A History of the County of York: the City of York. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1961.
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Within the immediate vicinity of York was a number of mills of various kinds, some of which undoubtedly served the city in the Middle Ages as did others in later times. Some indication of their variety is given in an order of 1495 which fixed prices of flour and malt: it was to apply to all millers having 'any mill, windmill, watermill or horsemill within this city, suburbs and precincts of the same, as well the Castle Mills as other'. (fn. 1)
Apart from Castle Mills, there were only two water-mills. Hob Moor, or Folly, Water-mill stood on Holgate Beck adjoining the moor. Together with an adjacent close of 2 acres, it is mentioned in 1563 as corporation property; (fn. 2) it was destroyed by fire in 1600, rebuilt by 1601, and let out by the corporation in 1602 for 26s. 8d. a year. (fn. 3) In 1605 the rent, then 20s. a year, was excused because the mill was at times used to house plague victims and, when it was not, because the plague lodges (fn. 4) on Hob Moor discouraged people from taking corn to the mill. (fn. 5) The mill had probably been destroyed by the early 18th century: in 1723 Hob Mill Close was let, 'the house being down'. (fn. 6)
The second water-mill was that on the Foss belonging to St. Mary's Abbey. It is mentioned in descriptions of the city boundaries from the late 14th to the early 18th centuries; (fn. 7) in 1746 the mill gate was said to stand 340 yards along the road from Monk Bridge (now Huntington Road). (fn. 8) Having been surrendered at the Dissolution, the mill was leased by the corporation from the Crown for £6 6s. 8d. a year between 1594 and 1599. William Peacock paid an identical rent for a sub-lease from the corporation during those years. (fn. 9) The city attempted to secure a new Crown lease, but in 1600 the mill was leased to Henry Pulleyn. Pulleyn agreed to sell his title to the corporation, however, and Peacock was sent to London to secure a lease for the city; in fact, Peacock got the lease for himself. Although much displeased, the corporation agreed in 1601 to allow Peacock to retain the lease provided that an annual payment was made to recompense them for their loss. Peacock's lease excluded 'the flood mill' at the mill. (fn. 10) In bequeathing his lease of the mill in 1624, Peacock described it as 'Abbey Mills alias Foss Mills'. (fn. 11) This suggests that the 'Foss Mills' which William Trigge sold to Sir Arthur Ingram for £20 in 1629 (fn. 12) were, in fact, the mills lately of St. Mary's Abbey. This may also be the identification of the 'Minster Mills' which Ingram bought in 1637. (fn. 13) Nothing is known of the mill after 1746 and it seems likely that it was removed when the Foss was made navigable.
Clifton, or Lady, Windmill in Burton Stone Lane is mentioned in descriptions of the city boundaries from the late 14th to the early 19th centuries: in 1374 and 1413 it was described as formerly belonging to John de Roucliff, in 1442 and 1444 to the heirs of Sir William Ingleby, and in 1721 and 1733 then or formerly to Sir William Robinson. (fn. 14) The mill is shown on Lund's map of 1772; (fn. 15) a newly erected brick windmill there was offered for sale in 1817; (fn. 16) and it was still standing in 1852. (fn. 17) No trace of the buildings now remains.
A windmill known at different times as White Cross, (fn. 18) Bootham Stray, and Pepper Mill is shown on Lund's map of 1772; (fn. 19) it was still standing in 1852 on a site between the present White Cross Road and the City Hospital. (fn. 20) As Pepper Mill it was in existence by 1575. (fn. 21) No trace now remains.
In 1734 there were three mill hills on Heworth Moor. (fn. 22) At least one of the mills on the moor was owned and let out by the corporation in the 16th century. (fn. 23) A mill is shown on Lund's map of 1772, (fn. 24) and one certainly existed in the 19th century: a post windmill there was offered for sale in 1790, (fn. 25) as were a corn mill in 1814 (fn. 26) and the materials of a mill 'lately standing' in 1840. (fn. 27) A windmill was still standing at the junction of Glen Road and Harcourt Street in 1852. (fn. 28) No trace of the mills now remains.
