Low Mill

Low Mill (early years) –Fulling and Paper

Mill JM1762
Low Mill façade, 2000
Mill JM 1762 arch
Low Mill interior, old arch 2000 . possibly for waterwheel.

LOW MILL is on Otley Road built lower down the River Wharfe than High/Walk Mill, The first mention of Poole low fulling mills is in Otley church register. It seems both High Mill and Low Mill were originally fulling mills, both of which were washed away in 1673 as the report below states “Poole low fuller mills”. In 1800 there were 430 paper mills in England and Wales. It was stated by Fred Morrell F.R.E.S. that Low Mill was one of the oldest paper mills in the country, manufacturing paper from around 1760.

The land tax records from 1781 to 1808 held in the West Yorkshire Archives, show Low mill was owned by Frances Maude, later Edmund Maude, together with William Milthorp and that it was rented out to various tenants. After the death of William Milthorp in 1801 it would appear that John Milthorp (son of William) inherited the mill, which he ran before selling to his wife’s brother, Michael Nicholson in 1808/9. Apparently John Milthorp, his son (1807-17.11.1867) then moved to High Mill as a woollen yarn spinner.

(Some of these findings contradict those of “A History of Pool Paper Mills” by Alastair Laurence.)

(A part of the wall of the old Milthorp farm house is still there, to the east side when nearing the river through the part of present engineering factory – Post Vintage Engineers Ltd).

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 fulling 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)

1753 Henry Hitch (of Leathley) has a mill with William Milthorp (Land Tax returns for Pool-in-Wharfedale- West Yorkshire Archives)

c. 1762 An inscription, now unreadable, above circular window on the main photo above, was said by David Whiteley to read JM 1762 and that it was for John Milthorp. This may have been M for Maude .Another version given in 1929 is M. for Martin, who was at the mill in 1801 and may have rebuilt the mill after a fire in 1808.

1767 Jeffreys map of this date shows “mill” in the area of Pool mills on Otley Road.

1776 Mary Milthorp daughter of John (1725-1778) marries Edmund Maude (1749-1829 )of Leathley Hall, Leathley, He was to become proprietor of Low mill, see later.

1781 Francis Maude and William Milthorp (1731-1801) are shown as Proprietors for Low Mill in the Land tax return of 1781 (West Yorkshire Archives)

1781-1792 and possibly before, the mill and croft is let to Enoch Neal and Thomas Dunwell. Also at the mill as occupiers are Sam and William Bingley. In May 1813 the” Marriage of Mr. John Bingley, farmer to Miss Milthorp, both of Leathley, Nr. Otley” is recorded.

1792 By now Edmund Maude and William Milthorp are proprietors with John Milthorp is shown as being the occupier paying E. Maude and W. Milthorp £2.7.6d.


Ryddings House, Otley Road, 1925, demolished 1929 (SHP – home of Ambrose Heath & from 1840-1854 Michael Nicholson, who owned much property in Pool)

1794 -1800 Ambrose Heath Snr. and son are at the mill living at Ryddings House described as a paper manufacturer from 1760 to his death (Fred Morrell. F.R.E.S.) in 1798 Death of Ambrose Heath, age 62 buried in St. Wilfrid’s church, grave stone removed in 1956

1798 28th March. Ambrose Heath (Jnr.) of Pool (later becomes a partner in Kirkstall Forge and Calder Ironworks) marries Elizabeth Beecroft, a daughter of the owners of Kirstall Forge. Elizabeth’s brother George then aged 17, described the wedding in a letter to his sister Nancy at school at Bowes:

“Who in the world would have thought that poor simple Bess would have kickt up such a dust – Mr. Heathe came yesterday as brisk and as smart as you pleas in a chaise! Her ladyship was honoured with two chaises, attended by four horsemen and drove Juhu-like! Leeds was all in an uproar! Spectators abounded! The Leeds Church bells immediately struck up full clatter as soon as the final knott was tied – The rapidity to the Forge made our folk think the knott was not tied, but when they beheld our horses come full gallop and the ribbands in the chaisemen’s hats, it was sufficient token of victory! Ten servants were employed for the family and their eighteen guests – I think the expense of the day must have mounted up to ten pounds!” (D.Whiteley)

1801 -1807 Ebenezer Martin takes over tenancy paying Maude

1801 Death of William Milthorp, proprietor, when it seems John Milthorp.(1768-1847) inherits the mill.

1802 John Milthorp becomes proprietor

1802 John Milthorp, (1768-1847) marries Elizabeth Nicholson, sister of Michael Nicholson, who then purchases the mill.

1804 April. York Herald. PAPER MILL AT POOL to be sold by Auction. At the Talbot Inn, Leeds on Tuesday 22nd May 1804 by order of the Assigeers under a Commission of Bankrupt awarded and issued against John Smith and Robert Smithies of Poole for the County of York, Paper Makers and Copartners:

The remainder of a Term of which about 29 years are unexpired, of and all capital and extensive PAPER MILL situated on the Banks of the River Wharf at Pool near Otley in the West Riding of the County of York. The Mill has 10 feet of head and fall; the building is 100 feet long and 33 feet wide and contains a water wheel 4’ 4” wide and 18’ high, two paper engines, 2 vats, and convenience for another, two rolling polls, a new stove, four stories high, upon an improved plan. Also a good dwelling house, accompting house, cottage, bars, stable and suitable outbuildings and seven acres of rich grass land near the mill and adjoining the river. Further particulars inquire of Mr. William Weir of Otley; Mr. William Randell and Mr. Samuel Coates of Leeds, the assignees of the said bankrupts’ estate or at Mr. Smith’s office in Otley. (These are similar measurements to High Mill see 1861 in High/Walk mill.)

1808 (York Herald) – 30th Jan 1808

“We are sorry to state that in the night of 20th inst. the Paper Mill of Mr. Ebenezer Martin at Pool, near Otley, took fire and flames raged with so much rapidity as entirely to consume the Mill and its contents”

Ebenezer Martin was a skilled paper maker from the Meanwood Valley, Headingley whose family made fine white writing paper – “A History of Pool Paper Mills” Alastair Laurence.

