An historic Perthshire mill which went up in flames this weekend had been targeted by vandals just two weeks earlier.
The old Bramblebank building, overlooking the River Ericht near Blairgowrie, was left a burnt-out shell after a devastating fire on Friday night.
Around 20 firefighters tackled the inferno at the vacant property for nearly 13 hours.
Police Scotland has now launched an investigation into the cause of the blaze, while the building’s owners told The Courier the site had been plagued by vandals. Local firm Thomas Thomson (Blairgowrie) said its building – a piece of the area’s rich industrial heritage – could now be “completely lost”.
An investigation into the cause of the fire is under way.The Scottish Fire and Rescue service said crews were called to the property, off Balmoral Road, just after 9.30pm.
Firefighters used five hose reel jets, floodlights and two ground monitors to tackle the inferno through the night.
They left the scene in the early hours of Saturday, but returned later that morning to carry out a final inspection and check for hidden hot pockets. The fire was finally brought under control at 10.20am.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman added: “Enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances.”
The building was taken over by Thomas Thomson in the 1940s.
Peter Thomson, a director at the company said: “There has been a long history of vandalism at the mill, and we can only assume it was more of this that caused the destruction.”
The building was empty, but had been secured. Mr Thomson said that vandals had forced their way inside two weeks ago. “They battered in two doors, taking out the door posts as well as the doors,” he said. “We had just got delivery of steel sheets to repair them at the end of last week.”
He said the company had been looking for new ideas to make use of the building. “But we could never find the new use that could justify the costs of redevelopment,” he said.
“Since the only insurance available was to pay for site clearance in the event of such damage as this, it looks like the building will now be completely lost.”
Bramblebank dates back to 1833 and at its peak employed 100 workers, producing flax and tow for the Fife and Forfar trade.
Production was shut down in 1903, and machinery – including a cutting edge condensing engine powered by a turbine – was moved to another mill.
The building was revived by Thomas Thomson in 1948, when it was kitted out with rows of flax spinning machinery.
But in 1963, after a shortage in labour, the company ceased operations at Bramblebank. The building was later used as storage for the firm, which now runs a fruit growing business.
Local Conservative councillor Caroline Shiers said it was sad to see the empty building suffer further damage, just days after she attended a meeting with the local Our Heritage group to discuss ways of documenting the history of the mills.
She urged locals to pass any information to police.
SNP councillor Tom McEwan added: “It’s never nice to see buildings like this destroyed by fire as the history contained within can never be recovered.”