The Rosefield Mills are the sole remaining large industrial buildings in the town centre, dating from the Victorian era. Completed between 1886 and 1896 for weavers Charteries, Spence & Co who manufactured tweed and worsted wool for export from the town. Tweed production ended in the 1930s and the building found other uses, notably as one of the main accommodation buildings for Norwegian forces who found themselves in Dumfries for at least part of WW2, christening the building “Mølla” (Norwegian for “mill”).
But why Norwegians? Following the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany in 1940, 300 Norwegian soldiers who escaped capture (along with British troops who had been fighting in Norway) were evacuated by air, landing at Hamilton and later finding a base in Dumfries. Following on soon were Norwegians who were at sea at the time of the occupation and unable to return home, they too sought sanctuary in Scotland. By the following year the numbers had risen to over a thousand, and a significant proportion of the Norwegian army in exile could be found in Dumfries
Rosefield Mills is just one of numerous locations around the town which bear witness to the town’s Norwegian connection, more are to come in the walk.
Unfortunately, in recent years the building has become dilapidated and despite being Grade B listed, it also features on the Buildings at Risk register. Due to the unstable nature of parts of the structure, especially the roof please do not attempt to go inside. You can obtain an up close view of the former office wing of building from Troqueer Road or the main mill from the pathway by the Nith which can be accessed from the bottom of Halford’s car park. To obtain an even better view of the main mill building as a whole proceed to Dock Park on the east side of the River Nith and look back over the river. If you have had the privilege of visiting Venice, you may be able to see why parallels are drawn between the architecture of the Mills and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)! Whilst in Dock Park, close to where you look across to the Mills you will also find a whale shaped black stone monument. This monument, created by artist Helen Kalmijn and unveiled in 2019 serves a permanent commemoration of the town’s link with Norway.
Rosefield is not the only Scottish mill with a Venetian link. If you find yourself on one of the Glasgow Eurowalks, you can see the former Templeton’s Carpet Factory, facing Glasgow Green which, as the story goes, is strongly based on the Doge’s Palace. Templeton’s Carpet Factory – EuroWalks