Holgate Mill, perhaps a successor of the mill owned by the archbishop in 1366 (fn. 29) and of that standing near the village of Holgate in 1433, (fn. 30) still stood in 1958 on the north side of the York-Acomb road. It remained in use until 1933, having been worked by its sails until 1930. (fn. 31) The mill was restored, though not in working order, by the corporation in 1955 and 1956. (fn. 32)
Several windmills have stood on The Mount, outside Micklegate Bar. At least one was in existence by the 13th century (fn. 33) and Mount Mills survived in 1852. (fn. 34) At different times, various mills have been described as standing outside Micklegate Bar: for example, the corporation decided in 1620 to rebuild a windmill in York Field; (fn. 35) the Street Windmill was offered for sale in 1753; (fn. 36) a recently erected steam mill, and a smock mill known as Scarcroft Mill, were mentioned in 1840; (fn. 37) a post windmill stood in York Field in 1831; (fn. 38) a smock mill was lately built in 1783; (fn. 39) and a windmill was offered for sale in 1825. (fn. 40) No trace now remains of the mills in The Mount area. (fn. 41)
St. Clement's Priory possessed two windmills near Clementhorpe in the 16th century, (fn. 42) one presumably that which is later described as Nun Mill. In 1546 the hill on which the mill had stood was granted to two Ripon men; (fn. 43) in 1587 the title to Crown leases was in dispute between Edward Helme and the corporation; (fn. 44) this was probably the windmill 'nigh Scarcroft' for which the corporation paid a rent to the Crown in 1593, 1599, and 1600; (fn. 45) and the corporation leases in 1620 (fn. 46) and 1689 (fn. 47) may have been of mills on this site. Nun Mill is shown on Lund's map of 1772 (fn. 48) and was standing in 1852. (fn. 49) The last mill is said to have been removed about 1885 (fn. 50) and the site was in 1958 occupied by the Southlands Wesleyan chapel at the junction of Southlands Road and Bishopthorpe Road.
St. Mary's Abbey possessed three windmills near the city. One stood in Paynlathes Croft on the west side of the road from York to Yearsley Bridge, opposite the abbey's water-mill. (fn. 51) A second, situated between the Ouse and the York-Clifton road, (fn. 52) is mentioned in descriptions of the city boundaries from the late 14th to the early 18th centuries: (fn. 53) from the late 17th century these descriptions refer to a place where the mill formerly stood. The third was on 'Siward Mill Hill' in Heslington (E.R.). (fn. 54) A windmill in Fulford Field, offered for sale in 1767, (fn. 55) may have been that referred to as Lamel Mill in 1836 when it was decayed. (fn. 56)
A windmill belonging to St. Nicholas's Hospital is mentioned in descriptions of the city boundaries from the late 14th to the early 18th centuries; (fn. 57) in the early 18th century these descriptions refer to a windmill hill and not to the mill itself. The mill apparently stood on the north side of the present Hull Road, not far from the junction with Tang Hall Lane; this was the position of Mill Field in 1772 (fn. 58) and the name is preserved in several modern street names.
A mill devised to the vicars choral by Archbishop Romeyn in the 13th century cannot be identified. (fn. 59)
Castle Mills were the most important in the city. A water-mill may have been constructed soon after the damming of the Foss; (fn. 60) certainly mills near the castle were in existence from the early 12th to the mid-19th centuries. The modern mills stood on the west bank of the Foss, close to the site of the dam, but the exact location of their predecessors is not clear. Cooper has suggested that the earliest Castle Mills stood nearer to the Ouse and used a mill pool lying below the dam, but gives no conclusive evidence. (fn. 61) It appears that in the early 13th century the mills did not use the dam, but were worked by water from a ditch, constructed between 1215 and 1216 around the Walmgate area from the Fishpond of the Foss to a point beneath the dam; (fn. 62) in 1226 the owners of the mills complained that earth falling into this ditch deprived them of an adequate supply of water. (fn. 63) This does not, however, imply that the mills were necessarily at any great distance from the dam, or that they were on the east bank of the Foss where Cooper places them.