1808 5th October. Michael Nicholson (1783-1858) bought the mill from John Milthorp (1768-1847). – some records suggest it was Nicholson’s father also named Michael (1750-1813), John Milthorp (and his father before him) was also a farmer and maltster. As well as owning what we now know as the White Hart Inn and the Half Moon, Pool House (news articles 1823) which were all also farms, they also had farms at the Low Mill and one below Caley Hall possibly called Cartref, long since gone (shown on Award map 1774) and at Leathley.

For part of his life Michael Nicholson lived in Ryddings House, Otley Road, later moving to join his sister Elizabeth, at Park House (Plainville/Monkmans) which was built by the Milthorp’s on the site of another ancient Pool farm (SHP) possibly after selling his house Pool House in 1823.

The will of Michael Nicholson seems to have been found in Pool Hall with some items in The Rock, a cottage on Mill Lane. Now in Otley museum.

1851 Michael Nicholson employing 22 workpeople.

1857 Joseph Bottom, foreman to the company for 45 years, died July 1857 aged 78.

1858 Feb. Death of Michael Nicholson leaving his considerable property to his nieces and nephews who were children of his widowed sister Elizabeth Milthorp. The mill was administered by his executor, Michael Nicholson Milthorp Snowdon who rented out the mill to various tenants.

1861 Mathias Shann (there in 1861) making blue sugar paper which was made into bags for storing sugar

1863 “William Milthorp Jnr. (died 1871) has made his annual gratuitous distribution of coals and beef to the necessitous poor of Pool near Otley” – Leeds Mercury

1868 Partnership of William Yates and Frank Parker begins

1871 Frank Parker and William Yates lived at Rhyddings House, Pool Road, employing 11 women and 12 men on census of 1871, went into receivership “

1872 Frank Parker dies William Yates pays his half share of the concern £672 to his trustees. William Yates then carried on business alone

1881 census records William Yates, aged 61 a paper manufacturer employing 11 women and 12 men, living at Riddings House also living there was his step-son, Thomas Parker.

1881 Rent reduced from £300 to £210

1883 Rent again reduced to £120.

1884 Feb.”He (William Yates) called his creditors together. He was £200 to £300 to the bad. His creditors requested him to go on and obtained a reduction of rent for him but owing to depression in trade and the continual diminution in prices representing about 50s. per ton, he continued to lose. His losses since February 1874 were about £770. He kept on because he hoped for an improvement. His rent was reduced from £300 to £210”

1886 2nd April A report states that the first meeting of the creditors of William Yates, paper manufacturer of Pool was held at the Official Receivers Office in Leeds. He had commenced business in 1868 in partnership with Frank Parker who had died in 1872. Due to depression in the trade (only 50s. per ton), old fashioned machinery and ill health, he was unable to keep it going. This was in spite of a reduction in rent from £300 to £210 in 1881 then to £120 in 1883.

1886. April “The Failure of William Yates. The first meeting of the creditors of William Yates, Paper Manufacturer of Pool was held at the office of the Official Receiver, Park Row, Leeds on Monday. The Statement of Affairs showed liabilities of £1,315.10s.3d. Assets £631. 19s.1d. leaving a deficiency of £639.11s. 2d. As his cause of failure the debtor alleged depression of trade, not being able to compete with larger makers and ill health preventing his full attention to business.” The Official Receiver reported that the bankrupt commenced business in 1868 in partnership, his partner (Frank Parker) died in 1872”. It appeared the machinery was old fashioned. He obtained a reduction in rent to attempt to keep going. The machinery and mill was claimed by the landlord under a lease. Wharfedale Observer

1886 16th April Re. William Yates, paper manufacturer. The Official Receiver stated at the Leeds Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday that the liabilities in this case were £1,315 and the assets £683. Debtor stated that he commenced business about 18 years ago in partnership with Mr. Frank Parker, the joint capital being £600. In 1872 Mr. Parker died and the witness paid his half share of the concern £672 to his trustees. He had since carried on business alone. He called his creditors together in February 1884, he was £200 to £300 to the bad. His creditors requested him to go on and obtained a reduction of rent for him but owing to depression in trade and the continual diminution in prices representing about 50s. per ton, he continued to lose. His losses since February 1874 were about £770. He kept on because he hoped for an improvement. His rent was reduced from £300 to £210 in 1881 and to £120 in 1883. The examination closed.” Wharfedale Observer

Before moving to the Mill House on Otley Road (Ryddings House) William Yates and Frank Parker lived on “Fatticake Row” (demolished now Wharfedale Court). After the death of Frank Parker in 1872, William Yates married Frank’s widow. Martha Yates had died in 1846; (A Martha Yates possibly the daughter of Martha who died in 1846, is recorded as being a shop keeper in 1851 census and newspaper report of a burglary in 1848) John Yates died in 1850; Ann Yates 1855; John Yates 1862. It seems Mary Greaves (see Fox & Hounds) may have been related as she is buried in the same grave. (see Families).

1886 saw the brothers Ben, Sam and William Whiteley renting the mill, for £100 per year including the Mill House (Rhyddings House). as a paper making factory, from Michael Nicholson Milthorp Snowdon, eventually buying it from Leeds Corporation Water Committee in 1918, There is an old, almost unreadable date stone which reads, “J.M.1762” in the old pigeon loft where there is now a car renovation business Post Vintage Engineering Ltd. (2015) “J.M.” being John Milthorp owner of the mill at that time.(David Whiteley). This could also be M for Maude or M for Martin (Ebeneer) see above.

Sam’s son Wilfred fought in WW1 where he met his Palastinian wife Serwie, They had a large family living on Mill Lane.

“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. The would only drive the shafting, no machines at all. What a great disappointment it would be to the firm after all the work and loss of production during the time of the change over.”

Holmes Whiteley

MILTHORP FAMILY This family, can be traced back in Pool to 1725, and William Milthorp who was born in Arthington in 1696 – 1757 (house on Warren Lane shows “WM”), son William 1731-1801 lived at Leathley. The family were prosperous farmers and maltsters with several farms both in Pool, Leathley and Arthington. One farm is now The White Hart, others were the Half Moon Inn and Pool House. They also had Riddings House, on Otley Road, now demolished and the Tythe Award map of 1774 shows another house owned by them almost below Caley Hall which may have been called Cartref. As well as owning much land around Pool, see map of 1756, they also ran the Low Mill which was owned by Francis Maud (later Edward Maud) and William Milthorp. After the death of William Milthorp in 1801 John Milthorp, son of William, became proprietor, owning the land on which Low Mill was built attached to another of their farm houses.

