The Papermaking Industry in Edinburgh
Papermaking was introduced to Scotland in 1590. The first papermill in Scotland was founded in Dalry which is on the river, the Water of Leith. This 23 mile stretch of Water was once the centre of the papermaking industry in Edinburgh. In the 1800s at the height of its production the Water of Leith had between 80 and 90 mills in operation, and many of these were papermills.
Industry up to the mid 1900s relied on water power. A plentiful supply of water was needed for many of the papermaking processes and before the advent of steam all machinery was powered by water. Many of the papermaking mills on the Water of Leith were located on the site of waulk mills. The Water of Leith was a perfect location for the blossoming papermaking industry. The proximity of the river to Granton Harbour was ideal for the shipping in of raw materials and the exporting of paper products. Edinburgh was also a waiting market for paper goods and a ready supply of cotton and rags, which was the raw material of the papermaking industry at the time.
For more information about the papermaking industry on the Water of Leith, the Scottish Archive of Print and Publishing History Records (SAPPHIRE) has undertaken a two-year project interviewing former papermill employees.