Law Mill


The Law Mill, with its iconic pyramidal kiln roof, lies at the head of the Lade Braes and is probably the best known building in the area. The grain kiln is still intact thanks to restoration carried out by the Town Council in the 1950s.[1] Drying kilns were used extensively in Scotland due to the damp climate; the grain had to be dry before it could be milled.[2] The cast-iron remains of the water wheel and the stone support for a wooden pentrough[3] can still be seen.  

The mill was used for grinding corn (barley, oats and possibly pease) into meal.[4] It had also been known as the Nether or Lower Mill of Ballone and Law Green Mill.[5] There may have been a mill here for over 800 years, since Medieval times,[1] but the first written record, in 1570, is of a mill feued to David Orme of Priorletham by the Priory of St Andrews.[5] In 1660 ownership passed to the town (the Burgh of St Andrews) who owned it for almost 200 years.[5] A disposition of 1673 mentions that Law Mill had a “new mill adjoined thereto built into one house”.[6]

The mill was rebuilt into its present form in 1757[7] with a breastshot water wheel. By 1841 Law Mill and New Mill were in the hands of the Ronald family.[8] In 1848 James Ronald (who was 67) must have been unable to continue working and the mill was feued to Thomas Nicoll.[5] James Ronald died in the summer of the following year[9] and his widow Janet moved the family to New Mill.[8] The Nicoll family continued to work the mill until some time before 1913 when they were declared bankrupt.[5] This was the end of milling at Law Mill. By the end of the 19th century, cheap imported grain and huge roller mills at ports had made smaller mills unviable.[5]

The Law Mill bridge across the Kinness Burn was built in 1792, replacing a high-backed bridge further upstream near what was to become the curling pond[1] in 1906.[10]

The origin of the name “Law” is believed to be the Anglo Saxon word “hlaw”, a burial mound most likely to be the nearby Hallow Hill.[5] In 1660 it was noted that it was a double mill, in that it had two sets of grinding stones.[5] The mill initially drew water solely from the Lumbo Burn (the mill pond is still fed from here via a pipe), but by 1843 a new lade had been built from the Kinness Burn above Little Carron to supply extra water.[7] John Ainsley’s map of 1775 appears to show the new lade which suggests that it may have been built in 1757 at the same time that the mill was being rebuilt.[11] The initials T N (presumably for Thomas Nicoll) can be found inscribed on the right side of the arched opening to the mill.[7]

Law Mill was designated a category C listed building in 1971[12] and was an important part of the development of the Lade Braes walk as a designed recreational landscape. In addition to restoration work on the mill buildings from 1954 to 1962, the Town Council also cleared out the mill pond and stabilized the banks.[1]




  1. M Jarron & J Webster; “A Journey Through the Lade Braes” (St Andrews Preservation Trust)
  2. “Farming Since Medieval Times” online at Historic Environment Scotland
  3. “Pentrough” online at Wiktionary
  4. John Thomson DD; “General View of the Agriculture of the County of Fife” (1800) online at Google Books
  5. R N Smart; “Notes on the Water Mills of St Andrews” (1989) in “Three Decades of Historical Notes” (ed. M Innes & J Whelan, 1991)
  6. “Disposition of lands relating to the Coneyguard, St Andrews” (1673) online at St Andrews University Archives
  7. “Law Mill, Lade Braes, St Andrews” online at Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland
  8. “Census of Scotland” online at FreeCEN
  9. “Deaths, Old Parish Register, St Andrews Parish, Fife” (1849)
  10. “Plans of proposed curling ponds, Law Mill, St Andrews, Fife” (1906) online at St Andrews University Archives
  11. John Ainsely; “Counties of Fife and Kinross” map (1775) online at National Library of Scotland
  12. “Law Mill and Lawmill Cottage” online at Historic Environment Scotland