History & Heritage

battle monument

Roslin Monument

The monument cairn was erected by the Roslin Heritage Society at the end of last century. It is roughly a ten minute walk from The Original Hotel along Manse Road, which runs down the side of the hotel. Continue over the footbridge at the end of Manse Road. The memorial cairn can be found on the left hand side of the road, at the end of a long (500m), straight piece of road just before Dryden Mains Farm. You really can’t miss it.

The cairn marks the site of the Battle of Roslin, where on the 24 February 1303, 8000 Scots faced an English army numbering 30,000. The Battle ended in victory for the Scots, and gave the country new hope for independence from England. Would the crucial victory over the English at The Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, which set up nearly 400 years of independence for Scotland, have happened if the English had won The Battle of Roslin? It’s certainly a point to ponder!

Dolly

Dolly the Sheep

Roslin was home to PPL Therapeutics for many years. The name may not mean much to you – but it’s most famous product probably will……Dolly the Sheep! The world’s first cloned animal.

Sadly Dolly died in February 2003 at the ripe old age of 6 from cancer. She has been preserved for history and can be found in The Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The Roslin Institute has recently moved to the nearby Bush Estate, a science park. The old site has been cleared with planning permission sought for new homes.

Bovril copyright Unilever

Bovril Johnston

Roslinwas the birthplace of humble butcher John Lawson Johnston who invented the famous beef-brew, Bovril, which went on to be sold worldwide and become a favourite of football fans for decades. His house was on Main Street, just down from Roslin Library.

Born in this house in 1839 at 29 Main Street, Johnston was a local butcher who reportedly responded to Napoleon III’s challenge of getting a million cans of beef for his hungry army by inventing Johnston’s Fluid Beef, later re-named Bovril in the 1870s.

 

Roslin Glen and Gunpowder Mills

As you walk through Roslin Glen Country Park, it’s hard to believe that this was once a highly industrialised area. When you arrive at the large open Roslin Glen car park – now all grass, trees and wild flower meadows – can you imagine Queen Victoria’s linen tablecloths and napkins (beautifully made in Dunfermline) lying spread out on grassy banks to bleach in the sun? Can you hear the chatter of the factory workers as they scurried down the steep steps of Jacob’s Ladder to start their day in what was then the world-famous Roslin Carpet Factory? And further upstream, “through the gates”, can you imagine the horror and distress when there was an accident in the Gunpowder Mills and a massive explosion shattered the peace of the countryside for miles around?

The Bleachfields (what is now the car park of Roslin Glen Country Park) were used for over 100 years from early in the 18th Century until bleaching became more of a chemical process and the site was taken over by Whytock’s carpet factory, looking to relocate from further downstream at Lasswade in 1868. Whytock had invented a special method of making tapestry carpets and table covers – these amazing works of art being produced in Roslin Glen for many years up to when the factory closed in 1969. Both these industries required copious amounts of water, and in the early days the machinery was water powered.

The atmospheric ruins of Roslin Gunpowder Mills can be found towards the southern end of Roslin Glen, a 20 minute stroll from Rosslyn Castle. To get to it, take a right out of the Roslin Glen Car Park and walk over the road bridge above the River North Esk until you come to a very sharp hairpin bend. Cross the road here and pass through the old mill gates and carry on walking on the path, high above the river, for a good 10 minutes. The site, right on the bank of the river North Esk, was ideal and remains of weirs, mill lades and filter beds can be seen.

Here, the protection of the deep, steep wooded valley proved to be an ideal site for Roslin Gunpowder Mills which started production in 1804 and continued producing “Black Powder” gunpowder until they closed in 1954. As well as making blasting powders for the quarrying and mining industries, they also produced military and sporting powders. There was a large munitions factory working during both World Wars and even earlier. You can see the remains of many buildings as you walk along the track, some recessed into the bank to help guard against an accidental explosion spreading from one to the next. In the beginning, the mills were water powered and the remains of two of the incorporating mills, with gables to hold a water wheel can still be seen. If the river is in spate, you can imagine the force of the water driving the gear as it rushes over the picturesque nearby weir.