Thoralby Mill Dairy & 
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 that was taken to Aysgarth railway station for onward transportation to Middlesbrough. 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 Dairy and Electricity Generating Station

Alfred Rowntree, who owned Coverham Dairy, purchased the mill building. He continued operating the dairy and set up a piggery alongside the mill building, feeding whey from the cheese-making process to the pigs. Notice the cheeses on the table in front of the building. 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.

Early Milk Production, Thoralby

The  above photo shows High Green Farm with a cart for a horse on the green and a lady in a long white dress. A herd of milk cows are just entering the photograph from the right.

The above photograph shows Joe Heseltine of Thoralby riding his horse and cart through Bishopdale. He sits on a large Express Dairies milk churn. Milk from Bishopdale went to a Express Dairies processing plant at Appleby until 1937, when Express Dairies opened a nearer depot alongside Leyburn Station.

The photograph above shows two people delivering milk from a churn to people in Thoralby. The milk churn is carried on a two-wheel cart that also has a small jug for measuring out the milk and pouring it into housewives’ jugs. The photo was taken in front of High Green Farm looking across the village towards Low Green Farm. Notice the space, across to Low Green where ‘Gamecroft’ now is.

Heaning Farm, Thoralby Milk Production

The above postcard shows Heaning Hall Farm around the 1930s. In the 1941 MAFF Farm Survey, Christopher (Kit) Heseltine had a total of 32 cattle and calves, of which 20 were in milk. Kit took his milk by horse and cart from Heaning to Aysgarth Station. In one year in the early 1930s he received £856 for his milk.

In the photograph above, Kit can be seen hand-milking, whilst sitting on a 3-legged stool (good for uneven floors). Kit’s milk went to London via Aysgarth Station, one of several stations on the Wensleydale line that transported milk up until the 1930s when milk lorries began to take over.

Edith Pratt found her grandfather’s milk records from the 1930s which showed that he was supplying milk wholesale to the Finsbury Park depot of United Dairies of Bayswater, London. The company was a great rival of Express Dairies.

The Influence of the Railway on Milk Production

Perhaps the most significant change brought about by the railways did not happen immediately, but took off in the early years of the 20th century. This was the refocusing of dairy farming in Wensleydale and Bishopdale away from the production of butter and cheese and into the supply of fresh milk to the growing industrial regions. Until the late 19th century, large-scale milk production was impractical because it would have had to be transported long distances by horse and cart on unmetalled roads and therefore would not have reached its customers before it had begun to go off.

However, the railway changed this because fresh milk that left a farm in Bishopdale could arrive on doorsteps in Leeds, Newcastle and even London in good condition the following morning. The figures shown on this slide show how sudden and dramatic the increase in milk production was. Only 2,247 cans of milk left Hawes, Askrigg, Aysgarth and Redmire stations in 1899, but this had grown to over 28,150 cans by 1904 and 50,000 cans by 1907.

 

The growth continued, reaching 2 million gallons per year in the late 1920s. In 1937, Express Dairies opened a milk processing plant at Leyburn station that by 1939 was dispatching 3.2 million gallons of milk per year to London, some of which was collected by lorries from Bishopdale. This was in addition to the milk that was sent to a dairy at Northallerton opened in 1904, which processed more than 1 million gallons a year for delivery to the industrial areas of Yorkshire and the North-East. Most of this milk came from upper Wensleydale and Bishopdale.

Sign on a Blackboard at

Aysgarth Station, 1927

Thoralby Cheese Factory

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy. Cheese making Rowntrees - Dairy Days - 1921 census coop and dairy farmers - 1942 farm survey.

Quote from 1950 Dalesman.

Thoralby Mill  Electricity Generating Station

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Alfred Rowntree, who owned Coverham Dairy, purchased the mill building. He continued operating the dairy and set up a piggery alongside the mill building, feeding whey from the cheese-making process to the pigs. Notice the cheeses on the table in front of the building. 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.

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: