Knockando Woolmill in rural Moray, Europe’s oldest district woolmill, is set to increase its productivity, competitiveness and turnover, creating a new post and retaining existing staff.
The mill has been manufacturing continuously for more than 200 years. For the past five years it has been operated as a social enterprise by Knockando Woolmill Company Limited (KWC).
A range of woven and spun goods are produced at Knockando for both retail and wholesale. As well as being recognised as a unique part of Scotland’s manufacturing heritage, the business has thrived as a retail and tourism destination with visitor numbers reaching 28,000 in 2016. Seven full time staff are employed at the mill along with six to eight seasonal posts.
The company has secured up to £100,000 in grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and, through the generous support and funding of Historic Environment Scotland, a loan facility of up to £250,000 from the Architectural Heritage Fund.
The money will be used to invest in new equipment and production software, as well as supporting the growth and operational requirements of the business. An additional weaver post will also be created to enable shift work and double production capacity as the company expands its customer base.
Nicola Irwin, Chairman of the Knockando Woolmill Trustees said “All involved at Knockando Woolmill are very pleased that the Architectural Heritage Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have recognised the achievements of Knockando Woolmill over the past five years and that both have continued their long association with the Woolmill by investing in its future thereby helping it to maintain and expand employment and manufacturing in the Spey Valley.”
Fiona Robb, Head of Strengthening Communities with HIE in Moray, added: “We recognise the potential for Knockando Woolmill’s products to reach global markets. This mill is also a valuable employer in one of our more rural areas and has an important role to play in the cultural attraction of Moray as a region to visit.
“We’re delighted to be able to support the Knockando team’s efforts to grow their business, improve production and their customer experience and look forward to continuing to work with them as they implement the plans.”
Knockando Woolmill was officially opened by HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay on the 9th of October 2012. It is a Category A listed group of buildings in the Spey Valley in Moray. The Woolmill itself contains original textile machinery acquired over the centuries.
Knockando Woolmill Trust was formed with the aims of restoring the buildings and machinery, training a new generation of craftsmen so that manufacturing could continue well into the future and opening the site to the public for education and enjoyment.
The Knockando Woolmill Company Ltd. is a company limited by shares and wholly owned by Knockando Woolmill Trust. It is based at the Woolmill and responsible for running the Woolmill site, including manufacturing, the visitor centre, and the education and outreach programme.
Knockando Woolmill was one of the winners of the 2016 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage Europa Nostra Awards, Europe’s highest honour in the heritage field. It has been a remarkable success and in its 2016 season it attracted around 28,000 visitors.
The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. It is the leading heritage social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK, providing not-for-profit organisations with a combination of advice, development grants or loans.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is an economic and community development agency implementing Scotland's Economic Strategy across a region which covers more than half the country. With around 300 staff, HIE supports hundreds of client businesses and social enterprises; strengthens communities, particularly in fragile areas; develops growth sectors, and invests in infrastructure to create a more competitive and low carbon region.