On the History Trail: The mills of Pocklington

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The mills of Pocklington is the focus of this week’s On the History Trail.

Pocklington was founded on a fast flowing stream fed from the Wolds and was ideally suited for the establishment of medieval water mills used for the grinding of corn, bones or cloth fulling.

The Domesday survey of 1086 shows that Pocklington has a church and a priest and two mills rendering five shillings.

Later manorial documents show at least three early mills with five by the eighteenth century. The earliest named references are in the archives of the Dean of York, which in the 17th century show that Clock Mill and White Mill were being leased by the Dean to the manorial lords and stewards.

The stream from Millington flows through the ancient settlement of Ousethorpe which has a fulling mill (designed to process woollen cloth) recorded in the township in 1241. The stream continues to hug the edge of the escarpment and Pocklington wood and towards Pocklington where Clock Mill is situated.

Clock Mill was owned from early times by the Dean of York and was used as a mill to the end of the 19th century. The stream continues down past the old Manor site of Teresa Cottage where another corn mill was situated, which in some references was called Low Mill but was better known as Saint Helen’s Gate Mill which was operated as a saw mill in the 1890s by George Kelsey.

To increase the flow to lower mills were dams and races. A dam near London bridge provided the increased flow down to English’s Mill in the town. Richard English was a miller there in 1823 and it was operated as a working mill by the English family up to the 1920s.

The stream flowed down through the town, to be used by other industries such as tanning and brewing, with it’s course altered and culverted to improve the sanitary conditions of the town.

A further mill race was added as it flowed out of the town down West Green towards the next mill (currently being demolished in preparation for a new health centre for the town).

Thirsk’s Mill as it latterly became known, was earlier known as White Mill or Hodgson’s Mill (from the early records of the Dean of York). It’s buildings became substantial and in that latter part of the 18th century it was used for a short period for Worsted manufacture.

By the mid-nineteenth century it was the Anglo-Hungarian flour mills serviced by it’s own railway line from Pocklington railway station.

Further downstream was Devonshire Mill, which is the best preserved of Pocklington’s mills with the old water wheel still intact. It dates from around 1808. The main part of the building may have coincided with the demolition of Londesborough Hall in 1819 when the Duke of Devonshire wanted to save money to make alterations to Chatsworth.

Timbers used to support the heavy workings are said to have come from the Londesborough estate - hence the name Devonshire Mill.

Timothy Overend was an early miller and was involved in the Pocklington Canal construction as an outlet for the flour from the mill.

Anthony Blanshard was miller in 1841 was then followed by the Cains family who developed the mill and kept it going until the late 1950s.

The beck continued flowing down towards Canal Head where a mill was established for the crushing of bones used for fertiliser and for shipping out on the Pocklington Canal.

Pocklington has had a tradition of milling for more than 1,000 years powered by Pocklington Beck, which was the lifeblood of the town from early times.

• Pocklington Local History Group are hosting a talk on ‘Mills and Milling’, to be given by The Holgate Mill Preservation Society on Thursday 21 November, at 7.30pm in the Arts Centre, Pocklington.