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Gayle Mill

June 2017: Gayle Mill

Friday 9 June, 2017, by Hannah Kingsbury

Historic Environment Record: MYD31225
Parish: Hawes
OS Grid Reference: SD871893
Dale: Upper Wensleydale
Out of Oblivion:
Access: This site is publicly accessible. The Mill can be viewed from the roadside, but there is also an unsurfaced drive down to the Mill. Access inside the Mill is only available by guided tour.

Gayle Mill was built as a water-powered cotton mill, based upon the latest Arkwright design, around 1784 by Oswald and Thomas Routh. It was one of the earliest cotton spinning mills in Wensleydale. The mid-to-late eighteenth century was a time of great change and uncertainty, with the industrial revolution well underway and the cotton trade thriving.
Since the start, Gayle Mill has reflected the changing industries in the Dales and the wider fortunes of UK manufacturing. It survived as a cotton mill until the late-eighteenth century when for a short period it was used for spinning flax. After that, it spun wool for the local hand-knitting industry for much of the nineteenth century. Gayle Mill reinvented itself again in 1879, when it adopted the latest technology and became a mechanised sawmill powered by a Williamson turbine. This power drove a range of woodworking machinery.
In the early 20th century a turbine powered generator was installed and was used to supply electricity, first to the mill, and then to Gayle, and continued to provide hydroelectricity until 1948. During the Second World War the second floor of the mill building was used for accommodating military personnel. Physical evidence of this includes an external emergency escape route, the fitting of black out screens and some graffiti. However the Mill remained operational during this time as a sawmill and for electricity generation. The Mill continued as a working sawmill until 1988, but from that point the Mill gradually fell into disrepair.
Gayle Mill is now owned by the North of England Civic Trust and operated by the Gayle Mill Trust. In 2004 they began restorations to restore the Mill to its former glory (with much enthusiastic local support), and work was completed in the spring of 2008, opening its doors to the public. In 2006 the two turbines were restored to working order. The Mill’s plight had received national attention in 2004, as it was one of the finalists in BBC2’s “Restoration” programme (coming third), and was more recently featured on Channel 4’s “How Britain Worked” in 2012.
Gayle Mill falls within the Gayle Conservation Area. This Conservation Area is distinctive for its landscape setting and vernacular architecture.
The Mill is a Grade II* Listed Building and is designated as a Scheduled Monument.

Picture of Hannah Kingsbury

Hannah Kingsbury

Hannah is the Cultural Heritage Officer for the Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership scheme


One Reply to “June 2017: Gayle Mill”

  1. Eain Findlay says:

    I believe the military personnel mentioned were the 3rd Battalion Scots Guards. They trained up on the Dales. Their tanks being parked on the hard standing nearby, which I believe was constructed for them. It now has light industrial units on it.
    I would live to view the Mill and the graffiti left by the personnel, to see if anything of it makes sense.
    I would love to have a plaque made in metal and mounted on the Industrial units wall/other, to denote that the 3rd Battalion Scots Guards trained there in 1943.

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