world’s last remaining functional water-powered mills is undergoing extensive restoration work to keep the cogs turning.

Complex repairs at Barry Mill, near Carnoustie in Angus, inspired a mystery donor to gift £2.4m to the National Trust for Scotland.

The work is being carried out by Bristol-based experts, Dorothea Restorations.

The firm’s John Wallis told STV News: “The first phase is to renew the water wheel shaft, which has worn through its bearings, (and) realigning the waterwheel.

“There has been some work done through its commercial life that needs reversing and then we’re setting up all the mill machinery internally, so new bearings, new teeth on the gear wheels where required, and just making it all work into the future again.”

But working on the historic A-listed building poses a challenge.

“It’s quite a challenge. It’s quite cold, it’s dark, even with lighting in it, very difficult to get into some of the spaces, so everything takes quite a long time to do,” explained John.

The mill was once a hub of the community – it was the convenience store of its day.

For centuries, the clattering cogs churned grain into flour and meal, right up to 1982 when its commercial use came to an end.

The National Trust for Scotland acquired Barry Mill in 1988.

Frances Swanston, conservation maintenance manager at the National Trust for Scotland, said: “Since then it’s been very much part of that significance – that we keep the mill working – so that these skills are not lost and we can share milling with future generations.

“We have everything we need here to be able to do that. We have the mill building itself but we also have the infrastructure that supported the mill – in terms of the weir and the sluice and the laid – so people can come and see how it would have been in centuries gone by.”

Tucked away in a tranquil corner close to Carnoustie, it was once a bustling heart of the community.

Impressed by the restoration work at the mill, a mystery donor gifted £2.4m to the National Trust for Scotland.

It will help protect some of the most historically important sites across the country.

The mill reopens to the public at the end of March when a rush of water will once again set the mill machinery in motion.

Mike Metcalfe works at Barry Mill and will train as a miller.

He said: “It involves some risks so if the wheels touch and they are going too fast you can set alight to the grain, you set alight to your mill so you have to tenter up and make sure that doesn’t happen, so you have to stay with it all the time. That’s where the saying keep your nose to the grindstone comes in.”

The daily grind of producing flour is a thing of the past but these painstaking repairs will ensure the wheel keeps turning on this important piece of industrial heritage.

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