Early English Water Mills

The earliest evidence dates from the Roman period, and some sites have been excavated such as the one at Haltwhistle Burn Head near Hadrian’s Wall. There are quite a lot of references to mills from the 8th century onwards, and a few Anglo Saxon sites have been excavated, including one at Tamworth in Staffordshire, which is believed to have been attached to a royal palace.

About 6000 water mills are recorded in the land survey of 1086 known as the Domesday Book, mostly in southern and central England. Mills were an important part of the manorial economy and were leased or farmed out by the Lord of the Manor - all locals had to have their corn ground at the manorial mill for which the Lord took a toll in kind. One of the earliest fulling mills recorded - in 1194 - was at Temple Newsome near Leeds, a site belonging to the Knights Templar. The technology which probably originated in the Middle East is thought to have been spread by religious orders such as the Cistercians and Knights Templar, and within a century fulling mills were quite widespread in textile producing areas.

 

Next section: Water mills in the South Pennines

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