Looking back: The plan that revived the West Bridge Mill ...

In 1989 plans were unveiled which would transform a major blot on the Kirkcaldy landscape.

Saturday, 21st July 2018, 12:46 pm
Updated Saturday, 21st July 2018, 1:02 pm
Kirkcaldy's abandoned West Bridge Mill in 1989
Kirkcaldy's abandoned West Bridge Mill in 1989

The former West Bridge Mill near Links Street had been lying empty since the 1970s but as the 1990s loomed a Scots housing developer put an offer on the table that would see the derelict building turned into luxury flats.

The Mill was originally built in 1855 by local man William Hendry for his son Daniel and operated as a spinning works until the mid 1970s.

At its peak the steam-powered factory employed around 300 workers, producing hemp, jute and sisal products.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It worked in association with the nearby ropeworks on the Esplanade which was also owned by the Hendry family.

However a feud among the powerful family would cause misery for the town when in 1866 a falling out between Daniel and his brother Thomas saw the factory close for three years, making hundreds of employees redundant.

The brothers then went their separate ways – Daniel moved into the booming linoleum business while Thomas continued the spinning mill.

The building was eventually bought by the Forth and Clyde Roperie in 1936, eventually closing in 1974, where it would fall into ruin and was branded as one of Kirkcaldy’s biggest eyesores.

In 1988 the building’s owner, Mr Amir Josephs of the Magic Carpet Company Ltd., tried to have the listed building demolished which led to a public inquiry where both the Scottish Civic Trust and the Scottish Historic Building Trust argued for its retention.

As a result in the Secretary of State for Scotland decided that the mill should stay, despite strong objections from local residents and councillors.

But a year later a Glasgow property developer, Gordon Cairns, in partnership with the building’s owner, lodged a planning application to turn the four-storey structure into luxury flats.

Mr Gordon Cairns told the Fife Free Press of his plans which included creating up-market flats with a ground-floor amenity area and gymnasium.

He said: “There are a lot of interesting concepts but at the same time we will be retaining the character of the building.”

At the previous year’s inquiry Mr Josephs had argued that it was both impractical and financially prohibitive to develop the building for housing or commercial use, but Mr Cairns said changes in the market and a new layout and approach to the matter now made the project viable.

“We are getting a lot of support from the local community over this,” he said, “they want to see an eyesore removed, and this will add amenity to the area.

“We can‘t demolish the building because of the Secretary of State’s decision, so we will refurbish it and inject some character into a high quality housing venture.”

Ultimately, Mr Cairns’ plans came to nothing and the building’s future was once again thrown into doubt.

However in 1995 the Mill was finally given a new lease of life when it was taken over by the Link Housing Association into the first purpose built Foyer in Scotland.

The company, which offers support to unemployed people in the town, still occupies the building today and LinkLiving Ltd gave the building’s interior a major refurbishment in 2016 improving amenities, upgrading office suites, adding new training rooms.

And the company also made sure that its new decor included links to the buildings industrial roots.