Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Catrine, water works for Catrine Mill 30m south of 9 St Cuthbert's Street

A Scheduled Monument in Ballochmyle, East Ayrshire

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 55.5059 / 55°30'21"N

Longitude: -4.3241 / 4°19'26"W

OS Eastings: 253314

OS Northings: 626019

OS Grid: NS533260

Mapcode National: GBR 3P.V24B

Mapcode Global: WH3QS.KW30

Entry Name: Catrine, water works for Catrine Mill 30m S of 9 St Cuthbert's Street

Scheduled Date: 26 April 1993

Last Amended: 22 August 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM5670

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Industrial: textiles

Location: Sorn

County: East Ayrshire

Electoral Ward: Ballochmyle

Traditional County: Ayrshire


The monument comprises the water management system that was built and developed to supply water power to Catrine's cotton mills and bleaching works. The main elements are a weir on the River Ayr, five large ponds known as 'voes', and a series of open and covered lades. There are also the remains of sluices and the foundations of a short aqueduct that carried water from the end of the lade to the wheelhouse. The water management system lies on the north side of Catrine, beginning at the River Ayr to the north-east of the town and extending westwards for almost 1km to terminate about 85m NNW of Mill Square. The first parts of the system were built in 1787, but it was adapted several times before its eventual disuse in the 1970s. The monument was first scheduled in 1993, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The original elements of the water works were constructed to power a twist mill built in 1787 and a spinning mill of 1790. The 1787 system comprised the weir where water was diverted from the River Ayr, open lades leading south and then west, and two voes immediately south of St Cuthbert's Street, the first lying to the east and acting as a silt trap, the second further west and serving as a header tank to control water flow to the wheel. The east voe measures about 135m east-west by 55m transversely, the west voe about 120m east-west by 45m transversely. A further lade, originally open, carried water from the second voe to a point behind No. 1 Wood Street, some 800m from the weir, providing power for the mills in and west of Mill Square (the mills have been demolished but lay south of the scheduled area). These components were redesigned and reconstructed in the 1820s when the addition of a bleaching works (in 1824) and two massive new 50 foot water wheels to power the twist mill (in 1826) created demand for additional water power. The weir was altered and innovative 'Fairbairn' sluices installed immediately to the west to regulate flow. Other significant additions comprise a third voe to the south of the east voe to power the wheel in the bleaching works, and two further voes immediately to the west of this new voe that also supplied water to the bleaching works. In addition, the lade west of the west voe was redesigned as a covered passage 3m wide with rounded arched roof and was extended westwards for 115m from its previous terminus behind Wood Street to a new end point NNW of Mill Square. Some of the foundations of an aqueduct survive south of this new terminus, its function to carry water south to the wheelhouse housing the 50 foot wheels (the wheelhouse has now been demolished but lay beneath modern houses to the south of the scheduled area). The 50 foot wheels continued in use until the eventual arrival of electric power in 1947, with the water management system being adapted and maintained throughout this period and beyond. From 1952 to 1973 it provided water to power the bleaching works turbine house which lies outwith the scheduled area to the south.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling extends up to, and includes, the stone, concrete, and brick walls that bound the voes. The scheduling includes the stone bridge immediately upstream of the north-east voe, and the iron and timber bridge east of the west voe, but excludes the modern bridge east of the west voe. The scheduling includes the sluices and structures at the outflow on the south side of the west voe, but excludes the above-ground elements of the shed that covers this outflow. To allow for their maintenance, the scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all fences, street furniture, telegraph and electricity poles, together with the top 300mm of all road surfaces and paths.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

