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Malham Mill

There is little to see at the site of the old Malham mill, just north of the village on the way to the cove, below the waterfall called originally called Pan Holes and now more often called Mill Foss. The first Ordnance Survey maps shows that this mill was derelict by around 1850.
The cotton mill was built on the site of the manorial corn mill, which at the beginning of the 13th century belonged to John Aleman and was given by him to Fountains Abbey. The rent of about 2s per year, was to be used for the relief of the poor who gathered at the Abbey gate. It was
later listed in the 1672 Hearth Tax as being run by Edmond Thompson and Richard Wharfe and continued in use as a corn mill until the late 18th century, John Thwaite was miller in the 1740s.
About 1780 David Kaye wrote to Thomas Lister informing him that Prestons intended to build a cotton mill on the site of the old corn mill at Malham. The new mill constructed to take advantage of the cotton boom in the 18th century, which was reliant on water power, was a typical Arkwright design of four storeys, measuring 69 x 27 feet, which could have housed up to 1000 spindles. It was built in 1785 by Richard Brayshaw (Excise officer), Robert Hartley (draper). Robert Moon (wool stapler) and William Hartley (shalloon manufacturer). Nothing now remains of the mill except some foundations containing a bridge-like arch on the stream just above the village. There are no known contemporary images of this mill except for this watercolour painted in 1810 by JW Turner, but this shows only the dam located above the Mill Foss and the sluice for the mill.

Malham Cove - JMW Turner 1810 © Trustees of the British Museum External Website logo

When William Atkinson tried to revive the fortunes of the mill and expand it in 1822 he received an extremely negative response from Lord Ribblesdale who obviously had strong views about the cotton industry. His reply via his agent was recorded in the Kirkby Malham Parish Report:

Gisburn, April, 1822.

Dear Sir,—My Lord Ribblesdale and the Hon'ble Thomas Lister are averse to the Establishment of a Cotton Mill at Malham . .. Altho' it is Possible, if a flourishing trade should take place, a transitory Emolument might be derived from it, yet in the end it would prove a Heavy Incumbrance upon the Landed Interest by the Introduction of a needy population, and a total Change in the Innocent Habits and Morals of the present Generation. The daily school would be deserted for the cotton mill. The Boys and Girls in very early life abandoned to Promiscuous Intercourse, their Minds depraved and their Bodies by excessive labour and intense Heat so much debilitated and emaciated that few arrive at the Age of Maturity. For this Sacrifice of Human Beings the Cotton Maker may become rich, but should he fail it is needless to point out the dreadful State of the Children and the Landowner.—Malham is now a peaceful, contented and happy village. If this Cotton Mill is enlarged and re-established, in a few years the town will be full of Misery, Vice and Debauchery.—These are the sentiments of My Lord and Mr Lister. I hope they will be in union with those of the Freeholders of Malham. His Lordship has ever been Anxious to promote their Wishes upon all Occasions. Yet he cannot conceal his fears and apprehension that the Evils above stated will inevitably be the consequence. His Lordship can give no Countenance whatever to the Mill's Extension, thinking that its present Capacity is large enough to produce too many of the Calamities which other parts of the Kingdom have so fatally experienced.

I am, Dear Sir, Most Respectfully, Yours


Map showing location of mill site

The mill suffered mixed fortunes and cotton spinning there had finally ceased by 1840.

Part of the derelict mill was then used as a house until the latter part of the 19th century, when it was demolished and much of the stone reused to build Ploughley's Barn in Malham West.

Malham mill ruins
Malham mill
The site of Malham mill today - only the foundations remain

Read more about the Processes and Jobs which would be carried out in the Malhamdale cotton spinning mills.

The following details of Malham mill are from the book Yorkshire Cotton by George Ingle:

Malham Mill, which was very near Malham Cove, had been converted from a corn mill in 1785 by a partnership consisting of:

Richard Brayshaw, excise officer, Liverpool
Robert Hartley, draper, Colne
Robert Moon, wool stapler, Colne
William Hartley, shalloon manufacturer, Colne

Brayshaw had recently bought the corn mill and owned other land and cottages in the area. The partners agreed to pay £50 each towards the cost of building the new mill. In 1786 the four partners insured the mill for £300 and their utensils for £200. Unfortunately the partners had a disagreement so it was decided to partition the mill in 1796 with part to be taken by Richard and John Brayshaw who had:

6 spinning frames x 60 spindles = 360 spindles
2 spinning frames x 48 spindles = 96 spindles

and the other part to be taken by Robert Hartley who had:

2 spinning frames x 60 spindles = 120 spindles
2 spinning frames x 48 spindles = 96 spindles

It was Robert Hartley who had wanted to split the mill and Peter Garforth of Skipton and William Marriott of Marsden in Lancashire had been called in to decide how the mill should be divided. Internal walls were to be built and agreement had to be reached on the speed of the front rollers on the spinning frames relative to the speed of the water wheel. The rollers were one inch in diameter and would have to run at a speed of between fifty and seventy revolutions per minute. The former partners also had to agree not to interfere with the shafting in the mill or change the quantity or speed of the machines.

Hartley was bankrupt in 1800 and his third part of Malham Mill was for sale together with his machinery. The complete mill was four storeys high and measured twenty-seven feet by twenty one feet with an eighteen foot fall of water to the wheel. The newspaper advertisement mentioned that the mill was only five miles from the Leeds and Liverpool canal and that 'from the village of Malham hands may be engaged on reasonable terms'. The auction was to take place at the Angel Inn, Colne.

Richard Brayshaw leased his section of the mill to William Cockshott about 1797 and in 18I5 it was leased again to the Cockshott brothers with part being taken by John & Joseph Lister from Haworth who were cotton twist spinners, possibly at Griffe Mill near Stanbury. In I8I5 the mill and contents were insured for £2,400 and cotton spinning continued until the 1840s. By 1850 the mill was in ruins and was said 'by no means adds to the beauty of the scene'. The mill was then pulled down and the stone used to build a barn.

Book cover

Click image for more details

Copies are available direct from the author, , at the discounted price of £9.95 including UK P&P

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