Sunday, 10 May 2015

Topcliffe Mill

Those who saw my last post may remember a smart, board-clad, gambrel-roofed building which I identified as Topcliffe Mill. It stands back from the road opposite the church and is not obvious to anyone driving by. But this weekend is National Mills Day, when around 450 of Britain's historic windmills and watermills are opened up to the public, so lets investigate. 



There's been a mill on this site since at least 1086 when the village of Meldreth was recorded as having eight-and-a-half mills - I'm guessing that one stood astride a stream that formed the parish boundary. The present building dates from about 1780 and operated till 1942.



It is, of course, a watermill powered by the waters of the little River Mel. Sadly there's no waterwheel in place and, although replacing it has been considered, it would be very expensive and it's reckoned that the stream would also have to be modified to produce enough power.



Inside the building however all the mighty machinery seems to be in place and you can figure out how everything worked, though it's hard to imagine how the building would have throbbed and hummed with life when everything was operating.

Here's the miller's desk where he kept a record of the grain he'd milled and how much he was owed by everybody.


















Lovely old handwriting; not many of us can write like that these days!



Climb up one floor on a rather basic wooden ladder and you're in the heart of the building where the huge millstones ground the flour and the "crown wheel" turned other pieces of equipment - machinery to clean the grain and hoists which lift the grain up to the top of the mill.



A sign told me that the bit of gear above is called a "smutter" and was used to remove spores of a fungus called "smut" which attacks the grain and spoils the flour.


Here's a wonderful piece of rural technology: at the top of the picture you can see a piece of string which is attached to a wooden chuck, when this chuck is pulled out the shaft swings into the vertical and the gear-wheels engage. Simple but effective.



Ascend more steps to the apex of the roof space.....



the sacks of grain were hauled up here by a system of pulleys so that gravity could then feed the grain down through the milling gear. 



A nice little reminder that we haven't changed too much over the centuries - nineteenth century graffiti. I think it reads IVET.E.FARNHAM  MELDRETH 1867. If I'm right then there was an Ivatt Farnham who lived in the village and who would have been 14 at the time. His father was a corn merchant.



I decided to walk back home via the meadow footpath and couldn't resist one more photo of the mill with a foreground of yellow buttercups.

If you want to know more about the history of the mill and indeed the rest of the village then visit http://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk run by the Meldreth Local History Group.


Take care.


23 comments:

  1. So interesting! Wonderful photos and commentary. And I like your last photo of the field of buttercups.

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  2. There is not a sign of a buttercup here yet John. I love buttercup fields although the farmer doesn't agree as the cows don't care for them at all. The dandelions are only just coming out.

    That mill is beautifully neat and tidy.

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  3. I haven't seen any buttercups here yet either, sure it won't be long. Very interesting post - looks a really well kept, well cared for mill!

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  4. Interesting post with great pictures.

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  5. It is interesting that all of that has been preserved but without the essential piece, namely, the wheel itself.

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  6. Fascinating to see the working interior of those old mills. This one reminds me of the working water-powered mill near here, and it really does hum and throb when you're inside!

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  7. What a charming place.

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  8. a beautiful reminder of the past. I love old grist mills.

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  9. Great series of photos. I enjoyed the look of this place, very interesting. Thanks John!

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  10. Lovely photos of very interesting place.
    And the last photo is also beautiful, you have a real summer already....
    Hugs

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  11. I love places like this and I'm so glad you shared your visit with us! What lovely details and information.

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  12. I haven't been blogging much lately, and I see that I have missed a lot. This place looks like a mixture of a photographer's and a historian's dream. The graffiti must be the winner.

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  13. Oh my gosh - a National Mills Day? I would be in heaven and, judging by you photos, I think you must have been too.

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  14. The aged wood construction of Topcliffe Mill is amazing - but I'm confused. We have our own Topcliffe Mill a few miles up the road, near Thirsk in North Yorkshire!

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    1. Kathryn Betts8 May 2017 at 18:07

      Topcliffe Mill in Meldreth takes its name from the manor of the same name which was named after John de Topcliffe, the youngest son of Thomas de Topcliffe of Yorkshire who arrived here in 1363 - so there is the Yorkshire connection.

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  15. I love the changes in colour and the warmth in these photos as you climbed up through the mill, so pretty! I've never visited a mill before but it looks so interesting and I love that connection that a building can have, holding onto all that history. Really interesting post! - Tasha

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  16. Thank you for sharing this fascinating adventure John. How marvellously clever yet simple were the inner workings of the mill. Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

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  17. Great colours in your shots. It is great how the mills have been kept. The best way to learn history.

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  18. We have an historic grist mill here in Keremeos in the midst of a large garden - not nearly as old as the one you have shown us, but well over a hundred years. It is in working order and grinds flour to bake with in the touristy tea shop - seduces all the visitors to the Similkameen.

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  19. Lovely shots - and how nice to see history being preserved and enjoyed.

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  20. What a wonderful experience! Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

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  21. I'd never heard of national Mills Day.But it makes sense. This was state of the art technology, the country survived on mills. The mill I have blogged about was Horsey Windpump in Norfolk. It drained the area of water to stop flooding.

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  22. I'm a little late reading your post, but very much enjoyed it. I like the rural technology and impressed by the sense of history.

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