Melbecks – NY 978003

Also called Raygill mill, it was the highest of the late-seventeenth century mills on Barney Beck. Dr Raistrick called it Sir Thomas Wharton’s High mill and placed the mill at Raygill Well (sic = Mill Well), near the Old Gang mill. As will be shown, both interpretations are incorrect.

Field walking has failed to reveal the mill’s precise location because the valley is strewn with flood debris and mining waste. A leat, which runs down the south side of the gill from the beck, now ends about 55 metres upstream from Raygill. There are also some slags at this place, but they may well come from the Old Gang mill, a little further upstream. Nevertheless, evidence (cited by Raistrick) to the assizes at York, during 1772, states:

“Lord Pomfret’s water race to his high smelt mill in Raygill from the beck to the wheel 441 yards (403 metres) in length and from there to the tail of the race 40 yards (37 metres). From the said mill to Mr Smith’s weir 100 yards (91 metres). Mr Smith obliged now since the destruction of the weir to fetch the water about 40 yards further than the weir from the beck to his mill. Distance from Mr Smith’s mill to Lord Pomfret’s Low mills 1000 yards (914 metres)”

These distances, and the first edition 1/10560 Ordnance Survey map, are invaluable guides to determining the locations of the old mills on Barney Beck. Lord Pomfret’s Low mill was at Surrender, and the ‘site of old mill’, on the O.S. map, is 900 metres from it. The latter is, therefore, Smith’s mill. Moreover, the likely course of the latter’s leat is given by the 1200 foot contour, which runs through the mill site. The intersection of this contour with Barney Beck is, therefore, the approximate site of Smith’s weir. By measuring a further 91 metres upstream, one arrives at a point 134 metres downstream from Ray Gill.

The O.S. map also shows a sluice, and a leat running from it down the south side of the gill, but going nowhere (see above). This race most probably served the High mill, and by measuring 403 metres along it, one arrives at a point 180 metres downstream from Ray Gill.

Whilst the foregoing places are 46 metres apart, neither is remotely near to Dr Raistrick’s suggested site at Mill Well. That the mill was nearer Ray Gill is also supported by a plan of the Manor of Healaugh, made in 1770, which shows Ray Gill mill near the foot of Ray Gill.

There were no smelt mills on Barney Beck in February 1668/69, when Swale and Barker leased the mines from Philip Lord Wharton. They undertook to build one, however, if the produce of the mines became great enough and Lord Wharton desired it. Dr Raistrick suggested that they did this almost immediately but, between 1671 and 1674 at least, their ore was smelted at the following mills in lower Swaledale:

  • Gilling
  • Clints
  • Marrick
  • Capt. Ro[binson]

This delay can also be explained as a way of conserving capital, which was needed to develop the mines. At the end of August 1674, however, Lord Wharton gave instructions ‘That there be a tally kept at Swaledale Mill as the rest’. Thus, the first mill on Barney Beck was built in 1674, but we cannot tell whether it was the High mill or the Low mill at Surrender, however. Whichever it was, the other mill was built by December 1682, when a valuation of lead in stock refers to Lord Wharton’s mills in Swaledale. A slag mill, later called the New mill, was also built at Surrender during 1685.

Philip Swale died in 1687 and left his interests in the Swaledale mines to John Chaytor and another three executors. The Chaytor’s continued mining, and the Duke ofWharton had renewed their lease by 1719 when they made repairs at the High mill. The Duke’s estates were placed in the hands of trustees during the 1720’s, however, and the events leading to this have been outlined by Tyson and Gill. Moreover, the High mill was not working by 1736, when the trustee’s accounts only name the Old Low mill and the New mill, which were both at Surrender. According to Dr Raistrick, “In 1740 the Raygill (= High) mill was noted as being an old one”. The trustees were using the High mill again by 1750, however, and they were possibly rebuilding the New mill between 1752 and 1754, when it appears to have been out of commission. From 1755, there were, therefore, three mills on Barney Beck connected with the AD mines. These were the High mill, the New mill and the Old mill. The last two were generally called the Low mills. As shown above, the High mill featured in a dispute between Lord Pomfret and Mr Smith, and it smelted until around 1806.

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