Scottish company SC380626 Scottish charity SC037990

Full details of the Trust’s composition and partnership links are given towards the end of this webpage


Note from the chair:

Roger Kelly writes:


Since November’s news (see below) we have been working on our ideas for a virtual Bank Mill and papermaking trail as an attainable objective for the moment.


In 2012 the Trust took possession of the extensive LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK

as an exciting long-term restoration and food production project


And we’re now TAKING ON THE PRESS by running the Pen-y-coe Press and old post office

in Bridge street in Penicuik town centre


Late November 2011: bad news for Bank Mill

–We’ve been negotiating the potential transfer of a complete papermaking line from Manchester University to Bank Mill – beater, strainer, Fourdrinier machine, drying cylinders and calendar rolls (see below). But last week our hope of a working mill to train and make the most of Penicuik’s world class papermaking heritage was stopped in its tracks. The Trust’s October offer to purchase Bank Mill had been rejected. So we’d put in a second offer that involved a total package of £240,000, of which £205,600 was new money on top of the £34,400 we’ve already paid in rent. Despite the property being valued at only £150,000 by both our and the seller’s surveyors, this second offer was also rejected by the owners. With some difficulty we have removed our equipment since we cannot any longer afford the £600 per week occupation charge if there is no reasonable prospect of purchase.   “Penicuik the Papermaking Town  and the last physical link with the town’s earlier life will be lost to the empty looking-glass world of property speculation if we’re not careful.  Gutted to put it mildly, and desperate to find a way back for Penicuik, we must thank the many, many people from far and wide who have contributed time, money and above all enthusiasm to the Bank Mill Project over the past year – we are all lucky to live in a town with so many who commit themselves selflessly for our community. And special mention to friends in the South Kirk and their visitors who worked late into the night to help us clear the 8 heavy mahogany storage cupboards given us by the Royal Scottish Museum, 90 chairs and 10 tables, the Finlayson bench, our screens and display boards.  We’ll ask local charities and community groups if some would be useful to them.

On the Trust’s Penicuik walled garden project, last week our solicitors were ready to exchange missives giving us entry to the upper walled garden on Penicuik Estate on 18th November. Then a glitch, the Estate factors had mapped the wrong locations for photographs of the state of the buildings. Hopefully, by the time this comes out, all will be corrected and we shall at last be in!  A meeting with be called early in the New Year to pick up all the food-growing enthusiasts we had in 2008. On the Trust’s Penicuik Cinema, we are being offered a huge electric screen – at 6m by 4.5m even bigger than the one we have used since 2007 – and are talking to Midlothian Council about fitting it permanently in the Town Hall.

The Future –though we’ve taken a knock with the loss of Bank Mill, the Trust still aims to gain Scottish and international recognition for Midlothian's contributions to world heritage -we’re even asked to Japan to talk about them. We champion Penicuik’s unique heritage to increase the confidence and status of our young people in the international arena, and to provide a solid foundation for sustainable economic growth in our community.  Evidence is our work with Penicuik High first years, Beeslack High drama students, and 80 third year students from Glasgow’s Mackintosh School of Architecture who have been busy studying Penicuik and its future regeneration.  We’ve had some great enthusiasm and support, inspiring ideas have been taking shape, and we hope to show them later in the New Year.



Early November 2011:


Our second offer to purchase

The Trust’s October offer to buy Bank Mill (see below) was  rejected, so we’ve made a new one.  Determined to do our utmost to secure this international historical resource we’ve scraped together more of the Trust’s ready cash in gifts and interest-free loans to make a new and even higher bid for the Mill

The new offer through our solicitors Gillespie Macandrew is of an immediate down payment of £155,600, followed by 4 annual  payments of £12,500, making £205,600 in new money.

Once the down payment of £155,600 is made, PCDT Ltd becomes the owner, subject to security for remaining loan repayments and outstanding instalments.

We draw attention to the fact that £34,400 in rent has already been paid to date, making a total package of £240,000.  No further rent would be payable.

Deadline for acceptance or rejection of this offer should give time to remove the Trust’s assets from the mill if necessary.

