Newsletter 84, Spring 2009 © Hampshire Mills Group
MILLING ABOUT IN THE MARCHES PART 2
The first two days of our tour around watermills throughout the
Herefordshire and Shropshire borders were described in the winter edition of the
newsletter. Here we pick up the tour on the morning of Saturday 4th
geography (and frequent rain) has created beautiful, verdant scenery which these
days provides wonderful holiday respite for many of us, but this is so
very different to how life used to be in this region. Advising us on lots
of industrial history, much of it tying in with the mills, our host and guide
Alan Stoyel, took us on a fascinating trip into an area of surprising and varied
past industries which created towns for workforces in times of prosperity.
first port of call was
This was a very different setup to all the other watermills we were to see
throughout our four day tour as the mill formed part of a brick built “model“
farm with barns on either side, constructed in the mid to late 19th
century. We were allowed to wander beside the watercourse, threading through the
grounds as a water garden, which was fed by a leat from the River Arrow
and snaked around, through sluices, to power the watermill. Only one pair
of stones was required here as the mill was generally used to produce winter
feed for the Hereford herd of cattle; farm machinery including a chaff cutter
and a root pulper were also operated, being belt driven by the wheel.
Miles of Leominster (a company whose machinery cropped up time and again) had
engineered the low-breast waterwheel and much complex iron gearing. The
wheel and its housing are in a very sorry state now but the owners, Edward
and Emma Bulmer, have plans to restore the mill and farm complex within
the next year.
John inspecting the
wheel at Staunton Mill
little further along the river we were welcomed by Anne Brisbane, owner of
enjoys maintaining for enthusiastic visitors.
A complex system of
irrigation channels feeding the mill and water meadows, extending for a least a
mile downstream, were devised when the mill was originally constructed in 1665
as a cornmill. Few of the channels are now seen but the leat still
continues beside the mill Rebuilt in the 18th
century of stone, this mill was both attractive and intriguing to see outside
but inside was like finding treasure trove. So much machinery was in situ,
including the sack hoist, three of the original four pairs of stones, a bolter
plus remnants of a wire-machine dresser or cleaner. The tentering
arrangement is an unusual one being a lighter-staff tentering on all of the
stones. There two cast iron overshot wheels, an internal one with iron
buckets fitted to wooden shafts and the external one originally with wooden
buckets, but now just rims on their axle. A clover mill had once been
installed on the top floor above the internal wheel end and it was there that we
could admire the re-used 17th
century roof trusses. Another set of crafts were seen there in the perfect
form of vacated wasps nests! On the ground floor, Alan demonstrated
a variation on the mill’s stable door in that the top opening section was two
parts, hinged in the middle.
tries out the sack hoist at Staunton Mill
Court of Noke Watermill
stop at The Leen Farm
Wheel where, half hidden
in a hedgerow, on the opposite side of a farm entrance track to a large barn, we
saw an iron wheel with a diameter measuring 14 feet by 4feet wide. Made by a Hereford millwright, Thomas Bray in the 1860s, it was fed by a very long leat,
again from the River Arrow, via one of two weirs at Court of Noke. It‘s believed that it was
used to power a small corn mill and a leather dressing mill which were in
the barn on the opposite side of the farm track and operation was by means of a
long, rotary shaft passing beneath the track. Restored some twenty years
ago by the farm owner, Tony Norman, the wheel is once again falling into
disrepair. Nothing remains of any mill buildings or gearings.
Arrow Mill showing the waterwheel
unusual building, boldly showing its “mixed parentage” down the centuries is
Mill at Kingsland,
but delightful in its quirkiness. Annabelle and Richard Hall, the owners,
happily let us loose after an introduction to some of its history.
Boasting several rare items such as the beaten earth meal floor, a complete
clover mill in place and a half-timbered, vertical extension to accommodate a
hop kiln, all within the same building, help to make this a very special mill.
Alan confessed that out of all the mills on the tour, this was his favourite.