Indeed, it seems likely that the mills were from the first situated on the west bank, if not on the 19th-century mill site. This is supported by the description of a piece of land granted to the Templars in 1231, (fn. 64) and by the circumstances of two 14thcentury cases of drowning which took place in the mill stream on the west side of Otter Holmes, the island lying in the Foss below the dam. (fn. 65) It is unlikely that the ditch remained for long a permanent source of water for the mills; at some point the mill site was presumably moved to the dam itself. The mills constantly needed repair during the 14th and 15th centuries, (fn. 66) but on several occasions a complete rebuilding was necessary and may also have involved a change of site. In 1316, for example, the mills were 'constructed anew and repaired' after being 'wholly decayed', (fn. 67) and very extensive work was carried out on them in 1348 (fn. 68) and 1360. (fn. 69) The mills certainly appear to have been on the west bank, near St. George's Chapel, (fn. 70) in 1477 (fn. 71) and in the late 16th century. (fn. 72) In 1580 the mill dam and banks were said to be decayed. (fn. 73)
The modern Castle Mills stood close to the bridge (fn. 74) which was built over the Foss at the site of the dam. It is not clear when this site was first used, but there is little to support Cooper's suggestion of a rebuilding of the mills during the first half of the 17th century, (fn. 75) despite Widdrington's statement that 'before the building of the mills . . . which is not many years since, as I have heard, the place where the mills are, was a fair green and the only passage from Fishergate Postern to the Castle'. (fn. 76)
The mills certainly stood on the modern site in 1772. (fn. 77) They were rebuilt in 1778 and were perhaps steam-driven from that time, as they certainly were by 1797. (fn. 78) In 1733 the mills were said to be dry 'above half the year' (fn. 79) and by 1808 were workable by either water or steam; (fn. 80) and in 1824, when equipped for flour-grinding, oat-shelling, and lineand tow-spinning, they were said to be workable by water for a considerable part of the year and by a steam-engine at all times. (fn. 81) The mills were demolished in 1856. (fn. 82)
The mills apparently came into the possession of Niel Daubeney (d. between 1130 and 1135) at an early date: he devised the tithes of the mills to Holy Trinity Priory. (fn. 83) The mills had been given to the Knights Templar by Roger de Mowbray before 1185 when they were let for 15½ marks. (fn. 84) The Templars appear to have had the mills in 1206, (fn. 85) and in 1231 the king gave them timber for their repair. (fn. 86) The preceptor of the Templars' house at Copmanthorpe (W.R.) was stated to be keeper of the mills in 1292. (fn. 87) In 1270 the mills were valued at 12 marks a year, when costs, charges, and tithes had been paid; (fn. 88) in 1308 they were valued at £10 11s. (fn. 89) An inventory of goods in the mills was made by the Crown in 1311 and the Templars' suppression was confirmed by the pope in the following year. (fn. 90)
After a period in Crown hands, the mills were granted to the Hospitallers; Sir John de Mowbray then asserted a claim to the mills which had been granted to the Templars by Roger de Mowbray, and John held them for a year before they again came into the possession of the Crown. (fn. 91) An inquiry held in 1315 revealed that successive keepers of the mills—the Templars, de Mowbray, and the sheriffs —had allowed them to remain in disrepair, (fn. 92) and the first of several 14th-century renovations was carried out in 1316. (fn. 93) In 1323 the mills were leased to a Ripon (W.R.) man and in 1403 to Thomas Welburne, a York baker. (fn. 94) In 1408 they were granted for life to Robert Mauleverer and were then said to be worth £12 a year. (fn. 95) Mauleverer, having upheld his right against a grant to Welburne in 1414, (fn. 96) held the mills until at least 1436, (fn. 97) but they were again in Crown hands by 1450. (fn. 98) The mills had been valued at £12 a year in both 1436 and 1450. In 1452 they were granted to St. Leonard's Hospital in recompense for housebote and haybote formerly enjoyed in the Forest of Galtres. (fn. 99) The hospital upheld its title against a grant to Thomas Eldyrton in 1460, (fn. 100) and received confirmatory grants in 1464 and 1465. (fn. 101)