1753 Land Tax returns for Pool show Henry Hitch and William Milthorp at a mill.

Pool Hall, (oldest part )

1802 John Milthorp (1768-1847) married Elizabeth Nicholson (1786-13.10.1866). “At the age of 16 she eloped through the pantry window of Pool Hall and rode pillion behind John to Leeds where they were married”.(S.H.P.) Possibly “next door neighbours” as John Milthorp sold Pool House in 1822)

1808 John Milthorp sold Pool Low Mill to Michael Nicholson, but continued at High Mill as a woollen yarn spinner along with his son.

Pool House, Main St. 1910

1822 John Milthorp sold his home, Pool House Farm, often referred to in the deeds as the Mansion House. Amongst the contents were a quantity of malt, brewing vessels, malt kiln and barrels. He, at the same time, sold The White Hart, The Half Moon, Pool Farm Cottage, Brook Cottage and several cottages. It was possibly at this time he moved into the newly built Plainville/Park House/Pool Court/Monkmans, (See Pool House “Houses pre 1850”)

1863 Leeds Mercury March 1863

“Assessor: William Milthorp paper merchant” (This will be William 1819-1890)

1863 Mr. William Milthorp has made his annual gratuitous distribution of coals and beef to the necessitous poor of Pool near Otley. – Leeds Mercury

1900 The full name of the family is known as Nicholson Milthorp Snowdon

NICHOLSON . Michael Nicholson, snr. (1750-1818/13), older son William died 1819 aged 37, wife Elizabeth died 1834 aged 79 (St. Wilfrids burials) would seem to have bought Low mill in 1808 from John Milthorp, farmer and maltster. His younger son, also Michael ( 1783 -1858) ran the mill.

Michael Nicholson’s family were also malsters and farmers and can be traced back to 1750 and lived at Pool Hall c. 1800 (SHP)

1802 Michael Nicholson’s sister, Elizabeth, (1786-31.10.1866) married John Milthorp (1768-1847) They had six children.

1808 York Herald – 30th Jan

“We are sorry to state that in the night of 20th inst. the Paper Mill of Mr. Ebenezer Martin at Pool, near Otley, took fire and flames raged with so much rapidity as entirely to consume the Mill and its contents”

1808 John Milthorp sold Pool Low Mill to his brother in law, Michael Nicholson

The company became known as Nicholson & Co.

1819 Michael Nicholson leased many fields from Hawkesworth Fawkes of Farnley Hall, through John Smith. A Barn, stable and mistle was occupied by William Nicholson, Dunwell and Hartley. The fields were Close Head, Long Close, Low Close, Whitbike, Stock Close, Stark Close, Rape Close, Low and Middle Acre

1841 Michael Nicholson becomes a trustee of the Leeds Otley Turnpike Trust road, owning land at Old Pool Bank.

Map of sale of land property by the executors of Michael Nicholson, 1903

1903 From the sale of Michael Nicholson’s property (above) by his trustees, Michael Nicholson Milthorp Snowdon, it would appear he also owned Pool Water Works, Chapel Row, St.Wilfird’s Terrace, The White House (Pool Farm) on Old Pool Bank, Plainville (Monkmans demolished), and large areas of land in the village including the areas on which Parklands and Redrow estates are built, known at the time as Park Estate.

Michael Nicholson Snr. (1750-1813). Michael Nicholson jnr. (1783-1858) also owned and lived in Ryddings House (demolished by Whiteley’s in 1929 to allow extensions to Pool Low Mill.) Michael Nicholson owned land and property in the village (Tithe map 1849 – I.1.5.) and may also have laid down the water supply to the village (see Pool Waterworks Co.Ltd. & Sale of property in 1903 –I.3.l)) His executor, Michael Nicholson Milthorp Snowdon, great nephew, let the mill to Whiteleys in 1886.. Many archives placed in West Yorks. Archive Service Sheepscar 28.10.1993 by David Whiteley. (The Will of Michael Nicholson is in Otley Museum.)

Milthorp decendentsSnowdons c
Mr. Snowdon and wife, Emma (nee Foster) outside Plainville/Park House, c. 1912

Michael Nicholson Milthorp Snowdon (1846-1918 ) (Great nephew of Michael Nicholson and grandson of Elizabeth Milthorp) In 1903 was a Bank Manager of Great Grimsby, and was the grandson of Elizabeth and John Milthorp and lived in Plainville from 1912. (After the death of Elizabeth it had been let to various tenants.) The mill owning family lived at Plainville (demolished 2002 by the restaurant owner Monkman) until c. 1950, i.e. over 150 years.

Katey Snowdon was Pool Guide Captain for many years and died in 1983 aged 100. Her brother Basil Snowden was responsible for hand-carving the choir stalls of St Wilfrid’s church whilst Harold Snowden took the Sunday Reading.

Plainvillecolour front
2000 Monkman’s Bistro (Plainville)

The fine Georgian family home of the Milthorp family, dating from the early 1800’s, known as Plainville, Park House, Pool Court & Monkmans, was demolished in 2002, for the building of The Hollies housing estate. As this had been the home of the mill owning Milthrop family since its building, the demolition was against the wishes of many villagers, Parish and Local Councilors and Leeds Civic Trust. In an attempt to preserve this historic house, several applications for the building to be listed were made to English Heritage but was refused by them. (See Houses pre 1850) It would appear by the photo below and by past documents to have been built on the foundations of an earlier house owned by the family.

MAUDE FAMILY This family can be traced back to William Mawde of Burley-in-Wharfedale in 1550. (Family tree in Documents) Later members of the family lived in Otley and Leathley. Jeffreys map of 1776 shows “Maude Esq.” living at Leathley Hall. Records show that Low mill was owned by Frances Maude, later Edmund Maude together with William Milthorp. In 1776 Mary Milthorp daughter of John Milthorp of Poole (1725-1778) married Edmund Maude (1749-1829) of Leathley Hall, Leathley whose son William Milthorp Maude became a Leeds JP.

