Tayside Re-Users started life in 1993 as Tayside Recyclers, occupying the Larchfield Works mill in Larch Street Dundee and gaining charitable status as a social enterprise in 1995. Its formal charity title became the Tayside Foundation for the Conservation of Resources, but it was usually referred to simply as Tayside Recyclers.
Fire destroyed Larchfield Works (“Prainies”after owner James Prains) in 2000, and Tayside Recyclers moved to its current premises at South Dudhope Works. Somewhat confusingly the postal address of South Dudhope Works is South Dudhope Mill, but the latter was a nearby mill building which was demolished and replaced by a modern commercial unit that at one time housed Comet’s electrical retail business.
In Dundee a “mill” is for spinning yarn, while a “works” produced cloth woven in a “factory”, either from a mill included within the premises or brought in from elsewhere. So there was both a South Dudhope Mill and a South Dudhope Works, owned by the same company and separated by North Dudhope (later Meadow) Mill.
South Dudhope Mill was the first spinning mill in Dundee, built around 1818 opposite what is now the splendidly refurbished Verdant Works.The first owners were flax spinners, but soon the mill passed to William Henderson. On his death in 1847 his son Alexander Henderson (and eventually his sons) succeeded. Alexander Henderson (1819-1903) lived in West Park Hall, which became a conference centre on Perth Road and hall of residence for Dundee University. He was a strong supporter of the Free Church, funding construction of the McCheyne Memorial Church, also on Perth Road. The firm kept the Henderson name for the rest of its existence, transitioning from flax to jute.
The jute and flax industry expanded rapidly and several other mills were built after 1818, including South Dudhope Works, thought to be founded in 1833. These are the premises occupied by Tayside Re-Users. Around 1865 Alexander Henderson & Sons Ltd converted the Works for the production of jute and linen cloth using steam power. Funding for the company’s expansion into power-loom weaving came from the economic boom created by the American Civil War (1861-1865). Dundee jute was able to substitute for American slave-state cotton and was in demand by armies needing equipment such as tarpaulins.
Spinning and weaving of jute and flax was very important to Dundee. The number of people employed at South Dudhope Works ranged from three to four hundred, mostly women. In Dundee in 1911 41,000 people, nearly half the working population, and almost 70% of working women, were employed in the textile industry.
South Dudhope Works is two-storey and not as tall as most spinning mills(Meadow Mill for example) because many processes were carried out on one level. Features that identify it as a mill are its mansard roof for top light (the upper part of the roof being flatter than the lower) and two oval windows (now bricked up) like a pair of eyes visible from Douglas Street, a design feature probably inspired by Dundee Townhouse. Spinning at the Works took place in the area of Tayside Re-Users known as the “Emporium”.
The outer walls to Ash Street had sliding doors to allow the unloading of jute bales from horse-pulled carts.To the rear of the building in Ash Street you can see the blocked-up door and window of a lodge that stood to one side of the gateway through which spinners and weavers entered. Weavers considered themselves a cut above the spinners – the dress code was that weavers wore hats while spinners wore shawls. The gateway leads into a setted (cobbled) path separating the spinning mill from the weaving sheds on the other side of the wall to the north.The path now forms a yard at the back of the Emporium, and Marquee Motors stands on the site of the demolished weaving sheds.
By 1899 South Dudhope Works had installed a new250hp horizontal steam engine built by J&C Carmichael in nearby Ward Foundry (currently the site of dog kennels) with six ropes driving 154 power looms, four dressing machines and a Lowdon Generator (also made in Dundee) for electric light.The engine was more powerful than the one displayed in Verdant Works, and the flywheel bigger at over 14 ft in diameter. The horizontal design was developed for steamships, but could also be used in mills.
The engine was located somewhere to the rear of the mill (Emporium), in between the spinning mill and the weaving sheds. You can see two rectangles in the back wall of the Emporium through which power from the steam engine was transmitted to the looms by means of long spindles and belts. Steam came from four “Lancashire” boilers (probably made by J&C Carmichael) located in the compound used by Tayside Re-Users as a holding area for white goods. To aid the heating process air was channel led down a 150 ft chimney built to the rear of the warehouses between the compound and Douglas Street. The noise of all this activity must have been cacophonous for the workers – some say you could hear the sounds of Dundee’s mills from as far away as Dudhope Park.
The warehouses, currently used as storage and electrical testing areas, have interior walls overlaid with vertical wooden planks against which the jute and flax fibres were hung, thereby preventing contact with condensation and damp from the stone. An ingenious feature contained within the warehouses, and one very much in tune with Tayside Re-Users’ philosophy, were two cooling ponds which cooled recycled steam into hot water and returned it to the boilers to be reheated into steam for the engine. An early example of recycling and reuse in action! The cooling ponds were 4 to 5 feet deep, but have been floored over. Before the introduction of mains piping, water came from a stream (or streams) running below South Dudhope Works.
The Works was the last steam powered mill in Dundee when the mighty “Carmichael” engine finally stopped turning in 1966. Although in perfect working order, the engine was sadly scrapped in 1967 and replaced by electrical power.You can see pictures of it at https://canmore.org.uk/site/31984/dundee-douglas-street-south-dudhope-works?display=collection.
Dundee’s mills began to close as the jute industry declined in the 1970s, but many such as Verdant Works, Meadow Mill and South Dudhope Works survive and are used for new purposes. Tayside Re-Users continues to operate from South Dudhope Works both for its facilities and to help conserve part of Dundee’s industrial heritage.
Tayside Re-Users (formerly Tayside Recyclers) is a not-for-profit social enterprise with charitable status, generating income mainly from the household and office items kindly donated to it. Run by a board of trustees, the company is committed to promoting sustainable resource use and the provision of employment and training opportunities for local people.