MHG13749 - Mill Lade, Hempriggs


Telford's Mill Lade, running from Hempriggs Loch to Pulteneytown.

Type and Period (1)

  • LADE (Built, 19th Century - 1807 AD to 1809 AD (between))

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

ND 3S00 4717 to ND 3776 4999. Mill Lade. <1>

An open water course leading water from Loch Hempriggs (ND 34 47) to feed the reservoir at Pultneytown (ND 367 SOD). No reservoir is shown on 1st edition 6", but there is a Mill Dam at ND 367 499. <2>

A flowing water course, but the Mill Dam is now disused. (OSFI:JB:1.9.1982)

A project specification for upgrading the path which runs along the mill lade was forwarded to the HER. This includes some details of the history of the Telford built lade.

The Mill Lade was designed by Thomas Telford to carry water from Loch Hempriggs to the new settlement of Pulteneytown. It ran through the lands of Hempriggs to Roxburg Road, Pulteneytown, where it then enters the Distillery Complex, before flowing by an underground channel to the Harbour in Wick.

The work, including stone bridges and sluices was completed by the architect George Burns under Telford's design and specifications between the period 1807 and 1809, and included mills which made use of the water power. Remains of one mill is still in existence,that being, at the Barns of Hempriggs.

The proposal is to restore the path, as a good example of Caithness' industrial archaeology. The mill lade is still in use, largely for its original purpose, supplying water to the distillery for whisky production. <3>

Although Telford had taken the levels of Loch Hempriggs in 1804 and seen that the water could be transported with ease, it was not until March 1807 that the feu contract was completed between the British Fisheries Society and the landowner, Sir Benjamin Dunbar. One condition of the contract was that the new watercourse should also supply the corn and barley mills of the Dunbar estate. In July 1807 development started on the construction of the harbour, town, main bridge and the watercourse.

The lade channel is constructed exactly as stated in Telford’s original letters using Caithness slate laid in horizontal dyking and is still in use today. Drainage from adjacent fields does not pollute the course as all surplus water runs into underground culverts below the level of the channel – another of Telford’s ingenious concepts. The rise on the surrounding ground also creates an optical illusion, as the water appears to run uphill at one point. The mill lade, as it is known locally, fed the subsequent corn and barley mills, the mill pond, the brewery and the distillery before flowing via an underground culvert to emerge at the Harbour Bank and possibly a fountain where the fishermen could draw fresh supplies of the salubrious water of Hempriggs. You can still see evidence of where the water drains into the harbour at this point.

It was not until 1845 that piped water was fully available in the settlement and the Albert Reservoir was in operation. Later, in 1906 Loch yarrows was connected to Loch Hempriggs to cater for the increasing population of Wick and a new piping system installed. The lade, until recently, was used in the washing and cooling processes of Pultneytown Distillery, but with new filter tanks installed the lade water is being used directly for the production of whisky.

In 2006, in order to accommodate the new wood-burning District Heating Scheme, a diversion of the channel meant that a new culvert had to be constructed to ensure a regular flow. <4>

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred ND 3586 4862 (2042m by 3035m)
Map sheet ND34NE
Civil Parish WICK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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