Gaberston Mill

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Coordinates: 56°07′10″N 3°46′53″W / 56.1195°N 3.7814°W / 56.1195; -3.7814 Gaberston Mill was a weaving and spinning mill located in Alloa, Scotland

David Lambert[edit]

It was founded by David Fraser Lambert (1805–56) in 1837. Lambert was born in Kirkcaldy and came to Alloa in 1831, after working in the USA. The Lamberts were linked by marriage to the great Clackmannan mill owning families, the Archibalds and Patons (later Thomson-Patons and Forrester-Patons).

David Fraser Lambert married Mary Ann Archibald (1808-1876) in 1835. Mary was a daughter of John Archibald (d.1832), a mill owner in nearby Menstrie. Her brothers Andrew, William, Peter and John owned mills in Alva and Keilarsbrae, Alloa. David Lambert’s daughter Graeme Haig Lambert (1836-1905) had married John Thomson Paton of Norwood (1831-1910) in 1863. John Thomson Paton, a wealthy director of Paton’s Mill was the grandson of John Paton (1768-1848) founder of Kilncraigs Mill in Alloa. Paton was a major benefactor to Alloa providing, amongst other buildings, the Swimming Baths and Leisure Centre, (now the Spiers Centre), Town Hall and Library.

David Lambert died suddenly aged 51 in 1856 and the Mills ownership later passed to his son James Lambert (1836-1874).

James Lambert[edit]

In 1859 Lambert was fined £59 when the HM Inspector of Factories had found 59 workers working after 6pm in contravention of the Act. Robert Ramage, who worked at Gaberston from 1848 to 1858 was an early foreman and manager, with other foreman including John Forfar, foreman weaver William Thomson, foreman tuner Ebenezer Marshall and foreman powerloom weaver Archibald Robertson. Alexander Nicol appears to have been the Manager from 1858 until 1870 when he moved with foreman weaver William Thomson to Devonmills. At this point Andrew Robb (1825-1900), a foreman since at least 1859, became Manager. Other staff included watchman James Stein.

When David Bremner collated his survey of the Industries of Scotland in 1869, it had five sets of carding engines and employed around 300 people.[1]

In late 1873 James Lambert passed the mill business to his mother Mary Ann Lambert, due to poor health. Despite a visit to the Levant to recover he died the following year aged only 33. He was a good friend of the Mill Manager Andrew Robb, both having served in the Clackmannan Rifle Volunteers.

Labor strike[edit]

The year 1874 saw a destructive dispute between management and workers, leading to a strike, which caused much hardship. The Glasgow Herald of May 9, 1874 records the following;

'Alloa – The weavers strike. Strike of powerloom and handloom weavers still continues in Gaberston Mills, Alloa but without extraneous aid it cannot much longer as the funds at the disposal of the ‘strikers’ have become exhausted. For a number of weeks the men on strike were in receipt of 10s per week each and the females 10s but this week there was no money forthcoming. The lock out at the Hillfoots still continues and there is no hope of a settlement'.

And from 29 May 1874, also reported in the Falkirk Herald; 'Alloa –The weavers strike. Although they have no means of support the Alloa Gaberston Mill hands still remain on strike. In the works situated along the foot of the Ochills the disastrous lock out still continues; master and men being seemingly determined to ‘fight it out to the bitter end’. Meanwhile many of the men are seeking work as labourers and subscription sheets are doing the round of the public works for funds to sustain those on strike’

In August 1876 Gaberston Mill's accountant, David Smith, drowned at Fairlie in a boating accident alongside James Mitchell Robb, Andrew's nephew, a millworker at nearby Keilarsbrae. Both were popular members of the Clackmannan Rifle Volunteers and received a military funeral in the town.


The mill closed in November 1877. It was for sale that year when it still had 50 power looms and 30 hand looms. Andrew Robb moved to Peebles to become the manager of Tweedside Mills in Peebles.

In 'Alloa sixty years ago',[2] Archibald describes the mill and its fate in more detail.

'In 1827 he (David Lambert) started a woollen mill at Gaberston, known for long years as Gaberston Mill, and was a busy hive of industry for many years. The shawl trade was at this period in great demand, and Mr Lambert, by close attention to business, and studying the design and quality of his manufactures, got into a large trade, giving employment to several hundred workers'. and 'The other factory was Gaberston Mill, then and for long after chiefly engaged in the shawl and tartan cloth trade. It had a long period of great prosperity, employing several hundred workers; but, alas, owing to the inexorable decrees of fashion, the wearing of shawls has almost entirely gone out. The works might have been adapted to the tweed trades, as others have done, but owing to the death of the founder, the late Mr David Lambert, and, while still in the prime of life, by the death of his son, the late Mr James Lambert, which unfortunate event was ultimately followed by the work being closed altogether.

After closure it was used for several other uses over the next few decades but was finally demolished. Its site, on Whins Road, is remembered by Lambert Avenue and the still extant mill lade. No images are known to survive of the building.


  1. ^ The Industries of Scotland - Their rise, progress and current condition, by David Bremner, 1869
  2. ^ Alloa, sixty years ago by James Archibald (1911)