SE3231 : Thwaite Mills and the Aire and Calder Navigation

taken 7 months ago, 4 km from Leeds, Great Britain

Thwaite Mills and the Aire and Calder Navigation
Thwaite Mills and the Aire and Calder Navigation
Thwaite Mills
The current mills complex was created between 1823 and 1825 by the Aire and Calder Navigation company, although there had been a mill on the site from at least the middle of the 17th century.

The mill was built as a corn-grinding and oil-seed crushing mill, but in 1872 was taken over by the Horn family and redeveloped as a flint crushing mill supplying the local ceramics industry.

Later the family moved to the production of whiting from crushed chalk, supplying a variety of industries. Some of this was also used to make glazing putty, and this became essentially the sole product with the huge increase in demand that resulted from bomb damage during the Second World War. Production continued until 1976 when the weir was breached during a flood; the resulting loss of water power meant that the business could no longer be carried on.

In 1978 a society was formed to preserve the mill. Eventually the mill was taken over by Leeds City Council who developed it as a museum with much of the equipment still operable.

The mill complex represents a remarkably complete example of a 19th century water mill, with little in the way of more modern buildings and with virtually all the equipment surviving. There are 5 main buildings surviving:

1. The mill itself, which contains two large low-backshot wheels, 18 ft in diameter and 8 ft 6 in and 14 ft 6 in in width respectively. These work a number of machines involved in the crushing and refining of the raw materials through line-shafting and drive belts. In the 1930s a modern Raymond crushing mill was installed; it was found to require more power than the waterwheels could provide and a Marshall diesel engine was installed to drive it. At the north end of the mill range is a later engine house and boiler house; the steam engine is thought to have been a Cornish type engine and may have been used to pump water back into the upper level when river flow was low. The boiler house was later converted to a drying area with a coal fired rotary kiln, which is itself a rare survivor.

2. A warehouse building fronting the canal which incorporates time-office and a pair of drying floors where flint and later chalk slurry was spread to dry over a series of Roman-style hypocaust flues.

3. A workshop building, which still contains original machines, such as lathes and drills, as well as a blacksmith's forge. At the side of this are the remains of a pair of calcining kilns from the period as a flint mill.

4. A stable and storage building.

5. The mill owner's house, an attractive four-square building in Georgian style. Some of the ground floor rooms have been fitted out as period interiors as part of the museum development.

All these buildings are Listed Grade II, the stable block for group value rather than specific merit. Also listed is the bridge which forms the main link across the tail race of the mill.

The final item of interest is the steam driven crane on the canal wharf area. Built in 1947 by Butters of Glasgow, it was removed elsewhere for preservateion, but was later returned to site and restored. It is still steam at regular intervals for demonstration purposes.
Aire and Calder Navigation
The Aire and Calder Navigation consists of a number of discrete sections of canalised river, which enable boats of a reasonable size to reach Leeds. The original intention was to give Leeds a proper ship canal like Manchester's but that never happened.

The extant sections are 7.6km parallel to the river Aire between Knowsthorpe (Knostrop) and just below Woodlesford, 1.1km downstream of the confluence of the Aire and Calder at Castleford, and the longest section, c.30 km from Ferrybridge down to Goole Docks where it joins the Ouse downstream of its confluence with the Aire.
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SE3231, 173 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Friday, 4 August, 2017   (more nearby)
Thursday, 10 August, 2017
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Industry  Canals 
Former (from Tags)
Primary Subject of Photo
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SE 328 311 [100m precision]
WGS84: 53:46.5502N 1:30.2085W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SE 328 311
View Direction
North-northeast (about 22 degrees)
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Other Tags
Canal  Narrowboat Mooring 

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Image Type (about): geograph 
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