Bridge Mill can be seen in the background. Photo coutesy of Hebden Bridge Local History Society
Bridge Mill has survived many alterations and face lifts over the centuries, but the origins of this site are very ancient and go back to a corn mill used as the manorial mill for Wadsworth township. The first reference to the mill comes in a deed relating to the attaching of the mill dam made in 1314, when the Lord of the manor was Sir John de Thornhill. His descendants retained ownership of the mill and estate for many hundreds of years.
Sir John de Thornhill is buried at Thornhill church and there are stories that he was a crusader - his grave shows that he could have been as the legs are crossed, but all of this is debatable. Unfortunately the face is not a resemblance of John as he was given a 'makeover' by the Victorians.
There are a number of references to the mill in the Court Rolls of the Lady Beatrice de Thornhill, the widow of Sir John, and who inherited the mill from him.
"... to Beatrice widow of Sir John de Thornhill' by William deKnol', attorney of Brian son & heir of the said Sir John, as her dower, of the manor of Thornhill' called Le Grenehalle with all appurtenances except the advowson of Thornhill, with the boat ferry in Thornhill on the Kelder, with the lands, tenements, rents and services of the said Sir John in Whitteley, Brettewysel, Farneley Tyas, Soutz Deneby and Waddesworth' with their mills"
On 3rd October 1327 ‘Stephen Milner and Henry Naleson took the mill of Waddeswurh belonging to the Lady until the Feast of St Michael, paying per year 36/-, and they will repair the abutment and the mill as they found it before.’
Stephen the Miller was clearly a notable local figure, involving himself in a number of disputes. In 1326 Stephen complains that Roger the Forester owes him 2d, and Roger was alleging that Stephen had allowed his sheep to trample Roger’s corn. Stephen accused Thomas de Herst of assault, saying that he came ‘with arms and called him a thief and a false man’.
In 1514 Henry Draper of Broadbotome was granted lands including the mill at Hepton Brig by Sir Henry Savile. Henry Draper was to be killed mysteriously in London in 1553, and the administration of his goods committed to his widow, Elizabeth. In 1607 Sir George Savile leased ‘a watercorne mylne called Waddesworth mill’ to Paul Grenewood, yeoman, and the will of Charles Greenwood, 1642, refers to the mill as well as endowing Heptonstall grammar school.
The mill continued to be used for grinding corn, and was leased in 1805 by John Lumley Savile to William Sutcliffe, who in turn sublet the mill to his son, Thomas. The family were to keep in order ‘all the waterwheels, wheels, wallowers, cogs, spindles, millstones, hoppers, mill tackle and working gears.’. The Savile’s maintained their privileges by claiming exemption from tolls on goods going to and from the canal and turnpike, but opposition from other local mill owners eventually won the day.
In 1879 the mill was being used for cotton manufacture by A. Robertshaw. By 1894 Greenwood and Pickles were the tenants, described in trade directories as ‘wholesale clothiers and manufacturers of fustian, cord, mole and velveteen clothing.’ On the first floor was packing and warehousing, and on the second floor was a sewing shop, well lighted with open mansard roof to eaves. Power for the sewing machines was generated by a 10’ x10’ waterwheel, and on the ground floor there was also a mechanics shop, smithy, and a small tripe shop.
From Fulling to Fustianopolis