Stockton’s Lost Windmills

W Pearson looks into the windmills of the Stockton-on-Tees area.

This is a response to the Chairman’s Comments.1 The dearth of material from the south end of the region may reflect a scarcity of survival of structures. This is at least the case at Stockton, although the negative evidence of the present time may be historically misleading.

South of Teesside is now watermill country, e.g. the refurbished Tocketts Mill, nr Guisborough and the excavated accessible remains of Marske Mill, nr Saltburn. To the north there are restored windmills at Elwick and Hart. By the Tees there is virtually nothing. The nearest one gets to survival is the truncated tower at Sober Hall farm, Cold Ingleby (NZ447130), which has been converted to a dwelling.

While regretfully skipping mention of lost watermills, it is clear that in the centuries following the Civil War of the 17th century there came to be a sprinkling of tower windmills at Stockton. What happened to them? Urbanisation can largely be blamed for their removal. However several survived long enough to be photographed. The westward extension of Dovecot Street used to be called Mill Lane. This referred to a tower mill (NZ441190) that is depicted without sails on an old postcard: the presence of Mill Lane School indicates a date after 1896. A house shown just to the east was presumably that of the miller: it still exists.2 The mill is shown on a map of 1828.3

The mill at Mount Pleasant (NZ448206) also features on an old photograph, while retaining remnants of the sails.4 It survived until at least 1920.

An otherwise unknown windmill featured on a postcard of Mandale, Thornaby. Its location can be fixed by other buildings. Not a trace remains, but it stood within the present bounds of Littleboy Park (NZ462175). The name Mandale Mill is usually associated with a nearby tidal watermill that stood beside the loop of the Tees made redundant by the ‘cut’ of 1810. Did the windmill replace it?

Another lost windmill is shown incidentally on an engraving of the original coal staithes of the Stockton and Darlington Railway (1825: NZ448185).5 The vague shape of its tower, cap and sails can be made out across the Tees. This site was eventually graced by the massive ‘Clevo’ Flour Mills of 1871 (decommissioned c1950, demolished 1969: NZ450184). Is this a case of historical continuity?

A windmill tower survived well into 20th century at Egglescliffe. It still featured on the 2½in. OS map of 1957 (NZ417134).

A field at the north end of Stockton High Street (NZ445193) was called Mill Garth in 1699.6 This had presumably been the site of a windmill, there being no adjacent watercourse. There is otherwise no sign of this mill; it neither features on Pattison’s map of 1722, nor the prospect of Stockton from Thornaby Carrs in 1730. However, on the latter two windmills can be seen, one to the north of the town and one to the west on a rise. It is relevant to note that windmills were often replaced by adjacent steam powered ones. ‘Clevo’ was mentioned above. A steam plant was built alongside the Dovecot Street (Mill Lane) mill. This leads one to suspect that the location of other steam mills was determined by the prior presence of windmills. This appears to be particularly apt in the case of the two mills just mentioned. The one to the north (NZ445197) would appear to have been replaced by steam before the 1850s. The same would apply to the one to the west. Its replacement (NZ437195) remained a prominent feature until demolished after World War Two. It was known as the Old Mill, or Tommy Wren’s Mill. (This is now the site of the Wrensfield Estate and Thomas Wren was Mayor of Stockton in 1860.) This structure was photographed, drawn and painted.7 It seems odd that such a large plant was built on a distinct hilltop out in open countryside, unless of course it was replacing a windmill. Wren did indeed build another steam mill in the less surprising location of Stockton quayside.

The post-Civil War windmills of Stockton can be linked with the earlier statement of Sir George Bowes (1569) that the best country for corn lay around Stockton8 and the fact that until after World War Two Stockton’s fields were a mass of grass-covered ‘riggs and furrs’. The wholesale replacement of arable by pasture can be seen as causing the demise of local corn-milling at Stockton, including the smaller steam mills. Any ‘eggs’ available were eventually placed in one ‘basket’, namely ‘Clevo’.

The above data has been extracted from a more general body of historical material being assembled about Stockton. Should anyone care to offer amendments or additions it would be appreciated [via the Contact Us page please].

References

  1. Northumbrian Mills, October 2004, No 32 p1 [an appeal for more windmill information from the south of the region]
  2. Cook R. 1985 – Stockton-on-Tees in old picture postcards – Netherlands, Fig 63.
  3. Brewster J. 1829 (Facs. 1971) – The Parochial History and Antiquities of Stockton-upon-Tees – (Stockton), p.246
  4. Woodhouse R. 1994 – Stockton Past – Chichester, p19: Cook (ibid.) Fig 94
  5. Emett C. 1998 – Britain in Old Photographs: Stockton-on-Tees – Stroud, Gloucs. p45
  6. Richmond T. 1868 (Facs. 1972) – The Local Records of Stockton and the Neighbourhood – (Stockton), p50
  7. Woodhouse (ibid.) p77: Woodhouse R. 1989 – Stockton-on-Tees: A Pictorial History – Chichester, Fig 167
  8. Sowler T. 1972 – A History of the Town and Borough of Stockton-on-Tees – Teesside, p20 (quoting Victoria County Histories, Durham Vol. 3)

From: Northumbrian Mills No 33, January 2005  

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