Deanston’s Past

Deanston’s Past

Deanston is situated across the River Teith from its sister village Doune, and along with the hamlet of Buchany and the land round about, they make up the old parish of Kilmadock (pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable). 

While Doune itself has a very long history, Deanston village appears to have a more recent origin.  The name Deanston derives from the earlier Deans Town (or Toon), named after Walter Drummond, who was the Dean of Dunblane in 1500, and acquired the land where Deanston is now.  

There may have been a few basic dwellings in the area for some time, but the village started to grow rapidly in the 1780’s to provide accommodation for the workers at the new mill.   

The Deanston Cotton Mill was built in 1785 by the Buchanan brothers, using the River Teith to power the mill, and the village grew up around this. The Buchanans were from Carston, near Manchester, and had become wealthy cotton and yarn merchants. 

In 1799, while under the ownership of a Quaker named Flounders, there was a fire at the mill, and after a difficult period, the mill closed for a few years in the early 1800’s.  This must have been a dreadful time for the families in the village, as most of them had been dependent on the mill for an income.  

Rescue came in 1808 when the mill was sold to James Finlay & Co, who developed the mill, including the construction of a 1400m mill lade (channel) to bring more water from the river to the mill.  There was also a large, weaving shed, with very efficient machinery.  These improvements helped to turn the mill into the industrial leader of its time, becoming a centre of excellence for industrial and mechanical engineering.  


View towards Deanston along River Teith
Deanston Cotton Mill

James Smith, the most famous manager of the mill, was appointed by Finlay’s at the age of just 18!  He was also a successful entrepreneur and is recognised for many inventions in the fields of wool spinning, agricultural drainage and mechanical and general engineering. It was Smith who built modern accommodation for many of his workforce, a relatively new idea in its day.  He also insisted on schooling for the many, often very young children who worked in the mill.

The streets of houses are called “the divisions” or “rows” and are still home to many residents today. Around 1830, the population of Deanston was over 500, and at its peak, the mill had over 1,000 workers, who were unusually well treated, with housing for many, schooling and other benefits. The mill at one point housed among its waterwheels, the largest one in Europe, known as Hercules.  The wheels, and doubtless other items of the machinery, were made in the mill foundry.  A later innovation in the village was the installation of gas lighting in 1913, many years ahead of the rest of the area.

Deanston remains a comprehensive example of a planned industrial village, one of the most complete textile mill company villages remaining in Scotland (along with New Lanark, Stanley, and Catrine).

Deanston Divisions

photographs by Jane Sumner