Once again, we’re proud to say that these funds come not from Lottery grants, nor from local or national government, nor from large wealthy outside donors, but entirely from the commitment of local people.


In the last month, through our contacts in the paper trade, we’ve been exploring the possibility and logistics of obtaining for Bank Mill a modern papermaking machine currently sited at the University of Manchester.  It is a small-scale but fully-equipped pilot paper machine and stock preparation plant, giving a realistic production environment ideally suited for product research and development. 

Minimum batch size 5kg of pulp, production rate of up to 200 kg/day, deckle max. 50 cm; machine speed: 3–55 metres min; Fourdrinier forming section; dandy rolls; suction press; reverse-nip plain press; pre-drying section; 7 steam heated cylinders; all temperature controlled; horizontal size press; after-drying section with 3 steam heated temperature controlled cylinders; machine calendar with 6 rolls, 5 nips, steam heated and temperature controlled; plus reel-up facility.



In the last month we’ve had positive support from Museums of Scotland on the possibility of using Bank Mill for aspects of their display and storage.  Bank Mill equipment already features in the Museum’s main papermaking display. 

The Trust has arranged to take an active part in Scotland’s inaugural History Festival  in November.  The Trust aims to gain Scottish and international recognition for Midlothian's unique contributions to world heritage.  Our purpose in championing our historic environment is to increase the confidence and status of our young people in the international arena, and to provide a solid foundation on which to develop sustainable economic growth in our community.  As part of this long-term strategy we have already - in this current year -

1.      Opened Bank Mill, our last remaining local papermill, to 150 visitors on Europa Nostra's Midlothian Doors Open Day.

2.      Introduced family workshops in papermaking, papier-mache and paper-clay, along with fundraising events at the Mill during the year.

3.      Programmed to give nearly 20 events to Scotland's History Festival this year, putting Penicuik on the map.

4.      Put £200,000 of locally-raised money on the table to secure Bank Mill’s purchase as the centrepiece of our international heritage and community development aspirations.

5.      Worked with senior students at Beeslack High School to produce realistic street-based Penicuik historical tours in November 2011

6.      Introduced Penicuik's unique heritage to every first year pupil at Penicuik High School in tours of Bank Mill and Penicuik High Street in conjunction with school staff in October 2011

7.      Shown Bank Mill and many other aspects of Penicuik history to all third year students and staff of Glasgow's Mackintosh School of Architecture, who have visited the town on successive weeks to note, sketch and photograph the town and its surroundings

8.      Been advised by papermakers and museums at home and abroad on prospects for our work in Penicuik, potential exhibits, and machinery    

9.      Put on over 40 exhibitions and displays in Penicuik Town Hall almost every Saturday throughout the year.

10.  Projected 35 feature films on Sundays throughout the year, mainstream, new, foreign and classic, involving school students in choice, projection and accounting.

11.  Progressed the lease for our restoration of Penicuik's unique Walled Garden, one of Scotland's designed landscapes.

The history we tell is of

·         Scotland's pre-eminent papermills from the early 1700s to the 1970s which gave us Scotland's Bibles, Scott's novels, Burns' songs, Turner's watercolours, the great Chambers and Britannica encyclopaedias, Australia's banknotes, Canada's stamps, the inspiration for Japan's modern paper industry, and a world of trade and cultural connections, using Cutty Sark and the fastest ships of the time.

·         The female leadership of the paper trade here in the 1700s (Agnes Campbell at the start of the century, Marjorie Cowan at the end)

·         Agnes Campbell's links with John Law, the French treasury and the Misissippi Company and Marjorie Cowan's links with Jacobites in Europe

·         The contact with revolutionary forces, French prisoners of war and the Friends of the People, and with the ideas of Robert Owen

·         Great movements of social improvement from the days when Elizabeth Fry visited Thomas Chalmers in Penicuik, to the local co-operative society, workers housing and industrial schools.

