George Hering with the New Abbey Corn Mill water wheel

There are fewer than 20 working watermills left in Scotland, and we’re lucky enough to be able to care for one of them – New Abbey Corn Mill in Dumfries.

Duncan Ainslie in our conservation team speaks to Monument Manager, George Hering, to find out more about how he and his team maintain and run this 18th century watermill.

1. New Abbey Corn Mill only cost £600 to build….in the 1790s

The present mill was built in 1790-94 at a cost of £600.00 (about £47,000 in today’s money). Most of the machinery in the mill dates from then. However, additions like a sack hoist and a third pair of mill stones (the Provender stones) were made in the early 1800s, as well as a replacement “oat bruiser”.

Photo showing the "Oat Bruiser" machinery at New Abbey Corn Mill

The “Oat Bruiser” at New Abbey Corn Mill.

2. We rely on all of our senses to keep the mill running

Over time you get to know the sounds and vibrations of the mill. We use sight, sound and vibration to tell if anything is going wrong.

If we sense something is wrong, we’ll close the mill operation until we can find and remedy the fault. We can often do this by ourselves on site with the help from the Monument Conservation Unit based in Dumfries, or if necessary the millwrights.

Each day the mill is going to be used, we have to oil the inner and outside axle bearings. Then we check everything else is in place ready to go.

General view of New Abbey Corn Mill

Of course, the picturesque location makes this a very popular attraction with tourists.

3. The mill is regularly maintained

Just like a car, New Abbey Corn Mill has to be maintained. But unlike a car, we can’t go to a local dealership for parts. Most of the parts we need have to be made to order.
We call the millwright in about twice a year. At the end of the season we call to discuss any issues requiring repair, and then again before the summer tourist season starts so that works are completed in time for visitors arriving.

4. We’ve worked hard to make the New Abbey Corn Mill operational again

Since the mill came into Historic Environment Scotland’s care in 1977, we put a lot of work into getting it back into operation. This included reinstating both ponds, replacing the roof and getting the mill machinery back to working order.

View of the mill pond at New Abbery Corn Mill with a man opening the sluice gates to let water through

George opens the sluice gates at the mill pond

I believe that we can be very proud of what we’ve done in keeping this jewel of our industrial past alive. Future generations can look back at how things were once done and by who.

5. We work together with a specialist millwright

We’ve been working with our current millwright since 1998. We’ve got a great working relationship and he knows the site inside out. Together with the site staff and our conservation colleagues he advises us on repairs, replacements and operating the mill.

National Mills Weekend

Enjoy free entry to our two sites – Stanley Mills and New Abbey Corn Mill over the weekend as we celebrate National Mills Weekend on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May 2019.



About Author


Duncan Ainslie

Duncan used to work with us supporting to Estates team of the Conservation Directorate. With a background in History, he enjoyed learning about the significance of our properties and the stories we’re able to perpetuate through our conservation work - but he's now moved on for new adventures.