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Scalegill Mill

Sometimes referred to as Hanlith Mill, it actually stands in the township of Kirkby Malham, on the West bank of the river Aire and has long been associated with the Serjeantson’s Hanlith Hall estate.

Scalegill Mill
Scalegill mill circa 1910

Scalegill mill was originally the site of a manorial corn mill which dated back to before 1279, when the lord of Hanlith constructed a mill and dam in his own manor, presumably upstream of the Kirkby mill, which lead to a dispute over water rights with the Abbot of Dereham. Previously the townships of Hanlith and Kirkby Malham had been served by the corn mill at Airton. The original positions of these corn mills isn't certain, but one probably lay further North, near the head of the present mill pond.

This extract from a deed in the "Calton Deeds" collection at the YAS, shows the agreement they reached:

Concord made at York before the justices in eyre between Walter, abbot of West Dereham, querent, and William son of William de Hertlington, deforciant, by which the abbot agrees that William may hold peacefully a mill and pond in Hanlith built by William the father, with the suit of the abbot's men who hold land of him in Hanlith, and William agrees with the abbot and his successors that they may grind corn there without mulcture whenever the abbot's mill in Kirkby is broken down. William also grants to the abbot a bovate, toft and croft which they have of his gift in Hanlith and that he will render 2 shillings sterling annually in return for the aforesaid suit of the abbot's men. Witnesses: Sir Robert de Plumton, Sir Roger Tempest, John his brother, Everard Fauvel, John de Fegeser, Elias de Oterburn, Richard his brother, Robert de Stiveton, Peter de Middleton. Thomas de Malgum, Robert son of Thomas de Scotthorp, Richard Nunnefrere, William de Litton, William and Alexander sons of Robert de Hagenelith.
Michaelmas Term 7 Edward I.
[YAS DD203/91]

A deed of 1533 refers to the the seisin of a water mill and other lands and tenements at Kirkby in Malhamdale by William Ratclyff and Thomas Elyson according to the form of a charter from Geoffrey Mollome.

In his will of 1621, Robert King, yeoman and Clerk in Holy Orders, Vicar of Kirkby Malhamdale states:

"I do give to my said sonne Thomas his executors and assignes the leases and tearmes of yeares which I have of Skalegill milne......."

"........ I give towardes the erecting of a kilne in kirkby aforesaid fortie shillinges so as a kilne in and for the said towne be builded within one yeare next after my death" 

Thomas Towson, yeoman farmer of Malham and Alan Towson of Malham sold their half share in the watercourse and mill to William Serjeantson on 4th November 1707 for the sum of £75. At this point in time it would probably have changed little from the original manorial, water powered corn mill, the place where the tenants were obliged to have their corn ground, giving up part of it to the manor in payment.

In 1748 there is a release of the moiety of Scalegill Mill from Rev James King to William Serjeantson, giving him complete control and showing that the King family must have retained an interest in the mill for more than 130 years.

There continued to be a corn mill at Scalegill throughout the 18th century; Thomas Andrew was the miller in 1756 and Laurence Gornall is still cited as the miller in the KM Parish Records for 1799, so some corn milling may well have been retained on the site after cotton working was introduced. Scalegill Mill and Kiln are show as being "in hand" in the 1766 Serjeantson Estate Book, showing that there were still facilities for drying and grinding grain. The parish records for 1773 also record a Christopher Hall of Hanlith, weaver, but whether he wove linen, worsted or cotton isn't recorded.

Around the end of the 18th century the development and mechanisation of the Cotton industry turned good watermill sites into valuable commercial assets, a fact not lost on the Serjeantson family.
The whole corn mill site seems to have belonged to the Serjeantson’s Hanlith Hall Estate after William Serjeantson purchased the Towson’s share in 1707 and is shown in their 1766 Estate Book as:

In Hand at Kirkbymalhamdale

a. r . p.
£. s. d.
Scalegill Mill and Kiln
0. 0. 02
7. 0. 0.

The mill had been converted or a new mill had been built and equipped and was in use as a cotton mill by 1791. In 1792, Roger Hartley (yeoman) and brother of the Airton miller who had already turned to spinning, insured the mill for £200 and the utensils for a further £600. Within a year he was obviously in difficulties and had assigned the machinery and his household goods for £200, to the Quaker merchants William and John Birkbeck and John Peart, of Settle.

From Kirkby Malham Baptism register:
Ann Robinson Spidit daughter of Richard Spidit, Hanlith, tormentor of Cotton Wool, baptised 4 Dec 1791

The present main mill building was built around 1794/5 and an advertisement in the Leeds Intelligencer on 16th March 1795 described it as:

“All that new erected cotton mill, called Scalegill Mill situated about four miles from Airton aforesaid, with a very convenient dwelling house, outhouses, and other appurtenances adjoining the mill.
The mill was intended for a cotton mill and is a very desirable situation for any person wishing to go into trade; it has a constant and powerful supply of water, and in a situation where wages are low.”

