The noise of the web and carding machines thwart any normal conversation. That is why the women who operate the machines use their own sign language to communicate. This special language is also understood by the children, whose tasks include crawling under the running machines to clean them…
Stanley Mills is one of the oldest factory complexes in Scotland - and best preserved as well. Audio-visual installations closely simulate the former everyday operation and lead directly back to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. During their tour, the visitors meet the English cotton baron Richard Arkwright, often labelled as the father of the ‘factory system’, who helped a Scottish partnership to build Stanley Mills in 1786. They also get acquainted with the many women and children who made up the majority of the workers for decades because they were cheap labour. Not least they learn a lot about the use of hydropower. A hands-on experience provided by several experimental stations invites them to try out different types of waterwheels or to learn how to control the transmission of power by activating bigger or smaller gears. This factory, that much is clear, is not merely a museum, but a living place!
A normal workday at Stanley Mills had 13 hours, even for children: from 5.30am to 7pm, with a 45-minute break for breakfast and dinner. In 1833 the mills were, like every factory, visited by a group of Parliamentary Commissioners which led to a law that banned the employment of children younger than nine in textile mills, and obliged managers to provide some schooling.
Stanley Mills is located in a loop of the River Tay and, due to the strong current, offered ideal conditions for the operation of a factory. The working conditions, as was customary at that time, were hard and exploitative. On the other hand, the purpose-built factory settlement with its stone and brick houses offered an outstanding living quality compared with other rural settlements. In 1795 the site gave work to 350 people, including 300 women and children. Bell Mill, the first of the three spinning mills, has undergone only few changes since its establishment by Richard Arkwright in 1786. The other main buildings, East Mill and Mid Mill, were built from around 1794 and 1822. In 1848, George Buchanan, the owner of the site at that time, managed to connect Stanley Mills to the national railway network, which made the transport of raw cotton from Glasgow much easier. Even more innovative was the conversion from waterwheel to turbine drive. This meant that the frequent floods of the River Tay would not pause production any longer, as happened before, up to 50 days a year. At about the same time, a new product was introduced: robust cotton belts, which were exported all over the world since they were a new means to transmit power in Stanley Mills and wherever machines were involved. In 1989 production ceased after more than 200 years, leaving behind one of the best preserved monuments of the Industrial Revolution. The Prince‘s Regeneration Trust has converted part of the complex into apartments the first of its pioneering projects to regenerate large industrial sites. Bell Mill opened in 2008 with an exciting interactive exhibition.
|Recommended duration of visit:||1,5 Hours|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||For details see website|
|Infrastructure for children:|
|Visitor centre on site:||yes|
|Gift and book shop on site:||yes|
April to September:
Wednesday - Sunday 9.30am-12.30pm, 1.30-5.30pm
last entry 4.30pm
closed October to March