"The Spinning Mill at Largo, which has a good supply of water, and contains twelve spinning frames, two tow cards, and preparing frames. The mill is conveniently situated near the public roads through Fife, and at the harbour of Largo, where a packet sails to Leith and returns every week."
On 8 September 1828 the following advert was published in the Edinburgh Evening Courant:
By 1835 the equipment must have been in need of upgrading as an advert that year invited prospective tenants to apply "stating the nature and extent of the improvements required". By the November of that year "the whole machinery in the spinning mill" was advertised for sale. Presumably, the premises were upgraded, as by the 1841 census a Mr David Dand is recorded as the 'Spinning Mill Manager' (and virtually the only resident of Largo Parish who was not born in Fife) and Mr David Leslie as 'Flax Millmaster'. Incidentally, a significant proportion of other adult residents of Largo are described as flax dressers or flax spinners (with many others being home-based hand loom weavers). A year later another advert for the lease of the mill (this time in the Fife Herald of 27 October 1842) read:
"The mill contains 918 spindles for spinning flax and tow yarns with the necessary preparing machinery, and other appendages of a going work - all driven by water, assisted by a steam engine of 14 horse-power. The machinery and premises are fitted up with gas - and are well adapted for carrying out an extensive business - being situated close to the village and harbour of Largo, where plenty of workers can be obtained at reasonable rates - and easy access can be had to the flax and yarn markets in Dundee, Kirkcaldy and elsewhere."
An insightful description of the buildings and equipment then follows. The water-wheel, steam-engine, driving gear and preparing machinery belong to the landlord and are to be rented with the building. The spinning frames, reels, elevators, turning lathes, heckles, etc, however, were the property of the former tenant and were to be valued. The premises were accompanied by several acres of land, an overseer's house with garden and a "large flax warehouse" at Drummochie.
The mill continues to operate into the 1850s, when many would be anticipating the arrival of the railway into the village - not least David Dand, who in 1845 was noted as being a member of the committee of the East of Fife Railway, who in turn were pushing for the line's extension beyond Leven. Ironically, not long before the railway finally made it to Largo in 1857, the spinning mill ceased to operate. The building is advertised for sale or let in 1854 and is billed as being suitable for adaptation into a "woollen, farina, flour or meal mill, a paper mill, bleachfield or for a foundry". However, it appears to have lain empty for a number of years, being advertised again in 1860 as "the premises at Largo formerly occupied as a spinning-mill".
Perhaps that could have been the end of the story and the building could have fallen into disrepair. However, a new and innovative future was to come instead. More on that next time....