Temple Sowerby: Acorn Bank Mill


There has been a mill on the site of Acorn Bank Watermill for hundreds of years although the current building dates from the late 18th century. The mill was the manorial mill of the Acorn Bank Estate, also known as Temple Sowerby Manor for a while, and the miller was a tenant. The earliest mention of a mill is in 1323 when the estate passed from the Knights Templar to the Knights Hospitaller and at the time the mill gave an annual income of £4. The machinery suggests that substantial changes were made around 1840 when a French Burr millstone was installed. The original building is constructed of coursed squared rubble with quoins and although primarily a corn mill, the mill has also been used to provide power to the estate gypsum mines. The mill ceased to work in the 1940’s and gradually fell into a state of ruin.


Restoration began in the late 1980’s and the Watermill was little more than a ruin. Many of the walls have had to be dismantled and completely rebuilt yet much of the machinery survived and has been retained. The mill is now partially restored and has been open to the public since 1996. Flour was ground again for the first time in September 2011. The water supply for the mill starts at a weir and sluice on Crowdundle Beck – about a quarter of a mile upstream of the mill. The weir directs water into the millrace and the sluice allows the miller to control the amount of water that flows to the mill. The race has a very shallow fall while Crowdundle Beck drops more rapidly. By the time the millrace reaches the mill, the water in it is about four metres above the river level and high enough to pass over the wheels.


Upper Mill Machinery

Acorn Bank Watermill is unusual in that it has two sets of mill machinery driven by separate waterwheels. The upper set of machinery (above) is virtually complete with two pairs of millstones for grinding grain and making flour. This set of mill machinery is driven from the uppermost of three waterwheels. The large vertical cogwheel is on the same shaft as the waterwheel. This cogwheel is the pitwheel and it turns the smaller gear, the wallower, on the vertical shaft. The great spur wheel is the large gear above the wallower and this could be made to drive either or both of the millstones via the small ‘stonenuts’ to each side of the great spur.


Lower Mill Machinery

The lower set of mill machinery (above) is no longer complete but was once almost identical to the upper set. The large cogwheels were probably removed when the waterwheel was adapted to provide power to a local mine. The lower set of mill machinery, like the upper set, has two pairs of millstones and was driven from the middle of three waterwheels.


The Drying Kiln

The drying kiln (above) was used to dry the oats before they were milled. A floor of perforated tiles existed above a fire and the oats were spread over the tiles which were dried from the heat of the fire. Suspended above the kiln fire was a baffle plate which spread the heat more evenly and prevented a hot-spot on the floor above. The perforated tiles of the drying floor were supported on cross beams of stone and slate and later, iron. The earliest tiles were made of roughly fired clay with holes punched through. The oats were spread over the floor to a depth of a few inches and were turned regularly to prevent the lower grain burning and to ensure an even drying. The miller would be able to tell when the grain was dry enough by biting it. Once dry, the grain was swept off the drying floor to be milled.


There were once three waterwheels at Acorn Bank. The top and middle wheels drove corn milling machinery while the bottom drove a saw bench. The middle wheel was adapted to provide power for a nearby gypsum mine. There were two types of wheel in use at the mill. The upper wheel is a pitchback meaning that the water falls onto the top of the wheel at the back and the middle and bottom wheels were overshot meaning that the water falls onto the wheel at the top. In both cases, the water fills buckets and its weight turns the wheel. The bottom wheel was situated below the mill building.


Acorn Bank Mill is Grade II Listed.


Nithsdale: New Abbey War Memorial


On the A710 next to Sweetheart Abbey stands New Abbey War Memorial. Dedicated to the memory of those lost in the Great War (1914-1918), the monument is of rough surfaced granite and set upon a stepped plinth. An ornamental sword adorns the cross shaft and the memorial lists thirty six names of those who lost their lives.


Keld Chapel


In the small hamlet of Keld stands a medieval stone chapel. The Chapel at Keld is widely believed to have initially been a chantry owned by the monks of Shap Abbey. The monks, belonging to the Premonstatension foundation, dedicated Shap Abbey and the whole valley to God and St. Mary Magdalene. During the Middle Ages, Mary Magdalene was the patron saint of mistresses and it has been suggested that the Abbey was endowed to commemorate a mistress of very high standing. The custom of saying Mass for the repose of the souls of those who had died became increasingly common in the Middle Ages and some very wealthy individuals left money for Mass and prayers to be said in perpetuity for this purpose. By the early part of the 12th century, religious houses were becoming overwhelmed by such bequests and there is evidence that they were interfering with their other day to day activities. One solution to this problem, which would not upset the families of influential patrons, was to build special chapels where these obligations could be fulfilled. These chapels were called chantries.


Chantries were initially part of the main church but separate buildings were later constructed for the purpose of commemorating the dead. These separate chantry chapels were not common until the mid 14th century. All of the exterior walls of Keld Chapel appear to have been built at the same time and the architecture of the windows would suggest that the building was constructed in the later years of the 15th century. The windows could have been brought from Shap Abbey and the stones used in the doorway are thought likely to have been carved in Roman times.


There are no records relating to the chapel building in the early years after the dissolution of the Abbey and the first recorded reference details the christening of Ann Burdey, a child of a traveller, on 16th June 1672. Prior to 1698, the chapel had ceased to be used for any religious purpose and had become used as a private dwelling.


The chapel is constructed of coursed rubble limestone with a single ridge chimney and features a Westmorland slate roof covering. The simple interior has unplastered stonework and the roof has exposed rafters and purlins (above). The inner dividing wall, fireplace and chimney (below) are 19th century additions and while the roof has been restored on a number of occasions, many of the slates are thought to be original.


Keld Chapel is Grade II Listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.


Temple Sowerby: Acorn Bank Dovecote


On the southeast side of Acorn Bank Manor House stands a late 18th / early 19th century dovecote. Constructed of ashlar, the two storey building is of a square plan and features a slate roof with a central wooden clock turret with corner balusters surmounted by a wrought iron weather vane.


While they are considered to be picturesque, dovecotes were functional buildings and were almost always constructed in vernacular styles using local materials. Free standing dovecotes are common and when they are attached to large country houses, such as Acorn Bank, they were designed to be a feature in the landscape.


The building has two small dovecote openings under the eaves on the north side and features a Venetian arched window on the south side (below) with Tuscan columns. The dovecote is Grade II Listed.


Crosby Ravensworth: Sandstone Pillar

Crosby Rav1

In the centre of the village of Crosby Ravensworth, outside the church of St Lawrence, sits a formidable sandstone disc. The stone was extracted in 1996 by Cumbria Stone Ltd at their quarry in Plumpton near Lazonby. The sandstone is exactly as it came out of the ground and is the remnant of a wind sculpted pillar which dates to around 250 million years ago. The sandstone disc was placed on the grass verge to celebrate the millennium.