Recovered by the Crown at the Dissolution, (fn. 102) the mills were in 1570 leased to Francis Guilpyn for £12, (fn. 103) and in 1575 and 1579 Miles Fell was the tenant. (fn. 104) In 1584 the corporation was granted a 60year lease for £12 a year, (fn. 105) and the mills were immediately sub-let to Fell, now called a miller, at the same rent. (fn. 106) In 1589 the city's sub-tenants were Fell and Alderman Andrew Trewe who were allowed a reduction in their rent because the mill banks and dam had recently been broken. (fn. 107) Subsequent repairs may have provided the corporation with an opportunity to increase the rent: although the Crown rent remained unchanged, the city received £20 from Alderman Trewe from 1591 to 1598. (fn. 108) In 1599 the corporation learned that the Crown was proposing to sell the mills, and a gift of £20 was sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with a request that the city's lease might be renewed. Despite many such representations the mills were, in fact, sold to John Mansfield and David Waterhouse of the Inner Temple, and the corporation was obliged to surrender its interest in them in July 1600. (fn. 109)
In 1603 Sir Thomas Hesketh, of Heslington Hall (E.R.), bought the mills from John Milner and David and Stephen Waterhouse for £700. (fn. 110) Hesketh intended to build a hospital in Heslington and to endow it with the £50 rent-charge of Castle Mills; he died without achieving this, but his wishes were fulfilled in 1630. (fn. 111) The mills were held by a member of the Hesketh family in 1632: he was asked to repair the causeway and highway nearby, as this was the liability of the owner and tenants of the mills. (fn. 112) The mills had been destroyed by 1646 when the corporation repaired the mill dam, (fn. 113) but in 1648 two aldermen were deputed to discuss with 'Mr. Hesketh' the making of a contract for rebuilding and leasing the mills. (fn. 114)
Having been rebuilt, the mills had by 1793 been leased to Henry Yarburgh, as successor of the Heskeths. In that year the Foss Navigation Company was empowered to purchase the interest in the mills held by Yarburgh and his sub-lessees. (fn. 115) In 1853 the mills passed to the corporation with its purchase of the Foss Navigation Company's undertaking; (fn. 116) during preliminary discussions the sale was said to be subject to the company's liabilities, and among them was the payment of an annuity to Heslington Hospital. (fn. 117)
In 1855 the corporation agreed that the mills, then in a dilapidated condition, should be demolished, and the mill machinery was sold in August that year. (fn. 118)
THE FISHPOND OF THE FOSS
When William I dammed the River Foss just below the castle in order to secure an adequate supply of water for the castle ditches, he also submerged a large tract of land; this stretch of water not only formed an important link in the city's defences (fn. 119) but became a valuable royal fishery. The Domesday account of the city records that two new mills worth 20s. a year and 'fully a carucate' of arable land, meadows, and gardens were inundated by the king's pool. (fn. 120) In the early 14th century (fn. 121) the pond was said to extend northwards from near Castle Mills: one arm reached to St. Mary's water-mill on the Foss, (fn. 122) another to a wooden cross standing between the lands of St. Nicholas's Hospital and those of the prebend of Fridaythorpe. (fn. 123) On the north and south of the broad and unfordable pool, the Foss was crossed by Layerthorpe and Foss Bridges. (fn. 124) Along the low-lying western bank of the fishpond lay the area known as The Marsh.
