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 Thoralby Mill - 
Hydro-electricity Station

In 1919, the Middlesbrough Cooperative Society purchased the mill building and replaced the waterwheel with a water turbine that provided electric light and power. The turbine was powered by water from the mill race. The Cooperative Society converted the mill into a milk processing plant that could pasteurise up to 500 gallons of milk a day and turn it into cheese. The machinery used to pasteurise and cool the milk was 'electrically driven'. The mill had eclectic power and light.  However, the operation must have been uneconomic because Middlesbrough Cooperative Society’s ownership of Thoralby dairy was short-lived: in April 1922 the Society offered the mill building for sale, as shown in this advert.

Thoralby Mill -
Electricity Generating Station

Alfred Rowntree, who owned Coverham Dairy, purchased the mill building in 1923.  He continued operating the dairy and set up a piggery alongside the mill building, feeding whey from the cheese-making process to the pigs. Rowntree used the turbine to generate electricity that powered the dairy machinery and supplied lighting to Thoralby and Newbiggin. The water to power the turbine entered the mill via the launder that had previously fed the waterwheel. The dairy had ceased operation by 1948 when electricity generation was taken over by the national grid.

 

Darlington & Stockton, 1923

THORALBY MILL, which a few weeks ago was purchased by Mr. A. Rowntree, of Coverham, is already in the hands of the builders. The old wheel which has done duty for so many years, has been taken out, and also the millstones, the latter going to their old owner, Mr. Sayer, who hopes to use them again in a new home. The water power is to be used for an up to-to-date electric plant. It is hoped that both Thoralby and Newbiggin will be able to have electric light by autumn next. The dairy, it is hoped, will be ready to start in the early spring. Mr. Rowntree is putting down an efficient sewage plant, so that the Beck may be kept pure.

Below is a photograph of Thoralby Mill c.1924 when Alfred Rowntree & Son, operated the Dairy and also the provision of electric light to a number of households in Thoralby and Newbiggin. The area in yellow shows the electric pylon?.

Photograph courtesy of Charles Rowntree.

Alfred Rowntree used the turbine to generate electricity that powered the dairy machinery and supplied lighting to Thoralby and Newbiggin. The water to power the turbine entered the mill via the launder that had previously fed the waterwheel.

The photograph opposite is inside Thoralby Mill, showing the electric light and Gilkes turbines, from Kendal.

Photograph courtesy of Charles Rowntree.

The company installing the electric light to the householders of Thoralby and Newbiggin was an Askrigg Millwright, joiner and general builder, Mr. William Handley Burton.

 

Askrigg Mill Electricity Account Book 1923, courtesy of Andrew Craske.

I have copied all the pages referring to Thoralby and pasted them together in date order, see below:

The above account book was compiled by John S. Banks of Reeth, who was employed by Askrigg Mill, and covers the time period October 1923 - December 1923.

​A transcription of the 1st collection of entries for Thoralby is given below:

​"Oct 17: Connecting mains up to Blacksmiths shop & Mr. M. Willis + Mr J. Willis & renewing switch wire on a light at Mr T Heseltines. Hours: 8½.

​Oct 18: (Omitted from Oct 18th) supplied lamps for new Instalation at Mr J Willis 2 lamps.

​Nov 7: Connected mains to Mr. W. Percivals House ran lead cable from outhouse to D & S Board soldered 4 joints fixed D & S Board & meter & fixed meters for following Houses. Mr M. Willis: - Thoralby Blacksmiths Shop :- Mr Kendall:- Newbiggin Mr J W Heseltine Newbiggin.

​Nov 21: Started to wire P.M. Chapel layed conduct & wire 5 lights with J Bell."

One of the earliest properties in Thoralby was the blacksmiths forge, owned by Matthew Willis, see image below, courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler.

Another early property to have five electric lights installed was the Primitive Methodist Chapel, see image below, courtesy of P. & C. Mason.