The Cheviot Hills, Northumberland National Park\n© Simon Fraser

Holystone : Mills

A water mill is recorded at Holystone from 1539 when it features as one of the tenancies listed under the heading of Holystone Township (see Selected Sources and Surveys – 1539 Survey). It is likely it had been established much earlier in the medieval period. It was probably still functioning when the Border Survey was compiled in 1604. Percival Potts claimed the right to quarry millstones on Harbottle Crags (1604 Survey, 105, 111; 1618 Rental, 337) and was paying the sum of £2 4s. for his one house and single acre of arable at Holystone, an exorbitant sum unless there was a mill attached to the house (1604 Survey, 92).

This mill has been been identified with the present Mill House, or Mill Cottage, previously known as The Kennels (cf. NSMR 13528; NCH XV (1940), 169; Pevsner et al. 2001, 341). The lower storey of the north wall is built of fine medieval masonry composed of even, well-dressed blocks, similar to the stonework of Hepple Tower and Great Tosson Tower further down the valley.

Mill House Holystone © NNPA
Picture : Mill House Holystone

Holystone Kennels © NNPA
Picture : Mill Cottage previously known as The Kennels

However it must be emphasised that this is not the site of the mill marked on the 1765 estate map (NRO 6247.1; PRO MPI 242), the tithe map and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd edition Ordnance Survey maps and depicted in Dippie Dixon's study of the valley (1903, 282).

The latter building is still stands to the south east of Mill House and retains pretty much the appearance shown in Dixon's illustration at the beginning of the 20th century, except for the loss of the waterwheel. It was an overshot mill fed by the mill race - that 'copious runnel of fine clear water' reckoned 'the pride of the villagers' by Dixon (ibid.). The race is clearly aligned on this building rather than Mill House. This might imply that the masonry walling incorporated in Mill House belonged to an entirely different medieval building, or was simply robbed from another site elsewhere in the village.

The alternative possibility is that Mill House was the original medieval mill, but was replaced by the later building, at which stage the relevant section of the mill race was realigned. Grundy (1988, 199: HAR 34) has suggested that a blocked arch visible in the west gable may once have admitted the mill race, which would support this hypothesis. However significant structural complexity is evident in lower part of this gable wall and proper structural recording to resolve these problems and illuminate the history of the building would clearly be beneficial.

The 1765 estate map marks a second, smaller mill labelled 'Walk mill' (i.e. fulling mill), situated just south east of the Salmon Inn. This was fed by the combined flow of the mill race and the stream from the Lady Well, which at stage ran past the east end of the Salmon Inn. By the time the next detailed map - that associated with the tithe commutation award - was drawn up, in 1840, the mill race had been realigned to run past the west end of the Salmon Inn and the 'walk mill' was evidently out of use, although the building remained standing and is still appears to figure at least as late as the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey (1920).

Holystone Mill

(Information from the NE Mills Group)

  • Site Name: Holystone Mill
  • Grid Reference:  NT955027
  • First recorded 1539
  • Last recorded 1920

At the dissolution of Holystone Nunnery in 1539 there were ten houses and a mill in the township, the mill is mentioned again a few years later, in 1546, when John Herron was in arrears with his rent. Directory entries for 1827 and 1855 list a Joseph Loiver as farmer and miller. The 1890s Ordnance Survey shows a mill, but by the 1920s edition the mill is shown as disused.  In 1929 the estate was offered for sale with a workable mill (Griffith 1974). By 1940 the mill is reported to have become a house (NCH XV (1940), 469, but this may refer to the Kennels/Mill House).

Holystone Mill Leet © NNPA

Picture : Mill Leet At Holystone

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