1947 Barley Hopper & Brewing Plant Glen Mhor

We've arrived at an interesting set of plans for the expansion of Glen Mhor's malting capacity. This is the last set of production related plans that we have to publish, which come from September 1947.  

As I've speculated recently, there seems to be a gap in the Highland Archive's records, with the only remaining set of plans being for alterations to the workers' cottages in 1950. There's nothing else after that, which, given the range of work we've uncovered at the distillery, including two new warehouses in the 1960s, means there must be a dusty box (or ideally, boxes) somewhere in the Inverness area waiting to be discovered. The online records of approved plans by the council go back to the early 1990s, so this is an area we may return to in the future.

What's exciting about these 1947 plans is that they show Mackinlay & Birnie's post-war efforts to address the long-standing shortcoming of Glen Mhor's production, namely that its malting floors were undersized, with Glen Albyn having to fill in with extra capacity when needed. The solution, which we've previously documented and discussed in great detail, was the installation of Saladin Boxes at the distillery in 1949, with the traditional floor method coming to an end in June 1949. 

At the time of these 1947 plans, we know that the owners would have been engaged in exploring all of the various options available to them to overcome the production issue. This included the consideration of a second shift to work the expanded floors, in effect 24/7, to boost capacity. Glen Mhor would be the first Scottish malt distillery to install the Saladin Boxes, North British in Edinburgh was the first but is a grain distillery. In fact, from their own promotional leaflet, Mackinlay & Birnie outlined that the second shift idea was all good to go:

'The first idea was to double, or more than double, the Glen Mhor malting floor space by erecting a new Building alongside the old floors. Plans for the scheme had been prepared and licenses for the work had been granted.'    

The problem was well noted by Mackinlay & Birnie, and it seems there was a last-minute shift towards a more mechanical solution, with North British's assistance noted:

'so some years ago the Directors of the Company decided to increase the malting capacity of Glen Mhor and thus turn the whole plan there into a unit that would no longer be dependent on any outside source whatsoever.'

North British were pioneers and I suspect much of the Scotch industry paid close attention to how the Saladin Boxes were implemented at Glen Mhor. The Saladin boxes at North British were only introduced in 1948, replacing their original pneumatic drums. Given the sheer thirst for grain in a grain distillery, their experience would have been invaluable and Glen Mhor would have been the epitome of downsizing.

However, while we see the most visible solution as the Saladin Boxes, in order to cope with this extra capacity, all the inputs and outputs associated with the production process had to be upgraded to cope with a revamped distillery. These 1947 plans for the brewing plant and the barley hopper, are an element of the that solution, which may not have been finalised in 1947. 

I'm fortunate to be able to count upon the opinion of Alan Winchester as part of this ongoing research and his thoughts on these plans are as always informative and knowledgeable:

'This is an interesting group of drawings, and is an addition to the maltings, which shows how the Glen Mhor site was continually evolving. By 1947 they're not using stone but cement blocks and the roof is metal, this may also be going hand in hand with the Saladin box being added, since the building of the floor malting, the barley would be delivered directly by sack into the loft, either by hoisting and or being delivered from the canal side, the 1965 photograph (see below) from the canal side shows this extension clearly.' 

'With increased volumes, and the dressing of the barley, being mechanised by this extension, I suspect, the sacks could be discharged at low level and the barley stored in the intake hopper on the plans, once dressed it would be elevated to the barley loft, this would reduce labour and would be making the environment a lot cleaner, a cowl can be seen on the photograph.

Also, we are maybe seeing grain being delivered by road and rail, I wonder if they put a chute into the intake to discharge the grain down a chute into the intake, i.e. bulk deliveries, but I suspect they will be receipting the barley by sack, I know the distilleries in these eras, always wanted the wagons emptied promptly, so they were not incurring charges for railway wagons sitting with barley.

'The malt kiln will be radically altered as a forced air drying kiln was part of the addition, though the kiln had a metal roof at the end, with a cupola style would replace the original Doig ventilator.'

It's also interesting to note that these plans confirm that the ground and first floors will be missing from any views of Glen Mhor from the quayside. Only the second floor or above will be visible. In doing so, these plans give us a greater awareness of the nature of the buildings to the left of the distillery site, i.e. the original malting area.

Let's zoom in on the Canmore image, which dates from the 12th May 1975, for further consideration. Immediately you'll notice the arrival of a new building on the left hand side within the last 9 years. An rather ugly and totalitarian style build and not the most visually pleasing, whatever decade you're reading this in. It's purpose we've yet to full reveal given the missing period of plans, however its shape and style would suggest it is linked to the Saladin boxes in some form I suspect.

I've used A.I. to enhance and clean up the zoomed image with reasonable success. What it shows in the centre is the original building, followed by the extensions on either side. Let's start with the middle building, which is not entirely original, as I believe it was extended upwards as part of the 1898 alteration plans we've previously documented. This involved several improvements to the distillery, one of which was the creation of a second floor, effectively raising the roof of this distillery building. Giving it more prominence on the quayside. We know that the purpose of adding the extra floor was to create a dry malt store which, being on the second floor, was easily accessible from the quayside by boat, cart or on foot.

At the time of this photograph, it may have been repurposed. 

The building on the right-hand side is a particularly apt example of the type of structure depicted in the 1947 plans. While the original centre structure was constructed from stone, as Alan has noted, the current appearance is that cement blocks and a metal roof, or Robertson Protected metal, as it is listed in the plans. It is probable that this was manufactured by the Wolverhampton Corrugated Iron Co. and was a type of galvanised steel substrate coated with asphalt, asbestos felt and sealant, often known as Galbestos. This was used in buildings from circa 1948 to 1979, which aligns with the timeframe of this planning submission, as the work would have taken time to complete. 

The material was banned from imports into the UK in 1985, but the UK government did not prohibit its use entirely until 1999. Given that these materials are virtually indestructible, the danger arises from their removal or alteration in situ. This was one part of Glen Mhor that we are glad to see removed. 

This is also likely the door/s where I've heard tales of staff towards the end of the distillery lifespan, carrying out boxes of Glen Mhor and loading them onto a boat, in what was some form of organised pilfering. It looks like the original window has been filled in and we have an additional door to assist with loading from the dockside, or carts from the nearby railway link. 

Overall, this is a great set of plans that give us insight into the inner workings of Glen Mhor as they revamped the initial phases of production, with a long term view on boosting overall output. 

These original plans are kindly made available bh the Highland Archives Centre and is watermarked for its protection. As with any images on this website, please ask first before using and always give credit.