Places That We Know

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  • Surrounded by beautiful countryside, farmland with pockets of woodland and bogland
  • Stunning park for walks and play, looked after by local residents
  • Historically an important industrial community, where exceptional high quality raw materials were mined and extracted to support local industries.

Barrmill’s story

Barrmill village was purpose built for thread mill workers alongside the Crawford Brother’s Linen Thread Mill which opened in 1836. The firm originally began in Beith in 1775, the third earliest of its kind in the UK, and chose the Barrmill site due to the proximity of the Dusk Water stream as the water source for the steam engine which powered the mill machinery.

Barrmill forest path

Barr Mill made linen thread for every purpose and employed 400 workers at peak between 1880 and 1900. After 1908, and three generations of Crawford’s, the company was amalgamated with W&J Knox of Kilbirnie and others as part of The Linen Thread Co. Knox was famous for using linen thread in the manufacture of fishing nets. In World War Two, the mill lost all its import and export trade and was forced to close; the buildings latterly being used as flax stores while work continued on at Kilbirnie.

Through the Crawford brothers' influence, Barrmill was well connected by rail from 1873, with two railway stations and eventually three railway lines.

Kilns at Nettlehirst and Broadstone burned limestone, mainly for agricultural use. The last traditional limekilns in Scotland were in use here up to 1972. Lime was recognised as improving the local heavy clay soils and neutralising acidity, in order to make the soil more suitable for arable farming. Lime was also used to treat outbreaks of infection in farm animals, and in the second half of the 1800s lime was also transported to Glengarnock to use in the iron and steel industries.

Limestone and Whinstone quarries operated in the Barrmill area, where the natural stone was considered to be exceptional. Even marble was quarried locally. The nearby settlement of Greenhills was predominantly inhabited by workers of the Kings and Co. whinstone quarry until the 1920s.

The Dockra Ironstone pit was opened in 1897 and operated until the 1921 strike, supplying raw ironstone to Glengarnock Iron and Steelworks alongside other ironstone pits near Barrmill such as Birsieknowe. It never reopened after the strike even though the mine was not worked out.

The Braefoot Building, a double tenement block of 14 apartments which accommodated some of the workforce, was originally built in 1888 by Robert Mackie for his Barr Brickworks and pit workers. The brickworks closed in 1902 and the Braefoot became home to Dockra pit workers and other labourers.

Ironmasters Merry & Cunningham, who owned Glengarnock Ironworks at the time, built their own accommodation for Dockra pit workers in Barrmill in what became known as The Miners Blocks. These three square blocks, situated near the railway line just off Dunlop road, housed 12 families.

Additionally, there were a number of coal pits in the neighbouring landscape. Waste from the Dockra ironstone pit bing was re-used in the expansion of the defence munitions stores between Barrmill and Beith in the mid 1950s. The base, first established in the 1940s, expanded greatly during the Cold War to faciliate the storage of naval weapons and explosives. It is still in use today. It provided much local employment and apprenticeships for school leavers in the 1950s and 60s when work and prospects in Barrmill itself had drastically declined.

The boundary fence of the defence munitions stores on the edge of Barrmill village.

The boundary fence of the defence munitions stores on the edge of Barrmill village.

In the 1830s Barrmill suffered the loss of about 40 local children and teenagers due to cholera. A burial pit is still marked and observed in the village today.

Sections of the branch line are still visible in places

Sections of the branch line are still visible in places

There were a number of significant mansions built in and around the village, such as Nettlehirst House, owned by toy merchant William Burns. The house burnt in the 1930s but the water tower still remains a striking local feature.

Historically, Barrmill was part of the Barony of Giffen in the Parish of Beith. During this time, two 15th century castles were located in the area: Broadstone and Giffen. Agriculture was the primary land use then. Dairy was one of the most profitable forms of farming across the Beith parish, with tenants making dairy products such as sweet milk cheese.

Thanks to Carrick Crawford of Barrmill Conservation Group for his contributions to this page.


  • Village with an industrial history that has produced linen thread, limestone, whinstone, marble, ironstone and coal
  • A number of rural walking trails can be enjoyed, starting from Barrmill Park

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