·         The impetus through Penicuik's James Finlayson for great industrial and social advances in Russia and Finland, founding the city of Tampere

·         Transfusions of Cowan papermaking wealth to create Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary, the Scottish National Hospital for Incurables and the regeneration of old Edinburgh

·         Worldwide investments from these Penicuik sources to build the railroads that opened up Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia

·         Local examples of the work of great engineers like Telford and Bouch

·         A world-leading tradition of machine engineering from the Bertrams and others

·         Development of the shale oil industry by William Young and Thomas Beilby, and Beilby's later work with gold and radium.

·         Cultural giants like RL Stevenson, SR Crockett, Bill Douglas and Karl Miller

·         Scientific genius like Clerk Maxwell, Cargill Knott and the science of seismology in Japan, CTR Wilson's cloud-chamber

·         The Cowan family's Japanese links through surveyor McVean, and their successor Colin Gubbins work in underground warfare in Europe

·         Links with the Challenger expedition, with India, and with the children's books of Helen Bannerman

·         Political leadership of every colour -Gladstone, Rosebery, Cowan, and the fight to abolish paper duty which made Edinburgh a mecca for educational book publishing and the printing of fine magazines.  

·         Lincolnshire architects and builders who made their life's work in Midlothian like Frederick Pilkington, John Dennis and the Toynbee family.

·         Advanced yet simple cuisine from Mrs Johnstone, Scotland's answer to Brillat-Savarin and Mrs Beaton, and the mid 19th century Howgate Inn

·         Local mapmaking traditions from W&AK Johnstone  to Bartholomew's Edinburgh Geographical Institute and its relationship with resilient, large-sheet local paper

·         Conan Doyle's medical master, Joe Bell of Mauricewood, the brilliant original for Sherlock Holmes

·         Thomas Adams and his pioneering planning and housing work from Carlops across Britain, Canada and the USA, and Robert Naismiths mid-20th century continuation of it in Penicuik

·         The story of General Maczek's Polish Forces in Scotland in the last war, and their legacy of the Great Polish Map of Scotland at Eddleston.

·         Penicuik schoolboy aircraft designer James Arnott Hamilton and his development of the Concorde

·         Many other local world-achievers from rugby to football pools, plant-hunting to fashion photography, folk singing and brewing to post-natal care see some of them on the Penicuik Greats website



October 2011:

Our Bank Mill year of lease is coming to an end.

We have made an offer to purchase. Time is running out.

October note from the chair:   Penicuik’s Bank Mill Project – The first year

The Bank Mill Project to transform the last historic paper mill building left on the Esk into a nationally important Papermaking Heritage Centre has received praise and recognition from many quarters across the UK and abroad.  It is still in its early stages. This is a progress report on events in the past year  -a year in which we have secured finances above the market valuation and have submitted an offer to purchase.


Our aim for Bank Mill

Our vision for Bank Mill is to create a nationally important attraction that brings visitors to Midlothian, benefiting our local economy through publicity, prestige, increased footfall and employment. By restarting low-volume high-quality specialist papermaking at Bank Mill, we aim to restore pride in Midlothian’s papermaking heritage and add educational and craft skills to inspire young people.  The very successful family papermaking workshops we’ve already held this summer herald a future opportunity for the Lothian’s primary school children to visit Bank Mill and learn about Midlothian’s world-leading papermaking history. During their visit, they would make and take home their own sheet of paper. Doing this safely alongside small-scale commercial production shows them that a worldwide industry uses a process like theirs, and gives an early sense of identity, satisfaction and achievement with the world of work.

A year ago: the emergency lease

To forestall the sale and demolition of the last of what were once very many historic paper mill buildings on the Esk, we signed an agreement on October 20, 2010 to rent Bank Mill for one year, giving us time to raise money for its purchase. The rent was about twice the market rate because the agreement was accompanied by a commitment by the vendor to negotiate an option to purchase with us. We raised the £32,000 rent through donations from local people committed to the project.