Richard Shackleton of Airton would show the premises to prospective purchasers and other particulars could be obtained from Mr Sidgwick or Mr Netherwood in Skipton or Messrs. Hartley & Swale in Settle.
Christopher Netherwood was a tallow chandler and soap boiler who had become a Skipton Banker and leading partner when the Mill was built. On the 24th April 1804 he entered into a 15 year lease for the mill from William Rookes Leedes Serjeantson of Camphill, the other Serjeantson estate near Bedale and set up a twist manufactory. For the annual sum of £54 12s he acquired a full repairing lease on what was advertised as:

“All that lately erected Cotton Mill with a Dwelling House, Smith Shop and other buildings hereunto adjoining and belonging situate and being at a certain peace called Scalegill in the parish of Kirkby Malhamdale in County of York aforesaid together with the Great Water Wheel and also all dams attachments of Dams, Heads,Weirs, Sluices, Goits, Banks, Streams,Waters, Watercourses, Rivers, .................... and appurtanences whatsoever to the said Cotton Mill”

He insured the mill building in 1804 with the Sun Insurance Company for the sum of £400 with further insured sums of £200 for Mill Work, £200 for machinery and £50 for stock, a total of £850. There was also a warehouse insured for £50 and it’s stock at £200. The rent by now was £75 13s 6d per annum according to the Serjeantson estate book entry.

Further enlargement of the mill must have been carried out during this period because 1809 the insurance sum had risen to £800 for the building and £1,000 for machinery, with the total sum assured being £2,100. The mill was not in use in 1809, but was let to Joseph Mason in 1810, and when Christopher Netherwood’s sons came of age they ran the mill themselves.

When the lease expired they didn’t renew it and by 1821 the mill had been taken by John Dewhirst & Co of Skipton. John & Isaac Dewhirst invested more money in equipment, making it an important production unit and their insurance policy in 1825 valued the company as:

    • Scalegill Cotton Mill £800
    • Mill Work £300
    • Machinery £1,500
    • Stock £25
    • Panhouse adjoining £15
    • Stock therein £10
    • Stable, Warehouse and Counting House £50
    • Stock therein £ 300

Dewhirst’s became famous for their sewing cotton, marketed under the “Dewhirst Sylko” brand and they later also ran the mill at Airton, which they leased in 1834.
Isaac Dewhirst was still running the Scalegill mill in 1838 and was granted a further 9 year lease by William Rookes Leedes Serjeantson on 12 May 1839 at £128 per annum.
When Dewhirst's lease ran out, they evidently didn't want to renew it again and the mill was again advertised for rent. The Manchester Guardian ran the following advertisement on the 11 Mar 1848:

COTTON MILL and PREMISES, at SCALE GILL, near Kirkby Malham in the county of York.- TO BE LET by Proposal, for a term of years, and entered upon on the 1st day of May next, all that COTTON MILL, situate at Scale Gill aforesaid, driven by a water wheel of ten horses' power, three stories high, with attics, 24 yards long by 9 yards wide; together with Three Cottage Houses, Warehouse, and Stable, as now occupied by Messrs. Dewhirst and Son, of Skipton. Scale Gill Mill is about six miles from the canal at Gargrave, affording an easy communication with the coal and cotton districts, and about four miles from the North Western Railway, which will be open in 1849.- The present tenant will shew the mill, and further particulars may be known on application to GEORGE HARTLEY, solicitor, Settle, who will receive proposals.

The 7 year lease granted to John Hartley by George John Serjeantson and dated 28th April 1859 was for only £40 pa, nearly a 70% reduction on the previous rent, so the demand for cotton must have been waining at the time.

J&H Hartley look to have have prospered despite the cotton famine of 1861-65 caused by the civil war in America, as in 1865 the Manchester Guardian ran an advertisement that indicates they are installing larger machines:

TO BE SOLD, cheap as the room is wanted for other machines, ONE Double CARDING ENGINE, 42in. on the wire; and One ditto, 40in. both in very superior working order; are now working hard waste, and may be seen working by applying to J & H HARTLEY, Scalegill Mill, Bell Busk Station, near Skipton.

The 1841 census reveals the local cotton industry at its height, with 24 residents of Kirkby Malham and Hanlith working in the cotton mills. However later census years only show between 9-17 local residents were working in the Cotton industry and by 1891 the census reveals only one at Scalegill- George Jones, listed as a cotton spinner.

