Bobbin from Contin Bobbin Mill

02 December 2020

News Type:
Find of the Month

This wooden bobbin was reputedly made at a bobbin mill at Contin, Easter Ross. A number of mills in the 19th and 20th century in northern Scotland manufactured bobbins for textile factories in the south. The mills were usually powered by water or steam. Some were purpose-built, but others occupied mills used for other purposes.

The bobbin mills of northern Scotland have been investigated by Joanna Gilliatt who recorded 88 bobbin mills in her subject area of Northern Scotland, from Angus, Perthshire, Aberdeenshire and the Highlands, uncovering information on a number of previously unrecorded sites using a range of sources including maps, newspaper accounts, valuation rolls and local knowledge. Most of the mills used birch, which was available over much of the area. In order to produce a bobbin, blocks of an appropriate size were cut, a hole bored down the centre and then a roughing lathe produced the needed shape and a finishing lathe the final product

The mill at Contin was located near the Black Water, and was in use from c. 1930 to the 1950s. It appears to have been set up by William Rose, a local timber merchant, who had previously managed at mill at Bhlaraidh in Glenmoriston. The mill was a wooden structure, powered by steam, though some local people remembered it as water-driven. The rough cut bobbins were taken to Inverness railway station, and then by train to Dundee for finishing and use in the jute mills. Local people remember using the bobbin rejects as firewood. This example was fortunately saved, and brought to the ARCH oral history sessions.

Further information:

Gilliatt, Joanna 2018 Bobbin Mills in the North of Scotland, Independent Publishing Network: Sevenoaks.

Remembering the Strathpeffer Area: 1. Jamestown. Site 354. Transcript of memories from oral history project available on the ARCH website in the Library ( in the Remembering the Strathpeffer Area folder

Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH), The Goods Shed, The Old Station, Strathpeffer, Ross-Shire, Scotland IV14 9DH
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