Harry Rutherford's
Festival of Britain Mural

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Hyde Corn Mill



In the old records from Godley there’s mention of a corn mill that once existed, but of which every trace gone and so ancient was the structure that we are now unsure where it was at all.
Hyde was more fortunate as the picturesque old corn mill of Hyde, stood, as ruins to around the 1880s. Thomas Middleton wrote about it in the Annals Of Hyde and I quote him here: “At one time its situation upon the banks of " the bonnie river Tame" was one of great beauty, and the old mill made a grand addition to the pleasant features of the scenery. It doubtless was the successor of former structures upon or near the same spot, as a corn mill had existed on the river at Hyde from the time of King John.”


In years long gone the mill would have formed an important institution in the surrounding area. It enjoyed the patronage and protection of the lords of the manor, and at one time also had a worthy reputation among the poorer people of the neighbourhood.
In the 179os John Aiken's gives mention to the mill in his book ‘40 Miles Round Manchester’… "Betwixt the bridge and Hyde Hall is a mill for grinding corn, for the use of which as well as for that of a water engine on the Lancashire side belonging to some valuable coal mines of Mr. Clarke, is a weir which throws a broad sheet of water to a considerable depth below, where it has worked a hole many yards deep and wide. The appearance and noise of this cascade have a romantic effect, and the river for half a mile above is made by it to appear like a lake forming a fine piece of water, well stocked with trout and eels."


Prior to the making of the railroad and the Peak Forest Canal, a winding valley ran from the river almost to where Hyde Town Hall now stands. The sides of this valley were covered with trees, and the place was known as " Mill Wood " on account of the corn mill being situated at the end of the valley. The last remnant of this valley was filled in around 1890. Most of the buildings and streets behind the Town Hall stand upon earth that has been "tipped"…. That’s hard to imagine now when you think of Asda and the Theatre Royal.. Corporation Street, Great Norbury Street, the railway, canal, then towards the scrap yards on Raglan Street, then across to where the old Gas works stood…. that’s some tipping for sure.
Thomas Middleton wrote in the Annals Of Hyde 1899 the following: “what is now Corporation Street was a deep hollow, with a brook at the bottom; the sides of the valley being laid as gardens“ he recalled in the book a story from an old lady who knew Hyde well, who wrote this of the old Corn Mill and the Miller: "Anyone walking along the river bank could not but be struck with the sound of the 'Old Hundredth' or of one of the Church chants, sounding morning and evening from the mill, as the miller did his task, vibrating through the stately beech trees which towered far above the old building that had been worked by generations of one family now all gone to rest. The sound was so impressive that I often recall it with very deep feelings. And each Sabbath morning, when the splash of the water-wheels was hushed, there at his cottage door, across the river, could be seen the miller, with his large Bible on his knee, reading aloud to his family. It was a sight not readily forgotten, particularly in summer, with the lilacs and roses in bloom, and the sun shining on the river, and the music of the falling weir coming through the spray."


The above account now well over 200 years ago paints a nice picture of this area, with Hyde being very far removed from how we know it today. The millers were a family of Ashtons, who worked the mill for generations, in the old registers at Denton Old Church., there are entries there about this family, of which two of the later ones state the following:: 1796. John, son of Robert Ashton, Miller, of Hyde; born July 18th, baptised August 14th. And then in 1812. Hannah, daughter of John Ashton, Miller, of Haughton, Nancy: born August 9th, baptised Sept. 22nd, 1812.
Thomas Middleton wrote that he spent many hours in the ruined rooms of the old mill, playing in his childhood. The building was then dilapidated with age and crumbling to decay. It was, however, of picturesque appearance and with care would have worn out generations of mortals. When the building was eventually pulled down, the oak beams and floors were purchased by Mr. John Thornely and were formed into handsome hall cabinets.


By the look of this picture it was near to where the Showman’s Guild have their site in the dip off Mill Lane, and nearer to the bridge than I thought it was. You can get a better idea of it from the Haughton side of the Tame, then walk further down following the Tame then look up at where the old Gas works once stood on Raglan Street.… that’s quite a hill to say it was part of the landfill from the back of Hyde Town Hall.


Lew said...

You two have found some marvelous images and history of your town! I love these old mills.

Ex Hydeonian said...

Quite amazing really....how much the place has changed over the last couple of hundred years.

An excellent post this....most enjoyable and informative.