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December 14, 2011

When Catrine led the world

Scotland’s place in the industrial world may have slipped somewhat over the past 200 years but there was a time when we punched way above our weight.  Back in 1787, a network of reservoirs and a weir built in the Ayrshire village of Catrine was the largest power generation scheme in the world. The remnants of that scheme are still in place and the local development trust are leading a major restoration project.


The Scotsman 28/11/11

A FEAT of Georgian engineering constructed to power a cotton mill is to be restored to its former glory and turned into a tourist attraction.

The network of reservoirs and a weir in the Ayrshire village of Catrine, built in 1787, was once the largest power scheme in the world. However, the entire structure has started to deteriorate, with sections of the weir at risk of being washed down the river.

The Heritage Lottery Fund will announce today that it is giving £660,000 towards a £4 million project to revamp the feature, which is designated as a scheduled monument. 

It consists of a weir, five reservoirs known as the Catrine Voes, a sluice gate and a fish pass. 

The system is an integral part of the history of Catrine, which began life in 1787 when Claude Alexander and David Dale, from New Lanark, saw the potential of the natural resources and built a water-powered cotton mill there. The village was laid out with the industrial buildings forming the centrepiece of the main square, and houses built for the workers. It is a substantially intact example of Georgian “town planning” and an outstanding conservation area with 51 listed structures.

In 1828, two giant water wheels, 50ft in diameter, were added to the power system to service the additional demands of the mill. Known as the “Lions of Catrine”, the wheels were for many years the most powerful in the world and became a tourist attraction in their own right.

The Heritage Lottery funding will contribute to a project to conserve the weir, upgrade a disused chapel to create a visitor centre and turn an adjoining Victorian villa into a new Community Enterprise Centre.

Rural affairs and environment secretary Richard Lochhead said: “I am pleased to see the Catrine water system being restored. It’s a fine example of Scotland’s industrial heritage that the local community can be proud of and will also help protect the rich biodiversity that fills the river and the surrounding countryside.”

Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “For almost 200 years, the Catrine water system was central to the biodiversity and social history of the area, as it brought with it jobs, housing and economic prosperity.

“This project demonstrates how history can be a living part of a modern community, bringing people together to learn from, enjoy and benefit from their shared past.”

Stuart Nelson, of Catrine Community Trust, said: “The Community Trust and its supporters have worked tirelessly over the last five years in building the case for funding to save Catrine’s amazing industrial heritage and provide much-needed facilities to convey this to the many people who pass though the village on the River Ayr Way.

“This generous award virtually completes the £4m funding package that once seemed very far away and provides a much-needed boost to the capacity of the Trust to regenerate the village and provide employment.”