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Thoralby Water Corn Mill 

Until the late 19th century one of the most important places in the village would have been the corn mill because people would have needed to grind oatmeal and flour to make the havercakes and bread that formed a major part of their diet.


An illustration see below from George Walker’s The Costume of Yorkshire, published in 1814 shows a woman making havercakes, sometimes called haverbread, which was an unleavened oatbread rather like a thick pancake. Havercakes were the staple diet of most dales folk until the late 19th century.


This image is used to show what the inside of a Bishopdale house might have looked like in the early 19th century. Tuke described the homes of ordinary dales labouring folk as “generally small and low, consisting only of one room, and very rarely of two, both of which are level with the ground. This situation renders them damp, and frequently very unwholesome, and contributes with the smallness of the apartments, to injure the health both of parents and children.” The houses were heated with peat fires and the inhabitants of Thoralby and other local villages had the right of turbary, which was the right, free of charge, to cut, dry and carry home peat for their fires from the communal peat grounds.

A Daleswoman Making Havercakes in her Home

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© Macfie-Calvert Collection., Hawes              

A Daleswoman Making Havercakes in her Home from

George Walker’s The Costume of Yorkshire, published 1814,

courtesy of Macfie-Calvert Collection., Hawes

The earliest corn mill in Thoralby


There is evidence to suggest that the earliest corn mill in Thoralby was somewhere on Heaning Gill in the 13th century. It is not known when it moved to its site near Bishopdale Beck, but the architecture and layout of the surviving building and watercourse suggest that they were probably constructed in the second half of the 18th century. The left-hand picture below shows the course of the mill race in yellow. It is an optical illusion that the water appears to run uphill! The right-hand picture shows the mill building, inside which the waterwheel was in the position shown by the superimposed diagram.

© Thoralby Through Time

© Ann Houlbecki

© Ann Houlbecki

Thoralby Water Corn Mill, waterwheel superimposed. Courtesy of Ann Holubecki

Dam Stakes and Mill Race (1)

This Ordnance Survey map below from 1856 shows the sluice gate at the bottom left and the mill race. The water to power the wheel was drawn from Bishopdale Beck about a third of a mile upstream from the mill at a weir known as Dam Stakes until floods washed it away in 1994. This picture shows part of the weir, the first part of the mill race and the remains of the sluice gate to control the flow of water into it.

© Thoralby Through Time

Dam Stakes and Mill Race , Thoralby  and location on O.S. map 1856.

The weir at Dam Stakes and Mill Race (2)

The weir at Dam Stakes below survived until 1994, when it was washed away in a flood.

School children crossed the dam on their journeys to and from school from the outlying farms of Gayle Ing, Blind Syke, Swinacote and Littleburn. It was a short-cut when not in flood. As children we played at walking across the dam, and I cannot recall anyone falling in!

© Thoralby Through Time