Project information

Bank Mill Project

Saving the last of Penicuik’s 6 historic papermills from demolition, refurbishing it as a working heritage centre for the Scottish papermaking industry and rebuilding its waterwheel to generate electricity will rejuvenate the town’s civic pride and economic vitality and train people in craft skills.

October 2010 - December 2015

Charity information

Penicuik Community Development Trust Ltd

Penicuik Community Development Trust Ltd logo
  • Need


    Loosing ~1000 jobs when Penicuik paper mills closed coincided with building Europe’s largest Radburn-style housing estate and trebling our population. Fear of becoming a dormitory town where people drive to Edinburgh for work, shopping and entertainment has sapped civic morale and threatened local shops. PCDT members have created social enterprises to run an Arts Centre, a Cinema and an annual Arts Festival but shops need an increased footfall year-long and aspirations need lifting more widely.


    The Bank Mill Project will restore civic pride, create craft training and employment, and bring visitors to Penicuik. Creating a heritage centre featuring 300 years of papermaking in Penicuik that also produces specialist paper for the graphic art market and is backed up by a large waterwheel and working machinery will rejuvenate the town’s proud motto “Penicuik the Papermaking Town”, stimulate economic, cultural and social life in the town and inspire young people to learn craft skills.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    1 Create a national heritage centre for the Scottish papermaking industry


    » 1.1 Complete the purchase of the remaining parts of the late C18th-early C19th Bank Mill
    » 1.2 Refurbish them and add circulation and display areas connecting them to a pedestrian access
    » 1.3 Display existing exhibition material about papermaking in Penicuik and Scotland, and add new displays and equipment.

    Success will be: ownership; opening the Heritage Centre to the public; achieving 120 visitors per week before refurbishment and 360 per week thereafter; school party visits.

    Aim 2

    2 Re-establish the making of specialist, low-volume, high-value paper in Penicuik.


    » 2.1 Purchase and install basic equipment for commercial hand-made paper making, salvaged from closed mills and gifted from museum stores.
    » 2.2 Create separate vats and frames for casual visitors, school parties and arts students to make their own paper.
    » 2.3 Establish contracts with graphics artists – Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh Graphics Workshop, etc – to commission our making art paper.

    Success will be the commercial sale of paper and arts students using our facilities

    Aim 3

    3 Re-build the ancient water wheel, formerly powering the Mill, to generate electricity.


    » 3.1 Purchase the adjacent property owning the mill lades (currently a fish farm).
    » 3.2 Carry out the second stage of an engineering appraisal of the lades, the optimal location of the wheel and its potential power output.
    » 3.3 Commission the wheel construction and associated electricity generating capacity from local or national fabricators.
    » 3.4 Use power for heating, lighting and machinery within the mill and agree a contract for exporting surplus power to the grid.

    Success will be completing the construction of the Bank Mill wheel and generating electricity commercially exchanged with the grid.

    Aim 4

    4 Create a facility, with local industry, to manufacture water wheels for microhydropower.


    » 4.1 Restore a fabricating workshop attached to Bank Mill (the building was most recently used by a steel work company).
    » 4.2 Bring together local and national companies, and individual expertise, to design, build and install water wheels to generate electricity.

    Success will be the establishment of a working consortium with the ability to make and and commission water wheels for electricity generation.

    Aim 5

    5 Use Bank Mill’s location to support and boost local tourism.


    » 5.1 Create a local tourist information centre in Bank Mill.
    » 5.2 Work with the Esk Valley Trust to exploit Bank Mill’s location astride the long-distance walking and cycle route called the Esk Valley Way.
    » 5.3 Convert the two houses attached to the Fish Farm to ‘Gite d’etape’/hostel style accommodation for walkers, cyclists and other tourists.
    » 5.4 Set up a cycle information, hire and maintenance facility at Bank Mill.

    Success will be opening the tourist information centre and the facility for cyclists, and having visitors using the tourist accommodation

  • Impact


    Many Penicuik residents moved here after paper mills closed. Education about Penicuik’s past will be re-enforced by seeing tangible outcomes – paper made again and electricity generated by big water wheels. Everyone gets a more positive view of the town and will see visitor numbers making it a tourist destination. Work with new craft skills and industrial microhydropower, and enhanced rambling and cycling opportunities, will make Penicuik a place for families to enjoy and secure their future.


    The large capital required is separable into smaller components. Failure to acquire early funding for some – eg buying the mill lades and building the waterwheel – would not delay progress with the heritage centre; the cost of buying in power rather than generating it on site might hamper the development of commercial paper making but school parties and art students could continue to make paper. Two key people are 65 but PCDT management has now developed a wider age spread to compensate.


    PCDT management committee meets approximately monthly and donors will receive copies of the minutes by email. Financial and activity reports are sent annually to OSCR and Companies House but the minutes include more frequent reports. Our management would welcome and respond to feedback from donors.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £2,019,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £454,000 set-up Buy & equip Bank Mill; comp lete necessary compliance and weatherproofinf
      £550,000 refurbishment Build new access and display space and complete refurbishment of the old mill
      £1,015,000 hydropower Buy mill lades, modify associ ated building for visitor accommodation; build
  • Background


    Tourism that exploits Penicuik’s world-famous papermaking heritage, the Esk Valley woods and the Pentland Hills, will boost its economy. Cowan’s Valleyfield Mill, founded in 1709 and giving its name to the Canadian city of Valleyfield, absorbed Bank Mill in 1803. Alex Cowan pioneered social reform, creating factory schooling, social housing, & sick pay and pensions for men and women before 1850. The 1872 Japanese mission to America and Europe chose Valleyfield to learn how the West made paper.


    The Bank Mill Project aims to benefit all members of our community. It is multi-stranded: a coherently linked plan developing tourism to make town centre shopping and businesses more viable, creating craft employment in light industry and facilities for graphic art professionals, training and inspiration in craft skills for youngsters, generating clean renewable energy, enhancing active leisure opportunities and enhancing civic pride.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    PCDT is embedded in the community with a proven record of success using the social enterprise model. We receive no recurrent grant. We have run a community café in the Cowan Institute every Saturday for 5 years and created and run a community cinema there for 3. 2010 saw the 4th annual Penicuik Arts Festival. With a 30 year lease of a Penicuik Estate walled garden, our Penicuik Food Project will grow organic fruit and vegetables. We currently mobilise some 1500 hours of volunteer work annually.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Roger Kelly

    Roger is PCDT Chairman, a chartered town planner retired from the Scottish Office and a past chair of the Royal Town Planning Institute in Scotland.

    Roger Hipkin

    Roger is PCDT Secretary, a research geodesist at Edinburgh University, a keen amateur historian and manages an Ethiopian educational aid project.

    Jane Mackintosh

    Jane is PCDT Treasurer, a mother of two teenage children, and a grassland specailist working for Scottish Natural Heritage.

    Ulla Hipkin

    Ulla, a Swedish artist , was a founder member of both PCDT and, 25 years ago, Penicuik Arts Association. She now runs the Penicuiks Arts Festival.