It has been said that Edmund Maude gave John Milthorp the ancient Pool Farm which he demolished, retaining the cellars and building Plainville/Park House in its place. The other theory is that when John Milthorp’s father William died in 1801 he not only inherited Low mill but also the farm which he demolished and built Plainville

Photo showing the old foundations under Plainville, 2000

Low Mill B. S. & W. WHITELEY LTD


Founding members & Staff 1895

L to R Samuel Whiteley, Edward Irvin (nephew of the Whiteleys), George Sykes (late of Wm Whiteleys, Barkisland – beaterman), Abe Howson (Cartman), Wm L Whiteley, Wilfred Whiteley (Son of Samuel), Benjamin Whiteley
Whiteley’s mill 1920

All the accounts and photos here have been taken directly from members of the Whiteley family unless otherwise stated.


Ben, Sam and William Whiteley came to Pool from Skyreholme with a good knowledge of paper making in 1886. They rented the Low Mill from Michael Nicholson Milthorp Snowdon, executor for Michael Nicholson for £100 per year including the Mill House (Riddings House).

In the 1880’s most of the workforce both for the mill and the quarry was provided from Pool. “At that time neither were doing very well.” (Timble Man” by Ronald Harker). By the 1920’s however whilst the quarry was almost closed down, the mill was beginning to be extremely prosperous and was attracting workmen from the depressed north east of England. The Foster family walked on foot from Durham where they found work here at the mill. Many of the womenfolk who worked at the large houses in the village had a Tyneside accent which could be heard around the village.

“Mr. Snowdon was not one of those gentlemen who are out for their pound of flesh, he was willing to help his new tenants as much as possible. The mills had previously manufactured sugar bag paper and wrappings: much of the machinery installed being of no use to the new tenants who were Press Board makers. The landlord offered to dispose of all the machinery not required and loan to his tenants the money he obtained for it. Who can say how much treatment such as this, has had on the prosperity of the village”

Homes Whiteley

(Recollections of My Native Village- Holmes Whiteley born 1889 written c.1950.). In 1912 Mr. Snowdon came to live in his family home, Plainville/Park House, demolished in 2002. 1886 An agreement is reached with of rent £100 per annum for Ryddings House, (the mill house) and the Mill.

An early business card

1886 Oct 19th First order received for 500 press papers 32 x 36 at 4d. per lb., making a total sale of £19.7.4d.

1888 Ben, Sam and William receive £1.4.0d. weekly wage an increase from £1.00 each in 1886.

“The motive power of the mills was two undershot water wheels and a steam engine, altogether about 60 h.p. The partners worked like any of the other men only more so, they used to take it in turns to work the machinery driven by the water wheels at night. One would stay on until ten o’clock, another come on until two and the third continue until breakfast. This was to get as much out of the river as possible in the way of power.” Holmes Whiteley b.1888

1893 £500 paid for new board machine and have difficulty paying rent.

1896 On Aug 4th 1896 the rent paid to Michael Snowdon was £50.10.0d. for the paper mill with rent for “outlay for machinery” £6.l.9d. It is not clear if this was for the year or half year.

1898 William Whiteley surrenders the key to Mr. R. S. Palliser, for High Mills mill house, it no longer being required.Note:Telephone of “ B. S. & W. Whiteley, Pool Paper Mills” is “Telephone No.2”

Letter received from Michael Snowdon offering the keys of the mill to the Whiteley brothers

1902 Aug. Senior partner and brother, Benjamin dies at age 52.

1903 The property is offered for sale by Michael Nicholson’s executor, Michael Milthorp Nicholson Snowdon and purchased by the Leeds Council for £2,000, mainly for the water rights. It had been offered to Whiteleys who could not raise sufficient funds. The rent was still set at £100 per annum.

1906 May 1st. Partnership dissolved, William taking over Samuel’s share as it was decided they could not support two families, thus the whole was now rented by William.

c. 1919 Lorry loaded with jute bags from Lancashire. Jute was used in manufacture of paper until 1920.

1911 Electric light installed for mill and mill house cost £66.

We had electric light installed and then it was made by one of the waterwheels which was not too steady, with the result that the light varied from a glow to a great brilliance in very little time. There were days of variation not only in the light but ones whole day was made up of things happening which were not expected and all of us accommodated ourselves to the job …The story of the Paper Mill is one of it’s own, so I will say no more about it other than to praise all and sundry of it’s old hands who, through thick and thin toiled together to build what has become the largest business of its kind in the whole world”

Holmes Whiteley
William Ellison, works engineer, with the J.leg crane which he designed and built

1915 William Ellison commences employment as Works Engineer earning £2.0s.0d. per week. His first job was to trap all the steam from pumps and other sources and return it as condensate to the boiler for good economy.

1915 Now employing 19 men.

1916 New engine house built

1914 -18 war. Producing “glazeboards” for the ammunition factories

1918 Hopkins, McGregor & Co. London act as agents for sale of rolled and glazed pressing boards. Main customers Metropolitan Vickers Ltd. Manchester when Mr. A. P. M. Fleming agreed to assist in developing pressboards for electrical purposes.

Bridge to island 1919
Bridge to island 1919

1918 3rd Sept. Whiteley’s eventually buy Low mill and adjoining land, for £3,000 from the Leeds Corporation Waterworks Committee and resold to the new limited company on 12th May 1920

1921 Dr. A.P.M. Fleming appointed an additional director. Later to become Sir Arthur Fleming CBE,D Eng, MIEE

1920 William Ellison operating the new sluice gates, again designed and built by him. 
High Mill RosaryAerialview c
1929 High Mills and the Rosary.

1920 High Mills, the Rosary and two islands purchased from F. G. Fawkes of Farnley Hall, Farnley for £2,250

Whiteley Letterhead

1920 Registered a Private Company.

1920-21 a new method of double width pressing for the press papers was set up which was the turning point for the Company. Extra men were employed and additional machinery installed.

