Monument record MDR1348 - Black Marble Mill (site of), Ashford-in-the-Water

Type and Period (2)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

The finished black marble was used especially for fine inlaid work. The marble doorways at Chatsworth house were executed at the mill, as well as the gritstone balustrades and vases for the stairs, walls, battlements etc. (1). Mill, recently mostly demolished, but a horizontal water turbine is still visible underwater in sluices. Active 1748-1905 in the production of black marble for ornamental purposes. It is the sole relic of one of Derbyshire's best known former industries. (3). Established by Henry Watson for sawing, grinding and polishing the marble quarried/mined at Arrock (SMR 433) and Rookery (SMR 434) nearby in the parish. Used after 1905 as a Barytes Mill and Lumber Yard. (4). In 1990 the site was described as being in poor condition, with trees growing in the surviving stone-built structure. (5). The marble works was established on the outskirts of Ashford village in 1748 by Henry Watson, who patented a new machine in 1751, described as 'A certain invention for the cutting or sawing marble, or any other stone, for sweeping or facing and also polishing the sameā€¦'. A surviving drawing shows a cutting and polishing shop and an adjacent grinding shop on one side of a water wheel, with a turning shop on the opposite side of the wheel. The site, in a loop in the River Wye, was probably a site for working marble before 1748 and may have been where the marble mason Thomas Accres made 'an engyne for the sawing of blackstone' in 1595. The earliest known plan of the site is dated 1766. It shows a leat cut almost at right angles to the river, creating an island, before rejoining the river at a point widened to accommodate a weir and three wheel races on each of which stands a building. The same arrangement is shown on a plan of 1840, at which time the first race, crossing the centre of the site, operated the saws, the second powered the grinding and polishing machine and the third an additional saw mill. This last may have been the location of the earliest mill on the site. The three mill wheels were dispersed around an inner marble yard. The outer yard, which had entrance gates from the Ashford-Buxton road, was enclosed by the workshops and stables on the west side and by the manager's house on the east. The marble works failed to make substantial profits until new building schemes at Chatsworth from the 1820s required large amounts of marble fittings, and Ashford began to boom, for the first and only time, as a marble working centre. Plans were drawn up for improvements to the Ashford Marble Mill, although these were never carried out. Two turbines were installed in the later 19th century - one in the saw mill in 1884 and the second in the polishing shop in 1895. The third mill retained a conventional wheel of iron with wooden blades. This last mill had, by 1884, been sub-let to Rowland Holme of Ashford as a comb manufactory. Despite the new technology, the demand for local marble declined and the works finally ceased production in 1905. Little now is left [in 1995]. The three leats still survive, two with derelict turbine wheels. The comb mill has a dilapidated gable remaining, together with fragments of its old water wheel. (6) Residual single storey limestone building with gritstone facings. (7)

Sources/Archives (7)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Adam, W. 1851. Gem of the Peak. pp 156-157.
  • <2> Article in serial: Ford, T D. 1966. 'The black marble mills of Ashford-in-the-Water', Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society. Volume 2, pp 179-188.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Hill, R (PPJPB). 1985. Peak Park Treasures. C14; Willies, L M; 1973.
  • <4> Bibliographic reference: Ford, T & Rieuwerts, J. 1983. Lead Mining in the Peak District, 3rd edition. pp 81-82, illust..
  • <5> Personal Observation: Parker, R M. 1990. Pers. Comm..
  • <6> Article in serial: Brighton, T. 1995. 'The Ashford Marble Works and Cavendish patronage, 1748-1905', Bulleting of the Peak District Mines Historical Society. Volumme 12, pp 58-67.
  • <7> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D (ed.). 1997. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology. A Gazetteer of Sites. Part IV. Derbyshire Dales.



Grid reference Centred SK 190 694 (82m by 100m) (Approximate)

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Record last edited

Jun 25 2015 6:08PM

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