corn mill was
located on the river Dean just below Garden
Street, just about where the small car park is today in Riverbank
Close. There is nothing at all left to show its exact position.
This mill was water powered, receiving its head water via a long
leat which came all the way from a point unknown at Bridgend (behind
Broadhead's garage or the Bridgend Centre in Palmerston Street
*). The course of the leat is visible today as the footpath that
runs through the trees on the south side of the Recreation ground
(picture right), parallel to Palmerston Street. The footbridge
over the river Dean at the east end of this path - by the river
tunnel - is in fact an aqueduct built to carry the leat over the
river. The leat still exists under Wellington Road - the deeds
of several cottages show it running under their front door steps!
In ancient times the operation of a corn mill was in the gift
of the monarch, in this case Queen Isabella [wife of Edward
II, then regent to her son Edward III], and she granted the
mill of Bolyngton to William de Shirborne for life. He enjoyed
this only a few months, and then the Black Prince granted it to
Robert of Plumstoke his yeoman and barber for life. It then passed
to William Soty a yeoman for life1. This was in
the period c.1340-76 so this was a very long established mill.
The mill closed in 1913 when it was grinding bone rather than corn.
It became derelict and the last remains were finally cleared when the
housing estate at Riverbank Close was developed (1970s?).
This is pure conjecture - I have no hard evidence for the idea that
follows, just an element of logic!
There is no evidence of the mill leat coming off the river at Bridgend;
it has always been an assumption. It is reasonable to assume that the
leat took its water from the river Dean below the confluence with the
Harrop brook, in order to obtain maximum flow from the two rivers. We
know that, before the canal was built in the late 1820s, the river Dean
flowed across the ground where the war memorial garden is today, and
went through where the canal embankment is today, before wending its
way across the Recreation
Ground towards the weir - that was the
take-off point for the leat to Waterhouse
mill. We also know that the
Bollington mill leat passes under the embankment - we can see it in the
form of the small stone aqueduct over the river in the corner of the
Recreation Ground, the footpath bridge today. In 2009 the roadway at
the junction of Clarence
Road and Palmerston
Street collapsed and the hole went down about four metres before
the council decided not to dig any further. I estimate that this is exactly
where the leat passes under the road, and would be at a depth of about
five metres, so they just didn't go down far enough to find it.
Now, considering all this, one can conclude that if the leat came off
the river at Bridgend it must have crossed the river somewhere. I think
this very unlikely. I suspect that the connection with the river was
where it first met the river. If you draw a line on the map from the
known location alongside the Recreation Ground, that point is going to
be approximately where the bus shelter is today, on Palmerston Street,
beside the memorial garden. That is where I believe the leat connected
with the river, the intake.
This connection would have been lost when the canal was built in 1830
and the river diverted into the tunnel. We know that the mill continued
in operation until 1913, almost 85 years later. So the question is: how
did they supply the leat with water after 1830? I am sure that the leat
must have continued in use, otherwise why would they have built the little
aqueduct and provided a duct beneath the canal embankment and beyond
(under the road collapse)? Maybe an extension of the leat to the new
cut of the river at a point close to the bridge in Water Street? But
there is nothing obvious to see. This remains an unanswered question.
And there is another - at the little aqueduct water level in the leat
would have been 4 to 5 feet higher than the river water. Does the river
lose that much between the intake, wherever it was, and the little aqueduct?
Of course some height could have been be gained by a weir that no longer
exists. Incidentally, one reason why the levels seem un-natural in this
area is because, I believe, much of the earth from the first, failed,
embankment was spread over the land now taken by the memorial garden,
the children's playground, and Palmerston street from the canal aqueduct
to Bridgend. This explains why the river seems to be so low in the ground.
- The History of Bollington and the
Mills, A.C. Oliver, 1940
My thanks go to those who researched and discovered the history that
is presented in these pages. Please read
the full acknowledgement of their remarkable achievement.
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