“A new type of insulating material used in building transformers for the electrical industry, called “Elephantide” was developed at Pool Paper mills in conjunction with Metropolitan Vicars Co. which enabled designers to improve and at the same time cheapen their insulation. This development was the turning point in their prosperity.”

Book “Elephantide” issued by Whiteley’s

Elephantide gained its trade name when Mr. Monkhouse, an employee from Metropolitan Vicars, took a sample home and explained to his wife he was looking for a name. She declared “it looks like elephant hide”. So Elephantide became the registered trade mark.

Elephantide registered trademark
The old water wheel.

c. 1920 A water wheel was removed to make way for turbines. It has now been renovated and is in working order, standing at the entrance of the Power Section of Manchester Industrial Museum. (2005)

1920 Weir drained in readiness for new turbines
1921 Turbines
Turbine House mid 1920’s

1921 Begin building water turbines to replace the larger of the two old waterwheels.

1923 Due to increase of business new “1924 Mill” or “roadside mill” building begins. Production starts in 1924 (In the first year total made was 375 tons, using 1360 tons of coal. Seven Bertram beaters came from a former gun-cotton factory in Scotland and cost £40 each plus carriage to Pool Station and dismantling- D.Whiteley Memoirs in Archive)

1924 Commission received for the world’s first production line exclusively for the manufacture of calendered electrical insulation.

1925 April. W.L. Whiteley elected as Pool member of Wharfedale Rural District council.

1926 W.L. Whiteley records that on 6.6.1926 100 motor vehicles passed in 15 minutes and between 2.30 & 8.30 was 120.

Demolition of Ryddings House, Otley Road.

1929 Rhyddings House, the mill house is demolished in order make way for a new rag processing building which later became part of the Reel Mill.

Aerial view of factory complex 1929

1930 New drying machine built in middle shed.

1931 Taken to court at Leeds Assizes for “public nuisance caused by the noise created by machinery at Whiteley’s Mill” signed by 32 residents. (The Inspector checked for vibration by standing a penny on end on a bench. He said he could only just detect a machine in the area!) However, rubber pads had to be inserted before work could continue with windows open at regulation times.

1931 Orders shrinking due to Great Depression. Enquiry from Soviet Union results in big order.


1932 Paper loaded bound for Soviet Union at Pool-in-Wharfedale station

1931 Firm joins British Paper and Board Makers Association.

Reel mill in course of construction

1931 New reel mill built which fed rags into beaters.

1934 W. L. Whiteley donates an organ to the Methodist Chapel and builds the Jane Whiteley Memorial Homes in memory of his wife Jane who died on 10.9.1932.

1934 William L and two sons, William and Holmes, build 16 houses on Manor Crescent and set up private company to manage them.

1934 March. Holmes Whiteley, when Pool Parish Councillor, stated that virtually no-one was unemployed.(Extract from the Wharfedale Observer)

1935 Reel machine temporarily adapted to make single sheets instead of rolls to accommodate increase in sales after the depth of the depression years. Done by replacing first major press roll by a slotted making roll.

Arrival of new beater

1936 By now exporting to North America, Australia, Argentina, Western Europe and the U.S.S.R

1936 May 11th Demand increases a further 100” wide board machine (No.5) bought from Bertrams Ltd of Edinburgh, installed alongside reel machine. Beater house extended.

Whiteley brochure 1979 P

1936 4th July. Golden Jubilee celebrations, with a “Yorkshire tea”, held in newly completed first floor of Paste Mill.

Paste Mill

1936 11th Feb. First trial run of Pasting machine (used to paste laminate two or more reels together to produce thicker reel material – hence name Paste Mill) supplied by Masson & Scotts of London

Torracks Hill

1936 The Company purchases Torracks Hill from Sir Frank Watson to form offices and a board room. After considerable alteration use was begun on 5th July 1937.

1937 W..L.Whiteley was sworn in as Justice of the Peace. Holmes Whitely appointed Section Commander of a new unit of special constables, covering Pool, Bramhope and Leathley and district.

1937 Dec. 24th. Death of W. L. Whiteley, JP, age 74. Memorial service held in Pool chapel on 2nd Jan 1938.

1938 Upper floor of original mill offices converted into laboratory and become recognised as an approved supplier by the Air Ministry inspection department.

1938 29th April. New cricket ground opened on field, known as Sym Ings. W.L.Whiteley before his death, together with his sons, agreed to purchased the land so the company could provide the Pool cricket club with a new home. (David Whiteley Memoirs) Laid by Conways of Halifax cost £305, fencing by S. Kaye & Son for £139.13.11d. First match was a local derby against Arthington played on 5th May won by Arthington!

1940 Holmes Whiteley, elder son of W.L.Whiteley resigns from works manager and becomes advisor to the company.

War Time 1939-1945 Three reinforced concrete air raid shelters constructed to west of Torracks Hill drive. Police install air raid warning siren on top of watch tower, telephone to be continuously manned for air raid warnings received. Gun turret placed on top of Paste House. Pigeon loft above top drying loft has to be destroyed, due to possible transfer of messages by the pigeons. Blackout materials made. Paste house used as a decontamination unit, fitted with showers, etc. in case poison gas were be used by the Germans. A.R.P. Pool Mills fire brigade begun.

1940 First serious fire in the company’s history only spread to the adjoining laminating department.

1946 Whiteley’s become a public company.

1946 March 29th Holmes Whiteley elected onto Pool Parish Council. There until 1955.

1946 Whiteley’s buy the Clifton Estate

1946 30th Sept. Whiteley’s purchase 7,598 acres of land and property in Pool from Leigh Feather. Cartref, The Lodge, Braime Cottage, garages and greenhouses.

1948 New sports area laid out in front of Cartref to include a bowling green, tennis court and cricket field.

1949 Press paper machine, the largest in Europe

1949 Feb Plans made for a new mill to accommodate Elephantide boards of larger sizes

1950 Excavations for a tunnel connecting both sides of the road made large enough to carry pipework, cables and traffic, with a lift at each end.

c. 1950 Paper supplied to G & G Art Dolls, Liverpool for moulding into all kinds of dolls heads for other firms to add bodies and clothes.


