SE3231 : Thwaite Mills: tailrace and workshop

taken 4 years ago, 4 km from Leeds, Great Britain

Thwaite Mills: tailrace and workshop
Thwaite Mills: tailrace and workshop
The building to the left is the workshop. One of several grade 2* listed buildings on the site (list entry 1135663).
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.

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SE3231, 196 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Saturday, 18 February, 2017   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 21 February, 2017
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Industry 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SE 3281 3120 [10m precision]
WGS84: 53:46.5664N 1:30.2174W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SE 3279 3120
View Direction
East-northeast (about 67 degrees)
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Other Tags
Grade II Listed  Industrial Museum 

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