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Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007
Tom Bates Investigates Caudwell’s Mill at Rowsley
Derbyshire is nationally famed for it’s historic water-powered industries, especially in the `World Heritage Status’ lower Derwent Valley where the water driven mill wheels once generated the power to work the shuttles and looms of the world’s first factories.
However, a few miles further upstream almost where the Derwent and Wye Valleys meet at the confluence of the two rivers, stands a unique and historic mill of a different kind which has all its original machinery – and which can still be seen in full working order!
`The only fully-working Victorian water-turbine powered roller mill in the country'
Caudwell’s Mill at Rowsley, which was run as a family business for over a century is a unique grade two listed flour mill, and the only complete working Victorian water turbine-powered roller mill in the country.
The Mill was almost lost forever when it was abandoned in 1978, but in recent years, thanks to the discerning members of the Caudwell’s Mill Trust who rescued the entire mill complex from prospective demolition, it has been preserved for posterity and has become a favourite Derbyshire tourist attraction.
Caudwell’s Mill stands alongside the A6 opposite the renowned Peacock Hotel on a narrowing stretch of land at Rowsley between the Derwent and the Wye, and uses the clearer water from the Wye to power its two turbines, which in turn provide the power which operates the entire four-storeys of milling machinery including a variety of rollers, sifters, pulleys & archimedes screws, all of which can be seen fully working.
There have been a variety of mills on this site for at least four hundred years including an early corn mill, a fulling mill and a saw-mill, but the current dual purpose flour and provender mill was built by John Caudwell on land leased from the Duke of Rutland in 1874.
All the earler mills were powered by waterwheels, and Caudwell’s original mill was powered by two waterwheels, one providing power for the grinding of animal feed, whilst the other powered the large circular millstones which ground the wheat into flour.
Working Industrial Museum
Caudwell’s Mill flourished until the mid- twentieth century, providing work for John Caudwell and his family and up to ten mill workers.
The local family business suffered as advances in engineering and modern production methods began to take their toll and eventually the mill, which had become something of an anachronism, finally fell by the wayside and closed in 1974. It stood abandoned and derelict, and plans were made to demolish the building and erect bungalows on the site.
Thankfully the Grade Two listed building was considered of sufficient industrial architectural interest that a Charitable Trust was formed in 1978 to preserve and restore it, and to maintain it as a working museum.
Such has been the success of the Trust that Caudwell’s Mill, now in it’s 131st year, has become one of the areas favourite tourist attractions, and the old stables and workshops around the cobbled courtyard are now home to a series of traditional Derbyshire craftspeople.
There’s a Glass Gallery where two of Britain’s leading artists in glass have a glassblowing workshop, and produce beautiful richly coloured glass fused with gold and silver leaf to astonishing effect.
Next door the Mill Forge still houses the old blacksmith’s tools where an experienced woodturner produces bowls, boxes, vases and items from local and exotic timbers – and at the other end of the mill yard a well known local wildlife and landscape artist has her Picture Gallery and can often be seen at work here. There is also a well stocked gift shop selling local crafts and souvineers.
The Country Parlour Café serves fresh, mainly vegetarian food in its delightfully sighted premises overlooking the picturesque tail-race riverbank, and the complex also boasts a superb nature walk and tranquil wildlife sanctuary.
The Mill Shop still provides a great range of quality flours - and free recipes - to delight the discerning housewife (or husband!), and both the shop and the mill, which are in the capable hands of Lance the Miller and his wife are open daily between 10am and 5-30pm, last admissions to the mill at 5pm.
The whole mill is a one complete and fascinating giant machine on four levels, with elevating and interconnecting parts, each linked together and driven by pulleys and leather belts from line shafts, and the sheer genius of the mechanical conception of the whole design is breathtaking, and well worth a conducted tour.
A vist to this unique and historic mill comes highly recommended, for not only is the delightful setting a wonderful place to be, it also provides an ideal opportunity for everyone to achieve a greater understanding of the historic process that turns the grain in the field into our daily bread!
Tours are available from 10am to 5pm throughout the year by booking with The Miller at Caudwell’s Mill: 01629 – 734374.