High Mill

POOL WALK MILL or HIGH MILL – Fulling & Paper

Map of 1888
WalkMilHIgh Milll fulling
Scottish girls at a fulling mill around 1600

Fulling was the process of cloth finishing. The cloth was cleansed and thickened or fulled in a primitive way The fuller would walk or stamp on the cloth with bare feet. “Walke mylnes” refer to fulling mills. Pool’s mill was later named High Mill to distinguish it from Low Mill (the paper mill). The worker who does the job is a fuller, tucker, or walker, hence we see the surnames Walker, Fuller and Tucker. “mylnes” is the old English word for “mills

Mills of Pool were mentioned in 1279. Otley had cloth weavers in 1328. The introduction of the fulling mill into England occurred in the last half of the twelfth century; a fulling mill being recorded in 1185 at Temple Newsham, West Yorkshire, established by the Knights Templars.

Otley Chursh register shows the first definite mention of Poole Fulling Mills is in 1609. A mill on Otley Road is marked on the map of 1767. The Award map of 1849 shows that wool, paper and leather were made at High Mills. There was also a lime kiln nearby. Lime was used in boiling old rags used in paper making. which was later produced from High Mill. When advertised to let in 1861 when run by John Milthorp, the mill was three storeys high and 140 feet long inside and 33 feet wide. It was worked by two water-wheels and an auxiliary steam engine. At the end of its’ life when advertised to let in 1875 the premises of the mill contained eight large spinning and scribbling rooms, two scouring rooms, fulling room, wideying and drying rooms, warehouse, engine and boiler house, fitted up with a new 30 h.p. horizontal steam engine and boiler. The property belonged to the Fawkes family of Farnley Hall. A year later it remained un-let and the steam engine was later advertised for sale.

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The Rosary, Otley Road, c. 1925, partly demolished now Blue Barn.

The 17th century Rosary, built as the mill house for High Mill.

1609 Henry Dunwell is described as of “Poole Fulling Mills”. This seems to be the first mention of Pool’s fulling mills although Pool Mill is mentioned in Otley Church Register in 1586 but this could be the Corn Mill on Mill Lane.

1662 “John, son of Thomas Bettee of Powle walke mylnes was baptised” (Otley parish register)

1673 reference in Otley Church Register “woollen cloth trade was somewhat extensively carried on in Pool”.

1673 THE GREAT FLOOD. The Mills of Pool were washed away by the Great Flood. The event recorded in Otley church register book states, “Memorandum, Sept.11th 1673. This summer is remarkable for the abundant and continual rain therein. On the 11th of this month there was a wonderful inundation of water in the Northern parts. The river Wharfe was never known to be soe bigg within memory of man by a full yard in height, running in a direct line to Hall Hill Well*. It overturned Kettlewell Bridge, Burnsey Bridge, Barden Bridge, Bolton Bridge, Ilkley Bridge and Otley Bridge and the greater part of the Water-mills. It also clearly swept away Poole low fuller mills, and carried them whole, like to a ship to the sea. It left neither corn nor cattle on the coast thereof.” *Hall-Hill-Well, a spring immediately below the Roman Catholic Church running east of Bridge Street) It seems both High Mill and Low Mill were fulling mills, both of which were washed away in 1673 as the report states “Poole low fuller mills” and which appear to have been built of wood.

1680 “Cloth was woven and taken to Esholt, Pool, Baildon, Arthington and Harewood to be fulled or milled.” (Philemon Slater)

1719 William Tyas is described as being a fellmonger.(one who prepares hides for leather making).

1725 11th Dec. An inventory on the death of William Norfolk of Poole. Yeoman”

1726 William Metcalfe was a linen weaver possibly from Pool High Mill.

1733 Joseph Norfolk was at Poole Fulling Mills (Otley Parish records)

1775 J. Maude pays £1 for rent of Mill Close & Barn in Pool from Francis Fawkes.(Fawkes records)

1775 Mary Nicholson and John Milthorp rent a Pool farm from F. Fawkes for £20 (Fawkes records)

1781 Mary Nicholson appears on the Land Tax returns from at least 1781 to 1796 as occupier with Francis Fawkes proprietor. 1788 the proprietor changes to Walter Fawkes.(It is likely that Mary Nicholson dies and Michael Nicholson takes over as occupier this may have been for the mill house, the Rosary) Was Mary Nicholson related to Michael Nicholson (1750-1813) when son, also Michael Nicholson (1783-1858), or he, bought Low Mill in 1808/9?

