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Site record MDR5385 - Corn mill (site of), Griffin Foundry (site of) and Cannon Mill, Dock Walk, Chesterfield

Type and Period (5)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

Cannon Mill formed part of the Griffin Foundry of John and Ebenezer Smith and Co., 1775-1833. It was the casting shop and a plaque on the wall dates it to 1816, though this is possibly not accurate. It was restored in 1951. The building is a 2-storeyed red-brick square with a coped gable end with ornamental cresting and a pantiled roof. There are 3 sham Gothic arches. The date plaque has a portrait of a cannon and cannon-balls. It was originally a cannon foundry. The building was water-powered with a head goyt carrying water from the Hipper into a tank above a large cast-iron overshot water wheel, returning to the Hipper via a tail race. (1-3) The restored remains of Cannon Mill survive at Furnace Hill. There is a cast iron overshot wheel. (4) Cannon Mill was probably erected between 1788 and 1791 as an additional casting house for an existing furnace and foundry complex (the Griffin Foundry) leased in 1775 by Ebenezer Smith & Co. from James Shemwell. The firm manufactured engine cylinders and cannon until 1833, and a plaque with a cannon and the date 1816 probably commemorates the Battle of Waterloo. The mill was bought by Robinson & Sons in 1886 and redeveloped for cotton manufacture. The surviving building is a brick shed with pointed arched openings on two sides. A water wheel on a third side provided power for bellows. A mid 19th century engine house against the fourth side replaces a stack of 1788-1791. A forge built to the west of the power house and a store built in the angle between the two are late 19th century in date. (5) At Furnacehill are the restored remains of Cannon Mill, a casting shop used by Ebenezer Smith & Co. of Chesterfield for casting, among other things, cannon balls for the army and the East India Co. A plaque gives the date of the building as 1816. The building is of brick with a pantiled roof. The headrace leaves the Hipper and is carried over the overshot cast iron wheel. The tail race returns to the Hipper. (6) Prior to 1775 at Wheatbridge, south of the River Somersall Brook (now called the Hipper), there was a foundry and furnace known as the Old Griffin Foundry. The Counting House for the foundry was on Wheatbridge Road, and was later converted for accommodation. This became known as Kent House but was demolished in the 1970s. The Griffin Foundry, north of the River Hipper, was owned and presumably run by James Shemwell, who also ran the medieval corn mill, Walton Nether Mill, south of the river. Two new furnaces were built on the corn mill site between 1788 and 1791, adjacent to the corn mill and initially using the same dam and wheel pit until a second dam was built. It also had a second engine dating from 1780 to pump water back from the river in to what had been the corn mill dam. Presumably, the New Works, north of the river, with a fourth furnace, was built during this period. The New Casting House, now called Cannon Mill, was erected between 1788 and 1791 as an additional casting house for the three furnaces south of the river. It is difficult now to know which was the original furnace and casting house south of the river that made up the Old Griffin Foundry complex. Although in its later years Cannon Mill also cast a range of domestic stoves, fireplaces, cupboards, pots and pans, its main output had originally been for armaments and munitions. The firm is likely to have been manufacturing cannons and cannon balls for the American Independence battles of 1778-83, and would have supplied munitions for the wars against France, Spain and Holland and later still for the Napoleonic Wars from 1793-1815. Over a similar period there was a strong demand for Newcomen steam engines for pumping out lead mines and later for collieries and textile mills. They were designed by Francis Thompson and some of them were manufactured at this site. The foundry also supplied the cast iron pillars and beams for Strutt's fireproof West Mill in 1794. Iron pillars were also supplied to Walton Bump Mill in 1800, which is one of the reasons for the mill's grade II* listed status. The decline of Griffin Foundry has been blamed on a number of reasons: the supplies of ironstone began to fail locally; the foundry was too far away from the Chesterfield Canal with its cheaper transport costs; and the third generation of Smiths were less able businessmen than their predecessors. There was also a major slump in the iron foundry business following the Napoleonic Wars and very low prices prevailed for some years, which would have certainly weakened the Griffin Foundry. It closed in 1833, and the various components sold on for several uses. The medieval corn mill adjacent to the waterwheel pit of Cannon Mill was still working in 1886 but was probably demolished in 1887 when a new steam-driven corn mill was built just off what is now Markham Road roundabout. At Cannon Mill, a second 19th century engine house replaced the Furnace Stacks from 1788-91, which originally stood to the west side of Cannon Mill. In 1907 some card rooms were built at right angles to the building and Cannon Mill was used for shredding woven cotton fabrics for blending back in to cotton wool. The engine house chimney, which had later been used for incinerating waste, was demolished in 1951. The mill itself had a major restoration in 1957, though some of the windows inserted in the north and south gables were not in character. (7) From the National Heritage List for England: 'DOCK WALK 1. 5169 --------- Cannon Mill including Mill Wheel SK 47 SE 13/4 13.3.68. II 2. Modern plaque: "This building known as Canon Mill is one of the oldest industrial buildings in Chesterfield and district having been erected prior to 1788. It formed part of the Griffin Foundry of John and Ebenezer Smith and Co. 1775-1833. Restored 1957". Square red brick building. Pantile roof with slate verges and copded gable end with ornamental cresting. 2 storeys. 3 blank Gothic arches in eastern facade. Oval cast iron plaque with portrait of cannon with cannon balls and dated 1816. This building was formerly part of a cannon foundry. Large overshot iron water wheel. Ref. Nixon F p's 128, 129 and 237. Listing NGR: SK3749670842' (8)

Sources/Archives (8)

  • <1> Index: NDAT. 0701. 0701.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: Robinson, P. 1957. The Smiths of Chesterfield. A History of the Griffin Foundry, Brampton, 1775-1833..
  • <3> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card. Griffin Foundary, Chesterfield.
  • <4> Unpublished document: County Treasure Recording Form. Un-numbered, with photos.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Pattison, I (RCHME). 1996. Cannon Mill, Dock Walk, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, RCHME Historic Building Report. NBR No. 95048.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D. 2000. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology. Part V. North East Derbyshire. p 15.
  • <7> Unpublished document: North East Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology Society (NEDIAS). 2014. NEDIAS Newsletter. No. 54. pp. 1-6.
  • <8> Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England.



Grid reference SK 37473 70839 (point)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

  • EDR3833
  • EDR1769

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Record last edited

Aug 14 2022 9:05PM

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