Context 139 - May 2015

26 C O N T E X T 1 3 9 : M A Y 2 0 1 5 used for cotton and wool, moving to and fro on tracks facing one another. Cotton and woollen mills therefore adopted roofs of multiple pitches and valleys (such as Listers’ Mill, Bradford, to which new pods have been added by Urban Splash), until eventually roofs became so wide in Lancashire that the opportunity was taken to place concrete water reservoirs on top of them. In Dundee 20 textile mills have been converted to housing, 13 of which contain internal iron-framed structures while the remainder have new interiors (one of them as a result of a fire and six because they were not listed).West Bridge in Kirkcaldy almost had the indignity of a facade retention inflicted on it, but it too retains its internal structure after some persuasion by Historic Scotland. Near-misses like this, and even insurance problems, led to the commissioning by Historic Scotland of a practitioners’ guide by Tom Swailes.1 How can this uniquely Dundee aspect of material culture best be appreciated? A residential use has suited the proportions of many of them, although one bay of Pullar’s DyeWorks in Perth is now fixed to a multi-storey car park. Upper Dens Mill, Dundee, has a common area containing artworks, a large chess set and four bays visible of the roof to be enjoyed by residents of Hillcrest Housing Association.West Bridge Mill, a foyer in Kirkcaldy, has some iron trusses exposed in its training suite. More elaborate sections of iron work are now to be enjoyed within the flats of other mills (South Mills,Tay,Taybank and CamperdownWorks) due to the need to maximise the value, space and quality of light inside apartments. So twin-level or mezzanine flats might now have flower baskets or other decoration hanging from the tracery, according to the whim of the resident. At CamperdownWorks, largest of the jute mills, there are communal areas in which the iron tracery may be enjoyed together with the massive fluted doric columns of a beam engine. A long stretch of the south wall opens out at first floor through a colonnade of big cast-iron columns, rather like Liverpool’s Albert Dock, leading on to a series of shed roofs also framed in cast iron. Several of these were damaged while being stripped out for scrap by a previous owner, but the rest are gathered to form a pergola that makes an extraordinary vista for residents and visitors. Slates and timber were already lost, so the decision not to restore a now-missing roof covering was relatively easy. The most recent, and long-overdue, intervention in a Dundee textile mill is the refurbishment of the High Mill at VerdantWorks. Since 1995 interpretation of the textile industry has been delivered by Dundee Heritage in warehouse sheds and an office arranged around the mill yard, while conversion of the main part of the spinning mill awaited a future phase. During that time of benign neglect, feasibility work by Tayside Building Preservation Trust considered alternative uses. These included possible display of the journalistic output of DCThomson, development as student apartments, or use as an archive along with the adjacent former printing works. Here the arched, cast-iron roof is over timber floors, which succumbed to rot. It became apparent that substantial upgrading of floor loading would be necessary in any of these outcomes. Instead the solution is brilliantly simple: take away the floorboards and do not replace them, or not yet anyway. The frame is now visible from different angles as light floods the building from above.The reduced floor space is flexible, and headroom is no problem for large items, like a Boulton andWatt engine of 1802. VerdantWorks, Dundee, in 2013.The High Mill after more than a decade of zero maintenance, and only a little for many years before that, before works started. Floor boards were so rotten that they had to be taken out. 1 Swailes,T, Dakin, A andWatson, M (2006) Guide for Practitioners 5: Scottish iron structures (2006) download at http://issuu.com/ hspubs/docs/guide-for- practitioners-5---scot- tish-iron-structur [sic] MarkWatson is in the industrial heritage team at Historic Scotland. CamperdownWorks, Lochee, Dundee. A series of shed roofs framed in gothic cast- iron tracery permitted a flow of light and materials from an outshot Low Mill to a multi-storey High Mill opened out at a colonnade of big cast-iron columns. Several trusses were damaged while being stripped out for scrap but the rest are gathered to form an open pergola. A new wall is tucked behind the columns to allow appreciation of the colonnade. Photographs are by the author except where noted.

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