Springfield is believed to have been established for the first time in 1717. In 1742 ,Walter Ruddiman of the Caledonian Mercury, Robert Fleming of the Edinburgh Courant and John Aitken, a bookseller, restarted Springfield Mill and continued until 1776 when the business failed, again. George and William Bertram, founders of the Bertrams of Sciennes, engineering company in 1821, worked there with their father.
In 1816 Robert Cameron patented a papermaking machine, his ‘wooden man’, which was essentially a primitive replacement for the man who worked at the vat. It was effective and was installed in Springfield in the same year. It did not make endless paper, as the Fourdrinier machine did, but produced a succession of separate sheets. A Fourdrinier machine was also installed in 1841. By 1856 Springfield had 14 beaters, a number only exceeded by Valleyfield. It was run by William Tod Junior & Co until the shares were bought by James Brown & Co in 1957. Springfield finally closed in 1966.
Polton Mill was established in 1750 as the Polton Paper Mill Company and expanded by Edinburgh bankers Arbuthnot and Guthrie and Forbes Hunter & Co. Bankrupt in 1772, the mill was closed and sold to William Simpson of Polton. By the early 1790s, Simpson was responsible for a number of papermaking innovations including the first use of chlorine bleach in Scotland ‘in bleaching or whitening his paper stuff '. William Simpson's other developments included the tub-sizing of writing paper, which improved the absorption of printing ink, mechanical agitation of the stuff chest and steam heated vats.
By 1825 Polton was being operated by Alex. Annandale when the first papermaking machine was installed. The mill closed shortly after the Second World War.
Kevock Mill is believed to have been started around 1850 or 1851 by Archibald Somerville, but it may have been earlier. It was recorded as using various chemicals, along with other mills from 1850 until 1863 and a papermaking machine was installed in 1858. By 1860 it was being operated by Archibald Morton Somerville, probably the son of the founder, and in 1861 was known to be using some esparto grass. It is not clear when the mill closed.
Melville Mill was established in about 1760 by John Hutton, an Edinburgh merchant. In 1794 when the mill was being run by John Pitcairn, bleaching apparatus to whiten the paper was installed by John Hall of Dartford. This was a very early use of industrial chemistry.
In 1795 Joshua Gilpin, an American paper manufacturer visiting Britain, described it as a very advanced mill with 5 beaters and 6 vats. In 1825 a papermaking machine was installed, one of only eight in Scotland at the time. By then, the mill was being operated by Alex Cowan & Sons, but it was sold to Mr Naismith, whose business failed in the 1830s, closing the mill.
St. Leonards Mill
St Leonards Mill, Lasswade, was established by William Simpson of Polton in 1792. It is known that he had a Sun Fire Insurance Policy on his house at St. Leonards as well as his new drying house, workhouse and sizing house. Fire insurance was very important for paper mills as they often suffered from serious fires.
St. Leonards had a steam engine operating in 1803, probably the earliest use in a paper mill in Scotland. The mill was worked by the Cowan family from 1807 until 1816 and then by Hugh Crichton from 1825. Its first papermaking machine was installed in 1832. By 1852 the mill was being operated by William Tod Junior and from 1860 by Wm. Tod & Sons. Eventually St Leonards was run by John Tod and Son Ltd until it closed in 1965.
As its name implies, Inveresk was the lowest paper mill situated on the River Esk. It was built by Alex Cowan & Sons of Valleyfield in 1867, following the great pollution case of 1866 which was brought against all the papermakers on the River Esk by the Duke of Buccleuch, Lord Melville and Sir J.W. Drummond of Hawthornden. With the introduction of esparto grass, which could only be used by boiling it in caustic soda, the pollution of the River Esk had become intolerable.
Losing the case, the mill owners were forced to take steps to reduce the pollution. Alex Cowan & Sons responded by building a pulping mill at Musselburgh. This did not reduce the total amount of pollution but it did allow it to flow directly into the sea thereby by-passing the people most likely to complain about it. Later it was converted into a paper mill. It closed in 1970 and is mostly demolished. The name lives on in Inveresk PLC which still operates one paper mill in Devon.
In 1795 Archibald Keith, who for a long time had been a mould maker, bought some of the machinery from Melville Mill and built a small paper mill on a piece of ground belonging to the Marquis of Lothian on the River South Esk. By 1825 it was being operated by James Craig and in 1839 he patented an apparatus for the boiling and washing of rags. Operating as Robert Craig & Co, two papermaking machines were installed by 1851.
It was forced to close in 1890 when agreement could not be reached to renew the lease. 300 employees lost their jobs, though some transferred to Craig’s two other mills at Moffat and Caldercruix.