Market value and purchase

Bank Mill was this year valued for the Trust by property and valuation surveyors Hardies of Dalkeith at £150,000. This figure we believe is essentially the same as the market value estimate given by the vendor’s surveyors. We are delighted to be able to report that we now have money ready to pay this market value and more, and our solicitors Gillespie Macandrew have submitted an offer to purchase at £175,000 with an entry date of October 20.  Our funds have come not from Lottery grants, nor from local or national government, nor from large wealthy outside donors, but from the commitment of local people. Raising more than the current market value has been a big achievement for us in the present financial climate, where fund-raising remains extremely difficult.  [Details of an increased November offer are at the top of this page]

Premium for housing development.

We all want an attractive development of Bank Mill. The vendors believe that Midlothian Council would be happy to see housing development on the site. Remembering days of boom not long ago they may hope that it could be sold for two or more times the current market value. Hardies are of the opinion that the site’s location and conditions limit its current value. As a charity, the Trust must not stray far from professional advice.

Papermaking exhibitions and workshops

Over the last year PCDT has prepared displays on paper making and local heritage, and shown them to the public in the mill. In April, we held a trial Open Day at which children and other members of the public could make and take home their own sheet of paper, with the  supervision of a qualified outreach papermaker who gave her services free. Since July 9, Bank Mill Open Day exhibitions have been weekly on Saturdays or Sundays, with other occasional children’s workshops on paper related crafts, ranging from further papermaking to papier maché and origami.

Doors Open Day

Our inclusion in the Midlothian Doors Open Day in September – part the European Heritage Days programme – recognises that Bank Mill is a place of historical and cultural importance. 150 visitors from as far a field as Kelso, Falkirk and Fife praised the interest and the quality of our displays. Many of them had important new information to add to our knowledge. The Open Day brought Bank Mill into the National Programme of Transport and Industrial Exhibitions for the first time.

Benefit events

Further evidence for the support for the Bank Mill Project within and beyond Midlothian comes from the large enthusiastic audiences we have had for fund-raising benefit concerts in the mill, and the willingness of performers to give their services free. Interim benefit events raising up to £1,000 apiece included a Hogmanay Ceilidh despite sub-zero temperatures outside, a jazz concert, a choir, and an international music group. The most recent brought a 60-strong youth orchestra en route home to Galilee from the Aberdeen International Youth Music Festival. They were joined by the Penicuik Silver Band to bring a uniquely joyous Big Band sound with 150 happy people filling the Bank Mill machine hall in a spectacular benefit concert.


We see education and training at the heart of the Bank Mill Project and are working with teachers in Penicuik High School on history and geography projects about Penicuik’s industrial past and plans for the future. All S1 High School students will visit Bank Mill on October 12 to develop one of their projects. In addition students from Beeslack High School preparing for Higher Drama will make presentations about Penicuik’s history, possibly with performances in Bank Mill in November. As noted already, during the summer we ran papermaking workshops at which delighted children made and took home their own paper. An essential element of boosting morale and civic pride is education. Once the mill is established, we hope to invite visits from all Midlothian’s Primary Schools so that younger children can learn about papermaking and take home their own work as a mark of their own morale and their community’s  pride of place.

National and international impact

Roger Kelly has been invited to make a presentation in Tokyo next February about this area’s key influence on Japanese industrial development, engineering and architecture. The role of Penicuik’s James Finlayson in developing the city of Tampere in Finland 200 years ago is already well known and Tampere has now become a focus for European industrial heritage. We are exploring Midlothian’s role in developments and investments in the USA and Canada.  Closer to home, James May’s researcher contacted us to provide him with papermaking skills for his Man Lab television programme.

Visit of students and staff from Glasgow School of Architecture 30 September 2011

Cowan advertisements display                                                   James Finlayson bench display

Valleyfield demolition display  Local papermaking history and process display  Esparto processing display

Displays out of picture in machine hall:  Bertrams and other machinery illustrations

Displays beside the railway loading bays: Benefit events, Penicuik railway and its designer Thomas Bouch

Twenty students from the Glasgow College of Art Architecture School chose us for their research project and visited Bank Mill on September 30. The Open University Scottish Graduates Association is visiting on October 15. The head of the Paper Industries Technical Advisory Board and an advisor to The Paper Trail based at the Hertfordshire, home of the first papermaking machine in the world, have visited the mill to discuss our project. We have visited heritage papermaking centres in France, Sweden and Canada to learn from the success of others.