1793 Thomas Close is paying for the mill and croft

1795 27th January, the fulling mills of Messrs. Thomas Close & Co. were almost wholly destroyed by fire and damage was done to the extent of about £2,000.(earliest reference to Close is 1793 in the Land Tax Returns).

1797 Michael Nicholson becomes occupier alongside Close & Co.

1802 occupied by Close & Co.

It would appear that although Ebenezer Martin was paying rent to Maude at Low Mill in 1801/2/5, he moved to High mill to share with Michael Nicholson in 1806. In 1808 there was a devastating fire at the Low paper mill of Ebenezer Martin.)

1807 Both Michael Nicholson (1750-1818) and Michael Nicholson Jnr.(1783-1858) were paying Land Tax to Walter Fawkes at High Mill.

1808 Michael Nicholson purchases Low Mill from his brother-in-law John Milthorp.

1819 An indenture of 20th July mentions Walter Fawkes having “a water mill called Pool Walk Mills , all the water wheels and other fixed machinery, mill races, mill goyts, dams attachment of dams in the occupation of Thomas Close & Co. as tenants thereof. All the cottage houses land and ground occupied with the said mill containing in the whole measuring 2 acres l rood 36 perches. Also several closes of arable meadow and pasture land in Pool called Great Island, Little Island and three Intakes measuring 34 acres, 3 roods and 37 perches in the occupation of Thomas Close & Co.” (I.2.18a also Computer under Documents “High mill, walk mill deeds 1819” O.M. O/P/dc11)Setting up the Fawkes Trust Estate 1818/19. In 1315 Fawkes held the Manor of Farnley (H. Speight “Upper Wharfedale” P. 100)

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Francis Fawkes thumb print, 1782

According to David Whiteley Memoirs the annals state:

“Employment was at this time scarce (wheat sold at from 1 to 14 shillings per bushel) but the evil was in some measure alleviated by subscriptions for supplying the poor at reduced prices. During the dearth Walter Fawkes of Farnley Hall distributed weekly 20 loads of wheat amongst the poor on his estate and its neighbourhood: at the same time he used the most rigid economy in his own house and his benevolent example so affected the neighbouring millers that they offered to grind for the poor gratis.” (Walter Fawkes was M.P for the County of York in 1806 – pioneer in the abolition of slavery – friend of painter J.M.W. Turner, R.A.)

1821 Thomas Flockton is a pasteboard manufacturer at “Paste Board House” at the time also known as “Pastboard Manufactory” now Brook Cottage, Mill Lane. Brook Cottage was owned by John Milthorp (farmer and maltster) of Pool House when Pool House was sold in 1822.

1841 Thomas Hollis is a pasteboard maker. (A process of gluing several thin cards together to make thick board used for rolling up cloth).

1841 census shows Thomas Bailey a “leather dresser” at Walk Mill.

1847 Death of John Milthorp snr..(1768-1847)

1850. Newspaper report. “Sept Mill Burnt at Pool. A paragraph in our last Supplement states that the spinning mill of Mr. Milthorp was partially destroyed by fire. We are informed that Mr. Milthorp is insured in the Leeds and Yorkshire Assurance Company.”

1850 John Milthorp (1807-17.11.1867),cloth manufacturer took tenancy of High or Walk Mill under the name Milthorp & Burnley. The Leeds Mercury reported 15 May 1813 Marriage of Mr. John Bingley, farmer to Miss Milthorp, both of Leathley, Nr. Otley” They lived in the old mill house for High Mill named “The Rosary”

1851 Wool, wash leathers, paper and the making of paste-board was carried on by Messrs. Milthorp & (Samuel) Burnley when John Milthorp (1807 -1867) is recorded as a woollen yarn spinner employing 34 hands.

1851 census also shows many villagers working at Walk Mill. Their various jobs included spinners, reelers and weavers, overlockers, piecer watchers, i.e.piece together broken thread in weaving (children age 9, 11 & 12 employed), wool combers, also a hand loom weaver.