It’s not clear exactly when cotton production finally ceased at Hanlith, but the only occupant shown in the 1901 census is John Clark, joiner and his family. After the death of John Bonny Dewhirst in 1904, the company was re-organised and production had ceased at all the Malhamdale mills.

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

The mill race showing the wheelhouse on the left. Circa 1920

Wood & Electricity
The Mill was then used as a joiners shop and sawmill run by Jack Clarke and his brother, with the 7ft wide by 22ft diameter breastshot waterwheel (see explanation on Wikipedia External Website logo) providing the motive power to drive the machinery.. It also housed probably the earliest of the hydroelectric power schemes in Malhamdale, using the waterwheel to power a dynamo which charged a bank of accumulators and provided a 100 volt electricity supply for lighting at Hanlith Hall. This electric lighting system was probably installed about 1912 when Dudley Holden Illingworth carried out extensive alterations after aquiring the Hall. Unlike the mills at Bell Busk and Airton, there is no evidence that steam power was ever introduced to drive the machinery for cotton production at Scalegill.
The waterwheel was retained to run the saw bench, dynamo and other machinery until 1923 when the gearing broke. The accumulators which stored the electricity for lighting were also in need of replacement by then and mains electricity wouldn't reach the Dale until 1935, so Mr Illingworth and replaced the waterwheel driven system with a more sophisticated hydroelctric power plant. He cleared out and enlarged the mill dam to increase the head of water available and installed two new Vortex type reaction turbines provided by James Gordon & Co of London. This was used to drive a new 220V DC generator, providing a better electricity supply for cooking and lighting at Hanlith Hall and some power for the mill. With some alterations, this setup continued in use until the 1990s. For more information visit our Hydroelectricity in Malhamdale page.
The waterwheel was removed in 1955 by R Thompson & Sons of Skipton and it isn't clear whether it was repaired after its failure in 1923 or just abandoned until finally scrapped.

After WW2 Scalegill Mill was leased as a site for the poultry business of John Sharp, a member of the Sharp family of Skellands. The upper floors were used as deep litter and battery poultry houses, with a brooder room and storage on the ground floor. Mr J Sharp was still the tenant when it was offered for sale as part of the Hanlith Hall Estate in 1959. The Mill was purchased by him in 1960 for the sum of £1,700 and continued to run as an egg production unit until it was sold again around 1975.

A spring at the mill feeds a hydraulic ram pump which provided water to a cistern in Hanlith above Coachman’s Cottage. Much of that township’s water came from the moor above Hanlith and served most of the houses and farms. Most homes have now installed boreholes and pumps to ensure a constant supply of potable water.

John and Ruth Robinson purchased the mill in 1975 and converted it to provide a house, 4 holiday flats and 3 cottages and when they left in 1981 it was offered for sale as separate units. Subsequently it was sold as one complex and run firstly by Gordon and Heather Durham and then by David and Pam Hall. The complex was put on the market again in 1999 and the apartments and cottages sold to a company who then sold them off individually.

The water supply to the turbines via the massive iron supply pipes fed from the head race was removed in 2000 and the turbine room converted into additional accommodation for Waterwheel Cottage, whose small vertical layout had been built within the confines of the old water wheel house or pit. The machinery was retained as a feature. A new outlet from the mill headrace, added just north of the mill, allows a flow of water through from the dam to prevent the leat becoming stagnant, but not enough flow to prevent the mill pond silting up.
Because the mill pond has remained un-managed for many years a considerable part of the mill pond has now silted up and been taken over by a reed bed.

The Parish of Kirkby Malhamdale, JW Morkill, pub. J. Bellows, Gloucester 1933
Calton Deeds DD203/102, Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Leeds
Serjeantson Deeds, Skipton Library
Yorkshire Cotton by George Ingle, Carnegie Publ. Preston 1997
Sun Insurance Records CR149 Guildhall Library, London
A History of Airton Mill, Wm Sharp, Craven Herald, Skipton, 1990
The Water Spinners, Chris Aspin, Helmshore Local History Society, 2003
The Manchester Guardian archive


Other Occupants of Scalegill Mill and Cottages as evidenced by the Parish Records

  • Samuel Moorland aged 70 Scalegill bur 20 Jan 1867
  • Samuel Moorland aged 2 Scalegill Mill bur 25 Oct 1879
  • Joseph son of Lancelot Iveson of Scalegill Mill bapt 15 Jul 1798
  • Margaret Isabella Moorland aged 2 Scalegill bur 25 Aug 1881
  • Agnes Moorland aged 3mths Scalegill bur 30 Mar 1883
  • Edward Jones Scalegill Mill aged 68 bur 11 July 1888
  • Esther do John & Hannah Atkinson Scalegill overlooker bpt 2 May 1819


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