Gayle Mill, North Yorkshire

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Gayle Mill, pictured in 2004
Gayle Mill, pictured in 2008

Gayle Mill, dating from about 1784, is thought to be the oldest structurally unaltered cotton mill in existence.[1] It is located in the Wensleydale hamlet of Gayle, England, 1 mile (2 km) south of the market town of Hawes. It lies within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.


The Grade II* listed mill was built by local hosiers and land owners Oswald and Thomas Routh as a water-powered cotton mill, and was powered by a 22 feet (7 m) diameter overshot waterwheel. It was turned over to flax and wool spinning by 1813 for the local knitting industry. For a period in the 19th century, it was used for domestic accommodation.[2][3]

It was converted to a sawmill around 1879. The waterwheel was removed and replaced with a Thomson double-vortex turbine, built by Williamsons (now Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon Ltd) of Kendal. This is thought to be the only remaining working variety of its type.[4][5] In its heydey, the 10 hp (7.46 kW) created by the turbine drove a range of woodworking machinery – a rack sawbench, circular saw, thicknesser (planer), and lathes – by a series of belts and pulleys off a central line shaft.

Restoration and current uses[edit]

Gayle Mill closed in 1988, after over a century of operation as a sawmill, and it seemed likely it would be converted into luxury flats. In 2004 its plight came to national attention when it featured in the second series of BBC2's Restoration programme. It won the regional heat and came in the top three in the national finals. Restoration of the mill started in the same year and works to bring the site to operational standard took four years and cost over £1m.[6] Gayle Mill re-opened to the public in 2008. Restoration's host Griff Rhys Jones returned to Gayle Mill in 2009 to film an update on the restoration work.[7]

The mill is now open throughout the year for tours and heritage skills training courses, with fully restored machines and turbines being demonstrated by the Gayle Mill Trust, the volunteer group that runs and manages the mill on behalf of its owner, the North East Civic Trust.[8][9]

In 2012 Gayle Mill was featured on Channel 4's How Britain Worked,[5] presented by Guy Martin.


  1. ^ "Industrial History of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society - YAS". 2006-05-06. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  2. ^ "Gayle Mill". 2010-10-02. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  3. ^ "A landscape through time". Out of Oblivion. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  4. ^ Good Stuff IT Services. "Gayle Mill - Hawes - North Yorkshire - England". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  5. ^ a b "How Britain Worked - Clips - S1-Ep2: Mill". Channel 4. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  6. ^ "Joy as historic mill reopens after £1m restoration (From Darlington and Stockton Times)". 2008-03-21. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  7. ^ "Griff Rhys Jones in TV return to mill (From The Northern Echo)". 2009-02-17. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  8. ^ "North Yorkshire | North of England Civic Trust". Archived from the original on 2012-08-26. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  9. ^ "Countryside Apprentices Learn Traditional Skils". 2012-05-04. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Giles, Colum and Goodall, Ian H (1992) Yorkshire Textile Mills 1770-1930, HMSO. ISBN 0-11-300038-3
  • Ingle, George (1997) Yorkshire Cotton: The Yorkshire Cotton Industry, 1780-1835, Carnegie Publishing. ISBN 1-85936-028-9

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°18′00″N 2°11′58″W / 54.2999°N 2.1995°W / 54.2999; -2.1995