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New lease of life for Yorkshire Dales Mill

[Friday 09 November 2007]
gayle mill
New lease of life for Gayle Mill
Photo: North of England Civic Trust

IN a few short months a Yorkshire Dales water mill will be open for business once again after almost 20 years of lying abandoned and increasingly derelict.

From Easter Gayle Mill, one of the jewels in Wensleydale's heritage crown is set to welcome visitors through its doors and show them an extraordinary piece of industrial history dating back 230 years.

In 2004 Gayle Mill was entered in the second BBC "Restoration" series, presented by Griff Rhys-Jones. Such was its evident, if perhaps surprising, appeal to so many people, that it came top in the regional heat and third in the national final.

Its owners, the North of England Civic Trust (NECT), successfully applied for funding from a variety of sources to stabilize the structure of the building, reinstate the historic waterpower systems and restore the original Victorian woodworking machinery to working order again.

NECT's Director Graham Bell remarked: "Preserving the imprint of history has been no easy task. Coaxing it back into a working life has added to the challenge but is entirely appropriate, giving the mill its third lease of life in its third century of public service."

What makes Gayle Mill so important is that, not only is it one of the few buildings substantially unchanged from when it was built in 1784-5, but there is still evidence of all its various incarnations - from cotton- and wool-spinning mill to sawmill, wood product manufactory and early 20th-century electricity generator, as well as being used for accommodation twice in its history.

"At last everyone's determination and hard work over the past few years are going to be rewarded," said Mill Manager Paul Bisson. "Progress over the last few months is re-mobilising the great tide of support locally and regionally that brought the Mill to a national audience in 2004."

It is fantastic to see the old turbine and Victorian machinery coming back to

William Lambert - Gayle Mill Trust

One of the Mill's glories is the original 1878 Victorian turbine, which is still able to run quietly, smoothly and efficiently 130 years later, and is arguably the oldest in-situ turbine in the UK. William Lambert, Vice-Chairman of Gayle Mill Trust, which is the organization set up to run the Mill, commented:

"It is fantastic to see the old turbine and Victorian machinery coming back to life, with the swoosh of the water and the clickety-clack of the belts. I am also delighted with the new heating equipment and the electricity generating turbine, which once again puts Gayle Mill at the cutting edge of technology."

"The Mill is going to become a hive of activity over the next few months as we get closer to our public opening. But to give visitors a fascinating experience, we will be relying heavily on a substantial volunteer force, some of which will doubtless come from our local support base, Friends of Gayle Mill."

  • To find out how you can become a volunteer at Gayle Mill, open days will be held on 17 and 24 November. For further details call 01969 667320 or email admin@gaylemill.org.uk

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