Dell Iron Mill


The York Building Company '... The York Building Company finding this part of Sir James Grant's estate a most eligible situation for carrying on other articles of trade and commerce, they erected a furnace for casting iron and several forges for making it fit for the uses of the country and for exportation. They made into charcoal immense quantities of wood, which was used in these furnaces and forges...' (A case in the court of session 1784) Following recommendations from the famous entrepreneur and poet, Aaron Hill, the York Buildings Company (YBC) secured a contract for harvesting Scots Pine in Abernethy and processing it at Nethy Bridge for the Royal Navy. However, it turned out that the quality was not what had been expected by the Navy and the YBC eventually fell into debt to the Laird Sir James Grant of Grant. GBP 4000 of GBP 7000 had been paid and in 1732, the Laird arrested the YBC governor, Colonel Horsey. This achieved the payment of the an outstanding GBP 1000 instalment, but the final GBP 2000 was unlikely to be received. At this point, the Colonel and Laird agreed to another contract to supply wood for charcoal. This was to be exported to England and Holland, but also used for an ironmaking industry, to be set up in Nethy Bridge.


Smelting locally quarried iron ore to make bar iron for construction.

Built by

The York Buildings Company (YBC)

Construction date


Location/map ref

Coulnakyle ( grid ref NH 998 215 approx ) (Nicholson and Anderson in Grant 1994). Lower Dell ( grid ref NJ 012 204 approx ). Balnagowan is also given as a possible location of a smelting mill (between the Lower Dell and the Nethy Bridge).


Abandoned 1739 (approx) Iron Ore Mining The YBC mined iron ore (brown hematite 45 - 50% Iron, 1.5 - 4% Manganese) at the Lecht, beyond Tomintoul ( about 20 miles away ). It was carried to Nethy Bridge in panniers on ponies ('garrons'). 120 ponies and many men were involved. Iron Production Iron was in production between 1730 and 1735, with a smelting furnace at Balnagowan and a forging mill near the Causer, under charge of Benjamin Lund. The works included four furnaces for making bar iron. Castings of about 40 cwt were thought to have been produced. A member of Parliament,a Mr William Stephens, was later selected as the manager of the operation, such was it's scale. Several iron products were described at various times, including - Cast Iron pillars ( 9ft x 16ft ), stamped with the letter 'I' or 'Benj. Lund'. Heaps of cast 'pig' iron, for exportation.

Other references

M. O'Reilly Explore Abernethy Visitor Centre linkto:[[Explore Abernethy website]] Grant, Elspeth (1994) 'Abernethy Forest - Its People and Its past' (Arkleton Trust )