This thread was originally written and published in February 2019. It has been lightly edited and corrected as applicable for this post.
Here’s your Monday Morning Chancelot Roller Flour Mill in glorious technicolour.
Just check out that clocktower and chimney!
“The most handsome mill in the world“. The clocktower stood at 185 feet and was a north Edinburgh landmark. The below illustration is from 1891.
And a 1910 view here.
Here is the general arrangement. The mill (magenta) was served by both the Caledonian Railway (blue line) that came through the cutting in Victoria Park and across the Water of Leith, and the North British (olive line) that swept around the back between Bonnington North and East junctions
That first picture was taken on the chord between Bonnington South and East junctions, just before it ran across the river briefly (and then crossed back onto the side it started on)
This photo, set back slightly, shows where the train was, it had just turned off the line in the foreground onto the curve going to the right. The allotments are still there, although the bridges across the WoL have been razed. The mill was part of the SCWS (Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society) empire, and exported flour and meal to Europe. It’s interesting that even in the 1950s, the traditional Scottish export routes from Leith to the Scandinavian states are advertised
SCWS also had a large office / warehouse complex off of Leith Links, which is in a not dissimilar free Renaissance style. The architect for both buildings was James Simpson.
These are now split into Links House and Great Michael House and refurbished as offices. Interestingly, the first half of this building was completed in 1879 when Leith was not part of Edinburgh, so it bears the civic coats of arms of Leith and Glasgow, but not Edinburgh!
Anyway, back to the Chancelot Mill. Flour milling is a dusty and dangerous business. The mill was badly damaged in 1914-15 by a fire. There was a significant explosion in 1967, which led to a fire that gutted much of the interior. I don’t know if the fire had caused structural issues, but the mill was never reopened and was pulled down in 1971. There’s some great, but sad, photos of it here. A new Chancelot mill was built instead, on reclaimed land off the west of Leith Docks, an altogether more modern and utilitarian facility. It’s still there under new ownership.
It was a sensible site as it was right next to the existing 1950s Rank-Hovis mill (“Caledonian Mill”), which was pulled down in the noughties. You can still see the ghost of its footprint on Google Earth. Both mills could receive bulk grain from ships in the berth alongside them.
I’ll leave this link here. This one is taken underneath the Caledonian Railway “Leith New Lines” bridge, south of the river, looking north, where the Bonnyhaugh housing estate now is. Do follow the link and zoom in on it.
The railways round here crossed over and back over each other, it can be hard to work out where you are sometimes, this should help;
And a fab image on Britain from Above below (Do check out the original. If you set up a free account, you can zoom right in on these images, the resolution is fantastic)
The Capital Collections image was taken underneath the bowstring girder bridge you can see in the bottom right of the aerial shot
Here’s that impressive bridge. The Caledonian built this line in 1910 to improve their access to both sides of Leith Docks and by this time the land it had to pass over was nearly all built up and developed, so they had to use a disadvantageous route and built it upwards, with many expensive viaducts and bridges.
Here we can see the Caledonian line snaking its way through the industries of Bonnington. There was a goods yard (“Rosebank”) here, as well as extensive sidings directly into the mills and works. And here’s the big bridge over Bonnington Toll, being demolished in 1968 – it was a smidge too low for double decker buses, I believe.
Actually I reckon you could have got a double decker under this, I know the road level was lowered after the bridge was built to allow double-deck trams to pass under (hence the steep, double-step kerbs on the crossing here.) I did an experimental “fly by” trip along the Caledonian line using Google Earth a while back, which takes you past the Chancelot Mill and along the route of most of these pictures, you can see the results here.
In case your wondering, “Chancelot” has nothing to do with “Camelot”, the name came from a now demolished Georgian villa – first Chance Lott then Chancelot. This land would have been nurseries or market gardens. Probably from the Scots “chance lotin”, or “lucky feu” (plot)
The SCWS had another mill nearby, which produced oatmeal, this mill wasn’t built for the SCWS so was a fairly plain affair. Porridge was big business! It was closed when production was moved to the “New” Chancelot Mill in the 1970s.
Here are some of the Chancelot Mill workers on the company war rolls for 1914-1918
64 men from the works went off to war. 9 never came back, the others we can assume came back in body but who knows what torment their minds and souls were in.
32 men from the Junction Mills joined them, 4 never returned, 5 were discharged as disabled.
There are some interesting slide shots of the mill interior being sold on ebay. The floors would have been full of belt-driven machinery like this, driven by the mill’s own steam engine. Hence the enormous chimney.
The Canmore archive has some architectural record shots online. The image of the clocktower (devoid of its roof) is exceptional.
SCWS sold its self raising flout under the “Lofty Peak” brand. I believe the Co-op still does.
Their white flour was called “Crystal Stream”, there is a picture of a bag for it here. The SCWS was the wholesale and manufacturing side of the Co-op movement. Customers bought from their local Co-op Society, in Edinburgh this was St. Cuthbert’s and in Leith this was Leith Provident. The latter would merge and would later form a key part of the Scottish Midland Co-operative; Scotmid. SCWS made all sorts, from soap to jam to flour and ran industrial scale bakeries and creameries. They also made many non-foodstuffs and exported these too.
“Shieldhall brand” coffee essence .
Fig jam (keeps you regular)
SP (not HP!) brand brown sauce .
“Snow Drop” brand table salt (packed by the Chemical Department in Govan) .
And for the “bosom pals”?
The soap and candle works was in Grangemouth. Carbolic anyone?
The National Gallery of Scotland holds this fine aerial photo of Chancelot, do click the link so you can view it zoomed in.
The area circled in red is the cooling pond for the boiler, the white dots are individual water hot water sprays into the cold pond below.
And if you zoom in on the skinnery, you can make out skins hanging out to dry on the framework at the back of the factory .
Ans lastly, if you zoom in on the buildings on the left of the photo, you can see the site of the original Chance Lott house, replaced by a tenement in the early 20th century.
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[…] by two newer and larger mills built nearby; the 1955 Caledonia Mill of Joseph Rank Ltd. and the 1970 (New) Chancelot Mill of the Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Society. Tod’s Mill soldiered on into the 1960s before […]