MHG1728 - John O'Groats Mill


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Type and Period (1)

  • GRAIN MILL (Built, 18th Century - 1750 AD to 1750 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

A largely very early C20 mill at Huna, to the west of John O'Groats, Caithness. Its western wing was probably originally built in the 1840s and subsequently re-modelled and extended in 1901. It was apparently originally built as a threshing mill but later became the main grinding mill following the later re-build.

(Location cited as ND 372 733). John O' Groats Mills. The larger mill, built in 1750 and rebuilt in 1901, is a handsome 3-storey rubble building, on an L plan, with a double kiln. The machinery is driven by an 8-spoke overshot wood and iron wheel, 4ft 3ins (1.3m) wide by 13ft (3.96m) diameter. Nearby is a smaller mill (ND37SE 44.00) with a similar wheel, 2ft 10ins (0.86m) wide by 12ft (3.66m) diameter. <1>

The building was listed at Category B in 1984 with the associated former threshing mill (see MHG19664) and stable/workshop (see MHG47076) to the south and bridge (see MHG1729) to the west.

Photograph of the mill taken in 1989 by R Gourlay of Highland Regional Council. <2>

John O'Groats Mill, Huna. Two corn mills: the larger (1750) was originally a threshing mill, but was rebuilt in 1901 as a corn mill. This reversed the function of the smaller mill (1846) which then became the threshing mill. The former has a tall double-vented kiln, the mill motivated by an overshot wheel. Both mills share the same lade. <3>

In 2013 AOC Archaeology Group was commissioned by the Princes Regeneration Trust in association with the North Highland Initiative to undertake the first phase of works of a much wider vision for the future of the abandoned John O'Groats Mill. These works, undertaken between 4th-8th March and 14th March, included: a desk-based assessment and walkover survey of the land within the ownership of the mill owner; a detailed measured survey of the mill; a general topographic site plan of the area including the mill pond and its associated waterways; a detailed written and photographic survey of the mill, the mill cottages and the abandoned cottages to the north-west, as well as the adjacent 17th century Cromwellian Bridge; an inventory of all the moveable artefacts inside the mill and a geophysical survey on the ground surrounding the mill (carried out by Rose Geophysical Consultants).

John O'Groats Mill was constructed largely in 1901, a rebuild of a much earlier threshing mill built in the 1840s, near the site of an even earlier mill thought to date from the mid-18th century, probably much earlier. It is a long held belief that there has been a mill on the site for many hundreds of years, and the area of John O'Groats certainly has a long history dating back to the post-medieval period. However, apart from some unpublished investigations dating to the 1980s, there has been no evidence to suggest that any such mills existed, hence this survey aims to pin-point, as best it can, a history and phasing to the site and its landscape in an effort to fully understand its significance. With this information, a better judgement can be made on any future uses for the site and how it can be preserved for the future.

The present mill is a large mill for its type, being three storeys in height with a large kiln to the north-east side with a huge overshot waterwheel - set in its own wheel house - powering three large millstones to the first floor. It has been left empty since 2001, and there is a multitude of artefacts within the mill which, although not of great antiquity, are all part of the picture of the history and use of the mill in its latest decades of life. The inventory turned up 246 separate entries, some of which have been grouped together as they were found, hence there are many more individual artefacts within the mill for consideration for future display or re-use. The mill pond to the south is just as interesting, lined with flagstones and stone cobbled weirs and water channels.

The geophysical survey uncovered nothing but land drains to the field adjacent to the mill to the east, although there were some anomalies to the west of the present mill which may represent what remains of an earlier 1818 mill and/or pre-1818 mill (dating to at least the mid-18th century, probably earlier).

It was recommended that the next phase of works centre on excavations to the area to the west of the mill in conjunction with a general cleaning up of the area of the bridge in conjunction with the conservation plans of the mill. In addition, a closer examination of the artefacts within the mill has provided a general strategy for conservation and display. There is a huge scope for future community involvement in both these stages of the process, including visits, open days and oral history projects. <4> <5>

NOTE: <4> mentions that the 1901 phase of the mill's construction was a re-build of that from the 1840s, however, the footprint of the western wing of the 1901 mill is on exactly the same footprint as that shown on the OS 1st Edition of 1873. Comparisons between the John Nicholson painting of 1888, which shows the 1840s building, and more recent photographs (all of which look to the southeast) would suggest that the lower two thirds of the western wing of the building are largely comprised of the earlier building. A change in the stonework and quoins can be seen on the northwest elevation and north corner at the point where the builiding height was raised [IS-L 18/03/2022].

An archaeological watching brief was undertaken by AOC Archaeology Group in 2023 at the site in advance of a proposed extension to the mill building to form visitor facilities, landscaping, and a car parking area. The works were split into two areas, the proposed mill extension foundation and the main visitor's car park. No archaeological features or deposits were identified in either area. <6>

Parent for:

ND37SE0030 Mill bridge
ND37SE0046 Mill cottage
ND37SE0053 Threshing mill

Jhooper, 21/09/2001

Sources/Archives (7)



Grid reference Centred ND 3720 7334 (25m by 19m)
Map sheet ND37SE
Civil Parish CANISBAY
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (4)

Related Investigations/Events (3)

External Links (3)

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