Next to Gayle Beck on the edge of the attractive hamlet of Gayle, just south of Hawes, this is a perfect example of a early C20th sawmill.
The attractive stone building dates from around 1789 when Oswald and Thomas Routh decided to cash in on the success of Arkwright’s invention and built a cotton spinning mill here, powered by water from the beck.
This proved to be economically unviable with cotton being brought in by horse and cart and then being taken to the mills in Yorkshire for weaving. It ran for about thirty years and the brothers tried to sell it unsuccessfully twice. It was converted to spin flax and later wool, for the local sock knitting industry. Neither enterprise was a success and the mill was shut down by the mid 1800s.
The mill reopened in 1879 as a mechanised saw mill with a water powered turbine supplying the power to work the large circular rack saw as well as the smaller machinery. In the early C20th a electricity generator was installed not only to light the mill but also the village.
The mill was a thriving place with a woodworking joinery shop as well as the local coffin maker and undertaker. It continued to work until 1988 when the last owner retired, locked the door leaving all the machinery in situ.
The Mill featured in the 2003 “Restoration”:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restoration_(TV_series) programme with Griff Rhys Jones. Although it came third in the final, this galvanised the local community who set up a charitable trust to restore and reopen the mill as a tourist attraction, along with a fully functional joiners shop providing commercial wood services to the community as well running training courses. The shop sold a selection of wood products with all profits going towards preservation of the mill.
Visits into the mill are by guided tour only. Unfortunately the mill had to close for extensive repair work in 2018 and is not currently open for tours. It is still possible to see the leat supplying water to the mill and the large crane used to lower tree trunks into the mill. The “craft workshops”:http://www.gaylemill.org.uk/workshops1 are still running and include stained glass making as well as making your own cart wheel. The woodworking team continues to make gates, fencing and other “bespoke items”:http://www.gaylemill.org.uk/craft-shop-menu , using timber stockpiled in the building.
I visited in 2017 and went on a fascinating tour of the mill, These were advertised as lasting an hour but this did very much depend on the interest of the group. Ours lasted nearly two hours. You can read all about it with lots of pictures “here”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/presocialhistory/socialhistory/industrial/gayle/index.html .
The mill is in a lovely setting and is worth stopping to look if in the area. The tours are definitely worth doing once they start again.
There is some parking by the mill, otherwise use the car park of Wensleydale Creamery LINK with a 300 yard walk along the road. Alternatively park in Hawes and walk across the fields to the Creamery and then up the road to the mill. The nearest post code is DL8 3RZ and the grid reference is SD 871893.