Papermaking equipment

Until we become owners, charity law does not allow us to put resources in a major building refurbishment or to install valuable paper making machinery. However, two senior paper making engineers, including Barry Read of the Papermaking Industry Technical Advisory Board, visited Bank Mill to discuss of the project. They judged that our proposal to produce low-volume, high-value hand-made rag paper for the niche graphics art market could be commercially viable. With a specialist engineer from the Two Rivers Mill in Somerset, they have also located three vintage Fourdrinier papermaking machines, one of which could be set up in Bank Mill, initially as a non-working tourist attraction. We are in touch with the Hartley Mill in Kent and administrators of the former Royal Ordnance Factory Bishopton about acquiring one of the Hollander beaters now available.

Volunteer labour

Local volunteers contributed hundreds of hours of their time working to clean and repaint key parts of the old building so that the public have been able to visit and see its potential. After  plumbing and sanitation was damaged by the big freeze over New Year, a local plumber gave his labour free to replace all pipework and restore use of the toilets.


Though water power is not a feature of Midlothian Local Plan’s Renewable Energy policy,  150 years ago this was the main source of power for local industry. The North Esk is still one of Scotland’s top potential riverpower sites, like New Lanark on the Clyde and Stanley Mills on the Tay, it is what brought the enormous investment in Penicuik mills to this area in the first place. With advice from an expert, we estimate that reconstructing the Bank Mill water wheel could generate up to 120 kW, subject to suitable limits agreed with SEPA. Implementing this would involve buying the fish farm behind Bank Mill, currently for sale, or reaching agreement about joint use of the mill lade with a future owner. We see several other opportunities for water wheels in the communities along the Esk. In all cases, water wheels offer a double benefit: they are not only a source of power but also enhance tourism.

Engineering interest: MacTaggart Scott

We are not yet in a position to pursue such a scheme until Bank Mill is secured, but have been encouraged by supportive Penicuik businesses in the engineering field. We have begun correspondence with MacTaggart Scott, the innovative Loanhead-based world naval engineers.  They have expressed great interest in the project and invited us for discussions about their supplying mechanical, electrical and hydraulic work free or at cost in support.

Condition of Bank Mill

The remaining parts of Bank Mill – the core machine hall probably dating to 1803 plus the 1872 addition of the railway wagon loading bays – have been neglected and are no longer wind and water tight. Repairing the valley gutters and slates to stop water leaking is obviously a priority but has to be delayed until we become owners because that is generally a condition of repair grants. It only goes to emphasise the commitment of wellwishers happy to come to benefit events where they had to dodge the drips! One of the three Bank Mill patrons, Colonel Edward Cowan, is a senior descendent of Alexander Cowan, the papermaking patriarch. After a career in the Army he was the Chief Executive Officer of the UK Federation of Roofing Contractors before retirement. He has contacted his former colleagues on our behalf. Colonel Cowan’s son Brigadier Cowan DSO commanded Task Force Helmand and the Black Watch in Basra.

Future plans

This project has captured the public imagination and has undoubtedly helped to increase membership of the Trust, now over 200 and on a rising trend.  So far, we have made neither structural changes to the building nor changed its external appearance.  However, we have begun the task of planning future refurbishment and building work, and have had helpful support and offers from architects.  We want this to include the construction of a new pedestrian and disabled access from Bridge Street and a visitor centre on the midlevel platforms. When we are  ready to make these proposals more definite, we hope that the support in principle we have had from  Midlothian Council officials for the Bank Mill project will result in a helpful and constructive dialogue.

Our intention is to make Bank Mill self-financing for recurrent costs for both the heritage centre and the making of paper, with emphasis on education, training and the development of craft skills. Visits to seek advice and information about the management of heritage centres have included the Biggar Museum Trust, Heart of Hawick, New Lanark, the Poldrate Centre in Haddington and the Lady Victoria Mining Museum. 

