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Monument record MDR9644 - St Michael's Mills and W G Brown's Mill (site of), Sowter Road, Derby

Type and Period (3)

  • (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

  • World Heritage Site

Full Description

'Flour Mills' and 'Mill Race' marked on the OS map of 1901. (1) SK 353366. St. Michael's Mills and W & G Brown's Mill. Several mills were built on the River Derwent between the riverbank and a small island called the Bye Flatt. In the 18th century there were three separate concerns. Samuel Heathcote's mill was a corn or malt mill; a silk mill was leased to Sir Thomas Lombe (SMR 32024) ; and there was a 'water house' or gunpowder mill adjoining the malt mill. The early malt mill was partially demolished in about 1875 and a new five-storey mill building had been erected at the westerly end of the site, adjacent to the river, by 1881-2. W & G Brown's Mill, a company formed in 1812, occupied the easterly building of the complex. In 1896 there was a serious fire in the remains of the old mill, the central element of the complex, which was then being used as a store and warehouse. The fire spread rapidly to Brown's Mill. Both were badly damaged. A newspaper report of March 20 1896 included the following: 'The scene of the disaster was the flour and corn mill of Alderman Sowter, on Sowter Road, Derby, and the result was the almost total destruction of an adjunct of the mill. .. At the upper end of the island, and adjoining the silk mill, is the old portion of Sowter's mill, the portion which has been totally destroyed by fire, whilst at right angles to the river and facing a mill dam is the new premises, erected some 14-15 years ago. Another mill dam, with a powerful water wheel, separates the ground floor of Alderman Sowter's mill from Messrs. Brown's flour mill, which faces Sowter Road .. '. The fire was controlled before it could spread to either Sowter's new mill (SMR32117) or Brown's mill. In 1910 another major fire started in Sowter's mill (SMR32117), destroying both it and the adjacent silk mill. Brown's mill was still operating in 1925, but little is known of it. (2) Remains of a wheelpit survive beneath the present buildings. Photographs were taken in 1981 prior to infilling. (3) The first silk mill was built at the north end of Bye Flatt island c.1704 by Thomas Cotchett. The timber-framed mill was never able to produce a suitable quality of thread, and one of his employees, John Lombe, went to Italy to investigate the Italian silk industry. On his return Lombe engaged Sorocold to design a much larger mill to the immediate south of Cotchett's Old Shop (SMR32024). In the 18th century the other mills to the east of Cotchett's Old Shop consisted of a corn or malt mill, Sorocold's waterworks, and a gunpowder mill; collectively they were known as St Michael's Mills. The mill race or fleam therefore predates Lombe's Silk Mill, possibly dating back to medieval times. (4)

Sources/Archives (4)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1896-1900. OS County Series, 2nd edition (1st revision), scale 1:2500 (c. 25" to one mile). Sheet L.9, 1901.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: Gifford, A. 1999. Derbyshire Watermills: Corn Mills.. B 18 & 19, pp 68-72, fig. 15, plate 27.
  • <3> Verbal communication: Information from Adrian Farmer, Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Officer, December 2006. Copies of photos in SMR parish file.
  • <4> Unpublished document: May, R (ARCUS). 2007. Archaeological desk-based assessment of Land at Cathedral Green, Full Street, Derby. pp 10-11, 20.



Grid reference Centred SK 35331 36588 (72m by 155m) (Approximate)
World Heritage Site Derwent Valley Mills

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Record last edited

Mar 14 2020 10:34PM

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