Industrial Evolution in the Yorkshire Dales
The Gayle Mill we see today was built at the start of the First Industrial Revolution in 1784 - a pivotal moment in society when craft-making began to leave the home and into 'manufactories', and began the transition from the work of the hand to the product of machines.
When the Industrial Revolution came to Gayle Mill near Hawes, little did we know that the Mill was to become the living embodiment of Industrial Evolution in this country.
The Mill began life as a cotton mill driven by water power through a 22ft diameter water wheel.
With the advent of bigger and better mills & machinery, cotton production became uncompetitive and so the mill was converted in 1810 to flax which was used for sails and sacking. Industrial expansion on the west coast and the ending of the Napoleonic wars brought the flax industry to its knees so the mill was converted once again in the 1820s to wool production.
Wool ceased to be a profitable commodity by the 1840s and production ceased.
The Mill, as a precursor to all of the late C20th industrial conversions, became a domestic property and some of the early Victorian wallpaper can still be seen.
By 1860 the Mill was once again converted – this time for use as a sawmill. The sawmill functioned until 1988 when it closed as a business.
Gayle Mill has three turbines. The first of these, a Thompson double vortex turbine, was installed in 1879, replacing the 22ft diameter water wheel. The turbine, built by Williamson Brothers of Kendal, still drives the line shaft which runs the Victorian machinery that fills the Mill today. This turbine is the oldest working turbine in its original position.
The second turbine was installed in 1925 which generated the electricity for the Mill and the surrounding area through the Hawes Electrical Company.
The third and final turbine was installed in 2006 and now generates electricity for the National Grid. This turbine marks the final stage in the Mill's Industrial Evolution as it is now a proud contributor to the drive for net-zero carbon emissions.
During the Second World War, Gayle Mill joined in the national effort to defeat Nazism.
Soldiers from the Border Regiment and The Scots Guards were billeted on the top floor of the Mill. There are the remains of the blackout screens which had to be installed around some of the windows.
The Army came to Gayle Mill as part of the top-secret preparations for D-Day.
Churchill tanks were tested for resistance and resilience in the Mill Pond as they prepared them for the landings from the English Channel.
Following the closure of the sawmill in 1988 the mill remained unoccupied and unaltered until 2003 when it was bought by the North of England Civic Trust (now known as the Cultura Trust).
In 2004 Gayle Mill featured on the BBC's Restoration series. The Mill came third in the final vote. This year also saw the beginning of the reconstruction and restoration of the Mill.
In 2006 the final turbine and a biomass boiler were installed.
In 2007 the major works to the Mill were completed and the Victorian machinery and line shafting restored
In 2008 the Mill was opened to the public under the auspices of the Gayle Mill Trust which had occupied the building under licence from the North of England Civic Trust.
In 2018 the Mill closed to the public as further work was required to make the building safer and easier to operate.
In 2020 refurbishment works begin.
In 2021 works finalised and the Mill is to re-open to the public.
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