European Heritage Award presented to Knockando Woolmill, Moray, Scotland

The outstanding restoration of Knockando Woolmill, Moray, Scotland, winner of an European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2016, was celebrated at a special ceremony held on the afternoon of 15 August 2016 at the Woolmill. The festive event gathered more than 70 people and was honoured by the presence of Lord Cameron of Lochbroom. Graham Blythe, representative from the European Commission in Scotland, and Dr Peter Collins, Chairman of Europa Nostra UK, unanimously praised the remarkable restoration of the 18th-century woolen mill.

Ceremony for Knockando Woolmill, Moray, Scotland, 15-08-2016It was an enjoyable afternoon for all those who participated in the ceremony at Knockando Woolmill, among whom were heritage and cultural professionals, volunteers and supporters and representatives from the local Government.

Dr Jana Hutt, MBE, Project Director and current Company Director, received the Award for the rehabilitation of Knockando Woolmill. Hugh Jones, weaver and former owner of the Woolmill, and Lord Cameron of Lochbroom, unveiled the commemorative plaque put on the main facade of the building.

Tom Duff, Partner of LDN Architects, stated that the project is an “unqualified success in terms of the local community coming together to secure a future for the Woolmill and its associated craft skills, to generate employment opportunities, attract visitors and to produce high quality textiles to a growing global market.”

After the ceremony, guests were invited for a tour around the historic site, taking in the history and learning about the restoration, as well as seeing the current production processes in full swing.

Knockando Woolmill is located in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands. It has been active and producing textiles with its original machinery since 1784 and is a living monument to an important Scottish tradition. The restoration project is notable not only for its high quality and attention to detail but also for its success in promoting rural revival in this distinctive region. “The Knockando Woolmill is special due to its continuous, unbroken production of textiles over the last 200 years. This is exceptional in Europe and the survival of this type of local production is rare”, the Awards Jury said. “Though it is a decidedly local endeavour and is linked very much to its regional identity, the Woolmill’s production of high-quality textiles to a growing global market makes it an internationally significant endeavour. Its very survival in today’s globalised world is deserving of European, if not international, recognition”, the Jury added.

The Woolmill’s production is active across a complex of its original buildings which houses the machinery used for each part of the textile production. In 2000, the condition of both the buildings and the machinery was critical and a major programme of repair and renewal became an absolute priority. To this end, the Knockando Woolmill Trust was established to raise funds and work towards the recuperation of the site. As the buildings were generally in an extremely fragile state, extensive research was required and complex strategies for their repair were devised to allow the original vernacular architecture to remain intact while meeting the present-day standards of health and safety.

One of the principal priorities was to provide a Craft Training Workshop to train young people in traditional crafts which may otherwise have been lost. For this purpose, a new structure was built adjacent to and in harmony with the other buildings. The byre, which formerly housed farm animals, was converted to a visitor centre, which has attracted a wider public and has helped to increase understanding of this special heritage. The Awards Jury appreciated this aspect of the project commenting that “the community involvement, the generation of new employment opportunities and the attraction of visitors to this relatively remote region is a wonderful example of rural revitalisation and of what can be done in comparable locations throughout Europe”.

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