1858 Leeds Mercury 14th Aug. 1858

“All that Close of rich old Grass Land in the township of Otley, beautifully situate on the south side of the river Wharfe, called Sandbed and Pighills, otherwise Knotford Nook, containing 5A. 1R.21P or thereabouts held by the lease for 21 years, under the Archbishop of York at a nominal rent.

Fourteen years of the lease are still unexpired and the reversion expectant thereupon may now be purchased of the Archbishop with the assent of the Church Estates Commissioners, and the tenure thereby converted into freehold in virtue of the recent Acts of Parliament. The field extends for nearly a quarter of a mile along the side of the river and has a corresponding frontage to the turnpike road between Otley and the Arthington Station of the North Eastern Railway, being situate about midway between the two places.

To amateurs of angling in the Wharfe, who have had the privilege of entering on the ground, it is well known as a site peculiarly favorable to this successful pursuit of their sport.

For further particulars apply to Mr. John Milthorp of Pool Walk Mill, the present occupier.”

1860 Jan “A charge by Mr. G. H. L. Rickards of Armley, sub-inspector of factories charged Mr. John Milthorp of Pool, woollen manufacturer, upon 15 several informations with having employed women and young persons in his mill after six oclock, had been dropped.”

1861 Bradford Observer, 29 August 1861POOL WALK MILL TO BE LET, on Lease with immediate possession all that well-built WOOLLEN MILL, situate upon the River Wharfe in Pool near Otley called “Pool Walk Mill” with a good House, several cottages and about 16 acres of Land adjoining, now in the occupation of Mr. John Milthorp.

The Mill is three storeys high and 140 feet long inside and 33 feet wide. It is worked by two water-wheels and an auxiliary steam engine. The engine and machinery may be taken by a lessee at a valuation and credit will be given for part of the purchase money. The Mill adjoins the turnpike road and is within two miles from the Arthington Station. Still nearer Railway accommodation will be afforded by the Wharfedale Railway, for which an Act was obtained in the last Session of Parliament. For further particulars apply to Mr. Milthorp, on the Premises”

1867 17th Nov. John Henry Milthorp dies

1870-1873 The partnership of John Clayton and William Yewdal..(Jane Yewdal wife of William died aged 37 on 7.1.1875.)

1872 Work suspended at Cloth mill. (School Log book)

1872 Leeds Mercury Nov. 9th 1872.

“EXTENSIVE FAILURE IN LEEDS. – Liabilities £50,000 – Mr. Wm. Yewdall, altpe manufacturer of Harcourt Mills, West street, Leeds and of Poole Mills near Otley, has filed a petition for liquidation by arrangement through Messrs. Barr Nelson and Barr, solicitors in the Leeds County Court. The liabilities are close upon £50,000 but not more than £30,000 is expected to rank against the estate, the remainder being liabilities on customers’ bills which are believed to be good and will therefore be met by the acceptors. Mr. Routh of Park Row, accountant has been appointed the receiver. That gentleman is now engaged in the necessary investigation of the books and accounts, for the purpose of preparing a statement to present to a general meeting of creditors, which is summoned for the 26th instant.”

1873 June 16th The father of Elizabeth Oldfield, a half timer, was killed at the High Mill. (School Log)

1873 Sept. 27th Attendance not good this week – children blackberrying and Amie Roger part time at Yewdall’s Mill. (School Log)

1875 Leeds Mercury 24th April 1875

“To be LET, POOL MILLS, in Wharfedale near Otley, ten minutes walk from Pool Station on the Otley and Ilkley branch line of the North Eastern Railway, which contains eight large spinning and scribbling rooms, two scouring rooms, fulling room, wideying and drying rooms, warehouse, engine and boiler house, fitted up with new a new 30 h.p. horizontal steam engine and boiler by Easton and Tattersall of Leeds; together with seven cottages and dwelling-house, stabling and outbuildings and about 12 acres of excellent grass land, for the residue of a term of eight and a half years, commencing on the 1st day of October 1872. The mills are well adapted for either the manufacture of wool, worsted or cotton, and are most conveniently situated along the river Wharfe and adjoining the main road between Pool and Otley, which have until recently been run by steam and water power; but with a little outlay the whole mill might be run by water power, as it was formerly.