Large parts of the monument are visible above ground and although the covered lade is buried, it can still be entered and its interior viewed. The condition of much of the monument is excellent although parts of the lade system show masonry decay. The monument provided water power from its establishment in 1787 until the closure of the bleaching works in 1973, a period of 186 years, and the surviving remains help us to understand this long development sequence. The original function of the water works was to provide power to mills in the vicinity of Mill Square. Two of the voes date originally to this primary phase, when the system carried water to a point to the rear of No. 1 Wood Street. Three blocked arches in the south elevation of the lade indicate an outflow in this position. The extensive alterations of the 1820s reflect the requirement for the system to power the new 50 foot wheels and also the bleaching works. At the east end of the system, this development is represented by the weir structure and the adjacent sluice, an innovative flow control mechanism installed by Fairbairn. To the west, the extended covered lade and footings of the aqueduct at its terminus tell us how water was supplied to the new wheels. In addition, the three southern voes represent expansion necessary to service the bleach works. The monument can tell us about many of the technological changes that occurred in the use of water power by the textile industry. Its adaptation shows how its owners kept water power viable until as late as the 1970s.

Contextual characteristics

This water management system was established as a crucial part of the original cotton works at Catrine. From 1787 it powered a twist mill, in which strands of cotton yarn were twisted together to produce a strong, even thread, and from 1890 a cotton spinning mill. The mill complex and associated settlement at Catrine form an important part of the story of Scotland's industrial expansion in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Catrine bears direct comparison with New Lanark, Deanston and Stanley, all founded at a similar date. Claude Alexander of Ballochmyle, a prominent local landowner, laid out the site with David Dale, the founder of New Lanark, selecting the small existing settlement at Catrine specifically for its topography and potential for harnessing water power. The new mill village was focused on the twist mill, set in Mill Square at right angles to, and interrupting, the line of the main street. Researchers have suggested that the layout may have been inspired by St Andrews Square in Glasgow, and perhaps influenced the design of mill villages in New England.

In the 19th century, Catrine continued to play a prominent role in Scottish industry. The two 50 foot iron wheels installed in 1826 by Fairbairn were the largest in Britain, and were specially designed at the instigation of the mill manager, Archibald Buchanan. The water management system was an essential part of what became a fully integrated works that took in unprocessed cotton and produced table cloths, towels and sheets. Other industrial infrastructure grew up to service the mills including a gas works that allowed the installation of gas lighting around the town years before it reached Glasgow or London.

Associative characteristics

This water management system was a crucial part of the Catrine industrial village, which played a prominent role in the history of the Industrial Revolution, both in Scotland and further afield. The co-founder, David Dale, was also responsible for the mills at New Lanark and his humane philosophy helped to shape the original layout of buildings at both Catrine and New Lanark. In 1801 the mills at Catrine passed into the hands of James Finlay and Company, for whom Kirkman Finlay was then the driving force. Catrine was his most important venture and he worked closely with Archibald Buchanan, who he installed as resident partner. Buchanan had learnt his trade with Arkwright as a youth and proved a highly innovative and successful mill manager, commissioning the famous Catrine Wheels from Fairbairn and Lillie of Manchester. He instituted a house purchase scheme by which many became owner-occupiers. Interviewed by Robert Peel and his House of Commons Committee on 25 April 1816, he gave detailed answers about the composition and health of the workforce at Catrine, asserting that their standard of health was at least as good as that of agricultural workers.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the Industrial Revolution and the development of cotton spinning in Scotland and worldwide. It also has the potential to enhance our knowledge of the development of the Catrine industrial village, which was important in Scotland and may have influenced the design of North American mill villages. The monument was adapted for a variety of different uses over a working life which spanned at least 186 years. Initially, it provided water to power twist and spinning mills. Later, following a series of developments, it brought water to the largest mill wheels in Britain as well as powering a bleaching works. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development of water power and the important role it played in the Industrial Revolution in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NS52NW 22 and NS52NW 30. The WoSAS SMR references are 8055 and 12437.


Allen, N. (1986) David Dale, Robert Owen and the history of New Lanark.

Butt, J. (1967) The Industrial Archaeology of Scotland. Hume, J R. (1976) The Industrial Archaeology of Scotland, 1, The Lowlands and Borders.

Wilson, R. (1997) Old Catrine & Sorn, Stenlake Publishing, Catrine.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.