Timber Sawmills


An account of the dealings of the York Buildings Company harvesting operations during the 18th Century in Abernethy parish: 1679 York Buildings Company (YBC) founded 'for the purpose of raising the Thames water for the supply of London' (Forsyth 1897). 1719 Government commissioners began to sell the forfeited Scottish Estates and the YBC began to buy them. 1730 YBC had spent over 300,000 pounds on these estates. They heard about Abernethy : '...a part of Scotland which at this date was probably as unknown in London as Lapland or Central Africa is today' (Forsyth 1897) 1726 Aaron Hill, the well respected and entrepeneurial London poet, toured north Scotland. He probably saw report from Capt. John Mason, who had a 41 year lease of Abernethy forest, for 20,000 Scots pounds. Mason had reported to the Royal Navy that the 'size and quality of the trees in Abernethy...likeliest to serve His Majesty's Government'. 'High upon the mountain of her native shore, The gummy pine shall shed his pitchy store, Tall firs which have useless long ages grown, Shall fight the seas and visit lands unknown' (Aaron Hill 1729 approx) 1728 YBC obtained Royal licence 'to trade in goods, wares and merchandise of the growth and produce of that part of the kingdom.' For 7000 pounds sterling, the Laird James Grant of Grant sold 60 000 'fir trees' (Scots Pine), to be harvested by YBC, mostly from Abernethy within 17 years. 1729 Colonel Horsey took up quarters at Coulnakyle to oversee the operation harvesting and exporting operations.


Processing harvested trees into timber. (Other water powered 'meal mills' existed - for the purpose of grinding grain to make flour).

Built by

Various individual owners. York Buildings Company.

Location/map ref

Alongside the River Nethy at Balnagowan Brae, Lower Dell and Coulnakyle. Alongside the Duack Burn in Dell Woods. Near Forest Lodge (Abernethy Forest). View down Balnagowan Brae. The sawmill would have been sited on the left (photograph courtesy of Alastair McCook).


18th Century - 1980's, Usually relatively simple timber buildings, housing a power source (in early times a water wheel) which was connected to saws.

Other references

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

2.Axehead closeup – showing ‘LS’ – ‘Lord Seafield’ stamp, which was used on stumps to signify authorised felling.

3.Snedding axe

4.Wooden, tensioned bowsaw

1.Seafield Estate axe