For further particulars apply to Messrs. Wolmsley and Sons, Auctioneers, 5, Banir street, Leeds and Yeadon; or to Messrs North and Sons, Solicitors, Eastparade, Leeds.”

1876 Leeds Mercury 27 May 1876 “Pool Woollen Mill in Wharfedale near Otley. Sale of the valuable Engine and Boiler. Messrs Walmsley and Sons will Sell by Public Auction at an early date (unless previously disposed of by private contract).

The 30 Horse power HORIZONTAL ENGINE, with spar wheels, shafting, piping and all necessary fittings, equal to new; and the 48 horse power double-flued Cornish boiler to engine with mountings, by Messrs. Easton and Tattersall of Leeds. Further particulars of which will hereafter be given or may be had from the Auctioneers.”

Pre 1919 (Extracts from Recollections of my Native Village – Holmes Whiteley b. 1888.)

“Above the paper mills (Whiteleys) was the ruins of an old fulling mill and four cottages. Here lived an old gentleman who was in business as a joiner (made shuttles for mills) and had part of the old mill for his work shop. Next door to the joiner lived the beck watcher, Mr. Spreckley, and he was employed by the Fawkes of Farnley Hall. His main job was to see no poaching was done and keep the Hall supplied with fish. From what I have been told the cause of these mills having to shut down was the fact that the tenants were badly advised to install water turbines in place of the existing water wheels. The turbines took a long time to put in and when tried out they did not drive as much as the water wheels had done. They would only drive the shafting and no machines at all. This property belonged to the late Major Fawkes who did a wonderful lot of repairing on his estate and had the stones of the old mill carted away to repair and build new farm buildings. It was about 1919 that we put the new sluice gates in at the High Mill dam in order that we might put water turbines in at the paper mills.”

Holmes Whiteley

He remembers the turbines being removed when he helped to take out the sluices. His son David, also remembers the Rosary (High Mill House) and some cottages, and that in one of these “a craftsman carried on the making of shuttles long after the mill had closed”.

1896 The main block of the buildings were still standing but minus the roof (Holmes Whiteley)

1898 In his diary John Dickinson says “1898 Tuesday June 21. Off to Huby by 7 then to Otley and met Mr. Palliser and Mr. Fawkes at Pool Old Mills to look at the old mill wall stones with a view to pulling down”. (Timble Man” by Ronald Harker, Hendon Publishing). The stonework was taken away and used to repairs walls, etc. on the Farnley Estate.

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1920c. The old chimney being demolished by Whiteleys “Fed Dibnah” style

1920 On 2nd April 1920 High Mills, the Mill House and two islands, Great Island and Little Island, were bought from the Fawkes family for £2,250.00. by William L. Whiteley. (David Whiteley) (Full details of Milthorp/Nicholson family under “Families & Events of the Past”.)

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1929 High Mills with The Rosary, right, the old Walk Mill house and cottages, partly demolished. SHP shows occupiers of the Rosary were J. Bingley 1825; S. Burnley, T. Etchells, J. Clayton, Whiteley, H.L.Steele, I. Greaves, J.R. Proctor and R.G.Giles husband of Jean Wood (nee Whiteley)

1929 At High Mill two additional cottages were built in 1929 adjoining the two existing ones which were end-on to the road as extra housing for mill employees The two were built at a cost of £861.4s.6d., including removing ruins from the site.


Rear of the old Rosary (Blue Barn) as seen in 2009.

1956 The Rosary, the old mill house, was attached to High Mills but was partly demolished by Whiteley’s in 1956, (the rear remains, part of the back of The Blue Barn). This was converted for use as a garage for repairs to Whiteley’s lorries. Freddie Midgley was the main motor engineer. In 2015 the remains of the Rosary is occupied by The Blue Barn, a pet supply shop.


Map of 1710

*Allam Lane can be seen here (above the words “Bowshaw & Linum”) – possibly a derivative of Alum. Alum had an important use in the textile industry where it was used for “sticking” vegetable dyes to fibres also used as a curing agent in the tanning of leather, both of which were carried out at Pool mills. The main area of Allum production was Whitby.

High or Walk Mill gatehouse 2009
High or Walk Mill bridge 2009

Photos 2015 see below for explanation.

