A Powerhouse of Industry

In the 18th century, Fountainbridge was a country suburb. As early as 1857, NBRC was in a position to buy its 5.5-acre site at the corner of Fountainbridge and Gilmore Park.

In 1863, fire, always a hazard in a rubber factory, destroyed some of the mill buildings. By 1877 the company had outgrown the existing Castle Mill building and had built a new factory complex.

In the early 1900s, NBRC purchased an adjacent plot of land, taking its land holding to eight acres. By the 1950s, the East Mill stretched from behind the Palais dance/bingo hall at the city end of Fountainbridge to Gilmore Park. The South Mill from Gilmore Park to Viewforth comprised the mechanical rubber goods factory, laboratories and the Head Office. The Reclaimed Rubber factory ran from Viewforth to Gibson Terrace with the tyre reception centre on Dundee Street and the plant behind. Scottish Vulcanite Co, which made ebonite products also operated on the site from 1860 to the end of the Second World War.

In 1969, a huge fire spelt the end of the Castle Mill site, which was then sold to Scottish and Newcastle Breweries. 

The surviving Gilmore Park building was North British Rubber Company’s head office and registered address. Built in 1894, by an unknown architect, it consisted of a sixteen bay, two-storey building and basement constructed of red brick with yellow brick banding. The building was C-listed in 1998. 

Surrounding Industry
William McEwan opened his Fountain Brewery in 1856. He soon established a flourishing colonial trade with McEwan’s Export and India Pale Ale.  The company merged with William Younger, another famous Edinburgh brewer to form Scottish Brewers Ltd in 1931. It grew to be the UK’s largest brewery and the third largest in Europe, trading as Scottish & Newcastle Breweries Ltd from 1960.

The brewery took over the North British Rubber Company site as part of its 1971-3 expansion on the other side of Fountainbridge from the original brewery (now Fountain Park leisure centre). This housed one of the world’s largest and most automated brewing complexes.

When the Fountain Brewery closed in 2004 and was later demolished, the North British Rubber Company building became derelict.

In 2010 following local opposition Edinburgh City Council withdrew an application to demolish the building and its heritage value was increasingly recognised, thanks to the campaigning efforts of preservation bodies and the Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative. The local community is very supportive of Edinburgh Printmakers’ plans in preserving the last remnant of a forgotten industry and of an area that was once the city’s powerhouse of industry.