The site of the old village of Lochwinnoch was round the old graveyard where Auld Simon, the gable of an old church, now stands. In the eighteenth century, Lochwinnoch already had a number of old textile ventures. Not all of these were water-powered, and included several hand-powered weaving “factories” where a number of weavers worked together.
In 1788 William McDowall of Castle Semple laid out a new planned village as a westward expansion. He also built a large cotton mill, Calderpark Mill, on the western edge of the new village to attract new tenants.
The ‘Old’ or Calderpark Mill (1788) was the first cotton mill in the village, and McDowall’s partners would soon be owners of another cotton mill at Johnstone (Cartside). Calderpark was supplied with water power from the spectacular semi-circular dam on the Calder above Bridgend, which provided a fall of 24 feet. The flow of the Calder was supplemented by two dams constructed high up on the moors, at Queenside Loch and Calder Dam (now drained), with the option to build a third.
A second big cotton mill, the ‘New’ or Calderhaugh Mill, followed the year after Calderpark, further down its lade. A deep tailrace was also cut to Castle Semple Loch, to heighten the fall of the mill’s waterwheel. Calderhaugh was established by a trio of Paisley textile merchants, including Robert Fulton, son of a pioneer of Paisley’s silk manufacture. By 1813 it had 10,000 spindles and it was later converted to spinning flax, then silk.
A third cotton mill was built two years later on the Cloak Burn at Boghead, on the site of an old grain and woollen mill. The owners already had a weaving mill in Factory Street in the village. Boghead Mill was four stories high and powered by dams at Boghead and Kaim. Like most early rural cotton mills, with their timber floors and roofs, all were lost or damaged by fires. Boghead Mill was destroyed by fire in 1812. Calderpark Mill burned down in 1874, after lightning struck the roof. Four years later, part of the Calderhaugh Mill was damaged by fire, but the remainder survives, converted to flats in the 1980s.
© 2016, Stuart Nisbet