Category Archives: Uncategorized

Braithwaite, Thornthwaite and Wythop

Here are a few photos related to the industrial history of these two villages on the edge of the Derwent Fells to the north-west of Keswick, with a selection showing the remains of the silica brickworks above Beck Wythop.

Charcoal burn

These are a selection of the  photos taken by Mike Davies-Shiel of a charcoal burn at Brantwood near Coniston in August 1985.
There are many others relating to charcoal on the Cumbria Archive Service website.
For more about charcoal visit the Woodland Industries page.


Mealbank is on the River Mint, 2.5 miles north-east of Kendal. Developed by the family firm of Braithwaite after 1834, the general site having been used for woollen, snuff and corn mills some time before 1767. More than 350 people employed here in the late 19th century in a fully integrated mill with machinery for preparation, spinning and weaving.
The industrial archaeology of the Lake Counties : M Davies-Shiel & J D Marshall, David & Charles, 1969
Here is a selection of photos from the Mike Davies-Shiel collection, all of which can be seen on the Cumbria Archive Service’s website. Most are his originals, some of them his copies of older items.

Hodbarrow Mines

These photos were all taken by Mike Davies-Shiel around the time of the closure of the mines. The notes below them are copied from his slides. More of his originals, and copies of other material on the subject – newspaper articles, old photographs etc. – can be found on the Cumbria Archive Service’s website.

Click here for an introduction to the mines.

Farfield photos

These photos were all taken by Mike Davies-Shiel. The notes below them are copied from his slides. More of his originals, and copies of other material on the subject – newspaper articles, old photographs etc. – can be found on the Cumbria Archive Service’s website.

Click here for a detailed drawing of the mill and an explanation of how it worked.

Keswick Mills

Mike Davies-Shiel spent years researching the history of Keswick’s many mills, investigating their remains, and looking at anything and everything relating to them – original documents, parish registers, local newspapers, old photos and paintings, census records and even gravestones. All this in the days before any of these sources became available online.

His notes, dated 15th August 1987 and entitled “Keswick’s Water-Powered Mills and Manufactories” were published posthumously in The Cumbrian Industrialist, Volume 8, 2013. This is now out of print, but a PDF copy of the article can be seen here.

He describes a total of 27 mills in a number of ‘mill-districts’:-

Greta Bridge – 2 mills and 2 workshops
Greta Hamlet – the Southey Hill complex
Greta Mills – a complex of 8 mills
Greta Forge – all on the left (west) bank of the river
Shooley Crow (correctly Shorley Croft) – 4 mills up as far as the railway bridge
Brigham Forge – a complex of 7 mills and possibly 1 workshop, or t’Forge
Briery, or Low Briery – a complex of 5 mills, a tannery, and possibly some workshops

Here is a selection from the photos Mike took during his research. There are many more which you can see by searching the Cumbria Archive Services catalogue.


(Page created 16/10/21. Last updated 28/11/22)


Here is an excerpt from Industrial Archaeology of the Lake Counties, published in 1969. Since then, the three firms mentioned have reduced to one – Samuel Gawith & Co – still operating on an industrial estate to the north of Kendal. Click here to read more about Helsington Laithes mill.

Although the major part of the nation’s snuff is made in Sheffield, the remainder, even today, is manufactured in the Kendal district by an industry of considerable age and standing. This is represented by the three firms of Samuel Gawith & Co, Gawith Hoggarth & Co, and Messrs Illingworth’s at Aynam Mills.

There was a considerable import of tobacco through Whitehaven in the first half of the 18th century, as well as through the port of Lancaster, and it is possible that packhorse loads from Whitehaven found their first resting-place, after a day’s journey via Hardknott, in southern Westmorland. Since the goods were jogged continually, the resultant tobacco dust and broken stalks may have been purchased by Kendal traders at a nominal price. Whatever the case, Kendal is known to have had a snuff mill on Natland Beck in 1740, and there was another at Mealbank in 1792.

The industry was essentially a water-powered one, involving the use of grinding machinery, and the organisation of the present-day Helsington Laithes mill gives a clear idea of its refinements. This mill still obtains its power from an undershot, paddle-type wheel. The tobacco, carefully roasted, is graded and then ground to a powder in pestle grinders. There are also ball mills, a mixer and a riddle-and-shaker which utilises a principle similar to that used in corning gunpowder. The product is then blended, wrapped and marketed from Kendal.

Kendal Museum have produced an information sheet about the snuff industry, and look out for the book ‘Kendal Brown: the history of Kendal’s tobacco and snuff industry’ by J.W.Dunderdale, published in 2003 by Helm Press.

All these photos were taken by Mike Davies-Shiel, and feature the mill at Helsington Laithes except for those marked **.

(Page created 19/01/20)



Peat cutting

Most of these photos were taken by Mike Davies-Shiel, mostly during a visit to Foulshaw Moss in the south of the county in May 1990. The bottom four photos were taken by Rob David on the same visit, and show the peat barrow in more detail. You can read about the visit here.

Bobbin Mills

The Mike Davies-Shiel Collection includes over 1200 items on the bobbin-making industry. Mike took photos of anything and everything that would help in his research – maps, original documents, newspaper adverts, old photographs etc.. Here is a small selection of photos from the many he took on site in the 1960s and later of the remains of a once thriving industry.

Click on this link to a map of where the wood turning mills were located.
Click on this link to see a drawing of one of them – Stock Force in Ambleside.
Click here to find out more about woodland industries, including bobbin-making.


These photos are from the MDS Collection, many of them taken by Mike Davies-Shiel in the 1960s and later.
Click here to read more about growing and processing flax by hand, and here to find out more about the production of linen and other materials from the fibres.
Follow this link for a general map showing flax and hemp production in the Central Lakes, and another showing local evidence for flax at High Newton in the south of the county.