He pointed out to us what he called “an eccentric arrangement of arms on the
waterwheel” plus an eel trap in the by-pass channel.
leaving Kingsland, we paused to view Waterloo
Mill. Thought to have
once had three sets of stones driven by a lay-shaft (like the one we had seen at
Aymestrey Mill the day before) this derelict mill was built in 1815 on the
Pinsley Brook. Its 18ft diameter by 9ft wide low-breast waterwheel was
another made, in 1861, by Miles of Leominster.
guided us to Leominster
(yes, home of the machinery manufacturing firm, Miles!) but oddly, still
with the Pinsley Brook. Originally supplying water to the Priory
Mill the Brook was filled in as part of the flood alleviation scheme in the
early 1960s. Corn, oil and, lastly, leather was milled until its closure
also learned that a hat factory, also powered by water, had been sited
nearby. A short, but welcomed walk, took us to Pinsley Mill associated with Leominster Priory. This mill had a chequered life as a
corn mill, conversion to a cotton spinning mill destroyed by fire, to be rebuilt
as a corn mill. John Arkwright (son of the famous Richard) lived nearby
and bought the mill in 1833, not to work himself, but leasing it to several
consecutive millers*. In 1890 great modernising changes were made as tenant,
Joseph Cooke, replaced the waterwheel with an Armfield “British Empire” 2ft 6”
diameter turbine producing 49 horse-power; this was boosted by a gas
engine with associated coal-gas plant 2½ to 3 sack roller plant
using just two pairs of millstones. In 1907 Mr Cooke purchased the mill
and sold it on three years later. Milling ceased during the Second World
entrepreneurial Mr Arkwright owned another mill close by in Etnam Street
but the digging of a deep channel leading directly from the tailrace to Pinsley Mill
helped to put this one out of business in 1864.
is not without humour as witnessed in the park - a grass giant was rolling the
lawns and proved an excellent poseur. A fine iron bridge bearing the
legend “Worcester Foundry 1844” bore our footpath over the River
Lugg. The Rivers Arrow and Lugg travel around either side of Leominster, coming
together just below the town to continue on as the River Lugg until it meets
with the River Wye at Hereford Back to the tour bus and on to meet our
next mill owners.
Rosemary Verity, who once lived at Petersfield while John was stationed at HMS
Mercury, welcomed us to Croward’s
Mill at Eyton where they
have enjoyed living for the past seven years. The site of this ancient
corn mill is recorded in 1327 but the current building has seen changes through
the centuries. It stopped being used to mill corn in 1948 but, it’s
believed, continued to power a circular saw via a belt drive for some time
afterwards. In 1976 planning permission was granted for residential use
and the building converted into two dwellings. At this point an internal
waterwheel and its machinery was removed but, fortunately, the Veritys
recognised the value of retaining as much machinery in situ as possible and have
found a way of living around it.
For instance, the crown wheel above the
tuns is in action as a very functional wine rack! The small area of the
stones floor is in service as a snug cum study. In the passageway linking
the kitchen to reception rooms a glass door in the wall reveals the
gearing, tools and unusual tentering arrangement which powered two pairs of
stones on the ground floor (in what is now the dining room) where the 18th
century hurst frame is still evident. Outside, the iron low-breast
waterwheel, cast by Charles O. Phillips of Gloucester and Newport, is still in
reasonable order. It measures 11 ft diameter x 3 ft 4 ½ ins and is of an
unusual design having circular apertures in the shrouds.
John Arkwright puts in an
another appearance, here in this mill’s history, as he attempted to acquire it
in 1849 by offering the owner, Lord Bateman of Shobdon £1,800. The offer,
however, was spurned.
two mills of the day, still in Kingsland, were viewed only briefly as the
daylight was fading. Although little could be seen, both sported unusual
features and were linked by the irrigation of the water meadows.
Mill at Kingsland boasted
flying buttresses over two wheel races whilst the 15ft diameter
Farm Wheel stood stranded
in splendid isolation beside an Iron aqueduct which had supplied water by means
of a bypass sluice from
pond and leat.
These became in-filled and levelled some time ago. The
building had had two
waterwheels, one each on the north and the south sides and this is where the
flying buttresses were sited over each wheel-race.
the early 1940s, the
Farm Wheel drove farm
machinery and a threshing machine. A barn originally stood alongside and
again much of the watercourse has been filled in and levelled off belying the
fact that water travelled approximately three miles in the channels to and from
the River Lugg.
October. The final day and just three mills to visit before a farewell feast at
a good pub. First up was
Manor Farm, Clifford
and, as its name implies, a different little watercourse, the West Brook. Here
was another example of a farm mill whose wheel was on one side of a road with a
very long shaft connecting from it to the machinery in a barn on the other side.
