The Appletons of Yarm Windmill

On the election of Mr Richard Henry Appleton as the fourth president of the National Association of British and Irish Millers, The Miller, of July 2nd 1883, carried a long biographical article on Appleton and his family.

Appleton was born at Yarm in 1820, the second son of Richard Appleton, one of the main agricultural and exporting merchants of the town;  Yarm at the time being the principal port on the River Tees.  As an astute businessman Appleton saw the advantage of shipping flour instead of wheat to such places as Sunderland, Newcastle, London and Scotland and erected a windmill.  Built at a low altitude it was found necessary to carry the mill to a height of 12 storeys, making it then the loftiest building of its kind in England.  Even at that height it was not able to always catch the wind, so in 1827 a steam engine was installed thus allowing Mr Appleton to produce flour at all times.

In 1835 Mr Appleton was joined by his second son, Richard Henry Appleton, the subject of the article, then aged 15.  Having completed his apprenticeship under his father, in 1852, he commenced milling on his own.  Buying the wind and steam mill of Thomas Gibson, which was situated on the west side of Stockton he soon found the machinery old fashioned and resolved to build a new mill ‘more suited to his requirements’.  The site chosen was to the north of Stockton beside the Clarence Railway and in 1865 the new mill, with railway connection, was opened.

After a disasterous fire in 1869, Appleton found a new site at South Stockton (later Thornaby), between the river and the railway, and erected the Cleveland Steam Flour Mill.  The article continues to portray the life and work of Appleton up to his election and ends: “(W)e may state that in politics the new president is a Conservative, and in religion a Wesleyan.”

There is no further mention of the 12 storey mill at Yarm, and despite a search of early maps it has been difficult to locate.  There were two windmills in the area, one at High Leven some two miles east of Yarm at NZ 4488 1256, and the other was about a quarter of a mile north-west of Yarm bridge on the Durham bank at NZ 4162 1341.  Both sites are shown on the OS 1:25 000 series of 1553.

Bound copies of The Miller of that period (circa 1883) have been deposited at Beamish Museum and my thanks to John Gall for drawing my attention to the article and the mill.

Don Wilcock
From:  Northumbrian Mills, No 4, October 1997