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Major Landmark At New Visitor Reception

31 December 2007

A key landmark has been reached in the project to transform large parts of an abandoned cotton mill complex into a major visitor attraction. After two years of major repairs and refurbishments the contractors have now handed over the buildings, beside the river Tay near Perth, to owners Historic Scotland.

The Bell Mill and Mid Mill have been turned into a visitor centre and education centre that house a range of exciting interactive displays and activities. These will bring the history – and science – behind the watermills to life for an expected 15,000 people a year.

Jane Rahil, project manager for Historic Scotland, said: “It’s fabulous to see how this important part of the nation’s industrial heritage has been brought back to life.

"The mills date back to the late 18th century and were the economic powerhouse of the surrounding area for 200 years.

“When the mills finally closed in the eighties there was a feeling that the end might well have come.

“But we believe that the visitor centre, with all its facilities, will put the mills back at the heart of the community as well as providing a great day out for families from all round Scotland and the world.”

Now that most of the fixtures and fittings are in place final preparations are underway for an official opening in spring 2008.

The project is believed to be one of the largest of its kind currently being undertaken in Scotland. It is hoped that Stanley Mills will provide a highly distinctive visitor experience thanks to its specially designed interactive displays. These include exhibits which allow children to learn the best ways to build a mill, and the principles behind harnessing water power.

Lindsay Cowan, area director for Mansell, added: “We are thrilled to be able to hand this truly special piece of Scottish history back to Historic Scotland.

“The fact that the project is believed to be one of the largest of its kind in Scotland and took two years to complete underlines just how challenging the work was but drawing on our extensive experience in repairs and refurbishments, we were able to complete the project on time and within budget.

“It was exciting to play a role in preserving an important part of Scottish history and we look forward to the Stanley Mills cotton mill being opened to the public so people from across the world can get a taste of the nation’s industrial heritage and enjoy the fantastic experience on offer there.”


Notes for editors
·Stanley Mills is seven miles north of Perth. The former water mill complex harnessed the power of the River Tay for cotton spinning. The first mill was built in 1786 and the last commercial operations ended as recently as 1989. It was the first example of Arkwright’s factory system in Scotland.

·The project to create a visitor centre has involved keeping, and emphasising, many of the original architectural features. The main contractors were Mansell.

·Parts of the complex been transformed into high quality housing. The new visitor centre will make it an important tourist attraction and a centre for community activity.

·The visitor centre includes a state-of-the-art education area over two floors which has been designed to allow schools and educational groups to carry out a wide variety of study projects.

·In 1995 Stanley Mills was placed in the care of Historic Scotland which regards the buildings as of such national and international importance that they have a grade A listing to protect them from unwanted change.

·The Stanley Mills project has involved:

   - Conservation of Arkwright’s Bell Mill. This started in 1996, helped by a £1.4 million Heritage Lottery Grant to meet part of the £2.2 million cost. In 1998 the bell was restored to the tower to mark the completion of this stage of work.
   - Repairing the fire damaged North Range.
   - Redevelopment of the East Mill and the Mid Mill into flats and townhouses by the Phoenix Trust.
   - Repairing the mill lades. This was made possible through a generous grant from the Gannochy Trust, and a contribution from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

·In May 1998, a further grant of £5 million was awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop public access to the site and provide visitor facilities.

·The visitor centre will feature exhibits and displays, many interactive and using the latest technology, to tell the story of the mills and those who worked there. These will include demonstrations of how water mills work as well as sound – and smell – effects to give a sense of what conditions were like. Objects and equipment from the mills will be on display.

·The key themes of the exhibits will be power, people, place and products and will provide a fun family day out. Through interactive installations visitors will be given the opportunity to be a mill owner or a nimble-fingered child working amongst the clattering machines; water play installations will be challenge visitors to control the rushing waters using scale models of water wheels and turbines; in the carding room the smell, heat and noise of the factory floor will be brought vividly to life. A package of education activities is being developed to tie in with the National Curriculum for 9 – 14 year olds.

·Historic Scotland has 345 outstanding historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae.

·Historic Scotland’s mission is to safeguard the nation’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

For further information


Matthew Shelley
Historic Scotland
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8734
matthew.shelley@scotland.gsi.gov.uk