Visit will offer rare insight into three ancient mills

An unusual view of Low Mill, Bainbridge. Picture, Christine Hallas.

By Betsy Everett

There is till a chance to see and hear the inside stories of three private mills in Askrigg and Bainbridge not normally open to the public.

The history of West Mill in Askrigg, Low Mill and High Mill in Bainbridge, will be outlined by Christine Hallas on Saturday, July 1, prior to the guided tour which will start at the Wensleydale Sport and Leisure Centre at 10am and is expected to end around 4pm. Those who can only attend for part of the day will be welcome.

“Each of the sites is accessible so if people prefer to drive to each mill they can,” says Vanda Hurn, instigator of Askrigg’s Learning Curve project which aims to bring a variety of adult education opportunities to Wensleydale and the surrounding area.

Historian Dr Hallas, who has studied Askrigg and Bainbridge as part of her Wensleydale and Swaledale research since the 1970s,  will start the day by examining the history of the mills which spans the medieval period to the present day, and follow with a guided tour.

“We are very privileged and delighted to have been given access to the mills by their owners and it promises to be a fascinating and exciting experience” said Christine. “It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see all three mills in one day.”

Documents show that at West Mill in Askrigg, owned by David and Rita Blake, there was a corn mill on the site as early as the medieval period.

The mill has been drawn the attention of poets and artists: in 1799 the existing watermill was referred to by William Wordsworth when he visited the area and wrote about it to his friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and J.W.Turner drew a sketch of the area in 1816 during his tour of Wensleydale. 

West Mill became a saw mill and a business making wooden hay rakes was established there in 1887 by W.H.Burton. It continued until the 1950s.

Low Mill in Bainbridge was built in the 1780s as a corn mill. It was converted for living in the 1970s and is now a multi-award winning boutique guesthouse owned by Neil and Jane McNair.

Further north along the River Bain, thought to be the shortest river in England, is High Mill, owned by family butcher, Nigel Hammond. The history of this mill is also well-documented, says Christine, and research shows that that it was likely to have been one of two original medieval mills which were directly opposite each other on the east and west banks of the river.

The cost of the lecture and tour, including lunch and refreshments, is £30. 

Final events in the Learning Curve summer programme will be a sheepdog training session by international trialist, Richard Fawcett, on Thursday, from 10-11.30am, cost £6, and circle dance workshops with Paula Hague. These will be on July 10, 17 and 24 from 2-3.30pm and the cost for each will be £5.
For information and to book any or all of these events call 01969 650060 or email admin@yorebridge-sport.co.uk.

West Mill, Askrigg, dates back to the medieval period. Picture by Christine Hallas.
High Mill, Bainbridge, has a fascinating history. Picture by Christine Hallas.