Built around 1518, it seems that Shore Mill was constructed as a result of a dispute between the town’s people and Prior John Hepburn and the Convent, following the erection of the great Abbey wall in the early 1500s. It has been suggested that the wall was built to keep the people of St Andrews out of the vicinity of the Priory during a time of disease, but it might be the case that the wall was built when the College of St Leonards was established in 1512. Abbey Mill would then have been within the Abbey Walls which possibly made it difficult for the community of the area to access the mill. A decree arbitral was given by the Archbishop of St Andrews which ordered the Priory and Convent to build a new mill at the harbour, a bridge across the lade and ‘a sufficient crossing (fwrd) under the mill dam to allow for boats, people and goods to have free access to and from the harbour or ‘haven’ (hawyn) .’ It is thought that prior to the lade being extended for use at Shore Mill, the tailrace from Abbey Mill had dispersed to the east and did not present a difficult crossing but the extension of the lade had created an obstacle that required a safe bridge. The decree of 1518 also stated that the Priory and Convent were responsible for repairs or damage caused by the mill and if this was not upheld the lade would be closed and the mill demolished.
A corn mill for the burgh, Shore Mill was feued by the Priory to three generations of the Cairns family from 1549. The feu was surrendered to the town by John Cairns in 1596. The town continued to lease the mill to burgh tenants.
Prior to 1794 there does not seem to have been a dwelling house assigned to the mill as a petition was submitted to the town council requesting that a small house and stable be built for the miller along with the repair of the mill’s structure, including the roof which was in such bad repair that it let in wind, water and vermin.
Throughout most of the nineteenth century Shore Mill continued ‘grinding malt and making barley’, dealing in flour, oatmeal, wheat, oats and common barley. In 1848 the tenant of Shore Mill made a complaint against Abbey Mill due to a 10h.p. steam engine that had been installed at Abbey Mill. This had significantly reduced the amount of water flowing along the lade from Abbey Mill to Shore Mill. This tenant miller might well have discovered his mill-wheel turning unexpectedly when, as a boy in around 1850, James Stuart (Lord Rector of St Andrews University 1898-1901), and his pal ran away in fright when the mill-wheel began to turn after they had opened the sluice above the mill.
For ten years from 1877 Shore Mill was leased by R Hutchison & Co. corn merchants of Kirkcaldy. This was the last time the building was used as a mill. It was later leased as a smokehouse for curing haddock. Improvements to the house were made in 1889 including the addition of a dormer. At the turn of the century Shore Mill was sold to the Gas company for £2000.
- John Wood; “Plan of the City of St Andrews” Pends bridge (1820) online at National Library of Scotland
- Ordnance Survey; large scale Scottish town plan Lade outlet (1893) online at National Library of Scotland
- “Instrument adjucating dispute over the founding of a new mill in St Andrews” (1518) online at St Andrews University Archives
- I MacDonald Duncan; “St Andrews, a Short Walking Tour” (2012) online PDF at St Andrews University
- “Muniments of the University of St Andrews”; Admin History (1215-ongoing) online at St Andrews University Archives
- “Transcript of decreet arbitral between the Archbishop of St Andrews, and the prior of the metropolitan church of St Andrews…” (1518) online at St Andrews University Archives
- R N Smart; “Notes on the Water Mills of St Andrews” (1989) in “Three Decades of Historical Notes” (ed. M Innes & J Whelan, 1991)
- “Feu Charter by James, perpetual commendator of the priory of the monastery of St Andrews in favour of Henry Kairnis (Cayrnis)” (1549) online at St Andrews University Archives
- “Precept of Clare Constat by Robert Bishop of Caithness, infefting John Kairnis as son and heir of the deceased Henry Kairnis in two mills” (1576) online at St Andrews University Archives
- “Instrument of Sasine transferring the Abbey Mills to the burgh, St Andrews” (1621) online at St Andrews University Archives
- “Petition of George Berwick, St Andrews” (1794) online at St Andrews University Archives
- “Register of auctions of sale and lease (roup) on land owned by the Town Council of St Andrews” (1843) online at St Andrews University Archives
- “Account grain bought and sold by James Wilson, Shore Mill, St Andrews” (1859-65) online at St Andrews University Archives
- James Stuart; “Reminiscences” (1912); page 105 online at Forgotten Books
- “Shore Mill” online at Historic Scotland
- “Site record for St Andrews, The Shore, Fisherman’s Store” online at RCAHMS