Birthplace of the Welly takes centre stage


02 April 2014
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imports_CESC_0-kew9tj1d-100000_86105.jpg Birthplace of the Welly takes centre stage
The former headquarters of the North British Rubber Company in Edinburgh, birthplace of the Wellington Boot and the first ever traffic cone, has come a step closer to avoiding demolition after receiving a major Heritage Lottery Fund grant. ...
Birthplace of the Welly takes centre stage Images
The former headquarters of the North British Rubber Company in Edinburgh, birthplace of the Wellington Boot and the first ever traffic cone, has come a step closer to avoiding demolition after receiving a major Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant.

Castle Mills in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, is the last standing reminder of the city’s world renowned rubber mill. Now on the Buildings at Risk register, it was famous for pioneering the use of India rubber to make Wellington Boots, supplying 1.2million pairs to World War One soldiers to help them deal with the flooded conditions of the trenches.

Today, through its Heritage Enterprise programme, HLF has earmarked funding of almost £5million to reinvigorate the building as a world-leading printmaking facility, a hub for creative enterprise and an arts centre with café, bar and learning spaces (the image above shows an artist's impression of the new facilities. HLF also awarded a grant of £500,000 to assist Edinburgh Printmakers in developing the project to the next stage of the application process.

Built in stages between 1856 and 1897 beside the Union Canal, Castle Mills is the last visible reminder of an industrial heritage which played a central role in Edinburgh’s development and economy, and in the livelihood of its population for over five generations. At its peak, the North British Rubber Company employed 8,000 people and covered a vast twenty-acre site. Even as late as the 1950s, it was still the city’s largest industry, employing over 3,000 people.

Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund said: 'Castle Mills was once at the heart of a thriving community but now stands empty and neglected and whilst much-loved, its restoration presents huge financial challenges.

'We are delighted to be able to help unlock its potential so that it can once again be a centre for new ideas and productivity and a catalyst in the regeneration of Fountainbridge.'

Main image: A pack horse loaded with rubber trench boots (waiders) is led through the mud near Beaumont Hamel on the Somme battlefield, November 1916  © Imperial War Museums (Q 1565); artist's impression copyright Oliver Chapman Architects


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