1950 Demolition of boiler house.

1953 “1953 mill” being assembled to make boards 120” x 160”. The pulp preparation plant ready before the main making machine, etc. A heavy demand so a smaller machine making 48” x 48” put under the beater house to make use of the pulp which became ready in 1952 so acquired the title “Coronation” machine which was really machine no.8 (David Whiteley e-mail)

1951-54 William Whiteley President of the British Paper and Boardmakers Association

1953 New rag washing machine started up in oldest part of the mill.

1955 New concrete weir constructed.

1955 As reported in the Wharfedale Observer fire at Pool Paper Mills on Saturday morning destroyed the drawing office and woollen felt store on an upper floor causing damage as debris fell through a nearby lift hoist causing damage to paper in the stockroom below.

1958 Trade agent sent to Mysore, India, to discuss possibility of starting factory.

1960 Outline plans drawn up in Mysore, India, with Whiteley’s having a shareholding, limited to under 25% of the whole.

1961 16 Sept. 75th Anniversary celebrations held in a large marquee, with presentations to employees with over 25 years service.

It was reported for the 12 months ended 31 March the wage bill amounted to £292,000.00 and sales figure for same period exceeded £l,250,000.00. “Since 1936 they had paid out £2,850,000.00 in wages, produced £13,480,000.00 of sales and handed to the Government direct taxation close on £2 million.”  At the same time capital expenditure on land, building  and plant of more than £1,600,00.00 and set up its own haulage fleet.

“1964 Mill” and lorries.

1964 Mill built to accommodate a new self contained plant to manufacture Precompressed electrical insulation board in larger sheet size (4,060mm x 4,060mm). Still the widest sheet of size and quality available from any manufacturer.

Union letter 1966
Mill Complex c. 1972

1973 February. To ease the cash position, a sale by auction took place in Pool Village Memorial Hall of residential and agricultural investment properties which had been acquired by the company over the years, including the Caley Hall estate and many smaller houses in the village.

1976 Another large consignment of paper sent to Russia by train to Whitby where a ship was hired to transport to Riga, then by train onto its destination.

1977 Now an international company exporting the major part of their production to over 75 countries throughout the world.

1977 3rd Aug. Final formal meeting of Butterfield and Renton Ltd so closing the chapter of the company founded in 1886. Final payment to shareholders £2.12p per share

From Whiteley brochure of 1979

1981 2nd April the receivers sold the company and its properties to H. Weidmann for c. £1.2million

2008 Trade under the name Weidmann Whiteley Ltd.

The brick built mill to the west (now Marton Mill, 2009) was originally part of Whiteleys mill, and built by them in 1936, called the Paste Mill, so called because on the ground floor two rolls of paper were pasted together and so became twice as thick. When it was their 50th anniversary in 1936 a celebration tea was held in the upstairs floor.

Part of the old mill adjacent to the river to the east, was sold to Post Vintage Engineers Ltd. (restorers of vintage cars) by Weidmann Whiteley Ltd. c.2005 who then converted it to be used by several businesses. Wharfbank Brewery moved there, for a short time, in 2010.


Before & after.
2009/10 “Two old water turbines lay disused for decades but were refurbished by Derwent Hydro. Both have been equipped with new gearboxes, generators and control system and each supplies around 70kW (peak) to the adjacent factory. (Weidmann Whiteley). The fish screen for the turbines is kept clean with a bespoke cleaner designed and built in-house”.

“It is reasonable to assume that had not my father and his brothers met with a good landlord they would never have weathered the storm.  All they possessed when they came to Pool was three good names, a masterful knowledge of the art of board manufacture and £200.  It was a struggle to keep the ship afloat for many years.  Soon after starting business the method of manufacture changed from hand making to machine making, this entailed further expense to the firm and had not every effort been made by those concerned to live as cheaply as possible, denying themselves of every thing that could be done without, there might not have been the Pool there is to-day.

Holmes Whiteley, son of co founder William Lumb Whiteley

Memories of the Whiteley paper mill c.1980 by John Whitley son of Holmes & grandson of William L. Whiteley as given in 2009

A Was an old blacksmith shop with bellows, furnace, anvil, etc.

Top bevel gearing to Horiz. Drive shaft

B The Turbine House replaced the main water meter in c. 1920. The turbine would generate up to 200 h.p.

Mill complex also showing Torracks Hill offices 1948

C The old Boiler House was demolished when the new boilers were installed over the road around 1948.

D Steam and other services were under the road in a tunnel which could also take various inter-mill traffic via lifts at each end.

E  This office was built when the Old Mill House was demolished to make room for other buildings on the northwest side of the mill.  It was the only office until Torracks Hill was bought c. 1935. (from Sir Frank Watson)  After that it continued in use as a “mill office” with a laboratory on the first floor until a new lab. was built and new works office added to the side of the 1953 mill.

The building was put up around 1930 to house our first continuous Past Machine (No.4)  The south side of this mill was used for storage – slitting – calendaring-packing, etc. until just after the war when No.5 machine (intermission) was added and the reel material finishing processes were moved

G  The Paste Mill and so called because it housed a machine for pasting together two or three rolls of paper to make greater thickness.  This building was finished in 1936 and was used –first floor, for a 50th anniversary.  Afterwards the first floor was used for specialist slitting and finishing operations and final packing and despatch.  The roof was used for storing bales of wood pulp until we put another finishing and stock room up there with further test laboratories and my office (John Whiteley)

The first building over the road (south of Otley road) in what was Torracks Hill land, was the corrugated iron shed.  This was for rag chopping and storage.  It was built whilst war time buildings restrictions were in place and we were not allowed materials for a decent brick building – hence the corrugated iron.

The 1953 mill was originally built to house No. 9 Machine which was a modern Intermittent Machine with a production line of hydraulic press and dryer and calendar.  Planning and obtaining this plant was a very slow progress, with machinery manufacturers still struggling to cope with post war demand.  So a little machine No.8 was built by another jobbing engineer to our drawings to help get some extra production.

At this time the electrical industry, our main customer, was expanding very fast and we couldn’t keep up with demand. When No.9 Machine started the north side of this room was used for storage, finishing and packing of its product.  But we needed to install a new Continuous Machine No. 10 along side it, so a new extension was built next to the original 1953 block and

K  The further small machines were added at the east end ground floor Nos. 11 and 12 along with an extended beater and stock preparation room at the first floor level.

