Howgill Woollen Mill

Notes and images by Mike Davies-Shiel

Howgill Mill (M.Davies-Shiel)

Howgill Mill

This mill was one of a series of early fullingmill sites along the western side of the mountain block known as the Howgill Fells. Major becks drain westwards into the River Lune at roughly one per mile, and each had its own fulling and/or corn mill by the late Middle Ages. Howgill Mill is in the area of the prestigious Bland family, and milners of that family have been documented there from the 16th century onwards, but the family itself goes back to 1327AD at least.

1606 Thomas Bland, Miller was buryed last of March
1609 Dec A son to John Bland, Milner or Bland’s Mill
1613 Death of John Bland of the Milne
By 1676, the Blands seem to have died out here and the Sims are here instead:
1676 Wife of Thomas Sim of Blands Mill in Bland died
1678-88 William Sim – 4 sons and 1 daughter baptised
1691, Feb 7th Wm.Simm of Blands Mill in Bland buried. The Simms were still here in 1712,1745,1778,1780 and probably ran the cornmill all that time, BUT there is a reference to:
1718 John Gaskill of Howgill had the Wool and Corn Mills. Thus from at least 1718 there was a fullingmill here
1767 Reference to the Woollen mill being here
1782 A burst of new names in 1782 suggests the date of the almost certain expansion of the woollen mill. At first it was a cardingmill making woollen thread only:
1816, Feb 3rd (WG) Lot 2. TO BE SOLD, by Private Contract – Bland Mill with cottages, spinning rooms etc, situate in Howgill near Sedbergh, at present occupied for the spinning of woollen yarn, either with or without the Machinery. The stream of water and fall are suitable for a much more powerful work. For viewing apply to Mr James Harrison, and for other particulars to W.Gibson of Kirkby Lonsdale
1819, Apr 17 (WG) J. Harrison & Co to continue as Woollen Manufacturers at Howgill Mill, after the split in co-partnership which dissolved 1816 Dec 20th between himself and Wm.Gibson, Banker, of Kirkby Lonsdale. JH has since carried the business on

Howgill Sketch Map (M.Davies-Shiel)

1824 (also 1864 OS map) Shows the huge loom shed with its dye-works and finishing rooms north of the beck. A way leads into Tarn House Lane to the north and into New Road to the south
1837 The school and newly-built chapel indicate a flourishing settlement here, though where they all lived is a mystery. There may well have been dormitories over the weaving rooms and in the garret of the Mill House and School, but many folk would have trudged in to work from Sedbergh each day. (Miners in Patterdale walked in from Penrith – a matter of some 15 miles after each weekend at home!)
1838 W Greenwood Best, Woollen Manufacturer, with over 100 workers, is spinning yarn for Mr J Dover at Farfield Mills
1842, July 2nd (WG) The Woollen Mill at Howgill TO BE SOLD complete. Now occupied by Messrs T.W.Atkinson and John Ridding
1845, May 3rd (WG) They added a maltkiln to the millhouse
1847, Sept 18th Mr Wm Jackson Best, Woollen Manufacturer, Howgill Mill, wed Miss Elizabeth Taylor of Gate Beck (father owned the large Bleachworks there)
1853, Sept 3rd William Wilkinson Esq of Hole House, Howgill, wed Hannah, eldest daughter of Mr W.Greenwood Best, Woollen Manufacturer, Howgill Mills, Yorkshire
1854 Death of Martha G.Best aged 16 after protracted illness
1855 Death of Philip, 3rd son of W.G.Best, at Liverpool, aged 22
1875 Death at Sedbergh of Wm Greenwood Best, Woollen Manufacturer, aged 73, formerly at Howgill Mill (i.e. then at a Woollen mill in Sedbergh)
1892 Reference by W.Thompson, local guide book author, to Howgill Church, built 1838, “which lies upstream of a disused mill”
1905 and 1906 Bulmer’s Trade Directory lists Mr John Fawcett and a Mr John Sedgwick at The Mill, Howgill, as if they were manufacturers there

One last comment. There is now no trace at all of the once large weaving rooms on the north bank of Banty Gill. It would be interesting to know just when they went.

(Page created 11/02/14)