A first for jute.
This mill building is one of the few that remain standing of the group of flax and jute mills that run along each side of the River Ericht. Said to be the oldest of their type in Scotland, they are a classic example of a large colony of mills sited expressly for the purpose of exploiting a good water supply.
Oakbank was built some time before 1832 by Mr. James Grimond, brother of David, the originator of the Lornty Mill. It was in that year that a linen merchant, Mr. James Watt of Dundee, endeavoured to get some spinners to make a trial of small parcels of teased jute.
The first man in Scotland to spin it successfully and continue to do so was James Grimond of Oakbank Mill.
It is now in the process of restoration into a private residence.
Sources: Peter Dawson, Meg Luckins
Grimond’s manufacturing innovation was significant, …”he cut it into lengths, heckled it, span the line into 3lb yarn, the quality of which was excellent”. From this time jute was spun extensively by spinning firms in Blairgowrie and Dundee.
The jute was softened with whale oil; cut into lengths, heckled, where the fibres were drawn into straight, tangle-free lengths; spun into 3-lb yarn; and mixed with tow for the weft of osnaburg (a coarse, plain fabric) and hessian sheeting. The jute was a fine fibre and this tradition of producing fine jute threads was carried on in Blairgowrie through into the 1940s.
In 1843 there were 71 people employed in the mill (35 men and 36 women).
Oakbank was burned down in 1872 (the fire arising from a gas jet igniting some of the tow), and the number of employees thrown idle was 170. The mill was soon rebuilt and, but for a temporary stoppage from 1904 – 05, Oakbank continued to work until 1930. Like the other 3 mills owned by the Grimond family, Oakbank was driven entirely by water power.
The building has suffered substantial damage in the intervening years although plans for developing it as a music recording studio led to a large renovation project being undertaken some twenty years ago although not completed. The mill was recently  sold again to a private investor who has plans to turn it into a riverside residence.
Although in a badly decayed state, the breast-shot water wheel (3.05m wide and 5.49m diameter) has survived in situ, having been exposed as a result of the collapse of the water-wheel-house roof. Also surviving on the outside of the mill is a vertical cast-iron line shaft with gearing which took power from the water wheel to each mill flat.
To the south of the mill, along the edge of the river at the Keith Falls, can be seen a deep channel cut through solid Old Red Sandstone Rock. This seems to have been intended as the lade for another, larger mill at the Falls which was planned to be built, as a rival most probably to the new Keathbank Mill (built in the late 1860s ) on the other side of the river. This project came to nothing even though the site would have been by far the most ideal on the whole river. The stone accumulated for the proposed building project can be seen, covered in moss and saplings, by the riverside.
Oakbank Mill and nearby the large, imposing Oakbank House (built 1835-40) were the property of the Grimond family until after WWII when bought by the Thomson family.