The Hauxwells of Durham City

In 1976 Tom Hay met Jack Hauxwell (c1898-c1978) of Durham City, whose grandfather founded the well known millwrighting business “George Hauxwell & Son” in the 1860s. His notes give a useful insight into this firm and their work.

George Hauxwell was listed in the 1864 Slaters directory as “Machine Maker and Millwright, Atherton Street”. The works were under the railway viaduct in Durham and lasted about 100 years. George’s brother John also had a millwrighting business – under the railway viaduct at Yarm – who were much involved with Tocketts Mill at Guisborough.

Jack Hauxwell gave me a “line drawing” on varnished linen, of a mill which his father, who died in 1940, ‘fitted out’ for Simon Carver of Manchester in about 1886. It is a most complicated roller mill with an incredible number of recycling stages for the milled products. A small section is given in the diagram below.

Part of the diagram of the mill designed by Hauxwells for Simon Carver of Manchester

Part of the diagram of the mill designed by Hauxwells for Simon Carver of Manchester

George Hauxwell made “water wheels and windmills” and also fitted a steam boiler in Ainsley’s mustard works at 22, Foot of Silver Street, Durham. The works backed onto the river and, because road access was poor, the boiler was floated on the river to the mustard works. George also “made the first machine to beat, not grind, the mustard seed – this, as in the case of wholemeal for making brown bread, so as not to kill the germ.” This may be the reason why Ainsley’s mustard was famed far and wide, being made to a ‘secret formula’. The city of Durham was well known for its “old maids and mustard”.

Hauxwell’s works in Durham had a “very large lathe which was used to ‘tune up’ waterwheels, the bed and the head were quite separate to allow for a 28 foot pit between” [this could mean turning a waterwheel of over 50 foot diameter in the lathe]. “The lathe had, in addition to the usual backgear a second backgear as well and its five cone diameters gave it a terrific range of peripheral speeds.” The lathe went to Beamish Museum along with patterns, old books etc.

Jack Hauxwell remembers working as an apprentice – say about 1920 at Plawsworth Mill, just North of Durham, helping to repair the pit wheel and “setting the mill stones to the ‘feel’ of four cigarette papers.”

The Hauxwells did not confine their activities to County Durham – Jack for example took the train to Alston (Cumbria), stayed at a farm, to repair a “leaking engine on the Carlisle Road from Alston” and also at an Alston lead mine saw to an “underdriven Robey Uniflow 12 inch cylinder, 16 inch stroke, 100 pound per square inch, 100 revolution per minute, 360 horse power, poppet valve steam inlet at the top and D valve exhaust at the bottom.” [Not a bad memory at about 78 years old and some years after the event!].

Mention was also made of installing mills in Northumberland and a waterwheel at Bridge of Allen, between Stirling and Dunblane. In the 1880/90 era Jack’s father “put in a machine for Henry Simons of Stockport to chop green grass and press half-inch cubes for cattlefeed”.  A 1860s soap cutting machine at Bristol, which was a Gold Medal winner, resulted in a repeat order, for the Hauxwell firm in the 1950s – they used the original patterns for the new machine!

From: Northumbrian Mills No 20. October 2001

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