In one form or another, Heatherslaw Corn Mill has been in operation on this bank of the River Till for over 700 years.
The first written record of the Mill appears in 1291, stating it to be the property of one Mary Graham. This is closely followed by a document dated 1306 which records that Nicholas Graham’s widow held a water mill in Heatherslaw worth £4 a year.
Later in the century, in 1376, the mill was part of the property of William Heron of Ford Castle who subsequently passed it on to three new owners: his son, Walter Heron, William Flixborough (Rector of Ford) and Thomas Raynes.
Frustratingly, Heatherslaw Mill disappears from the historical record for the next 400 years. However, during these centuries the mill continued to grind flour through long periods of Border unrest and constant outbreaks of violence – on a local and national level. The Mill would most likely have provided much needed rations for the Scottish army in 1513, who had taken control of both Ford and Etal in the days before the Battle of Flodden.
The Mill returns to the record in the 18th century when Ford estate was under the ownership of Sir John Hussey Delaval. In 1768, Sir John paid the huge sum of £8400 for 750 hectares at Heatherslaw. For the next two years, he then spent £600 on reconstructing the mill into a ‘double mill’ – two complete mills under one roof.
These were successful years for the mill, with prosperity continuing into the nineteenth century. It is uncertain when the building took its present form, but it is most likely to have been around 1830, after the Waterford family had inherited the estate. The mill was raised to three storeys, separated into two equal mills, new wheels were repositioned, and new machinery was designed. For most of this century, the mill was managed by the Black family; miller John Black’s diaries have survived for us to read today.
However, with the 1880s came an agricultural depression and business quickly evaporated for the mill. Several millers struggled on until finally the mill ceased production in 1949 and was abandoned for good in 1957. The buildings soon fell into dereliction and decay.
This changed in 1972 when the Heatherslaw Mill Charitable Trust was set up with the intention to restore the derelict mill and develop it as a working museum. Heatherslaw Mill was opened to the public in 1975.