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Building record MDR9630 - Willowbath Tape Mill, Wirksworth

Type and Period (3)

  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1816 AD to 1900 AD)
  • (Stuart to Georgian - 1680 AD? to 1760 AD?)
  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1816 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

Willowbath Mill shown as a 'tape' mill on the late 19th century OS map. (1-2) Tape mill just west of the level-crossing. Four storeys with the lower floor of gritstone and the upper floors of brick. Established around 1816 by John Prior. (3) Middle Smelting-Mill, SK288533. The Middle Smelting-Mill is first recorded in 1693, when Sir Philip Gell sold a 40-year licence to his younger brother Francis, allowing him to take water to the wheel of the mill from a sough issuing near the Middle Mill dam. In October 1704 Sir Philip Gell leased the Middle Mill, with ore-houses and tools, to John Hutchinson, the Stainborough lead merchant, for four years, following it with a further lease in 1708. Several inventories of equipment at the mill have survived from this period. The last known lease is in 1751 for 7 years. That a peppercorn rent was payable for two years and £10 thereafter indicates the lack of demand for such mills in the cupola period. The mill was later converted to a tape bleaching and dyeing works, known as Willowbath Mill. This still stands. Land adjacent to the mill is named 'Smelting Mill Piece' in the Tithe Award schedule. An early 18th century Gell plan shows two buildings labelled 'Tho Greasdale Middle Miln' and a pond south of a road marked 'way to Gorsey bank'. This confirms that the mill was on the Willowbath site. No slag has been found, but the ground immediately south-east was disturbed in building the railway. The land south of the road now forms a lorry park, laid on the in-fill of the pond. (4) A mill, named 'Middle Miln' is shown in this area on a sketch plan of 1709. It was probably a smelting mill, as the tithe map shows a field called ‘Smelting Mill Piece’ adjacent to its site, although the mill itself was no longer present by that time. The earliest recorded use of Middle smelting mill was 1693, the last was 1751. Its site may have been destroyed by the construction of the railway. A new mill, Willowbath Mill, was built on a slightly different site just to the north of the earlier mill in 1815, and used for tape weaving. It was powered by steam. (5)

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <1> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card. Willowbath Mill, Wirksworth.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1896-1900. OS County Series, 2nd edition (1st revision), scale 1:2500 (c. 25" to one mile). Derbyshire XXXIX.2.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Fowkes, D (ed.). 1997. Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology. A Gazetteer of Sites. Part IV. Derbyshire Dales. p 56.
  • <4> Article in serial: Crossley, D & Kiernan, D. 1992. 'The lead-smelting mills of Derbyshire', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol. 112, pp 6-47. pp 44-45.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Stroud, G. 2001. Extensive Urban Survey: Wirksworth. Archaeological Assessment Report.



Grid reference Centred SK 28841 53320 (84m by 136m) (Approximate)

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Record last edited

Dec 14 2017 4:45PM

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