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Victorian machinery comes back to life at Yorkshire Dales mill

[Friday 05 June 2009]
Restored machinery at Gayle Mill
Restored machinery at Gayle Mill

VISITORS to Gayle Mill, near Hawes in Wensleydale, are in for a rare treat this summer. On Sunday (7th June), and on the first Sunday of each month until October, there are two special sessions when the Victorian machinery is to be brought back to life and used to make a variety of products such as would have been made at the Mill in its heyday.

Using the natural water power from Gayle Beck and the 19th-century turbine and lineshafting, the Mill will once again be full of the sounds of traditional joinery as the different machines are once again expertly used by skilled woodworking volunteers to cut, shape and turn the different kinds of timber which will eventually make up the finished articles.

“One of the main purposes of restoring all the Victorian machinery,” said William Lambert, Chairman of Gayle Mill Trust, “was precisely to show how the Mill worked in days gone by. Because we actually did the restoration work on the machines, we know how to recreate that whole feel of a traditional joinery workshop which visitors can now experience for themselves.”

Helping William are Mike Thomson and Tony Routh, both also Trust directors, and skilled craftsmen. Tony commented: “When I was doing my apprenticeship at the Mill in the early 60s, I got to know the character of each machine and what it was capable of. You watched the speed of the belt – there were no rev counters in those days! – and, depending on the wood you were using and how much water there was, you just knew what each sound and rhythm should be.”

In addition to seeing all the heritage machinery in action, all of which date from 1879, visitors also get the full guided tour of the Mill, and find out about some of the families and individuals who were part of its history. There are two sessions, at 11.00 and 2.30, and each lasts about two hours.

Tickets, which include light refreshments, are £10 for adults and £5 for children (age 7-15), available from the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes, tel. 01969 666210. Some of the areas of the Mill are quite small, so there are only 25 places on each session.

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