Industry in the Hillfoot Villages

The Hillfoot Villages are located where fast moving streams emerge from the Ochil Hills.

From at least the 16th century there was a wool weaving industry in the area. The stream water was used to wash the wool, and also in the dyeing process. At that time the wool was spun on a simple spinning wheel and the cloth was woven on a hand loom. The same happened in loads of places so nothing special so far.

However, the steep slope of the Ochils means that the rivers are flowing fast and powerfully, and when inventions of the 18th century resulted in the mechanisation of the spinning and weaving processes, this power was harnessed for use by the industry.

By 1830 there were 9 water powered textile mills in Alva alone. Water was channelled or piped to a waterwheel. The machines in the mill were connected to this and so, as it turned, fibre was spun and cloth was woven.
The mills have long since closed but a walk up Alva Glen reveals plenty of evidence of the past.

The route of the pipe is now a safe path up the steep glen.

Water flow was controlled by dams and sluice gates.

The stream in nearby Mill Glen, at Tillicoultry, also powered 8 mills. Both valleys are interesting to explore. There are safe paths and walkways that keep you above the slippery riverside.

In each case you gradually emerge from the deep glen and can look back to the lowland beyond the Ochils.

Next week, I’ll tell you what happened to the wool industry and how the people of the area are employed today.