Hydraulic press

Mill complex as shown on map of 1964

“To the west of the mill on the north side of the road were built 3 houses for the directors.
Nearest the mill was “Elm Nook” – William Whiteley, then “Highfield”  William Lumb Whiteley then Ryddings House – Holmes Wihteley (where I John Whiteley was born).. Beyond that was a house called the Rosary occupied by the Giles family, then the High Mills cottages.
 My plan (above) has been foreshortened not to include these properties, but to show the layout of the river the old fulling mill was at High Mills and a dam went across the river here to supply water for this. The big dam stones are further west and sluice gates controlled the water to the paper mill.
I have always understood that the original line of the river was as I have marked with wavy line.  I think this was born out by the fact that the “Big Island” was in Leathley Parish and I think we used to pay rates to Leathley for the old Dry Loft and Blacksmiths shop which were on the Leathley side of the river.
I haven’t drawn the more recent big extension “1964” mill which housed the new No. 1 Machine.
When this machine and associated plant started (actually in 1965,) it was producing the widest interment (pre-compressed) board in the world – a sheet 4 metres by 4 metres up to 6 mm thick.” 

John Whiteley.

2009 John Whiteley comments on the reason for track running along the roof of the “middle” mill demolished during alterations to the old paper mill area which is now Post Vintage Engineers (2017) “To make use of the amount of heat generated from the machinery on the shop floor, a pulley operated rail was constructed in the roof to allow board, which had previously been pressed, to be suspended in individual sheets which then in tern were slowly rotated round the roof to dry.

Known men receiving Awards working at the mill were:

William Lumb WHITELEY J.P.

Holmes Whiteley. Award for “services to the Country in the capacity of Special Constables” dated “Downing Street, May, 1926 “ during the General Strike.

Holmes Whiteley Coronation Medal on 2nd June, 1953 as “an inspector of the special constabulary of the Otley division in the W.R. of Yorkshire”.

Harold Ellison, B.E.M. for keeping Whiteley’s Paper Mill going during W.W.2., 1939-1945.

Seth LONGBOTTOM. B.E.M.  1960’s for working at Whiteley’s (First Aid)

Frank RACKHAM, B.E.M. The Bungalow, Old Pool Bank.

William Whiteley O.B.E. New Year Honors List of 1965

Chas. Wm. WHITELEY. O.B.E 1978. Had been president of Leeds Chamber of Commerce and a long serving member of BEAMA (British Electrical and Allied electrical Manufacturers Association.) Son of above William Whiteley O.B.E.

Many documents etc. for Whiteleys are now kept at WYAS Leeds reference WYL 1065 which were presented by David Whiteley before his death in 2004

2009 making tartan in Marton Mill

“Weaving fabric solution since 1931”, Otley Road. Makers of tartan, academic and ecclesiastical wear. The company was established in Skipton in 1931 and after several reorganisations and ending of lease at Tong Park came to Pool in 1996 after purchasing what had been part of Whiteley’s Mill. “Pool Mill, which with its extensive car parks, covers 1.3 acres, was to be sold and we were able to buy the freehold prior to it being put onto the market. Currently, (2007) on the ground floor of No. 9 building, we weave some 18,000 metres of cloth each week; the finished cloth warehouse, burling and mending and offices are on the first floor and on the top floor yarns are stored.”

Amongst their many claims to fame have been the manufacture of three quarters of a mile of tartan cloth for the comedian Jimmy Connoly, to decorate his home for his 60th birthday in 2002. Ron, Harry, Hermoine and their Hogwarts school friends from the Harry Potter film the Philosopher’s Stone, were all decked out in uniforms made in Pool.

The 3 storey brick built mill was originally part of Whiteleys mill, and built in 1936 by them called the Paste Mill, so called because on the ground floor two rolls of paper were pasted together and so became twice as thick. To commemorate their 50th anniversary on 4th July 1936, a celebration tea “A Yorkshire Tea” was held by Whiteleys, on the upstairs floor.

2017 – The area at the back of this mill has now become a wildlife heaven.

POST VINTAGE ENGINEERS LTD Pool Business Park, Pool Road, (Otley Road), sales and restoration of Aston Martins. Established in 1979. This building was once part of Whiteley’s paper mill. The present owner did major updating and sub-let part of the old mill.

Originally built in 1949 to accommodate “Elephantide” boards. The press paper machine was the largest in Europe.


“1953 Mill” in 2000, and earlier, when owned by Whiteleys the chimney had a ladder running inside to allow cleaning to take place when the mill closed for the annual holidays)

Weidmann’s purchased the company from B.S.& W. Whiteley Ltd and sold off all the factory buildings on the north of the Otley Road retaining the two islands. Part was sold to Marton Mills, the remainder to Post Vintage Engineers

Weidmann Whiteley Ltd is situated 200 miles north of London in the Yorkshire village of Pool-in-Wharfedale, near Leeds.  The present mill was founded in 1886 and originally produced pressboards for the local textile/woollen industry. In 1981, the Company became a member of Weidmann International Corporation (Wicor Holdings AG).  During the 1980s, and as a direct result of the considerable investment by the Swiss parent company, Weidmann Whiteley Ltd. saw a period of intense technological development. This has led to extensive product diversification into a varied range of specialized paper and board products with applications in a wide range of industries.  Weidmann Whiteley Ltd. is a bespoke paper mill with a long history of working with customers to provide specific tailor made paper solutions.”

2008 Producing electrical insulation and speciality board.

“Pool Riverside Park” – Early Days

A quote from the Conservation Appraisal granted in 2009 of which the recreation ground is a part,

“The Whiteley family was key to 20th century Pool due to influence in public building and being an important employer.”

In 1922, during the time the village War Memorial was being built, a sub-committee recognized a need for a recreation field for all sections of sport and have “sufficient open space for recreation for children and adults not directly interested in sport”. This scheme was abandoned as being financially impractical. It was suggested that should a field be found for this purpose it might be called “Victory Field”.

We must attribute the wonderful amenity we now have to the generosity of the Whiteley family.

