Wath Mill is a late 19th century mill built on the site of an earlier 16th century mill. It nestles between the Sportsman’s Arms Inn (right in banner image) and a terrace of early 19th century cottages, and is built partially into the hillside. A large mill pond is located above the mill (up the slope to the left in the banner image).
The name Wath probably derives from the Scandinavian meaning ford, and it is likely that this refers to the crossing over the Nidd at the site of the present bridge. The mill pond is fed by Dauber Gill beck, which marks the historic boundary between the township of Bishopside, lands granted to the Archbishop of York before the Conquest, and those given to Fountains Abbey which eventually formed the township of Fountains Earth.
The building is two storeys high and five bays long. It has a steeply pitched grey slated roof with a ridge top cupola and a bellcote with bell on the gable end facing the road. Much of the machinery within the Mill is intact. On one of the cast iron girders, to the south-facing elevation, is stamped ‘Mill rebuilt 1880’. The millwrights are also noted on this gable with a plaque inscribed ‘Crossleys of Cleckheaton’.
The significance of the mill is twofold: firstly in the survival of the machinery, specifically the Hurst Frame, millstones, and waterwheel and secondly in the role it plays in the story of the social history of the mills in Nidderdale.
- 1527: A corn mill was relocated here from the west bank of the river Nidd on Foster Beck.
- 1762: John Beckwith of Masham sold his estate at New Bridge, including this corn mill and drying kiln for £1,272.
- c.1816: Change in use to flax mill. Reference made to ‘the newly erected factory or spinning mill, buildings, dams, weirs, mill ponds and soil.’
- 1823: Described in an estate auction advertisement in Leeds Mercury as ‘capital new erected Flax Mill, with stabling, cart house, seven new erected houses adjoining and a dry house at the west end of the mill’.
- 1838: Appears of the Fountains Earth Tithe Map as a linen mill.
- 1840s: Change in use to bobbin mill – ‘a good Bobbin Mill of Eight horse power situated at New Bridge near Pateley Bridge in a very densely wooded neighbourhood’ (1845 advertisement).
- 1859: Return to milling oats, barley and wheat by the Nidderdale Union.
- 1878: Mill burns down. The fire did not spread to the cottages but the millstones were rendered useless after crashing to the floor.
- 1880: Mill rebuilt. It is not known how much of the fabric of the original building survives.
- 1930s: Fell out of use. What remains is virtually untouched since the late 19th century.
(based on Nidderdale Chase Heritage Group Research Report 2012)