Bank Mill is essentially a people project which we intend to build on sound foundations, with financial self-sufficiency as the watchword. We believe we have shown this in our Cinema for Penicuik which has now become weekly with solid local youth support.  For Bank Mill, our patrons Ian MacDougall the writer and Gerda Stevenson the actor will be a source of good advice on working history at the mills and the use of drama to bring it to life.

The Bank Mill project has gained the support of people in Penicuik and the surrounding region. It represents a truly imaginative scheme for improving the economic viability and quality of life in the area. Local people need the reassurance that Midlothian Council and national bodies stand beside us in supporting the principle of our project.  That support will be a big help for fund-raising to adapt and develop Bank Mill in the months ahead.


Roger Kelly


Find out more about Penicuik Trust projects at the Saturday Open House in Penicuik Town Hall, at the Sunday Cinema, at Pen-y-Coe Press or at The Lost Garden. There are on-the-spot exhibitions, on-the-spot hands-on crafts sessions for kids and adults, onsite visits and more…

Penicuik Community Development Trust is responsible for the Lost Garden of Penicuik (incorporating Penicuik’s Food Project), Penicuik Open House, Penicuik Cinema, the Bankmill Project and now The Pen-y-coe Press and Old Post Office. The Trust is a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland with company number 380626 and OSCR charity number SCO37990 and Trustee Directors Roger Kelly (chair), Roger Hipkin (secretary 20A John St. Penicuik EH26 8AB), Jane MacKintosh (treasurer), Dave Stokes, Mose Hutchinson and Penny Wooding, forming part of a Managing committee with Anne-Ruth Strauss, Bill Fearnley, Chantal Geoghegan, Daniel Baigrie, Doreen Gillon, Jane Kelly, Katie Sydes, Lynn Niven, Marianne Cortes, Marjorie Bisset, Mitch Lewis, Peter Coutts, Simon Duffy, Simon Fraser, Ulla Hipkin, all elected annually at the Trust's AGM and Florance Kennedy and John Scott co-opted subsequently.  Paid-up Membership of over 200; Patrons: Ian Macdougall, Gerda Stevenson, Colonel Edward Cowan.  Trust official website The Trust is a Member of Development Trusts Association Scotland (DTAS) takes part in Doors Open Day, and works collaboratively with Penicuik Community Council, Penicuik High School, Beeslack High School, Midlothian Council, Midlothian Voluntary Action, the Midlothian Growing Ideas Partnership (including Midlothian Garden Services, Mayfield & Easthouses Development Trust, and other garden and food projects in Midlothian associated with the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens), and the MapaScotland restoration of the Great Polish Map of Scotland at Eddleston, and supported the papemaking tercentenary led by Penicuik Historical Society.  There are personal and mutually supportive links with Breadshare Community Bakery, Penicuik Community Sport & Leisure Foundation, Penicuik Community Arts Association, the Penicuik House Project, the Scottish Civic Trust and the Saltire Society, with community groups and trusts in Aberfeldy, Amisfield, Balerno, Broughty Ferry, Gorebridge and Moffat, with Penicuik’s twin town at L’Isle-sur-la Sorgue, Vaucluse, Provence, with Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec and with the Papeterie St-Armand in Montreal.  The Trust can be contacted during working hours through the volunteer team at Pen-y-Coe Press 01968 673767, or through the chair 01968 677854 or secretary 01968 672706

We need your help. Working together we can all do more for the people and places we love




Books by Ian MacDougall record human stories of men, women and children in the Penicuik mills


Through The Mill, the personal recollections of Penicuik paper mill workers, is edited by Ian MacDougall and published priced £11.99 in a 670 page paperback by The Scottish Working People’s History Trust FK1 5LN, ISBN 978-9559981-0-2 

The Prisoners at Penicuik and All Men are Brethren record use of the Mills as prisoner-of-war camps two centuries ago


Penicuik previously Scotland’s History Festival in November.  


Penicuik Displays

Papermaking homepage

Roger Kelly’s original Bank Mill Project page 

Simon Fraser & PCDT’s