Three brothers, Ben, Sam and William rented the paper mill to the right of Otley Road in 1886, eventually known as B.S.&.W. Whiteley Ltd. c1912. In 1918, when finances permitted, the by now only remaining brother with the company, William Lumb Whiteley purchased the paper mill from the local family of Milthorp-Nicholson-Snowdon. Over the100 years that Whiteley’s paper mill was in operation it provided employment for much of the village. Said in 1934, “Pool was not hit by the General Depression; in fact there was scarcely an unemployed man in Pool”.

B.S.&.W. Whiteley Ltd. c1912

As mentioned above there had been suggestions of a playing field before 1934. It was at this point that it was written “Pool is the worst off of any in Yorkshire for a space for children to play”. An application for funds to purchase such a site was refused by the County Council in Wakefield, unless contributions from the village were made. At this Holmes Whiteley, son of William L. Whiteley gave £50 to begin a fund, when it was hoped it would be increased four or five times by the people of Pool. This was one of the many gifts and loans made by the Whiteleys to the whole of the village and both churches.

In 1937 it became known that 10 acres of land named Sym Ings off Arthington Lane, was to be sold by the Milthorp-Nicholson-Snowdons, a local farming and Pool mill owning family. A letter to Whiteleys from their solicitor suggests they do not show too much enthusiasm for the land as the seller may then raise the price!

After the land was purchased by the company in 1937 things were to move fast. After moving the cricket ground from behind the White Hart, by April 1938 the first cricket match was held on the newly acquired land. The Whiteley family have always encouraged, supported, and played cricket in the village, one member reaching the dizzy heights of playing for Yorkshire.

First cricket match was held on the newly acquired land

In 1946 permission was granted by Whiteleys for the playing of association football, providing neither players nor spectators strayed onto the cricket field!

Two Tarmac tennis courts were later laid to replace a grass court which had been behind St. Wilfrid’s Terrace. Fishing in the River Wharfe at this point, was soon granted.

During WW2 twenty five allotments were sited where the floodlit football pitch is now sited.

Pool-in-Wharfedale Memorial Hall

In June of 1937 the Whiteley family assembled 80 residents with plans for the building of a village hall on part of the land. It was anticipated the cost would be £3,000. However plans were shelved due to the outbreak of WW2. When finally resumed in 1948 costs had risen. At this point Holmes Whiteley and his younger brother William each donated £1,000. (drawing by architect of planned Hall left)

The whole village worked very hard to reach £13,000, the amount anticipated to be sufficient, holding whist drives, dances, balloon races, garden parties, stage presentations, raffles, sales of work, coffee mornings, and even “Men only” smoking evenings! B.S.&W. Whiteley Ltd agreed to give an interest free loan of £3,000 subject to the village raising a similar amount.

The first sods were cut by William and Holmes Whiteley on 27th April 1957. Two foundation stones were soon laid, “To those who served 1939-1945” with William and Holmes laying the foundation stone for their father “William L. Whiteley, J.P.”

Holmes Whiteley

The following is an extract from a souvenir programme produced at the official opening by Marion, Countess of Harewood on 2nd August 1958: “July 1958 Completion in sight. Interest free loan of £3,000 received. Hall and Grounds a constant scene of activity as helpers of all ages strive to complete remaining work before Opening Day. Funds (excluding loan) £11,400.

It is estimated that the total cost, including building, professional fees, fixtures, fittings and equipment will be in the region of £15,500. On completion however, it can be claimed that Pool-in-Wharfedale has one of the finest and most up-to-date halls in the Country.”

Countess of Harewood putting the first signature in the Hall’s visitors’ book

Birth of the R.G.M.C.

In 1946 the land was conveyed from B.S & W. Whiteley Ltd. to Holmes & William Whiteley (sons of William L Whiteley) and Sir Arthur Fleming, to be held in trust “with a view to it being ultimately used for the recreational benefit of the inhabitants of Pool-in-Wharfedale”. This was later extended to the surrounding district.

In 1972 the Trustees are still in the Whiteley family names but at this stage the Trust was handed to a Recreation Ground Management Committee – R.G.M.C., a committee at that time, made up of two members from PPC, one each member of the Village Hall, Sports & Social Club, Pool school and a Trustee from the Whiteley family. Their first meeting was held in March 1973. In 1976 the Whiteley family then enabled the R.G.M.C. to purchase the land along the riverside between the old corn mill and Pool bridge thus the area of land became as it is today.

As originally intended, in 1996 the Recreational Ground Trust, was officially “vested in the Official Custodian for Charities and all the estate and interest therein belong to or held in trust for charity”, Charity number 512427. There are no longer any “holding trustees”, the R.G.M.C. are the “managing trustees”.

Corn Mill

The mill had been producing flour until around 1912. In 1925 the old medieval Corn Mill was purchased by William L. Whiteley. Some 10 years later, being in a poor state of repair it was demolished.

c 1925

In 1995 a survey of the old mill was carried out by the West Yorkshire Archaeological Society in which the report states,

“The site of Pool Mill has been occupied by a water-powered mill from at least the middle of the 18th century. It is possible that the water mill which appears on the Jefferys map of this period (1767) has its origins in the Medieval corn mill of Pool, for which documentary evidence exists, although the exact location is unknown. This possibility would seem to be supported by a superficial examination of the upstanding masonry on the site. The remains of Pool Mill are, therefore, not only of archaeological interest for the Industrial Period but also of potential archaeological interest for the Medieval and Post-Medieval periods.”

The old mill pond, or gathering pond, is now much reduced in size from the original pond and provides an attractive wetland area, with various types of wildlife.

Old mill pond, or gathering pond

A mill stone survives from the corn mill which is on loan by the R.G.M.C to Pool School. It is now placed at their entrance

In 1972 the cricket field was again relocated and part of the recreation field was sold to the West Riding County Council for the building of a new school. On 16 July 1975 the formal opening was made by Chairman of the Pool Parish Council, David Whiteley, grandson of W. L. Whiteley.

How happy would the founding members of the Whiteley family be to see their generosity, together with the dedication of the village, being enjoyed by all members of the community.

(Researched by Pat Lazenby, Pool Archives, for the naming of “Pool Riverside Park” on 14th June 2015)