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The History of Newmilns

Founded: The Year 1490

Newmilns is steeped in history from as far back as the 12th century when the beginnings of Loudoun Castle were created.  In 1490 "Newmyllis" was officially created a Free Burgh of Barony by King James IV and in the 17th century, it was a stronghold of the Covenanting cause. Although linen weaving was introduced in the 1730's, it wasn't until the end of the 18th century that cotton-weaving became established with the first powerloom lace machine introduced by Hood & Morton in 1867, creating a surge in the population and a requirement for additional housing. The Newmilns to Kilmarnock railway line was opened in 1850 and brought workers in from surrounding areas to meet the demand.

A large amount of building work took place due to the prosperity of the lace and madras industry and many significant houses were built to accommodate the business owners and associated colleagues. The oldest building in the town is Newmilns Tower or the Old Keep as it is better known, situated in Castle Street and was built around the 1530's and has been used as a prison, barracks and grain store and much more. There are many buildings of architectural importance including the Townhouse, the Morton Hall, Lady Flora's, The Brown's Institute, Lamlash House, Lanfine House and the old Co-operative building to name but a few.

Many famous names are associated with the town including Robert Burns, who visited the Rev. Dr. Lawrie, a minister at Loudoun Old Parish Church in the 1780's, President Lincoln who gifted a flag to the Newmilns Anti-Slavery Society, Lady Flora Hastings who was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent and unfortunately was the subject of a court scandal reflecting badly on Queen Victoria.

Newmilns has had a turbulent past over the centuries including floods, fires and violent deaths and there has been much written over the years about the history of Newmilns, including the following publications:

Old Newmilns by Hugh Maxwell

Pictorial History of Newmilns by James Mair

Historical Aspects of Newmilns by the Newmilns Quincentenary Committee

The James Mair Photograph Collection held on East Ayrshire Council website 

A selection of historical images of Newmilns and other Ayrshire Villages by Ayrshirehistory.com

Photograph Collections