The king made many gifts of fish (bream and pike are mentioned) from the pond to courtiers, prelates, and religious houses. (fn. 125) The keepers were responsible for the sale of fish, (fn. 126) the profits helping to cover the expenses of repairs to the pond and Castle Mills. (fn. 127) Boats, other than those belonging to the king, were occasionally allowed on the pond: in 1314 the Carmelite Friars were licensed to build a quay on the pond and to keep a boat there for transporting building materials; (fn. 128) in 1393 the city was allowed to use a boat to carry materials for work on Foss Bridge. (fn. 129)
The pond and fishery were supervised by keepers appointed by the king; (fn. 130) their wages, often stated to have been 6d. a day, (fn. 131) were paid by the sheriff out of the issues of Yorkshire. (fn. 132) The keepers were sometimes York men, (fn. 133) sometimes members of the royal court. (fn. 134) Their activities show that the keepers did not always enjoy the office as a sinecure: indeed, in 1391 a king's esquire was appointed on condition that he should reside in York and execute the office in person. (fn. 135) Other keepers employed deputies, a practice authorized, for example, in the grant of the keepership in 1429. (fn. 136) Keepers did not, however, always fulfil their duties to the king's liking: the pond was frequently allowed to decay, and in 1437 the keeper was alleged to have fixed nets and other 'engines' and caught fish 'to no small amount'. (fn. 137) The sheriffs and keepers were responsible for the upkeep of the pond and were frequently obliged to repair both banks and dam. (fn. 138) Between 1354 and 1355, for example, the sheriff accounted for the use of 124 oaks, for their carriage from the Forest of Galtres, for the wages of carpenters and other workmen, and for nails, tar, and other materials. His total expenses of about £122 were partially offset by about £35 received from the sale of fish. (fn. 139)
The extent of ground claimed by the king was 'as much as the water occupies, so that the water be in the channel within the banks everywhere'; but the keepers also claimed grass growing on the banks: they were entitled to take as much as could be mown with a little scythe, while keeping one foot in the boat, and while the water was at its summer level. (fn. 140) The sheriffs, however, often went further and appropriated land verging on the pond: most notorious were the activities of Sheriff Crepping (1250-3) who took meadowland belonging to St. Nicholas's Hospital and the prebend of Fridaythorpe, (fn. 141) both of whose rights were later upheld. (fn. 142)
In the early 16th century, keepers were not always appointed and the custody and fishing of the pond were farmed. In 1503 they were granted to the archbishop and John Cutte, 'king's servant', for 21 years at 5 marks a year. (fn. 143) A keeper was again appointed in 1509, (fn. 144) but in 1513 the custody and fishing were granted to Thomas, Lord Darcy, and George Darcy; Lord Darcy still held them in 1521, (fn. 145) 1526, (fn. 146) and 1528. (fn. 147) In 1524 the reversion of the custody and fishing had been granted to Richard Forster, yeoman of the Chamber. (fn. 148)
In February 1543 the corporation recalled that in 1537 the Duke of Norfolk had ordered the mayor 'to see for keeping' of the Foss to the king's use. Subsequently the corporation, wishing to avoid the expense of carrying this out, had allowed Sir George Lawson to hold the pond. At Lawson's death in 1543 the mayor reassumed the responsibility of keeping the pond for the king, and in February of that year he instructed the York M.P.s to seek for the city either a lease or the keepership of the pond. (fn. 149) In May 1543 the fishery, fishing, and hawking of the Foss were in fact leased to six York men (including the two M.P.s) for 21 years at a rent of £3 6s. 8d. with an annual increase of 3s. 4d. (fn. 150) No later grants of the custody of the pond have been found. (fn. 151)
The pond and the fishery were later granted by the Crown to the Nevils, lords of Sheriff Hutton (N.R.), and they remained in the hands of successive owners of that manor. (fn. 152) The fishery was recorded as being part of the manor in 1545, 1628 and 1685. (fn. 153) From 1685 until 1854 the pond was in the hands of the Ingram family as owners of the manor. In 1793 the Foss Navigation Company acquired the right to make the Foss navigable and assumed the responsibility of paying the rent of the fishpond (£3 10s. a year) to the heirs of Lord Ingram, 9th Viscount Irvine. (fn. 154) 'Foss Islands' were bought by the corporation from Hugo Charles Meynell Ingram (fn. 155) under the Foss Purchase Act of 1853. (fn. 156)
The 18th-century name, Foss Islands, is indicative of the decayed state of the fish pond. From early times it had gradually decreased in extent and depth by the deposition of silt, sewage, and filth; (fn. 157) land around the pond was reclaimed and granted by the Crown to York citizens; (fn. 158) and in the 16th century, it was necessary on several occasions to order the removal of rubbish and the widening of the water where it had been encroached upon by garths. (fn. 159) After the islands and marshes had been bought by the corporation in 1853, the land was drained, Foss Islands Road made to replace the then existing footpath, (fn. 160) and gas, electricity, and railway works built on part of the site. (fn. 161)