We learned that the shaft had not been removed but was now truncated where it
entered the barn wall. As the barn walls were surrounded by scaffolding
due to it undergoing extensive building works for conversion to dwellings, Alan
helped us to imagine the sitting of the gearing and mill machinery. it is
understood that the waterwheel will be preserved.
Farm, Dulas. John presents flour to owners
Mandy and Will
Farm, Dulas was built as
a model farm on the Dulas Court Estate in 1865 and the mill building was
integral to the barns around the farmyard. This small, all brick watermill
last worked in 1965 and the last miller, along with the farm owners Maddy and
Will Bradley, was present to meet us and explain the workings. The frame
that held the sluices controlling the mill race/culvert from the nearby Dulas
Brook is still evident but the sluices themselves need restoring This part of the brook
also lent itself well to use as a sheep wash.
most of the other farm buildings being converted for such diverse uses as
holiday cottages and the farm machinery dispensed with, the mill happily retains
its primary gearings and French burr stones. The stones were connected to
the waterwheel by means of arms from the wheel attached to a ring gear, and a
short layshaft leading to another pair of gears (and thence to the
stones). Belt drives hitched to further layshafts into the barn drove the farm
machinery for threshing, chaff cutting and animal fodder preparation. Will
and Maddy Bradley are keen to eventually get the wheel working again.
delightful surprise and totally different milling setup was the very last mill
of our four day tour as we were welcomed by owners, Martin and Jill Cook, to
Clodock Mill, at Longtown & Clodock
They related the tale of the
long access track being flooded a foot deep only a week before which began to
threaten their mill house dwelling and caused consternation regarding our
intended visit. The River Monnow, flowing in parallel to the drive and
with a brief leat to the mill wheel, was the broadest we encountered on this
trip measuring some twelve feet across and fast flowing. This small,
traditional corn mill capitvated everybody as its history, both in the telling
and in the seeing, unfolded. Martin and Jill are undertaking
painstaking conservation and restoration work to have everything in full working
order. They told us that there is documentary evidence for a mill at
Clodock dating from AD1241, when it was in the lordship of the de Lacy family
but there may well have been one in existence prior to them building Longtown
Castle close by.
The existing stone buildings date from the 17th
with later additions through the following centuries. 1954 saw the mills
last working days, but it is hoped that leat running through a tunnel under the
road and into the headrace will soon be powering the massive 18ft breastshot
by 5' waterwheel at Clodock Mill
Miles of Leominster made this in their foundry in 1868 when it
replaced a smaller, undershot wooden wheel. The spokes, buckets and shaft
are all receiving restoration attention. The wheel seems surprisingly
large for the amount of water flow and is only required to power two sets of
stones; one each of Peak and French Burr. Inside, all the gearings and machinery
remain including a dressing machine and a saw bench. Offset to the
buildings, on the riverbank, a small turbine is housed and this provided
electricity until mains supply was installed in 1968. The Cooks are
intending to install a modern, micro hydroelectric scheme eventually. One
speciality at this mill is the roost of Lesser Horseshoe Bats which return each
spring to raise their new families.
with our hosts Alan and Critchell
Critchell with her bag of Longbridge flour
lunch at the village pub we reflected over our twenty or so mills, isolated
waterwheels, and all the considerate people who had allowed access to make this
trip so memorable, not least of whom was Alan Stoyel who organised the whole
venture and gave us, not only his time, an immense amount of knowledge of this
lovely area’s industrial heritage. Mick Edgeworth, our Chairman, presented
Alan, and his delightful partner, Critchell, with several bottles of wine.
Wherever we met mill owners or custodians, John Silman proudly presented a 2kg
bag of Longbridge Stoneground Wholemeal Flour which Hampshire Mills Group
members had milled. So, Critchell was also given a few bags of flour to
replenish her larder as we had made short work of the cakes she had made and
supplied with many pots of tea.
detailed descriptions of the mills appear in an illustrated handbook available
from Andy Fish.
maps used for this trip were: OS Landranger 137 Ludlow, Wenlock Edge; 148
Presteigne & Hay-on-Wye; and 149 Hereford, Leominster and surrounding areas.