The only evidence remaining today is a small bridge, hidden by a cement top.(left) This can be found just beyond the two High Mill cottages, also some very old stone banking. Photo centre shows similar bridge in Harewood Estate. There is a small single storey building opposite the cottages, right, which may have been the gatehouse to the mill. The distinctive lintels above the windows, with incised grooves on the stone, to imitate keystone, and supporting blocks were the trade mark of the “Muschamp masons”, John Muschamp was Lord Harewood’s mason c.1820 (Peter Thornhill, Architectural Historian)

The Early Process

Immediately after a piece of cloth has been woven, the fibers of its fabric are loose, airy and unmeshed, similar in texture and appearance to a piece of cheese-cloth or sack-cloth. Also the cloth still retains, clinging to its fibers, a significant amount of oil or grease, introduced to facilitate weaving. This must be removed if the cloth is to be dyed, since oils and grease will inhibit the binding action of the dyes..

Scouring involved the cleansing of the cloth through the use of water and a cleaning agent, that helped rid the cloth of any natural oils and greases. A number of different agents were used, such as fuller’s earth, stale urine or soapwort.

Soapwort, also known as Fuller’s herb, Scourwort or Soaproot, is a plant that contains chemicals called saponins, a soap-like substance. This natural detergent has the ability to create a foamy lather, which absorbs dirt particles, in a similar manner to soap. “… bruised and agitated with water, it raises a lather like soap, which easily washes greasy spots out of clothes.” [Culpeper]

The cloth industry had to compete in certain areas with the alum and the saltpeter industries for supplies of urine.

“Urine that is fresh voided will not scour well. That from persons on a plain diet is stronger and better than that from luxurious livers. The cider and gin drinkers are considered to give the worst, the beer drinker the best. When urine is collected it should be kept in close vessels until it has completely undergone those changes by which ammonia is developed”. Large quantities were even collected in London and sent up north by ship. Local people were paid by the bucketful for supplying their own urine.

Following the fulling process, the cloth was submitted to ‘tentering’. This called for the cloth to be fixed to a tentering frame in order to stretch it to the required size by setting the weave to a consistent dimension and tension. It also acted as a way of evenly drying and bleaching the cloth in the sunlight. The tentering frame was a wooden framework, not unlike a fence, made from a number of upright posts or rails set at intervals in a line, to which was fixed, one above the other, two long horizontal bars that stretched from one end of the row to the other. The top bar was fixed permanently, while the lower one, set parallel to the upper one, was adjustable to suit the required width of the fulled cloth. Fixed all along the bars every three or four inches were tenter-hooks, L-shaped iron hooks, pointed at both ends. The tenter-hooks on the top bar were set so they pointed upwards while those on the lower bar pointed downwards. The edge of the fulled cloth was fixed on these tenter-hooks and the lower bar was then adjusted to stretch the cloth to the statutory width. The frames could be adjusted to cope with the differing widths of broadcloths and narrow cloths. There were tenter fields on Arthington Lane towards Arthington village which at one time had two fulling mills and a corn mill.(Partly taken from the internet “ Fulling Mills of the Isle of Wight”) &

This original layout of both High and Low mills also shows “Lime Pits”. As well as being used on the land, in mortar for buildings and whitewash, lime was also used during the manufacture papermaking, tanning and dyeing of cloth.

The situation of the lime pits is still visible when travelling along Otley Road, where the grass is growing between the river and where the road widens. Lime Kiln Close is shown nearby on a map of c. 1650.

Abraham Huddleston arrived at Arthington Mills in 1771 from Wind Mill, Woodside Ridge, Leeds. Recorded here is a menu of meals eaten by Arthington mill workers around 1860.

“Breakfast: Porridge, milk and bread

10 o’clock morning: Bread and pint of home-brewed ale.

Dinner: Beef and bacon, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding (something extra on Sundays)

4 o’clock afternoon: Bread and ale

Supper: Porridge, milk and bread. 

There were not many stronger men about Arthington at that time; you can’t get bacon now like that was; we shall never get any more.”

The Huddlestons later worked at Pool Corn Mill.  In 1880 William Huddleston sculptor, gave the font to St. Wilfrid’s church.