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Winter at the Mill

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Even as the days shorten, Knockando Woolmill remains a magical place. Although picturesque, winters past have been particularly cold and challenging.
Production at the Mill was an all year round activity, but in winter, work was that bit more arduous due to the harsh weather conditions.
 Temperatures can drop quite significantly with the low winter sun unable to reach the site nestled low in the valley.

Graeme Stewart, whose father, Duncan, worked in the Mill for many years recalls his memories of winter at the Mill when he was just a boy...

"The Woolmill was very cold in the winter. 

The heating was a solid fuel boiler built into the wall of the weaving shed.

The water pipes went through the wall to run behind the mule (spinning machine) in the main building but it was a big area to heat so did not raise the temperature by much.

However we were hardy souls in these days without central heating in our houses so we were used to the cold."

Above, Duncan Stewart weaving cloth on the Dobcross Loom in the weaving shed


Hundreds of blankets were produced and supplied to the war office for troops in World War One.  A winter drying shed was built to meet the demand by speeding up the drying process. The shed was heated with a solid fuel heater.

The drying shed before and after restoration.


Graeme remembers, "The lighting was by gas. The smaller lean-to building behind the Mill (see below) was the ‘gas works’.  The gas was fed to the lights in small diameter lead piping."

"The gas was produced from calcium carbide and fed to the pipes by a telescopic cylinder bearing down on water above the gas like a mini gasometer.  Light was produced by just the bare flame so it was not good and quite dangerous.

The blackout during the war years was achieved by making wooden frames for the windows in the main building and tacking black felt to them. This was not done for the weaving shed so we stopped weaving in the later afternoon and did other work.

Later Tilley lamps were used.  They were fuelled by paraffin under pressure and gave a much better light.

The larger lean-to shed was the sulphur ’hoose’.  That was where the long length of blanket material was hung to whiten before being cut into blanket lengths.  Sticks of sulphur were burnt in an open fire to produce smoke in an enclosed space.  Nice and warm but you would not have lasted long in there although the smell was not unpleasant.

Electricity arrived in 1949 and of course that changed the motive power, the lighting and the heating."  but the production of authentic, high quality, woven products since 1784 has never been broken.

One thing's for sure you won't be cold wrapped up in a Knockando scarf or blanket!

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